I will fully admit to being on the slow bus for most, if not all, anime fads. I see big shows late, only remember studio names long after their debuts, and am completely ignorant of nearly all cutting edge anime styles. But despite feeling a bit lost when other fans talk about these things, I’ve found my sluggish pace to have an odd advantage. Because I’m often outside the hype around particular styles and fads, I often come across these shows with a (hopefully) neutral air. Which is why I am often just as at a loss when people are turned “off” a fad as when they were all on board.
This streaming season has bright up a rather bland collection of shows overall, but one title specifically has gained a bit of ire: Mekakucity Actors. Apparently, the studio (actually only one of many as anime shows are often collaborations of multiple studios) behind it, Shaft, is quite well known for its very distinctive styles, including sharp edges, odd camera angles and architecture that, while futuristic looking, is completely impossible/illogical. A style that’s a bit too well known now, it seems. While their first few shows made waves, the hate over this new series is pretty heated. Which brings me to my topic: When does “unique” cripple a show?
From the perspective of one who is only vaguely aware of Shaft’s previous works, Monogatari being the most notable, I’ve now watched two whole episodes of Mekakucity Actors and I honestly can’t put my finger on why the hate exists. Sure the series doesn’t seem to have a real direction yet, my biggest beef with it thus far, and heck the main lead being a shut in is just way too overused these days. But those crimes are common enough in shows these days and not too surprising. Certainly nothing to throw a desk over. And the addition of interesting camera shots, items standing in for people and crazy settings is actually helping starve off the fact that this show doesn’t seem to have a point yet. So, why the hate?
After reading more than a few impressions, it seems that this show is being too “heavy handed” with its messages. An interesting observation that does nothing to really explain the hate away. Utena, a show renown for preaching it up high and mighty without actually telling the viewer anything definite, doesn’t come under such fire. Neither do more frivolous shows like Magi, which have long, painful scenes where all the main characters do is preach on morals that often times they break themselves mere episodes (if not moments) later. Again, the hate for that show is far less than for Mekakucity Actors. So we’re still stuck with “why?”
Could it be taste? Unlikely, as Monogatari is still often praised for being revolutionary all over the web. So how is Mekakucity Actors different? Perhaps it boils down to the reason behind the symbolism. Where as the above series often have deep reasoning and social critique on which to base their symbols (Magi being a disgusting exception), Mekakucity doesn’t seem to be rooted in anything beyond the surface thus far. It’s almost painfully easy to read the symbols. That said, just because something is more simple doesn’t automatically make it bad. Simple can sometimes be better, actually. However, shows like Monogatari did seem to make a mark on how obscure one can be while getting away with it and perhaps that same level was what people we expecting, thus leading to hate when the show did not pull out the exact same card. Had this show stripped itself of all the symbols and obscurities, perhaps the show would have been better received. In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with the show. It’s not breathtaking, but not bad either. It’s just slightly above mediocre. Nothing to highly praise, but certainly nothing to hate deeply either.
So is it the “unique” elements that are killing it, forcing it to live up to far higher standards? Perhaps when a type of show stands out so much due to stylistic choices it’s inevitable that every show using that technique will come under unholy amounts of criticism ever after as a result. Maybe the fans are simply bored with the concept or maybe they’re just being stuck up pigs posing as critics. Is it even possible to be a critic and not be a stuck up pig (I say this with full acknowledgment that I can be quite stuck up myself when critiquing)?
In any case, I still have no idea as to that “why.” If you hate Mekakucity Actors (or love it!) and take pity on me, please let me know why you find it so distasteful. Because, from where I’m sitting, it’s simply a very mediocre, though fashionable, show.