Management: 12 Days of Anime continues with a rant on hype.
I love my corner of the anime community, but when a hyped-up anime is nearing release, I can’t stand it.
I don’t do well with hype. Mostly because I can’t control my expectations, which are inevitably dashed.
I remember when A Silent Voice was finally getting its release in the West. People had seen it in other continents. Prominent anime critics and local fans were all but proclaiming the second coming of the anime messiah. I got caught in the hype. I expected it to be perfect. No, I expected more. With so many of the community bawling their eyes out through the film, I expected I would for the first time do the same.
That didn’t happen.
Don’t get me wrong. I think A Silent Voice is a storytelling and audiovisual masterpiece: the way it captures the visceral emotions involved in bullying, regret, self-hatred, isolation, and longing for connection. The shot and scene composition, the lighting, the percussive acoustic tracks and the final cathartic moment of redemption. I was moved. But because the community’s hype brought my expectations to unrealistic levels, I left the film feeling unsatisfied–as if I was missing an inside joke that the rest anime community understood.
Around the same time, I also watched Anthem of the Heart with no prior expectations. I still maintain it has similarities to A Silent Voice: childhood trauma, a longing for connection, and a well-earned self-acceptance for the protagonist. From an impersonal standpoint, it has none of the raw, uncomfortable emotions or cinematic visuals of A Silent Voice, but it carries its own beautiful moments of catharsis. When the final song played to resolve the main character’s conflict, I was moved: likely as moved as in A Silent Voice‘s catharsis, but since I went into Anthem of the Heart blind, I had no expectations to disappoint. I came out thoroughly satisfied. In fact, you can read my blog post on how much I loved its final musical number.
When Violet Evergarden was announced to air this Winter season, it was hyped up as the KyoAni production to out-KyoAni all others. The visuals were to be stunning. The story was to be gripping. The angels on high were singing their sweet refrains, and the mountains were echoing their joyous strains. A Silent Voice who?
Even though I forced myself to temper my expectations, it evidently didn’t work. Granted, the audiovisual presentation was again stunning: the gorgeous background art, the sparkling eyes and gemstones, the classical-style soundtrack. I was fine with the episodic structure: there were good stories and mediocre ones. But I could not hook myself on to Violet’s central conflict. On paper, an emotionally repressed human discovering emotions is a great premise. However, I was not able to invest into the show when it spent too much time on an emotionless character in the beginning–they’re only interesting for me in small doses and shrouded in mystery, like the Reis and Nagatos and the Noel Kannagis. Moreover, I had my suspension of disbelief broken when Violet began gracefully reading between the lines when transcribing letters yet somehow continuing to show minimal social understanding in any other situation. For me, Violet Evergarden became lukewarm soon after the premiere, and it never recovered. I also left with an unsatisfied feeling.
It’s unpleasant to constantly be let down by hype, unable to temper your expectations. What’s more, it’s frustrating when the most vocal people in your community are ecstatic about a show you want to enjoy but aren’t enjoying. You feel left out of the community.
Of course, I’m not telling other people to stop displaying their passion for their favourites. I can’t: after all, that’s the point of fandom. The problem lies within my own tendency to be carried away by hype, so I have to find my own ways to deal with it.
As I’m typing this, I have Liz and the Bluebird muted. Expect a blog post about it, when I finally watch it in 2022.
You can read my other articles for 12 Days of Anime here.