kevo’ over on Desu ex Machina recently wrote a post about an upcoming anime he can’t help but highly anticipate, while simultaneously realizing that it doesn’t always pay for us to set our expectations for an unknown anime too high. As someone who rarely hypes up an anime I haven’t yet seen, it got me thinking about how our expectations can make or break our opinion about an anime…
For a medium like anime, one thing that can greatly influence our expectations is the source material. Like I discussed in a past post on the subject, having prior knowledge of the manga, light novel, game, or visual novel the anime is based on gives us expectations about the anime we wouldn’t have if we didn’t have that prior knowledge. Usually we expect the anime to follow the source material closely and become irked and critical if it doesn’t. But if we’re not familiar with the source material, we wouldn’t know what was and wasn’t changed and would in all likelihood enjoy the anime more without those expectations. A lot of people cling to the idea that the “original is always better,” which I agree is usually the case, but not always. Because of that, it seems like prior knowledge of an anime’s source material is more likely to hinder our enjoyment of it than not. But on the other hand, when the anime adaptation is just as good as the original source, or even better, that could become a much more rewarding experience to us precisely because of our prior knowledge.
In cases where we’re not familiar with the source material, or the series is an anime-only creation, our expectations tend to hail from other things, most commonly the company producing the series and the staff involved, which includes everyone from directors to seiyuu to music composers. The first thing we’ll probably notice is that the anime is being produced by a studio we really respect…Production I.G. for example. Next we see a whole list of seiyuu that we like, and perhaps a scriptwriter or two who have done work for past anime that we loved. Next we’ll watch the trailer, notice how compelling the animation is and we may even fall in love with the opening song that’s playing in the trailer…and before you know it, we’re completely in love with this anime that we’ve never even seen a single episode of. kevo spells it out well in his post, saying that “when you set the bar so high, you stack the odds against yourself. It’s illogical to hold something you’ve never seen to such an impossible ideal; statistically speaking, shows on average tend to not be good.”
Even if we ourselves aren’t familiar with the anime’s source material or anything about the pedigree of its staff, how our fellow fans react to it can have an affect on our expectations whether we want it to or not. If a lot of people in our social circle are totally hyped about the anime, it’s natural for that hype to rub off on us, especially if we prefer to watch the latest anime people are talking about. But it could work in a negative way too; what’s really popular always attracts a good amount of hate, and hype could inadvertently drive us away from a series we may have liked if it were more humbly received and everyone around us wasn’t raving about it. Like many things in the fandom, setting expectations for an unknown series has its advantages and disadvantages. If we do end up loving a series we were hyped about, that could make it an even more rewarding experience than if we weren’t excited about it from the get-go. But on the other hand, the higher we set our expectations, the harder they’re going to fall if the show doesn’t deliver what we’re hoping, which – and I agree with kevo – is the more likely outcome (especially for an anime with a source material).
Unlike a lot of other fans, I don’t research anything about a new anime I plan to watch besides the basic things like a brief story synopsis, animation studio, and maybe a few seiyuu. I rarely watch trailers for upcoming anime, almost never look into the source material beforehand, and I don’t pay attention to anime staff names besides some really prominent ones in the industry. So for the most part, I’m very neutral with every new seasonal anime I start watching. I might have slightly higher expectations for a KyoAni series or a series with music by Yoko Kanno, and slightly lower expectations for a series by J.C. Staff that sounds like it might be fraught with fan service…but for the most part, I like to give every anime series the benefit of the doubt. The only time I’ll get really hyped is if the anime is a sequel, movie, or other addition to a series I loved. But those are few and usually the anime I watch are new series with no prior season or source material I’m familiar with. Thus if the anim ends up totally surpassing my expectations, that’s great! And if it ends up being a letdown, that’s always a bummer but at least I didn’t waste time and emotion getting hyped for nothing. My approach to anime expectations could have to do with my personality; I’m a “go with the flow,” “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” kind of person, so that probably reflects in my neutral stance I take for unknown anime ;)
So how do you set your bar for anime expectations? Do you often get totally hyped for new series before you’ve even seen one episode? Or are you like me and prefer to take the safe, neutral stance so as not to be disappointed?