Every time a new season of anime comes around, or even when discussions happen to bring up past titles that were very popular, you hear people say things like “It was overhyped,” “Don’t give into the hype,” and “The hype ruined it for me.” But what exactly is meant by that and can the hype of a show really affect your personal viewing experience?…
A hyped anime is one that people get excited about early on, before they’ve even seen one episode of it. It could be because its source material is already a hit, it has a renowned director who’s made other popular works, or it’s shown to have very high-production values in terms of animation, music, and design. People build up expectations for the anime, which leads to them creating their own idea of how the anime should be in terms of story, style, themes, etc., rather than go into it freely and let the anime show them how it’s going to be. I suppose we can get hyped about any anime we take an interest in before we’ve seen it, but some have the notable staff or source material to cause more hype than others.
A recent example of an anime with hype that may have ruined it for many viewers is the currently airing Space Dandy. My friend and fellow blogger Neo-Shonen Fujoshi wrote a great post about this actually. We all know that Space Dandy was really hyped among the English-speaking anime fandom even before it started airing. And the reason for that? It’s directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, who also directed one of Western anime fandom’s most acclaimed series, Cowboy Bebop, as well as a few others like Samurai Champloo and Kids on the Slope. All of these shows had their moments of comedy but they were mostly dramatic and serious with thematic, developing narratives even if some things seemed episodic (I actually haven’t seen Samurai Champloo so correct me if I’m wrong on that one). These shows are also known for not having the usual anime cliches of moe girls, modern school settings, and fantastical battles, but more “believable fictional” settings and characters. So of course, when Space Dandy was announced, people already started putting it on a pedestal, claiming it’ll be the next Cowboy Bebop (the fact that it’s also a space adventure like Bebop made people even more prone to comparing the two).
But…after the first episode or two of Space Dandy aired, people became disillusioned with it. Many who got so hyped for it now found it underwhelming, or worse, disliked it and eventually stopped watching it. I admit that I was one of the people who was a bit disappointed with the first few episodes. But thinking about it now, I can’t help but feel that the only reason for the Space Dandy backlash is because people overhyped it, or more specifically, they made hasty assumptions about what Shinichiro Watanabe wanted to do with it. Since he directed other acclaimed anime that had dramatic stories and dark tones, that’s obviously what he’s going to do with this one, right? It’s a sci-fi space adventure just like Cowboy Bebop after all! So once they saw the completely un-serious, wacky and wild comedy adventure Space Dandy actually is, so out there with its comical hijinks that it doesn’t even keep continuity between episodes, their expectations were dashed. They wanted something with comedy like Cowboy Bebop, but comedy that underlies mature themes and dramatic storylines. The Bebop fans wanted another Bebop, but as it seems now, Watanabe and the rest of the staff wanted a totally episodic space adventure that’s 99% comedy. Thus people let the hype they constructed for the series based on one factor (it’s director) paint a picture in their minds of what it should be beforehand instead of going into the series with a more or less blank slate. One has to wonder, if Space Dandy had a lesser known staff behind it, if it would have gotten the backlash it got. Unlikely since no hype means no expectations, and people would have appreciated the innovative things it has and not what it doesn’t have that they got themselves yearning for. I’m not saying I really like Space Dandy, since I’m 9 episodes in and find that it has its moments but it’s not my cup of tea, but I’m willing to see it through to the end and mentally remove all comparisons to Watanabe’s other works.
Another, older example, is the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime. It’s first half followed the original manga fairly closely, so fans reading the manga as well as watching the anime were pleased. But in its latter part, the anime went off in a completely different direction from the manga, which eventually lead to its own original ending for the series, even with an original follow-up movie to fully complete it. I don’t know much about the FMA fandom, but I’m assuming a lot of manga fans were outraged by this. However I, and I’m sure many other people who never read the FMA manga, liked the original anime ending. Some even like it better than Brotherhood, or at least as much. And I’m sure a good chunk of that is due to not being familiar with the manga and thus not creating hype about it during the initial airing of the first anime series.
Besides knowing an anime has a respectable writer or you’re familiar with its source material, there’s another way to get hyped about it beforehand, a way I like to call “second-hand hype.” Basically if you haven’t seen the anime yourself but it’s a big hit, you can’t help but get hyped about how great it is because everyone else is. I suspect this was the case for anime fans who, for whatever reason, weren’t watching Madoka Magica when it was airing back in 2011. It was all over anime and related social networking sites and blogs – people were praising it through the roof, Kyubey’s face was on every meme you could imagine, and there was no end to speculation about, and later interpretation of, its story. So you can imagine someone who hadn’t watched the series yet seeing, hearing, and reading this bombardment of praise and adoration, getting themselves hyped about how excellent this show must be if so many people love it. Now what happens when they finally watch it themselves? Perhaps they thought it was good, but because, to them, it wasn’t GREAT like everyone else said, they feel like they’ve been cheated in some way and that feeling creates a bit of resentment towards the show, causing their overall rating of it to fall…something that may have never happened if they didn’t get all that second-hand hype about it beforehand!
I know it’s happened to most people at least once, but I personally can’t recall hype ever ruining anything for me, anime or otherwise. There are a few good reasons for this of course. One is that I don’t pay much attention to staff members behind certain anime, like who the director is. I do, however, like to look up what animation studio is producing the anime and if it has any seiyuu I like, but those just give me ideas about how the animation style and voice acting will be, which have little bearing on my overall opinion of an anime compared to the actual story and writing quality. I might end up hearing about notable staff members one way or another, like I did with Space Dandy, and end up getting a little hyped. But it’s never enough for me to get myself excited about how great an anime is going to be before I’ve even seen it. Secondly, I rarely read manga and light novels anymore, so it’s highly unlikely I’d be familiar with an anime’s source material beforehand. And even if I did, I would still try not to get hyped about the anime being exactly the same. It’s best to think of it as a different interpretation of a story you know rather than the exact source material depicted in anime form. And as for getting the “second-hand hype,” I usually watch the very popular anime as they air, and typically end up liking them, so it’s rarely a problem for me. Even when I watch them later on but get exposed to the hype beforehand, I just don’t let other people’s praise or lack thereof interfere with my own personal experience with an anime. When everyone around you is praising something, you can’t help but expect it to be good when you finally watch it yourself. But for me, the key is expecting something “good” and not necessarily “great.” If it does end up being “great,” then yes, you can join in everyone’s praise. But even if it ends up only being “good” to you, you can still join in the praise, just not as extremely so as others. And if you only thought it was “ok” or even “bad,” chances are it wouldn’t have clicked with you anyway whether you had gotten hyped about it or not.
So…has hype ever ruined an anime for you? If so, how and why?