Please hold your applause till the end – A few thoughts on anime rankings and fandom

Sis’ cotillion was alot like the above… just add more filipinos, add line dancing and subtract the attacking ghosts with a sword in a ball gown and heels…

whitehatazn-48.jpgDuring the week before my sis’ cotillion, sis and her cotillion court did at least one dress rehearsal in the ballroom before the actual party. I was in attendance that day helping set the place up and driving people around. The coreographer decided he wanted to run through everything one last time from beginning to end (they did 4 different dances one after the other with small pauses in between). As they went through their last run, I decided to clap in the dance change pauses and after any complicated parts (particularly any lifts) just to simulate the actual event a few days later. Two things happened which surprised me. One, the audience watching the practice (mostly parents and/or relatives of the dancers) ended up following my lead by clapping. If I didn’t clap, the practice audience would have never clapped since they have seen the them practice for the (N+1) time. This made final practice somewhat realistic and helped the dancers focus a bit more. Second, all the times I decided to clap during the practice were exactly the same points when the actual audience clapped in the day of the party.

So this leads to the classic question: How does this relate to anime? Well, I looked at a few anime ranking lists recently (particularly ANN’s Baysian ranking and MyAnimeList.net Top Anime ranking) and I noticed a few of the top rated anime are not very popular shows (ef, Aria and a few others come to mind…) especially in the North American anime market. With some of these shows, the popularity in North America is sorta understandable (unlicensed shows or shows with a limited release will be less likely to rank highly). What I find interesting is how some of the ridiculously popular anime (Naruto and Bleach come to mind) are no where close to being on the top of the list. After thinking about this some more, I came up with a few thoughts on the popularity of anime with some “real-life” examples. Here are some thoughts…

An applause is a very contagious thing…

Fandom is can spread easily by hype. The above situation involving my sisters’ cotillion is an example of a contagious applause. When one person starts clapping in a key moment, other people are compelled to clap. I find this fairly understandable. An applause is one’s expression of appreciation or approval. Being the only one expressing such appreciation can be embarrassing and I can see how one person starting it of can make this cooperative. This what I see with things like convention fandom. All you need is one person to spout his/her Naruto fandom to start the grouping and the fission reaction of Naturadism.

No comprende…

Sis does dance as an extra-curricular and in the last dance recital, I noticed something interesting. Sis’ dance academy regularly does a number of dance types including jazz, ballet, hip hop, acrobatic, lyrical, etc. Also, the most diligent and well-rounded students make the competition teams and the best of those may get their own solo dance performance. What I noticed in the last dance recital is that the solo performances actually received less of an applause than the group hip hop routine and the daycare dance performances. Its surprising to see how best and most experienced dancers receive less appreciation than a four year old which is looking off to the side trying to mimic her dance instructor.

It is harder for one to appreciate a performance which one does not understand. Consider two of the most recognizable anime in North America: Neon Genesis Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop. Despite being a landmark anime, NGE is not among the best in the anime rankings for its popularity. It has arguably one of the most psychologically intense plot in anime as justified by its numerous academic analyses. Compare this to Bebop which ranks among the best anime and contains a number of “American-ready” elements: the cowboy theme, jazz music and whole plate-full of gun violence.

Jazz music can very entertaining because it is something familiar and easily understood by American culture. The appeal to the audience is much simpler since no effort needs to be wasted on bringing the audience to speed. Foreign elements (such as the european-founded classical music) may end up confusing and losing the audience. Now if Bebop actually featured a football game and a NASCAR-like race scene, then it wouldn’t be that hard expanding the American market (although, that would be a disaster if that happened).

Applause = Entertainment * En + sum(everything else) where En is the entertainment factor and En > 0

I also was able to attend sis’ concert band recital (dragged again to another one of sis’ events). The recital featured most of the school’s music groups and one of the performances is the school’s jazz band. The jazz band performance ended up being the performance that enticed the audience. Not only did they receive the most applause over all the other music groups, the audience was an active participant throughout the performance. It’s not that the group wasn’t musically good, but it felt like the applause was driven by the entertaining nature of the performance material.

An applause is driven by entertainment over everything else. This is not a surprisingly new concept but it’s worth giving it some thought when it comes to anime. Particularly since we (the average anime fans) consider our medium as a mixture entertainment and intellectual stimulation. Good anime needs to be somewhat entertaining because of the inherent nature of the medium and to entice its audience. At the same time, it needs to have some substance otherwise it would be no better than the average American cartoon. It may be that the entertainment needs to be slightly greater than the rest in order to generate the hype and applause. But without this careful balancing act, anime wouldn’t be able separate itself as the intriguing animation medium.

Worth my applause…

After thinking about it more, I’m actually quite happy with the way most anime is ranked (bayesian estimates on member rankings). While the rankings easily display anime with a fair bit of entertainment value, it’s nice to see some intellectually impressive shows among the top of the rankings (a personal favorite ef comes to mind). Hopefully by such rankings, some of these kinds of shows will get a fair look.

Yet there’s always a few things which are worth the applause regardless of what they are. The end of Bandai Visual USA and Rie-sama coming to NYAF come to mind…

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One Response to Please hold your applause till the end – A few thoughts on anime rankings and fandom

  1. Anime says:

    Can you provide more information on this?

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