Can we discuss the problem of pretentious anime?

fOx

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Having recently taken a look back at anime series I used to dislike, my view of the medium has evolved and changed over the last few months. I've learned to gain a new appreciation of anime series that are bursting with enthusiasm, vibrancy, and incredible, detailed animation. Anime like Redline, trigun, and afro samurai are powerful, action packed series with a lot of heart and soul put into them. But there's another brand of anime I've started to really dislike. What I call pretentious anime. Obviously, anime can be artistis. No one would say studio ghibli doesn't produce great works of art. But what im talking about are anime that try to sound smart in order to make up for a boring story or bad animation. There are a lot of series that do things like this. Serial experiments lain, 1997 berserk, and the garden of words are all excellent examples. But today i was going to focus on one example, and why it upsets me. I was hoping some of you would do the same.

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt clearly like to pretend that it has high ambitions. Yet, just a few moments of analysis show just how shallow it really is. Produced by Gainax, is has many of the same shortcoming and pretentions of shows like Neon Genesis. The show loves to throw angelic and Christian imagery at you, but it never actually seems to make a concrete statement about religion. It acts as though it wants to make a statement of sexual liberation and womens rights, but never actually seems to lay down a thesis. Instead, after repeat analytical viewings, I am forced to conclude that the show does't really have much to say at all. The animation is laughably low quality, and at time feels like they were low on ink, low in time, and frankly, low on talant. Imagine the last two episodes of EVA, stretched into an entire series. The high minded themes are not deeply explored, revealing an anxiety in the lack of direction of the narrative. All of these issues result in a show that is both less deep then something like redline, while also being less fun. Unfortunately, the mere mention of intellectual ideas is enough to entice some people, even if they are never truly explored.

What series come to mind for you as pretentious anime?
 

Bedinsis

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The best I can offer is that in Death Note one could potentially consider Light's mass murder of criminals to be an exploration of morality and what justice truly means and come to the conclusion that Light is in the right, but he jumps off the deep end so quickly that it becomes a show about mind games and a cat and mouse game between Light and the police. Or in other words: it becomes a serial killer show with a supernatural bent.

And I fail to see why this topic must be limited to animes. Or for that matter why shows that try to be high-minded about subject matters is such a problem. If a show must fail in some way that is one of the better ways to do it.
 
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Hawki

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And I fail to see why this topic must be limited to animes. Or for that matter why shows that tries to be high-minded about subject matters is such a problem. If a show must fail in some way that is one of the better ways to do it.
I've often alternated between my views on this. On one hand, it's probably better for something to fail for being too ambitious than not ambitious enough. On the other, my personal view is that a simple story told well is preferable to a complex story told poorly. And the more complex your story becomes, the greater the risk of it collapsing.

As for pretentious animes, I'm aware that Neon Genesis has a reputation, or something. Other than that...um, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness? The monologues from the guy about the meaning of fear, and its Greek roots? Bleh.
 
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Chimpzy

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When their work is full of half naked tig bitties (high school or younger) girls, and they pretend it's that way for some profound artistic reason. No it's not, you're just horny, and I'd actually respect that if you had the balls to owe up to it. Tho granted, it's mostly fans making those kinds of excuses, less so the creators. Tho exceptions exist. Are we ashamed of the real reason Quiet runs around in her underwear yet, Kojima? Are we?

Obligatory ProZD video
 

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Having recently taken a look back at anime series I used to dislike, my view of the medium has evolved and changed over the last few months. I've learned to gain a new appreciation of anime series that are bursting with enthusiasm, vibrancy, and incredible, detailed animation. Anime like Redline, trigun, and afro samurai are powerful, action packed series with a lot of heart and soul put into them. But there's another brand of anime I've started to really dislike. What I call pretentious anime. Obviously, anime can be artistis. No one would say studio ghibli doesn't produce great works of art. But what im talking about are anime that try to sound smart in order to make up for a boring story or bad animation. There are a lot of series that do things like this. Serial experiments lain, 1997 berserk, and the garden of words are all excellent examples. But today i was going to focus on one example, and why it upsets me. I was hoping some of you would do the same.

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt clearly like to pretend that it has high ambitions. Yet, just a few moments of analysis show just how shallow it really is. Produced by Gainax, is has many of the same shortcoming and pretentions of shows like Neon Genesis. The show loves to throw angelic and Christian imagery at you, but it never actually seems to make a concrete statement about religion. It acts as though it wants to make a statement of sexual liberation and womens rights, but never actually seems to lay down a thesis. Instead, after repeat analytical viewings, I am forced to conclude that the show does't really have much to say at all. The animation is laughably low quality, and at time feels like they were low on ink, low in time, and frankly, low on talant. Imagine the last two episodes of EVA, stretched into an entire series. The high minded themes are not deeply explored, revealing an anxiety in the lack of direction of the narrative. All of these issues result in a show that is both less deep then something like redline, while also being less fun. Unfortunately, the mere mention of intellectual ideas is enough to entice some people, even if they are never truly explored.

What series come to mind for you as pretentious anime?
Panty and Stocking I would not call pretentious. Gainax knew exactly what they were making. For the record, they were all drunk and high at a Christmas party to come up with the idea. The show is pretty much a low brow comedy and the English dub only enhances that. I know Panty has that little badass speech at the end, but it really doesn't amount to much other, than "I like being a biatch and there's nothing you can do about it." That part was pretentious, but other than that, a majority of the show is just a pop culture reference bonanza. Not to the level of Family Guy, but it's still there. Berserk I wouldn't call pretentious either. I may not be a fan of it, but it doesn't pretend to be anything then what it is.

As far as my list of pretentious anime/manga are:

  • Death Note
  • Gurren Laggan towards the last four or five episodes.
  • Elfen Lied - Everything in this show needs to die!
  • Akame Ga Kill
  • Neon Genesis and its many, many clones.
  • My Hero Academia when it tries to positively portray negative or bully type characters.
  • Naruto
  • Shaman King (Manga version). The anime version less so. A lot of shounen suffers from this.
  • A Wind Named Amnesia
  • Highschool of the Dead
  • Gate - Fuck this show in to the stratosphere!
 
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meiam

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Panty and stocking pretentious?? It's practically a parody of itself... The main running gag is that one of the angel is a massive slut...

I guess it depend what pretentious means to you. Like, what about all the isekai show at the moment about a loser main character that dies and is reincarnated and given all kinds of super power and an harem (frequently featuring slave girl and sometime underage girl) yet takes itself seriously, would that qualify as pretentious?

What about one punch man, there's an arc that's mostly taken seriously with a moral along the line of "Hero aren't about results, intention are what makes someone heroic" which I find completely ridiculous. If there's ever a building on fire with people trapped and you try to rush in to save, firefighter will tackle you to stop you because you're just making their job harder, doesn't matter that you had good intention. And I think nobody would accept to be operated on by a terrible doctor, no matter how good is intention are.

There's also a lot of highly symbolic show (things like penguindrum, last season sonny boy) that I find are all flashiness no substances. They mostly work by not saying anything concrete but keeping everything vague and acting like they're saying deep stuff so the audience can feel smug thinking they can decipher the deep meaning behind it when you can easily attribute any meaning to them.

There's also some "teenager show" where they take teenager angst seriously. Most memorable example is flower of evil, which I'm sad cause I love rotoscoping but yesh I cannot stand any of the character and how everything is taken seriously.

Or what about Gundam unicorn, which is entirely built around a central myserty that turn out to be one of the dumbest thing I could imagine and show shocking lack of understanding of politic/society yet takes itself completely seriously. But at the same time is a show about giant robot punching each others mainly made to sell plastic model.
 
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Dalisclock

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When their work is full of half naked tig bitties (high school or younger) girls, and they pretend it's that way for some profound artistic reason. No it's not, you're just horny, and I'd actually respect that if you had the balls to owe up to it. Tho granted, it's mostly fans making those kinds of excuses, less so the creators. Tho exceptions exist. Are we ashamed of the real reason Quiet runs around in her underwear yet, Kojima? Are we?

Obligatory ProZD video
I'm pretty sure Yoko Taro flat out said he liked pretty girls wearing very little and that's why his characters look like that. Which, at least he's being honest.
 
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Fallen Soldier

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Haven’t kept up with any anime series since the mid 2000s. I honestly can’t get into most modern anime for some reason though.
 
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meiam

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I'm pretty sure Yoko Taro flat out said he liked pretty girls wearing very little and that's why his characters look like that. Which, at least he's being honest.
iirc he once asked people who make porn of 2B to send it to him directly cause he was tired of having to find them himself.

 
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Gordon_4

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I'm pretty sure Yoko Taro flat out said he liked pretty girls wearing very little and that's why his characters look like that. Which, at least he's being honest.
The creator of Bayonetta once said he didn't object to erotic art works being made of her, he objected to making her the submissive partner in the act.

Anyway I find it hard to be angry about 'pretentious' anything these days because everything is pretentious to someone.
 

Drathnoxis

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I was going to say Evangelion, but you've got it right there in the OP.

My pick is probably going to be Another, then. The show acts like it has this grand complex mystery that's going to take some masterful detecting to unravel, but the solution is just so dumb! Also it's pretensions to being a serious and dramatic story are severely let down by the completely ridiculous Rube Goldberg deaths the characters undergo that frequently had me laughing out loud instead of being shocked and horrified.
 
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Kwak

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Sorry, but threads like this have trained me to define "pretentious" as "I don't like this thing, so nobody should like it".
Saying something, anything, about some common human experience, concern, or concept = pretentious.
Referring to it directly = pretentious.
Burying it under a layer of symbolism or other oblique references = pretentious.
Anything that isn't simple violence, sex, or hallmark channel sentimentality = pretentious.
It's a word without meaning.
 

Piscian

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Mmm. I've been around since the beginning. I was a kid when all that stuff came out and before it when anime came in form of independent animation film festivals and things like robot carnival. I'm gonna be honest here and say I'm not sure I believe pretentious anime exists. If it does I can't really think of anything.

The problem is anime generally only comes in two forms. Mass Media which in the opposite of pretentious and what I'd describe as indie anime. The ones that are a labor of love. Those often involved an artist or team busting their asses to put together something they believe in, it's difficult to call that pretentious.

The closest thing I could call pretentious is the new Eva remakes, but ironically, by the end of it, after allowing myself to think on it, I feel like even those basically said "fuck it we just want you to enjoy this. We're not trying to be anything other than a fun sci-fi anime."

I think when we talk about pretentious. In the context of anime you'd need to show me an anime that insinuates it's above and serious art where as other anime are low brow. I'm struggling to think of one that does that. Every example I've seen in this thread was just the brain child of some artist that wanted to do a thing. In some cases some of those creators have even professed a low of other popular mass media aimed anime and manga.

I actually kinda feel like it's pretentious to cast aspersions on anime you perceive as pretentious without really backing that up with a good reason to do so.

Now I feel like going and rewatching Excel saga and Puni Puni Poemy.
 

BrawlMan

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Mmm. I've been around since the beginning. I was a kid when all that stuff came out and before it when anime came in form of independent animation film festivals and things like robot carnival. I'm gonna be honest here and say I'm not sure I believe pretentious anime exists. If it does I can't really think of anything.

The problem is anime generally only comes in two forms. Mass Media which in the opposite of pretentious and what I'd describe as indie anime. The ones that are a labor of love. Those often involved an artist or team busting their asses to put together something they believe in, it's difficult to call that pretentious.
While I see where you are coming from, not all examples are going to be 1-to-1. You can still be mass media, and still come off as pretentious. Insert certain shounen shows and certain anime that did hit mainstream. Shaman King gets up its own ass about how much humanity sucks and how they are no evil shamans, but humans. All shamans (humans who can use and see spirits/ghosts) are either "misguided" or "misunderstood", humans that aren't evil are almost always portrayed as impotent at best, or card carrying evil at worst. There is no subtlety and makes the writing come off as simple black n' white with no grey areas, or only "grey areas" for the shaman characters only. The message comes off as even more hypocritical, because shamans are "in tune with nature" generic bullshit, and the main villain we're supposed to cry and feel sorry for is a complete homicidal psychopath. This is mainly in the manga version and what I am assuming is going to be in the second anime adaption on Netflix. Which is going to be more true to the source material. Hao Asakura is an unsympathetic asshole who has killed over at least 1,000 people, human or shaman alike. It sure as hell was not for the benefit for nature, shamans, or the fucking Earth! We're supposed to feel bad for him, because he lost only three people in his entire life, but more so due to the lost of his goddamn mommy. He's caused way more pain and suffering than all of humanity put together. What worse is that Hao gets what he wants in the manga, though he does not destroy humanity. He still a petty dick, we're supposed to agree with, but most readers don't or feel the author goes overboard in trying to sympathize with him.

Naruto has almost the exact same problems with characters like Sasuke, Obito, and nearly the entire Uchiha fucking bloodline and clan. I'll just let this guy speak for my rage. Naruto gets pretty pretentious with its many broken messages. I am glad I stopped watching after the Sasuke leaves Konoha arc.

 
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BrawlMan

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It would not let post the whole thing for some damn reason. Stupid site limitations.

Gurren Lagaan suffers a different problem in its last few episodes about religion. What is normally an over-the-top action show, gets up its own ass about how religion is pointless and how anyone follows is a mindless fool or only uses it for petty manipulation. Not only is it full of shit, but the show acts as if it is saying something wise and profound, when it really comes off as highly ignorant and insulting. I don't mind nor care what religion someone follows, or are atheist so long as that person or group people don't act like assholes. Otherwise, you're fine with me. Honestly, GL is a show I ended up liking less and less the more I watched, and I just hate the second half and the ending.


A Wind Named Amnesia has hatred for its fellow man, and spoilers: a bunch of aliens mind-wipe all of humanity back to the stone age aside from one dude that got cured from it. All because the aliens were afraid that humanity would discover the aliens one day and try to kill them. Even though it is outright stated humanity had no idea they existed, nor was humanity capable of finding them with the then current technology and modern day. What's worse, the biatch involved in the story try to portray this as doing this moral crossing boundary as "for our own good"! Yeah, Galactus or Thanos can kill them, and I would not shed a tear. If that is not pretentious, then I don't know what is!

I actually kinda feel like it's pretentious to cast aspersions on anime you perceive as pretentious without really backing that up with a good reason to do so.
Depending on what is. Good thing I actually gave you some examples.

The closest thing I could call pretentious is the new Eva remakes, but ironically, by the end of it, after allowing myself to think on it, I feel like even those basically said "fuck it we just want you to enjoy this. We're not trying to be anything other than a fun sci-fi anime."
The final Eva movie says otherwise. Claiming how people should "move on" from Eva, when the world and most of the anime community already moved on to other things years ago! I honestly don't know what Anno was trying to accomplish. He's not a genius for stating the obvious and something that has already happened. Also, 3.33 tried to act like as if it was still 1995-96, and comes off as boring and been there and done that.

Now I feel like going and rewatching Excel saga and Puni Puni Poemy.
I don't know the second show, but there is nothing wrong Excel Saga. Have fun, my man.
 
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evilneko

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Sorry, but threads like this have trained me to define "pretentious" as "I don't like this thing, so nobody should like it".
Unless said anime is Earth Girl Arjuna. But then there are so many other reasons to mock Arjuna. Babbies are superhuman, Farming is evil, YOU are evil, You should eat your umbilical cord
 
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bluegate

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Sword Art Online could be called pretentious, as in, it pretends to have a decent story and be a decent anime but outside of some nicely animated fights it's just a low level power fantasy / harem trash show?

That's all I've got. Maybe also Mirai Nikki?