What is with the lack of "show, don't tell" in anime?

Zhukov

The Laughing Arsehole
Dec 29, 2009
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Casual Shinji said:
Most anime have no real pension for subtlety. It's kind of the Japanese mindset.
What, really?

That's kind of strange to hear.

I don't have much experience in Japanese media and I wouldn't know a Japanese mindset if it got stuck up my nose and died there, but I usually hear fans describing it as all super deep and symbolic and introspective.
 

Soviet Heavy

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Jan 22, 2010
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Zhukov said:
Casual Shinji said:
Most anime have no real pension for subtlety. It's kind of the Japanese mindset.
What, really?

That's kind of strange to hear.

I don't have much experience in Japanese media and I wouldn't know a Japanese mindset if it got stuck up my nose and died there, but I usually hear fans describing it as all super deep and symbolic and introspective.
Most who do say that are the ones who are already taking Anime a little too seriously.
 

BreakfastMan

Scandinavian Jawbreaker
Jul 22, 2010
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Zhukov said:
Casual Shinji said:
Most anime have no real pension for subtlety. It's kind of the Japanese mindset.
What, really?

That's kind of strange to hear.

I don't have much experience in Japanese media and I wouldn't know a Japanese mindset if it got stuck up my nose and died there, but I usually hear fans describing it as all super deep and symbolic and introspective.
Symbolic/deep != Subtle. For instance, Neon Genesis Evangelion is symbolic as all hell and deals with a number of interesting themes, but instead of letting them sit in the background, it constantly shoves both in your face. Hell, the last two episodes are purely symbolic and are nothing but deep introspection about the main characters various psychoses. :p

OT: Probably some combination of bad writing, bad translation, and cultural differences, I think. At least, that is what I usually chalk it up to.
 

IamQ

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Mar 29, 2009
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DarkRyter said:
Animating moving mouths is cheap.

Animating anything else is not so cheap.
This is probably incredibly relevant. Despite some animes having great looking and very fluid motions, they are most likely not very high budget. Very few animes are. The animator's get the pay of a mcdonalds worker, and because of the high piracy rates in the west, they have to depend on getting most of their sales from the home country. This most likely is also a reason why anime is seen as very convervative to a lot of people. Since the sales are mostly in japan, they cater it only to what the japanese people want, since very few in the west put the money where their mouth is.
 

MorganL4

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May 1, 2008
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Rossco64 said:
For those of you who don't know "show, don't tell" is a term used in television and film script writing. To put it simply, it means that you should always try to show your audience what is happening through actions rather than have your characters spell everything out.

A very simple example would be if you wanted to communicate that one of your characters is a drunk, rather than have the character say "I drink a lot!" or someone say "Bob is always drinking, he is a drunk!" you would instead write scenes were we see Bob drinking or stumbling around drunk.

Now I've only really just got into anime but I have noticed that in quite a few series, including ones which are highly regarded as being well written, that a lot of the characters seem to break this rule.

A good example of this is in Death Note. When she expresses interest in the Kira case Naomi's fiancée says something to her along the lines of:

"I know you used to work for L and were a top agent in the FBI, but you are retired now and we are getting married soon."

It's clunky and makes no sense. She knows these things why is he telling her them? He probably found out all this information from her.

And this is in both subs and dubs so it can't just be bad translations.

Is this just an accepted quirk of the medium or does it bug others as well?

While I see your point, Death Note was probably the worst anime to use as an example, it is like an Aaron Sorkin film.... The dialogue is why you are watching, the visuals just supplement. Case and point, the car chase, EVERYONE remembers being pissed off about the car chase scene because of the lack of dialogue....

As for the reason, generally budget cuts..... A lot of anime start out great and come to the end they suffer, but that is largely a project management issue, in that whoever was in charge blew all the money they had for animation in the beginning and forgot to leave some funds for episodes 9-12, so dialouge that shouldn't be there IS in order to compensate.... This is PAINFULLY obvious with Neon Genesis Evangelion.... Some regard it as the best anime ever, others HATE it because of the ending... Either way it has been established as a must see for any anime fan, simply so that when someone references it you know what they are talking about... And in anime conversations IT GETS REFERENCED A LOT!
 

SweetShark

Shark Girls are my Waifus
Jan 9, 2012
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Well, I think by watching some anime TV shows and some movies, I thing it is very simple:

They want to "guide" any kind of audience as well as they can and make more interesting the things the audience see.
Lets take for example the TV anime show "Bleach". I read the manga and watched the anime at the very start, but then I stopped because it was very uninteresting at some point....
Anyway, in Bleach every single time a character pull something powerful weapon or use a strong attack, they must explain to the audience the details of this new and unknown attack/weapon.

These details have two profits:
1. The audience love this kind of things. The fans always want to learn every single detail for everything for a show they love. Plus when they know these specific details, they feel more emerge to the universe of this anime.
2. They make the episodes mmmmmmmmmmmmmmooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeee bigger. This is a bad thing about the fans cause sometimes it is boring as f*ck, but the producers it is a giant for their own profits. They can drag every single episode with characters explaining a lot of sh*t happening [which of course the audience must learn, so they can follow], so a fight in Bleach can last 3-4 episodes maximum.....it is ridiculous...

And this is my opinion why the producers don't use the "show, don't tell" method.
 

lechat

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Dec 5, 2012
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it's not only limited to anime you see it alot in movies and tv as well where someone will say something completely unnecessary that you would never say in real life

e.g
ring ring
"hey jane it's you sister on the line. you know the lesbian one that works at the soft toy company"
"oh yeah jenny the one with the 2 kids whos husband just left her"

it's a way of quickly getting out backstory without tons of flashbacks or long conversations although since most anime is usually 90% back story i'm gonna go with others in this thread and just say they are cheaping out
 

Abomination

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Dec 17, 2012
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Because Anime 9/10 has terrible dialogue and exposition.

Also:
Soviet Heavy said:
Zhukov said:
I usually hear fans describing it as all super deep and symbolic and introspective.
Most who do say that are the ones who are already taking Anime a little too seriously.
It is the true shame of the genre that so much artistic talent and tackling of very mature scenarios/concepts is undermined by terrible, inorganic dialogue and narration.

Oh, and women resorting to incredible violence against men for peeking at them naked by accident.
 

Casual Shinji

Should've gone before we left.
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Jul 18, 2009
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Zhukov said:
Casual Shinji said:
Most anime have no real pension for subtlety. It's kind of the Japanese mindset.
What, really?

That's kind of strange to hear.

I don't have much experience in Japanese media and I wouldn't know a Japanese mindset if it got stuck up my nose and died there, but I usually hear fans describing it as all super deep and symbolic and introspective.
Things can still be deep and symbolic without being subtle. As a matter of fact, it's very hard to to pull off symbolism with any real subtlety. Or at least I've seen very few media pull it off.

You may not be experienced with Japanese media, but I'm sure you're well aware that Japan is a country of extremes. Same applies to most of their storytelling. They tend to leave very little to the imagination. Not when it regards anime anyway.

It may also be because anime voice acting is performed very similar to that of a Japanese radio drama.

There is some anime with decent subtlety though, like Paranoia Agent and Princess Mononoke. And I haven't read a lot of manga, but the ones I have tend to be more subtle then the animated counterpart.
 

Guitarmasterx7

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Mar 16, 2009
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TBH i only have short here-and-there experiences with out outside of the mainstream, but yeah, characters seem prone to spit out exposition like crazy. Characters also seem to do things that make absolutely no fucking sense by human being logic all the time, so arguably the two balance each other out.

...I'm just not going to be the one to take the legitimate stance of that argument.
 

FireAza

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Aug 16, 2011
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Keep in mind guys you're talking about an entire medium here. It would be like saying American live-action films have too many explosions when your only experience with American live-action films are Michael Bay's Transformers and a few other blockbuster action movies.
 

hermes

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Mar 2, 2009
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First of all, "show, don't tell" is a trait of good screenwriting, and its not exclusive to anime to fall flat on it.

With that said, anime is based on manga (Japanese comic), where exposition is rampant and inner monologues a common tool. Some adaptations are just more "literal" than others.

Also, if things like JRPGs and MGS are any guide, Japanese do love long and exhausting exposition; there is no point in saying something once when it can be said dozens of times by different people. Maybe its a cultural difference, and the reason "show, don't tell" is not so common on them.
 

MammothBlade

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Oct 12, 2011
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I think it's more often than not the Japanese language structure. Many terms are indefinite, thus things are explained in a concrete tone to avoid confusion.
 

Some_weirdGuy

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Nov 25, 2010
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Probably because they're not a main character, or even much of a secondary character. Why waste time trying to show all this stuff that would build up a character if they aren't all that important or worth spending so much time on? It isn't really their story, it's the main characters, and secondary main characters stories. that other stuff is just fluff to try and hint at deeper worlds/characters that aren't always relevant enough to spend more time on.
 

fix-the-spade

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Rossco64 said:
A good example of this is in Death Note. When she expresses interest in the Kira case Naomi's fiancée says something to her along the lines of:

"I know you used to work for L and were a top agent in the FBI, but you are retired now and we are getting married soon."
Money, not much else.

Animated frames are expensive, most anime uses reduced motion, where either single frames are used multiple times (as in 11-22-33 instead of 123456 like a movie uses) or a frame is mostly static and only elements of it are animated as overlays (such as the character's mouth). Backgrounds and sets tend to get re-used a lot too, so almost any exposition has to take place in a setting that will be either used a lot of have a great deal of importance to the plot. Hence a lot of characters sitting or standing still having conversations.

Most animes are made to tiny budgets, even the big ones have the kind of resources you'd equate to a middling a soap-opera in the US. Twenty minutes to explain a character's history and motivations is normally impractical, that's thousands of frames and tens of thousands of man hours.
 

mechashiva77

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Jul 10, 2011
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OH MY FUCKING GOD I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO NOTICED THIS.

My favorite animes usually manage to avoid this for the most part, and even if it occurred I wouldn't have noticed it (There's a challenge for you, find where they violate "show, don't tell" in Samurai Champloo, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Cowboy Bebop, or One Piece). Even if they did violate it, they kept it to neat little thoughts. But all the other ones I've watched, dear LORD Was it annoying. Yes, I get it that the person is able to do this now shut up and fight! Better yet, while he's flapping his gums, go in there and sock him one!
 

Ranorak

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Feb 17, 2010
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mechashiva77 said:
OH MY FUCKING GOD I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO NOTICED THIS.

My favorite animes usually manage to avoid this for the most part, and even if it occurred I wouldn't have noticed it (There's a challenge for you, find where they violate "show, don't tell" in Samurai Champloo, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Cowboy Bebop, or One Piece). Even if they did violate it, they kept it to neat little thoughts. But all the other ones I've watched, dear LORD Was it annoying. Yes, I get it that the person is able to do this now shut up and fight! Better yet, while he's flapping his gums, go in there and sock him one!
While I'm a HUGE Fullmetal Alchemist fan, there are plenty of scenes where the dialogue goes along these lines;
"He Transmuted X so that it turned into Y and caused Z to happen!"