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Expectations and Reactions

28 MAY


Many of us have been taught that keeping an open mind is critical to writing quality criticism. There is a value placed on so called “objective evaluation,” as if art could be studied under a microscope and broken down into its basic components. As much as tvTropes tries to accomplish this task, I contend that such a breakdown of fiction is impossible because it disregards and devalues the biases of the viewer. Eliminating bias is a continuous goal of critics, but I disagree with this paradigm. I believe that if we state and include our biases in our criticism, then we can portray a more realistic reaction, rather than one that seems to only occur under perfect conditions and if the viewer of the artwork is a robot.

Part of these biases are one’s expectations that one holds when one is watching an anime. These expectations are certainly subject to change as one proceeds through the show, and can be influenced by the genre of the anime, the studio, reviews, blog posts, ratings, speculation, the year the anime was made, and the anime and other stories one has seen/read in the past. One’s expectations are most critical at two points, after the first episode and right before the last episode. As the saying goes “It only matters how you begin and end. No one remembers the middle.”

With all this preface, I hope to make clear the purpose of this blog. There is a phenomenon I have experienced while discussing anime with others that cause otherwise perfectly objective critics to morph their ratings of anime. This, I believe, is due to difference in expectation. Two extremes of this effect are Hype Backlash and Critical Backlash. and I wish to provide a few examples from my own evaluations of anime.

  1. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
  • My rating: 5/5
  • Average rating: 4.549/5
  • Rank: #16
  • Reviews range: 5-10/10
  • Studio: Shaft
  • Genre: Magical Girl
  • Year: 2011

I won’t hold back in saying that I loved Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but I understand why others seem to hate it. To summarize in one sentence, I liked Madoka for its raw emotion, pretty colors, awesome music, likeable characters, a shaky, yet workable story, and an interesting twist on a lovable genre. However, those who watch the anime now will likely not have the same experience as I did. Firstly, the anime has (usually) been critically acclaimed and has a huge fanbase that is loud and passionate. Secondly, the fact that this would twist the tropes of the Magical Girl genre is no secret, so some of the shock value is diminished. Thirdly, people may expect a more philosophical deconstruction, something that is slower paced like Evangelion. However, Madoka will not deliver much in the deep thinking respect, unless one considers its use of Magical Girl tropes. Overall, I would speculate that the rank and average rating of Madoka will go down in the coming year, as the hype cools off and people evaluate it in the context of the anime of the era.

2. Kara no Kyoukai movie #7

  • My rating: 3.5/5
  • Average rating: 4.622/5
  • Rank: #7
  • Reviews range: N/A
  • Studio: ufotable
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Year: 2009

I loved Kara no Kyoukai as a whole, however, the ending disappointed me. There was a certain expectation I had for the anime, and when that was not fulfilled, I felt the ending was inferior, perhaps unjustly. To summarize this expectation, I’ll quote what I wrote on a forum:

“Shiki goes from sinner to saint. Maybe not quite this radical, but the revelation that she in fact HASN'T killed anyone (except that guy in episode 5 but since he's part building he apparently "doesn't count") changes everything about how I thought the last episode would play out. The main question that I've held throughout watching this series was "Could a mass murderer like Shiki be redeemed?" By suddenly saying "Well, she's not quite a mass murderer," this question is totally averted, which really disappointed me. Also, I thought that the character became less intense and intriguing after this revelation and just became a not-so-typical "good guy" rather than a unique sort of anti-hero.”

This question of redemption came from mutual analysis with my friend Minai99, but as I stated, it was averted, or at least not played out in the way I expected, and therefore was disappointed that the ending was different from what I expected. However, he admits that he similarly expected Madoka to play out differently, and therefore the ending had a similar backlash effect. This mutual agreement was the inspiration for writing this blog.

3. Yosuga No Sora

  • My rating: 0.5/5
  • Average rating: 2.803/5
  • Rank: #2134
  • Reviews range: 0.5-9.5/10
  • Studio: Feel
  • Genre: Ecchi Harem Romance
  • Year: 2010

Dang, I keep coming back to this anime, but I do so because it’s such an intriguing anomaly by critiquing standards. Firstly, I don’t usually rate anime this low, and “modern” anime are also rarely given this low of an average rating. Yet, I’m surprised that it received reviews so high. However, I went into watching this anime with very little expectation. I took it based upon looks alone and a vague description of the genre (BAD BAD BAD IDEA). I would NEVER pick up an anime such as this one now considering the ratings, genre, and the fact that I know the type of anime made by Feel studios. However, if I were to for some reason pick this anime up, I would likely not hate it as much as I did as I would set my standards lower than average and probably just enjoy making fun of it.

4. Angel Beats

  • My rating: 4.5/5
  • Average Rating: 4.488/5
  • Rank: #40
  • Reviews range: 4-10/10
  • Studio: P.A. Works
  • Genre: Action/Comedy/Drama
  • Year: 2010

This anime was most curious I  believe for its rise to the top. Angel Beats did not start at #40 on the rankings. It didn’t even start in the top 200. The first episode provided us with solid animation, some nice music, and some generic characters with an intriguing story. By the end, some critics may say that nothing changed, but many viewers found an emotional drama that contained good elements of action and comedy as well. The series probably gained popularity as the show progressed, as people realized it got more and more popular and wanted to check the anime out for themselves. This snowballed into creating one of the most popular anime of 2010 (and my personal favorite of that year). Now, however, if someone were to pick up Angel Beats, they would have to be searching for a populist anime. P.A. Works has established itself as a populist studio, creating mainstream works centered around likable characters and solid animation. If one does not know this fact (or somehow does not see these elements in Angel Beats), then hype backlash is very likely to occur. In summary, Angel Beats was an anime that initially drew its audience on curiosity, but now draws its audience on expectation.


There are MANY more examples that I could provide, but I chose these four because I thought they would provide the most interesting examples of how expectation has fiddled with people’s perceptions of certain anime. I would also like to submit this as an argument for subjectivity in reviews rather than trying to create some sort of mathematical formula of evaluation. Since the context in which one saw an anime is important (as it affects expectation and therefore, one’s review), it should not be omitted. Otherwise, a review is distorted through some false law of averages.


DavidWP avatar DavidWP
Apr 22, 2012

Yosuga No Sora

"I’m surprised that it received reviews so high"

I'm suprised that it's received alot of negitive reviews lol :P

Minai99 avatar Minai99
Aug 14, 2011

Oh, and btw, I've started to watch Yosuga no Sora. I'll let you know what I think when I'm done. :3

Minai99 avatar Minai99
Aug 14, 2011



Woah, how long as this been up? I just noticed it now. D:

default avatar Netosmar
Jun 22, 2011

Interesting point you got there. I agree with you that people shouldn't review an anime(or anything at all) with a completely neutral position. The reviewer's opinion is also important. As long as they don't overdo it. For exemple, I hate it when the reviewer starts to mock an anime just because he/she didn't like, it just kills the review. Don't like it, just say "I don't like it", no need to destroy it. I'm not refering to you, in case you're wondering. ^_^

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