I am much less interested in figuring out why something is bad then I am in figuring out why something is GOOD.
This is integral to how I approach analysis. People have accused me in the past, because I now watch more than I read, of passively consuming my media, taking dopamine hits without engaging.
Absolutely nothing can be further from the truth. If I think something I watch is good, I want to know, NEED to know, why. “Fullmetal Alchemist” has female characters who are strong in combat and other typically masculine things, yet are lovable and entertaining. Why? What does it get right that so much other media gets wrong? “My Hero Academia” is a fairly generic shonen yet is also far more entertaining than 99% of the technically more “original” things on TV, and more inspiring. How come? What is it doing right?
This also leads into another reason I believe that analysis is important: The more you know, the faster you can recognize when you’re consuming junk food. Now, there’s nothing INHERENTLY wrong with junk food in moderation; it tastes good and is fun to eat. But if you ONLY imbibe junk, that’s unhealthy.
So is “My Hero Academia” just junk food, or is it trying to say something meaningful? Why does it resonate so strongly with people? Why is it good when a show like “Fairy Tail”, quite similar on the surface, is so bad? And – though this is personal to me – when it comes to the sorts of things that I write, can I learn something from it? Should I? Or should I accept it just happens to hit all of my personal preferences and there isn’t much else to talk about?
“Silver Spoon” is a straightforward high school slice of life. Those can be entertaining, but is there more to it? Are the characters three dimensional? How competently is it telling its story? What is it trying to say? Is what it’s trying to say honest or a pretty – or not so pretty – lie?
These are all things that one needs to look at in GOOD shows. Examining why the things we love are awesome is a far better use of my time than examining why the things I don’t like and won’t watch anyway are bad, because if I understand why what I like is good it will help me spot more good in the future. Hopefully I can fill my mind with less junk food and appreciate the healthy stuff more.
Even more than that – understanding why good things are good may help me appreciate media I already watched more. I hated the ending of “Gurren Lagann” until I watched Aleczandxr’s video “The Duality of Gurren Lagann”, which made such a thoroughly compelling case for its existence and effectiveness I was forced to revise my own opinion.
I didn’t understand what was happening in the scene in “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” when the character of Kimblee bursts forth to save Ed at the end until I saw the above analyst’s video on that character, and everything clicked into place.
I didn’t know what to make of “Kill La Kill” until I talked it over thoroughly with friends and watched Digibro’s videos on it – now I consider it a masterpiece.
Do you get the idea? I’m not saying that analyzing why certain media didn’t work isn’t worthwhile, and I enjoy those sorts of critics as well, such as the Critical Drinker, E;R (especially E;R, dude needs more attention), Mr. Plinkett, and MauLer. But it’s much easier to get eyeballs doing what they do, and they have a much easier job as well. We need people like Digibro – who has excellent “negative” videos as well – and Aleczandxr to dig deeper.
But this leads into a second aspect of my favored style of criticism: You need to add something to the conversation. I did an article on “Somali and the Forest Spirit” because there was practically no critical attention paid to that show. I did an article on “Brand New Animal” because I wanted to spread the word that something really good was out there, and even then I made an effort to be analytical about my recommendation. I did an article on “Toradora” because I tend to shy away from rom-coms and I wanted to express what made that one in particular worth watching, and explore the specific things it did well.
The mark of a poor critic is that he doesn’t say anything interesting. Geoff of the channel’s Mother’s Basement is a great example of this; his fight scene and OP/ED analyses are very good, but outside of that his content is utterly lackluster. Compare Geoff’s video on Re:Zero with Aleczandxr’s. Geoff just gushes about how much he likes the show for a half hour; Aleczandxr gives a detailed explanation about the specific things it did right and wrong. It’s embarrassing how badly Geoff comes off in comparison.
Or compare Geoff’s “Adapat or die” series with Digibro’s single video on what makes a good adaption of a prior work. Again, it’s laughable how poorly Geoff comes off in comparison. For negative critics, compare Cinema Sins, an absolute garbage channel, with Plinkett’s reviews, which can practically be used to teach writing classes.
As for me, two of my favorite articles that I’ve written are on One Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100, because they’re not just reviews, they’re specific analyses of specific aspects of the show that contribute to WHY those shows are as good as they are. One is about how Mumen Rider is the key to the show, the other is about how Mob differs from your typical modern hero and is far more effective a protagonist as a result, and a far better role model.
If it isn’t clear enough already, the analyst I model myself after is Aleczandxr. He’s pretty much everything a critic should be in my eyes: He doesn’t talk about why the things we hate are bad but why the things we love are good, and consistently adds something meaningful and interesting to the overall discussion. His videos are intelligent, enriching, and extremely clear and erudite.
And he doesn’t pander; he doesn’t release at a fixed rate, he doesn’t tailor his videos to certain lengths, and he doesn’t write negative things for extra clicks. He takes the time he needs to add something insightful and interesting to the discussion.
That’s what I want to do. I don’t want to write negative things for clicks. I don’t want to write vapid fluff, quickly forgotten and only paid attention to because it happens to align with what people are talking about. I want to contribute to the discussion with meaningful and insightful analysis. I want to, perhaps, help people appreciate what it takes to make something GOOD.
And if I can do that, then maybe what I’m doing is worth something. Hey, it’s a goal.
If you like my brand of analysis, you can hear me and co-host Ben Wheeler, author of Sheik of Mars, each Sunday on the Superversive Livestream! If you can’t make it live, don’t feel bad; you can listen to my nasal tones and Ben’s dulcet tones while doing housework on quarantine. Last week we talked about not giving money to people who hate you. This week we’ll be discussing “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba”, “Brand New Animal”, and more!
I’ve been streaming with Ben for about a month now, so be sure to check our archives out!