Bristle’s Babbles #8 – ‘Subjectivity vs. Fundamentals’

NOTE: Old post, sorta rambly. Also, some opinions expressed are different to my perspective as of now.

I was having a discussion yesterday with a friend. He was baffled by me giving Kill la Kill a 10. After showing him my review and explaining how much I liked the idea of a series that was basically a parody of every single fanservice cliche you could think of he still had some disagreements. He said he believed the story, characters, soundtrack and visuals weren’t worthy of a 10, even considering it as parody. In reply I told him that I found the little fundamentals to be meaningless in analysing how I viewed Kill la Kill. It wasn’t the story, characters, soundtrack or visuals that made me give it a 10, it was the densely engaging experience I got from the combination of them. When the fundamentals all came together for me they became blurred and I was in no position to even consider their imperfections relevant.

After I explained that, my friend understood why I gave it that score and made the point that it was interesting how it all came down to such a subjective outlook on the series. I’ve never been more aware of just how dynamic perspectives can be in critical discussion.

But what about Sword Art Online? That was one of the most profoundly memorable experiences I’ve had with an Anime, but unlike Kill la Kill I actually considered its issues and gave it a 7/10. What was so different? Well, it’s simply that Sword Art Online is more blatantly flawed fundamentally. I’m willing to excuse its character and story flaws in favour of the overall experience but I still can’t help but acknowledge that it’s fundamentally flawed in a lot of ways. On the flipside I also considered its fundamental qualities, that being the amazing soundtrack and visuals. Those fundamentals mattered to my experience just as much as my experience. Kill la Kill’s fundamentals had enough strength that when they got blurred for me in the scheme of things I didn’t feel the need to pick on them, but Sword Art Online just didn’t quite have that strength.

Sometimes, though, good fundamentals mean absolutely nothing to your overall experience. Mirai Nikki is an example of a series that I could say plenty of nice things about in terms of technical presentation and soundtrack, but overall utterly hate. It’s not just the gaping story and character weaknesses either. It was an overall feeling of disgust. I was left absolutely repulsed by what I saw of Mirai Nikki and still haven’t summoned up the strength to finish it. There are occassions where fundamentals are trumped by an overall negative experience just as much as an overall positive experience. In a vacuum Mirai Nikki is about as fundamentally strong as Sword Art Online when you just consider the basics, but while I was able to forgive Sword Art Online to some extent because I enjoyed the overall experience, I couldn’t forgive Mirai Nikki because I didn’t enjoy the overall experience.

It’s just so interesting to me how the value of objective fundamentals can be twisted to so many different extents just by the weight of the subjective experience, how you can excuse fundamental flaws or ignore fundamental qualities. I believe that fundamentals do have a part in building an opinion, but after a certain point you’re willing to take the fundamentals out of the equation and rely on your own perspective alone. Despite that you’re still influenced by fundamentals in your personal experience to some extent, and you expect something to have a certain level of fundamental strength before you start ignoring issues that didn’t matter to you. There’s really no way to balance fundamentals and perspective, and if your really value your own experience you won’t try to balance them because very rarely does either weigh the same as the other.

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