Lethargic Ramble: Opinions and Objective Quality

As Anime fans, our opinions are something that are very dear to us. They define our interests, our tastes and who we are as individuals, and as such, we love to share our opinions with other people and discuss our thoughts on whatever the subject of choice may be.

And within this sea of opinions, is an idea that I always seem to come across, one that I have always found to be backwards and some what silly: the idea of objective quality.

There are many people who believe that every work has an objective quality to it, that there are shows that are “objectively good” and therefore, everyone should love those shows and appreciate their quality like they do.

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No surprise that this one comes up the most

Likewise, there are shows that people consider to be “objectively bad” and that we shouldn’t support them because they have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

But I’m here to argue that objective quality doesn’t exist at all. At least in relation to art.

For something to be objectively good, its quality would need be embedded into reality itself. Its quality would need to be defined by the Universe itself and be completely free of human judgement or bias. But Anime is a form of art, it is a human creation, and the “objective quality” that these people speak of, is based on our own opinions.

When judging the quality of any art form, bias is inherent. You can’t approach an art form in an objective manner. It’s just not possible and it never has been. You can definitely come close to it, but your opinions, in some way, will always override your final thoughts on the quality of anything.

Reality didn’t decide that say, Legend of the Galactic Heroes is an amazing show. The Universe doesn’t care if a show is good or bad, people do. Objective quality is a human concept it doesn’t exist outside of human beings. It is not part of the natural law of the Universe. We ourselves dictate what is good and what is bad, and therefore a shows quality will always be subjective.

The notion of objective quality just baffles me. Just try to apply this to anything else and see what I mean. Imagine someone presented you with a block of cheese. A big block of cheese. Now imagine they tell you that cheese is “objectively good”. Reality decided that cheese is good? But what if I don’t like cheese? I really don’t like cheese. I despise cheese. So how can cheese be objectively good if I don’t like it? I can’t be wrong for not liking cheese can I?

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So why can’t we apply this logic to the quality of Anime?

I don’t understand why this is so difficult for people to grasp. It’s frustrating. I’ve had countless people slam my tastes time and time again because many of my favourite shows are “objectively bad”. But for something to be objectively bad, no one can like it, everyone must think it’s bad. If even one person thinks that its “decent” or “good”, then it can no longer be considered “objectively bad”.

Sure, you can argue a lot of things, such as “the writers put effort into the script” or “a lot of care was put into the artwork”, but that doesn’t make it good. Effort does not equate to quality.

A lot of people consider Fate Stay/Night: Unlimited Blade Works to be “well drawn”, but I disagree. It’s beautifully animated sure, but the character designs don’t appeal to me, I don’t think they’re all that detailed, and I’ve seen far better in other shows. Does that mean I’m wrong, or that I’m an imbecile? No, it means my subjective opinion is just different from that of the consensus.

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I’ve just seen so much better…

People seem to think that what the consensus believes is the objective truth, but that’s nonsense. It just means a lot of people think the same as you do, which proves nothing. I disagree with the consensus opinion all the time, and I couldn’t care less. To hell with the consensus.

This is a dangerous mindset to have. It’s gotten to the stage where I’ve seen people say things like “it was an enjoyable show, but it was objectively bad”. I don’t get it. How can you think it’s bad if you  enjoyed it? Isn’t that the whole reason you’re watching entertainment in the first place? Doesn’t that mean the show succeeded somewhere if it managed to entertain you?

It’s all about the subjective experience. It’s okay to enjoy shows that a lot of people hate. If you like Keijo!!!!!!!! this season, then good for you. If some how you thought that Taboo Tattoo from last season was a masterpiece, then power to you. That doesn’t make your opinion trash and it doesn’t make you wrong, it just means you like something that a lot of people dislike or find bad. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying yourself and having a good time. That’s why we’re all here. That’s why we watch Anime.

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It’s okay to like this folks

I’ve been fighting this battle for years. I still think Tsubasa Chronicle is one of the greatest Anime I’ve ever seen with fantastic writing and beautiful characterisation. I still believe that Naruto is an excellent coming of age underdog story with great character development and fantastically handled plot twists. I still consider World Trigger to be the most underrated Anime of the 2010’s with an engaging narrative and well choreographed battles and yeah, I think the animation is fine despite all the ridicule it gets. That’s my subjective experience, and no amount of “objective” arguments will ever change that.

Because bias is inherent and objective quality is not a thing. I deny its existence, I always have and I always will.

Just enjoy things. It’s okay to enjoy things. You’ll be a lot happier if you do. Trust me.

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What are your thoughts on Objective Quality?

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17 thoughts on “Lethargic Ramble: Opinions and Objective Quality

  1. True, too often people say “objectively” meaning just the consensus opinion. And after all, saying “It’s a good show” sounds stronger than “I liked it” (which always is the case).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with your take on objectivity because I think it’s the straightforward, rational conclusion on the topic. What I’ll say though is that ‘objective quality,’ i feel, is also a case of terminology. It is of course true that art is subjective but in the attempt to paint in broad strokes and dictate what ‘most people will like’ or what ‘most people have liked’ people speak of the ‘objective quality’ without necessarily meaning it in the way it’s discussed here. That’s not to say it’s not still wrong but I think it’s primarily a case of diction rather than the masses believing in a true objective metric. Might have to write something myself at some point because this probably needs more fleshing out but hopefully my thoughts make at least a little sense for now. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah that’s more or less what I was getting at towards the end of the post.

      A lot of people seem to use the term “objective” when they really mean “consensus”, but I still see a whole lot of people, namely reviewers, using the term literally.

      I’d be interested in seeing your thoughts on this in a post in the future, as I feel my own post is merely scratching the surface of a much bigger debate.

      Thank you for reading and for your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that there are some things in stories that can be objectively good or bad though that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll enjoy them. I know that a lot of the stuff I enjoy is pretty dreadful in terms of writing and plot (most of the horror for one) but it is still really fun to watch.
    I think it’s kind of like the difference between literature and pulp fiction. There’s the books you are supposed to read because they are classics and some of them are actually really great to read but others are really dry and slow so even though they are really good they aren’t fun. Then there’s the books that are written to sell and while they may not be particularly good they can be really fun.
    I agree with your last point. You should enjoy things you enjoy whether or not others judge them good or bad. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that there are definitely things that can be considered objectively good, such as, as you said, the writing of a particular novel. Classics such as the Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird instantly come to mind.

      However, while they are objectively well written, that doesn’t necessarily mean the story itself is objectively good.

      I don’t disagree though, there are definitely parts of something that can be viewed objectively.

      Thanks a lot for reading! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I had a bit of an existential crisis reading this post as I tend to strive for ‘objective’ reviews but when it comes down to it I’m just writing based on subjective opinions, whether they’re mine or someone else’s. It’s an inescapable fact, as you said, when talking about art.

    As you define it, objectivity itself is not a thing. The measure of everything is based on a point of reference, isn’t it? In Science there is simply an agreed upon standard for that point. Not so with entertainment. I wholeheartedly agree that they’re nothing wrong with liking what you like. Anime exists to be enjoyed.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh dear, I didn’t mean to cause an existential crisis for my readers haha.

      By all means though, your approach is definitely a good one, since the quality of your reviews are great. If that approach works for you, then go for it!

      And yeah, that’s pretty much what I was getting at.

      My main point here is really just: “Enjoy what you want to enjoy instead of following the ‘objective’ standard”

      I feel there are a large amount of people who use this objective mindset to define their tastes instead of just enjoying the things they want to enjoy.

      Thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Cracker of a post on this topic totally have retweeted this 🙂 to me basically people talk before they think. You are right to say anime is an art form it’s going to be open to a thousand opinions and speculation. Noone hardly will ever agree to disagree they’ll always be fuel added to the fire but doesn’t mean you have to taken someone shoving their opinions down your throat. All you can do is speak your mind and opinion if that person doesn’t want to know then bugger them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, thanks a lot for that, I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      And yeah, that’s exactly right. There is no one truth or single interpretation, because we’re all different, we’re all unique and we all have our own perceptions and beliefs on what is “good”.

      You can’t say someone has “bad taste” just because they like something you hate, that’s absurd.

      I’m all for discussing, I love discussing with people, even if we disagree, but I can’t stand it when people feel the need to go “you’re not being objective” or “but you like something that is objectively bad”.

      It makes no sense to try to apply objectivity to something that is so broad in its different interpretations and full of opinions.

      Anyway, I’ll stop before I get into another essay.

      Thank you for the support and for reading! I really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

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