Monday, May 31, 2010

True Opinions Don’t Exist… Well Neither Do False Ones!

‘There is no truth. There is only perception.’ This statement has come to be one of my pet peeves these days. Upon completing my first (and now second) year of university, I started to get a firm hold of the idea that ‘truth’ is not always ‘out there’, but that instead it usually is more of a fleeting concept. Even in science man admits: there is no secret door we can open to discover the real truth, instead we try to uncover it bit by bit – with people who are, inherently, biased, with statistical methods we devised ourselves, and limited by our human imagination. In science, we don’t talk about true theories. We talk about theories that seem to approach the truth, when they are supported by sufficient empirical evidence. And even then, we can’t be sure. The truth of today may be the thrash of tomorrow, and what seemed impossible yesterday is what we call reality now.

That’s right. Truth is a fleeting concept. Especially in the world of entertainment, where it’s not a matter of life and death if there exist millions of opinions around one ‘truth’, if you will. Music wouldn’t be as enjoyable without the freedom for a personal interpretation. Neither would books, movies or… yeah you guessed it, anime.

Some of those things that tend to get me royally pissed off are comments considering the truth or falseness of someones opinion.
“My god. That’s gotta be the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. You got it all wrong.”
“It seems that there’s now one reviewer less to trust”
“Thank you for writing such an objective review. It reflected the truth perfectly.”

*reaches for a basket to vomit*

Ok, so what’s my problem with this kind of comment?

1) The one who wrote the comment clearly has the arrogance that he or she figured out the truth about an anime and that all other opinions are worthless, i.e. that he/she is intellectually superior to the one with the differing opinion.
2) They take it for granted the creator of the text ever intended to approach a truth that he knew many people would probably agree with (just assuming there is a truth indeed, but I’ll get back to that point later).
3) I find it kind of childish to be so narrowminded that one can see only one truth.

Let’s elaborate a bit on my sentiments of sincere annoyance. Two fictional people (I’ll dub them George and Cheryl) both love watching anime. They’ve seen a shitload of anime and love discussing their opinions on series they watched. George thought Neon Genesis Evangelion was one of the best things he ever saw: the series pushes the boundaries of what one might call shounen, personalities and relationships are carefully dissected and there are references to a lot of psychological themes (especially psychoanalysis). Cheryl, in comparison, wanted to slowly strangle Shinji for his lameness and indecisiveness and thought the religious references were kinda silly. Cheryl loved Serial Experiments Lain because it completely fucked her mind over and presented some intelligent themes she could think about. George merely thought the series was made of pretentious pseudo-philosophical crap.

George laughed his head off watching Azumanga Daioh, while Cheryl did just not find it funny enough to be bothered at all. Cheryl drooled over the bishies in Uragiri wa boku no namae o shitteiru, George almost vomited at its sight for its shameless corniness. George hated Haibane Renmei, because it was a slow-paced slice of life in which nothing really happened during the course of 13 episodes. Cheryl loved the allegorical themes of sin, redemption and salvation. George was captivated by the deeply spiritual themes in Mushishi, while Cheryl doesn’t believe in the merit of spirituality and thought it was pretty boring. Cheryl, on the other hand, really loved the fable-format in which Kino’s Journey was presented. Georges interpretation was that the stories were too simle and short to achieve real depth.

I don’t think Cheryls opinion is worth even one bit less than Georges (or the other way around). I even want to make this statement more extreme: it’s completely irrelevant whether the opinion of Cheryl approaches the ‘truth’ more than Georges. No matter what happens, their opinions will be their own truths, and someone else can’t simply claim that the sentiments they have for an anime are wrong. Someone who thinks Haibane Renmei was dull is just as right as someone who says it’s a work of pure allegorical genius. Whether it’s one or the other way around, what’s claimed to be the ‘true meaning’ of a series won’t change peoples feelings about it, so it’s something that’s completely irrelevant in the enjoyment of anime (I’m referring to the intentions of the autor now, among other things). Two highly intelligent reviewers can differ a lot in their ratings of a single series; not because one of them is ‘wrong’, as arrogant people like to claim, but because they both took another perspective.

What’s truth in the entertainment industry anyway? Is it ‘the most sophisticated opinion about a series’? Is it ‘what the author intended it to mean’? Or should we instead go for ‘the absolute, indiscussable truth is what I say it is’? I don’t think so. I don’t think there is one truth. Instead, one might say that every single person has a little bit of the truth – namely, one’s own truth – and that all these truths are together the whole range of a truth about a series. Furthermore, as I already tried to illustrate, ‘truth’ is irrelevant for personal enjoyment.

For these reasons, every single word, sentence and paragraph I write about anime in this blog is always purely my opinion (my truth) – and mine alone. I don’t claim to be writing the truth and readers shouldn’t judge my writing as if I did. If you don’t agree with me, I’d me more than happy to discuss our differences in opinion – after all, differences in perspective truly fascinate me. I love to be able to see other peoples original views and interpretations - you and I might even discover something new about a series that we hadn’t thought of yet, which might change each of our truths about a series ^_^.

However, I’d like to issue a warning for the people who keep whining about me being wrong and they being right. I’ve got news for you – opinions can’t be right or wrong. One can merely agree or disagree: they are opinions and only that. I never claimed to be superior to anyone else and I truly dislike people approaching me with an air as if they are.

So, everything else aside, let’s just keep doing what we love to do - watching anime - and accept we’re not right and everyone else is not wrong - and the other way around, obviously.


  1. The thing about this approach is that people have started to use the excuse of 'it's my opinion so it can't be wrong' when discussing anime. Take Georges dislike of Haibane Remnei because nothing really happens. I'd argue back as to what actually does happen, while similarly I'd point out the flaws in Evangelion. It's an attempt to add to discussion but people get so protective of their views that they've turned 'its my opinion' into a defence barrier against outside analysis.

  2. I love the way you describe and explain 'big' topics like this. Scamp has a point though. I'm sure you wouldn't (you love discussions after all ;P), but a LOT of bloggers, vloggers and alike use the "opinions can't be wrong" phrase to disregard comments with a different opinion from their own, which gets a bit tiring after a while.

    Now the important topic of this post:
    Cheryl, Azumanga Daioh is funny because, because. Give in already (sorry, I had to ;P).

  3. hahaha, bulls-eye xD. I moderately, averagely enjoyed it but Azumanga surely wasn't my cup of tea :-P.

  4. So you're saying there is no absolute truth, and that it is your opinion (that there are no absolute truths)? What would happen if someone were to declare 'Absolute truth excists, and that is an absolute truth'? Did that person just prove you wrong? What I want to say is, it is quite paradoxal to have the opinion that there is no absolute truth. (You can take it even further and ask yourself if it is a truth that you have that opinion, or an opinion as well)

    I also just wanted to add: most people mean by saying 'That is the best anime serie... ever!', they usually just mean they personally think it is the best anime serie they formed an opinion on (on that given moment). I think in most cases it is implied this way. But I have to admid there are indeed people with this narrow-sighted vision. (and you could ponder about if it is their loss or not)

  5. The thing with opinions though is that while there's no absolute truth, there can be uninformed/misguided opinions.

    From a written standpoint, the most important thing is to be able to explain why you think that way so that the readers can see where you're coming from. I'm fine with people disagreeing and in fact, disagreements are where I usually derive the most enjoyable discussions, and as long as I can see why people think the way they do, it's all good.

  6. @pvn: And there you go, philosophy!

  7. @zzeroparticle: yeah, i love those kind of discussions trying to understand the perspective of someone else, especially with the more complicated shows.

  8. Pontifus said it best:

    I said it a lot clumsier:

    Opinions are valid, but they're just opinions. They are true for whoever who holds them. When they are used to invalidate others, the opinion becomes less important: the game becomes about WHO is prevailing more than WHAT is the so-called 'truth.'

  9. ahaha I love this Asuka picture! :D

    Good article! :)

    There is truth, but your detectors may vary. Humans have quite limited perception.

    Rather than asking if an anime is good or searching for some kind of pseudo-objective assessment, people could be asking whether they would enjoy an anime, given their preferences. Netflix has a nice algorithm, but it certainly can be improved.

  10. Two additional points to the discussion:

    1. I am upset by the number of people who read reviews/analysis of shows they've already watched looking for vindication. Reviews best serve people who haven't seen/read the work in question and therefore come to the table with no opinion at all. If you read a review of your favorite anime and it blasts it, you have only yourself to blame. XD

    2. Even different opinions have value. The trick is to really READ the review/article. Usually a completely dissenting opinion has some valid points that you've never thought of because you were too focused on the aspects you liked/disliked.

    All in all, a nice article.

  11. Meh. It's a somewhat shallow topic in the sense that there is something even more basic. Nothing can be held true if your perceived universe is only a fabrication of your consciousness. Since it is impossible to know if that is the case, nothing can ever be 100% valid.