The 3rd episode of the Innominate Anime Podcast got me thinking: why do we give certain seasons of anime titles like “season of the year” or just plain “bad”?
People have been complaining about the winter 2018 season being “lopsided” or “biased” towards slice of life or cute girls doing cute things, and thus dismissing it as a “bad” season. Hypothetically, no season should ever be “bad” though. So what are the problems that create these complaints in the first place?
People have a tendency to judge seasons by the amount of shows they’ve watched and the quality of those shows. Quality is subjective, though, so it’s hard to normalise what a “truly good” show is unless you watch it for yourself…and nobody has time or access for every anime in the season, unless they seriously compromise some other priority or priorities. In addition, it’s easier to group shows by season in some cases and from seasonal charts/discussions, it’s easy to tell how much a certain kind of fan is being catered towards and it’s just as easy to take offense to this if you’re not the kind of fan who’s being catered towards in a certain season (even if you do have one or two shows that you like). However, if what you want is to get a more holistic view of the medium, you’d need to look at these shows individually.
Furthermore, consecutive seasons tend to follow trends in expectations. For example, summer is known to be a stinker of a season on the simulcast circuit (I distinctly remember thinking summer 2017 was the worst season I’d had in a while, and I don’t remember being alone in thinking that) and fall holds many hyped-up shows, while for me, winter is a “season for critics” more than other seasons are (notice how in yearly rankings from 2015 – 2017, I have had a winter anime sit at the top of my rankings). The fact that some shows – for instance, the huge bunch of slice of life this season – are competing against each other is an illusion only made possible by scheduling in most cases. The only exception in this case is time-sensitive scheduling, e.g. summer has a lot of sports shows because that would influence fans of the shows to partake in such activities when the time for it is optimal, as it is with Hanebado!. (You could always justify the viewpoint of “competing shows” through weekly rankings or something similar, though. Lots of anime discussion places tend to do that.)
Consequently, hype obscures people’s expectations for “great” seasons. This particularly tends to happen around shows with a lot of marketing/publicity (for an example of that, look at Darling in the Franxx) or when people obsess over generally well-reputed studios and/or staff (see Violet Evergarden). For these popular shows of the winter 2018 season, people’s expectations were not met, more specifically in the case of Violet Evergarden than Darling, but it marred their opinion of the entire season. That, plus what was considered to be a stellar previous season as mentioned in the podcast, added to the malaise surrounding a season already in some disrepute for its catering towards a specific audience. That’s what I think happened to winter 2018, anyway.
Sidenote: It’s only “normal length” episodes of 24 minutes or so that get the best reputation and publicity…but that’s an argument which can be explored another time.
So, how do you think people should judge seasons of anime, if they’re in need of judging at all? Alternatively, what are your thoughts on winter 2018 compared to previous years (assuming you were watching simulcasts at the time)?