I’ve often been told that I cherish variety in my entertainment (particularly my anime) to an unusual degree, and if there’s one anime I find myself getting into disagreements over more than anything else, it’s The Sky Crawlers (second might be Xam’d: Lost Memories).
Directed by Oshii Mamoru of Ghost in the Shell fame, I reviewed The Sky Crawlers favorably, noting that the way it’s able to effectively instill in the audience the same sense of mind-numbing monotony that the characters themselves experience is something quite impressive. Of course, that also makes it difficult to watch, something that can bore you beyond the point of no return, so the debates over the quality of The Sky Crawlers tends to come down to the following question: how entertaining should entertainment be?
The argument against The Sky Crawlers is that you can make a film which conveys that sense of monotony in its characters without having to drag the audience down with it, but my feeling has always been that this is just not the same effect. However, what I realize as well is that, as a person who highly values variety of content and concepts in my anime, it’s not so much that I think the approach taken by Oshii’s film is superior, that there is indeed something inherently more artistic about making the audience live that boredom, but rather that it is a valid approach to take in making a work of art (or entertainment). In other words, I would not want all of my anime to be like The Sky Crawlers, and I do not put it above other anime as I do not prize experimentation above all else: I simply like the fact that something like The Sky Crawlers exists.
Broadening the point of view to not just focus on something as esoteric as The Sky Crawlers, I have to wonder how much people are willing to welcome greater variety in anime provided they get enough of the types of anime they enjoy. We can talk about how there’s too much of X or Y genre of anime and how it might be stifling the kinds we enjoy, but what if that wasn’t the case, and the popular thing was the niche and vice versa? Is any imbalance problematic, or are “problematic” anime okay if they’re in small doses?