Within critique of media like anime or video games, there is often a desire to be objective. This desire is understandable; humans wish to find “the objective truth”. For me, watching anime like Fuuka shows the failings of a clean cut rating system when it comes to interacting with art.
Fuuka and Wish Fulfillment
Fuuka is by all means not a “good show”. It follows a loser high school boy named Yuu and a tsundere-ish girl named Fuuka and everything that one expects from an anime romance. I started watching mostly as a joke, not thinking much of it. The first episode was genuinely hilarious, and much of the show is comedic in its stupidity. Nonetheless, as I found myself watching more and more, something clicked with me. I was genuinely enjoying the show for what it was. I laughed at it, but I wasn’t only laughing at it.
Fuuka‘s primary cast is not well developed, but at some level, I kind of relate to them. Yuu is a very bland anime protagonist, he’s a normal loser but plenty of girls like him. Many, myself included, bemoan this character type, for good reasons. At the same time, I did grow to connect with him while watching. Maybe I wish this wasn’t the case, but I am just some high school boy whose obsessed with twitter like Yuu. At heart, do I wish I was him? This led to the question “did I only enjoy this show because of wish fulfilment?” And that leads to the big question “Is there anything wrong with that?”
Wish fulfilment is often decried as a negative trait for a show to have. However, it does serve a purpose. There is a reason shows like Fuuka exist, people like to see themselves, or idealised versions of themselves in the media they consume. Even as a critic, I must admit that I will “fall” into this trap.
The Art Critic and The Art
There is no one correct way to view a piece of work, and people value different things, in food, politics or art. What I value is going to be different from what you value, at least in some way. This makes the art of critiquing art difficult, as often we do not fully understand what we value ourselves. Before watching Fuuka, I thought for sure that it would be a quick laugh and I’d be done with it, but it’s really made me think about how I view media.
What does it mean that I can see that what the show is doing, but still enjoy it? I’m cynical about what Fuuka is doing, but at the same time eat it up. I feel conflicted about how I feel about the show. Can I be a critic when I like a show like this? If I like films like Chunking Express, why spend time on Fuuka? What does one do (in this case me) with a show that is pandering directly to me?
What’s at the core of Fuuka?
Looking at Fuuka as a show, it’s easy to see what I got attached to. At heart, it’s about a bunch of teenagers starting a band and doing something with their youth. This is something I don’t do. I go to school, get home and look at Twitter. The closest I get to what the characters are achieving is writing posts like this one. In my heart, part of why I like this show is because I can live a different life through it. Even if I can connect to it, I can still see it’s many shortcomings. It has stupid plot lines and dumb fanservice, but at the core, it’s servicing me. I don’t think “falling” for unsubtlety is at its core a bad thing.
Why do I like Fuuka?
While watching the show and writing this is article, this question continued to eat at my brain. I don’t consider myself to be the smartest guy, but I do like some anime people consider to be “smart”. If I can see the beauty of complex themes and visual creativity then why do I like this mediocre teen romcom so much? Fuuka may be dumb bullshit in the form of a show, it may be laughable, but it also had enough of an effect on me that I wrote this piece. Do I judge a work of art for its qualities or how it affects me? It’s a very shaky line.
Being a critic is hard because it makes the questions of what you value in media a big part of your life. Does admitting to liking Fuuka hurt my pride as a critic? Maybe it does, but it shouldn’t. We like what we like, our job as critics is to let people with similar tastes what they might like, not say what is “the best”.
Shows like Fuuka are worth talking about. There is nothing wrong with liking bad shows or shows that pander to you. It’s simply one of the many ways one can consume media. That being said the question of quality of artwork is important to discuss. In explaining what you value, you can learn more about yourself and art.
Watching, and more importantly enjoying Fuuka, allowed me to take a look at myself, and how I interact with the medium I love. For that, I can thank it. Fuuka is wish fulfilment, but that’s ok, it’s what it is and some appreciate will that, but you don’t have to. Find the anime that fulfils your wish.