Becoming A Better Viewer: Thinking Critically

[Description]: A short series of posts about the relationship between viewer and anime and how to get more insight and enjoyment out of what you watch.

At last we arrive at what I consider to be the most controversial of this series’ topics due to the fact that it simply doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some viewers prefer to watch and observe in a passive kind of sensory manner, allowing their thoughts and opinions about the work to come to them naturally as they experience the show. This can be immersive and it doesn’t ever tax or strain the viewer. As a whole it’s a pretty pleasurable way to watch and I would even recommend it in regards to shows that you feel don’t deserve your full attention. With that said, I would posit that viewing a show more proactively can enhance your enjoyment of it tremendously through magnified insight and attention to detail. This is about becoming an active viewer.

To quickly dismiss a stigma, critically thinking is not about nitpicking details or watching purely for the sake of finding flaws – it’s about asking questions of the show and attempting to discern at a core level what it is trying to accomplish. To think critically is to examine the show as you watch it in an ongoing process of recognizing how each of its elements play against and into one another. This closer investigation can yield a lot of interesting discussions and certainly give you a greater appreciation for what you enjoy. The genius of the story and characters as they illustrate brilliant thematic parallels, subvert and dodge your expectations, and grow into a wonderful presentation is far better observed up close.

The imperative part of all of this is to think as you watch. If you enjoy or dislike something, trace that thrill or discomfort back to its source and find out what the show did to make you feel that way. If the show isn’t making sense, don’t be afraid to inquire of it and see not only if it answers your questions but if it does so in a compelling way. Look beyond the characterization of the protagonist or the main characters and see how the entire cast interacts with each other – what makes their chemistry good or bad? Do the characters augment each other with their presence or is there a weak link that spoils their interactions? How does everything knit together and where do the show’s strengths and weaknesses lie?

In many ways, thinking critically can be a double-edged sword. Great value and enjoyment can come out of watching a show with a greater attention to detail however this approach amplifies the good as well as the bad. What you might have first thought entertaining and engaging might blow you away with the intricacy of its design while what you condemned might then seem all the worse – its flaws and shortcomings compounding to create something far more distasteful. This attitude isn’t for everyone and it requires more of the viewer than the show itself asks however I think it can be incredibly fruitful and enhance your appreciation of what you watch greatly. Feel free to leave comments and thoughts below and a big thank you to everyone who stopped by to read parts of this series. This entry will serve as a conclusion for now but I hope to add more in the future.

You can read the previous post in this series here: Becoming A Better Viewer: Perception and Influence

4 thoughts on “Becoming A Better Viewer: Thinking Critically

  1. I’m going to honestly say that some shows can’t take their viewers being critical while others really are enhannced by it. There are some shows I specifically watch to simply passively watch because I want to take a break from analysing and thinking about things and that can be a great deal of fun. Still, there are plenty of stories out there that only get better when you see the detail that brings it all together.
    Thanks for this series of posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For sure. Holding a magnifying glass to everything can not only be exhausting but be just plain unpleasant, especially when you aren’t being careful to choose which shows you invest your interest in. Sometimes you just want to kick back and put on something fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for this series, Cauthan. It was a great way to reflect and plan my approach to this medium (and other mediums).

    There are definitely shows that benefit more from critical analysis than others. I’d never bring the same mindset to Symphogear that I did with Shinsekai Yori.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading and I’m glad you found the content worth responding to! I agree that you shouldn’t bring the full weight of analysis against every show you watch. Sometimes you want to just go into a show and let it wash over you without the strain or effort of picking apart its finer points. Everybody needs something they can unwind to no matter how critical they are I think.


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