An Essay on Criticism

The notion of the legitimacy of the critic has become a subject that garners vitriol and disdain among members of the anime community in a way that appears rather unique across the artistic landscape. For one, the antagonism towards even the necessity of criticism in anime and manga is of a much stronger and pervasive breed than what we might see in art, literature, film, or classical music. Not many contest the weight or influence of Roger Ebert’s writing, even if one may disagree with its final conclusions, or vehemently disregard the content of literary publications like The Paris Review. In contrast, the split of opinion and broader irreverence for some of the largest names among reviewers in animanga despite their growing social presence is not dissimilar from the, albeit rightful, ignominy of Piero Scarufi or Dan Schneider.

Yet, I am not suggesting that this disparaging is unjustified or that many of these critics do not enjoy great popularity, but critical functions at their best, wherever they arise, often serve to enrich and provide thoughtful discourse to those passionate about its subjects. In more recent events, however, even a critic’s ability to deliver meaningful material as opposed to just acting as supplementary entertainment has been called into question, and some of this criticism comes from and is acknowledged by those very critics. Therefore, perhaps some key questions need answers. What does the title of critic mean and what responsibilities does the critic have in the promotion of discursivity? Or perhaps an even more fundamental question should be grappled with:

Is there such a thing as a critic in the anime community, and does an apparatus for the critic to thrive exist?

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Welcome, to the Desert of the Re-L

Note: Spoilers for Ergo Proxy.

An echo, a heartbeat pounding in the eye of the storm, Centzontotochtin sails over the earth, and the pulse of the awakening signals the beginning of the end.

Ergo Proxy aired over ten years ago and to this day remains an enigma to many. Its creative thought experiments and questions about our purpose in life have been just as mesmerizing as they have been easily dismissed. But whether it’s thoughtfully ambiguous or frustratingly obtuse, what’s consistent is Ergo Proxy’s mystique beneath its decrepit and artificial landscape, a captivating blend of the real and the surreal that reveals how easy it has become for us to mistake the double for the authentic.

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