When Does “Something For Everyone” Go From Compliment to Problem?

Patlabor

Have you ever praised something by saying it’s great because it has “something for everyone”? I’m pretty sure a ton of positive reviews regarding Patlabor have done that. And they wouldn’t be wrong either, because the franchise does have something for everyone. It has charming interactions for the slice-of-life fans, government conspiracies for the political thriller fans, giant Labors kicking ass for the mecha fans, a little shipping teases between Azuma and Noa for the romance fans, etc. etc. And whilst it’s faded from memory the same way nobody talks about Votoms anymore, it’s still looked at as one of the best anime from that old-school era.

Compare that to light novel adaptations of today though. I haven’t been watching it, but I’ve read people’s reactions to Black Bullet and I think most of us can agree that it’s also trying to have something for everyone. But unlike Patlabor, a lot of people would use that as a “negative”. It has a decent premise, but then it throws in organizations run by high-schoolers that are somehow poor despite the work they do, post-apocalyptic cities supported by little girls we’re supposed to cry for, and the lead girl…well, the less said about her, the better. In trying to cater to a widespread audience, it’s impeding the anime’s potential rather than adding to it. I’m sure there are people who think the other way – especially given its one of the more liked shows from this season on MAL – but I doubt it’s getting into the top 200 on that site once it’s over. Where did it – and the rest of its light novel kin – go wrong?

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Okay, the fact that “everyone” in Black Bullet’s case includes lolicons – which is one of the few fanbases that Patlabor does NOT support because most people don’t want to associate with them – doesn’t help. But let’s not get sidetracked by that detail, shall we?

Now the most obvious answer – next to “the source material is good/crap” – regarding when “having something for everyone” becomes a compliment would be the style the show uses to join the elements together. Do you think Kill la Kill would have been loved by so many of us if it wasn’t for Imaishi’s hyper-kinetic style? Given how it’s about as fanservice-y – actually even moreso – than most other LN adaptations and also panders to lolicons, I’d think the population of viewers who were skeeved out by the nudity would go from 30% to 80% in an instant once said style is removed. Take away Mako and it’d rise to 98%. And the same would go for Patlabor. Despite source material, I doubt it would have been as loved if it was directed by the guy who made that godawful Battle Angels Alita OVA. Hopefully James Cameron’s take on that will be a lot better.

But then that raises another question. What style would be considered acceptable in regards to that sort of fan-pandering, and what isn’t? Well that’s where my train of thought ends, unfortunately. Obviously I can’t shift through ALL the styles since there’s so many of them, and it’s pretty damn tough to describe what makes something natural and what makes them a checklist other than that tired “execution” excuse. Plus, at the end of the day, like most anime and other media products, it all comes down to people’s taste in terms of what they choose to accept and there will be no one true answer to these questions.

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The existence of Code Geass’s MASSIVE fan/hatedom despite the majority of them being fully aware of its many MANY strengths/flaws – mostly related to how it tries to integrate ALOT of fan-pandering elements into its dumb-as-hell plot – is ultimate proof of that.

8 responses to “When Does “Something For Everyone” Go From Compliment to Problem?

  1. Well…
    It depends how all the elements bends together, honnestly.
    The issue I have with Black Bullet (OK, one of them) is the huge tonal dissonnance where you have the impression, than by trying to cater to everyone, it ends up disapppointing everyone. The humour is dumb and generic, and the melodrama would be considered overdone by Maeda itself.
    That leads to something like last episode, where we are supposed to care about girls whose amounts of developpment was some cute scenes about how they all wants to marry the main. (well, and the tear-jerker inducing things about chosing their future.)

    Black Bullet have the same problem (actually worse, in fact) than Kokoro Connect.
    It often feels like it wants to be 2 or moreshows at once

    Having something for everyone, when you’re not sure what you want to do, or what kind of story you want to tell.

    That’s why absolutely no one remember anything about Ebiten. Because just referencing every famous genre/serie without any imagination is not how you makes a story.

  2. Well, even Goro Taniguchi who directed Code Geass had enough self-awareness and foresight to point out that while having lots of different vectors heading in distinct directions (not just the pandering ones as in the case of fanservice) was related to the show’s massive popularity, the act of simply gathering ingredients or “information” is still just the very first part of making an anime series.

    He said that you can’t always produce the same results, as if there was some sort of mathematical “formula” for success, and that’s because what’s at the core of the series is also important (which, based on his own description, is definitely part of the directorial approach or style, but not limited to the visual aspects like the art or animation either).

    The interesting thing is he said this long before Guilty Crown or Valvrave (with which he wasn’t involved at all, for that matter, unlike a couple of his staff). They’re very similar, superficially speaking, to Code Geass in terms of having various elements and some pandering, but the stuff at their core is very different (and not in a good way).

  3. Is “Something For Everyone” even something positive in the first place? To me, even when it’s meant as a bit of a compliment, it sounds like the weird assumption that a good thing needs to have mass-appeal. If someone talks about stuff that has “something for everyone”, spontaneously wheels and toilets would come to mind. I wouldn’t really put TV-series into the same category.

    As for your question what sort of style is acceptable for fan-pandering… Hmm, exaggerated styles certainly find easier ways to get away with fan-service-scenarios that make sense within the story. As for the rest, well, that’s the biggest problem with anime-fan-pandering: that stuff is inherently absurd. And if you try to tell a story that isn’t absurd in some way and you’re still forced to include this sort of fanservice for some reason, well, then you’re in a lot of trouble as far as cohesiveness is concerned.