While I cannot speak for most, I sometimes sneer or discredit a film or video game as it is in development, only to realize at a later time that I find the very same work enjoyable. Call it a quick judgement or human nature, however the question in what exactly won something over for an individual who previously had such a strong enough reaction to remember a title in the first place is one that begs to be looked into more. There must be some basic psychology term or phenomenon that could be pointed to what exactly makes shows give us an itch that eventually is proven wrong. Almost described exactly by the book, I recently had the same reaction with a show from the winter 2017 season in Youjo Senki (Saga of Tanya the Evil).
Much like a large audience of viewers, the very first thing that started me off on the wrong foot with the anime was the peculiar character design. I can vividly remember being off-put by the initial screenshots coming from the early viewers. When I did finally get around to watching the show’s first episode, the gut feeling leaving an odd (magical) wartime story didn’t do any favors for the odds of continuing it. While nowhere near the level of nitpick that people might get with, say camera resolution in a film or the sort, it is only natural for factors to work against a favorable first impression. The move in throwing the audience into the fires of the series in full swing popped a definite “What is going on?!” reaction that didn’t pair up with the unusual art style very well. As a result, the show was shelved for what I thought would be for a very long time.
War/military themed works are challenging sales in that their material usually carries some weight that I avoid as much as I can in personal time- not to a point that I’m blinded by it, but enough to give seeing a film or playing a game a pass if it doesn’t feature much else besides gritty combat. There has to be an undeniable aspect or kick to it- ranging from creative anime with the entertaining fantasy of Owari no Seraph or cinematographic genius in the stunning acting in Saving Private Ryan. In other words, jamming the message of “war is tough” down the audience’s throats won’t work for many people who don’t fit the male age twelve to eighteen demographic.
Youjo Senki gets this perfectly, and as the first few episodes build everything up, it becomes evident that there is a morbidly stylish way the show likes to carry itself. This style that would be later brought to my attention by a fellow writer was all the more I needed to be convinced that a second shot was in order for the oddball action series. Adding flying around to ancestral firearms and breakneck calculated moves makes fights feel perfectly paced and rewarding to see unfold. Combatants are not only zipping around frontlines, but there is just enough story or character development going on to make it all mesh. The thing that impressed me the most was just how little the show had to rely on breathtaking visuals to hammer home effective impressions- the rotating upside down firearm crosshairs and overhead attacks were just enough. While things can drag a little bit with rather underwhelming war strategies and debates once scenes take place on the ground, this hardly hamstrings the full experience.
Will our gut always be wrong with what we should give a shot? I still find this unlikely. However when it comes to quality anime, I’m very happy to admit when my gut instinct was wrong and when I enjoyed a watch far more than anticipated.