When I watched Akira, I didn’t like it. I didn’t hate it either, but there just wasn’t any enjoyment to be had for me. Yet, despite my lack of enjoyment, I still think it’s a good movie. Why is this so? Is it because it’s a popular and generally well-received animated movie that has garnered the attention and praise of even movie critics outside the anime sphere? Maybe in part, but I don’t believe I’m hanging on the coattails of anyone else’s aesthetic taste here (especially, since there are plenty of anime and movies I consider terrible that are also highly regarded among critics and the general public).
This isn’t a new concept; the notion you can not enjoy something and still think it’s good, and also enjoy something else and think otherwise. I have an unapologetic love for the anime, Dai Mahou Touge, but I wouldn’t consider it “good” per se. It’s not necessarily a bad show, but it’s not something I would lavish praise over for its characters, themes, writing, direction, or anything. There’s nothing there that’s particularly deserving of praise, except maybe the comedy (which is why I love it so much).
Comparatively, I consider KonoSuba a far in a way a better series in every conceivable sense of the word, but I rank it lower than Dai Mahou Touge? Maybe I’m being a little contradictory here, since I thoroughly enjoyed the second season of KonoSuba, but if I were to lower my rating for Dai Mahou Touge that would undermine the point in my unabashed overhyped affection towards it (it doesn’t make sense, but who cares?). That being said if someone were to ask which I think is the better show, I would answer “KonoSuba”.
I suppose this extends to the idea of “guilty pleasures” under the definition that you are enjoying something below your own standards or outside your tastes (or the tastes of others) and feel guilty for it. A term often used to disregard what they don’t want to be thought of as representative of their tastes, or a protection from being accused of having “poor taste”. Personally, I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about liking something under a certain level of quality (especially, since it’s subjective anyway).
But I think this is more of a difficulty regarding scores than anything else. How can I quantify whether my score was representative of how much I enjoyed something or how highly I regard it in terms of “goodness”? It’s a difficult thing to measure and express in one number (hence, why my tags on MAL for one is well-explained; A fantastic follow-up that builds wonderfully upon its characters and world in even more hilarious and fun ways, the OP is marvelous, while the other is more comical in its description; Magical girl + wrestling, might be the greatest thing ever). By all intents and purposes, I probably do like KonoSuba more, but there’s a fondness I have for Dai Mahou Touge that’s difficult to explain and quantify compared to other (better) works.
I’m not trying to make an argument of subjectivity vs. objectivity. And despite what others may think regarding past debates, I am by no means on the side of objectivity when it comes to art. I hold the view that there are objective (factual) aspects about a work (such as who worked on it and how it was made, etc.), but beyond that the perspective is virtually subjective in every other way. And I have no interest in debating that topic further.
Back to Akira, while I didn’t enjoy it, there was no regret in my experience watching it either. I look at Akira with more appreciation than some of the stuff I do enjoy. I think the reason for this stems from a more learned view of film and animation since before and after I watched it for the first time. I look at Akira through the lens of being in awe at how detailed it all is – from its grounded design to its more human-looking characters to its use of lighting and animation. There is so much good about how it’s presented and how well it’s constructed that I can’t fault it for me not enjoying it.
I think the heart of the matter is that it didn’t really appeal to me. I didn’t like or care about the characters, their motives, their goals, their struggles, the society in which they were living and the underlying themes tied into the narrative, or the story surrounding it all. None of it was anything new to me, and because I didn’t connect with the characters, I didn’t connect with the story. In the end, it was more akin to watching a painting come alive and appreciating the effort gone into it, than a story with which I could immerse myself in and have fun watching.
By no means do I believe that Akira is outside my taste in anime. There’s nothing about a dark urban setting or serious societal themes that I can’t get behind (beyond it managing to execute well on them – which I think it does). I’m still amazed by its animation and the fact that it’s all hand-drawn is something I can’t help but place in high regard.
And while I don’t like the characters in Akira, I don’t hate them either. When they’re being unlikeable I can’t fault them for it, given the society they live in, but I also don’t particularly care to root for them because of it either. There was never a sense I should be invested in these characters, considering how they act mischievously before there is a clear indication as to why I should see that as a good thing in this context. For these reasons, I appreciate Akira, but I didn’t enjoy it.