In a world deprived of nuance, it is easy to select lines and present them out of context. That’s what has happened to my Violet Evergarden review. You may have seen extracts from it posted on various forums and Twitter as such:
It is such a wonderful book that makes me want to love more and more as I write this post.
But I can’t.
This novel when taken as a whole is so flawed I cannot recommend this book to anyone. Nobody. Even people who are interested in it.
Usually, this is done to invoke spite against a studio hated by a vocal subset of the anime community. This isn’t some isolated issue on 4chan. It is becoming widespread and I feel responsible to a certain degree not because people can’t read but I could have prefaced that I do like light novels and Japanese literature.
The fact is obvious if you do read my blog or Twitter. I have reviews on Japanese novels and other types of media scattered around this blog and Tanoshimi.xyz; I also contribute to English Light Novels regularly.
Acquiring Violet Evergarden itself requires a stupendous amount of time and money, all of that alleviated by ultimatemegax’s help. He is a huge KyoAni fan and wanted to share something he thought was really good, based on what he liked in volume one. I am still grateful for allowing this opportunity to review the book.
Nevertheless, I have taken all of these issues for granted. The assumption that people can look into more of my stuff after reading the Evergarden review is extremely baseless. That’s why I feel a bit of guilt when I see people easily and irresponsibly use my material to talk shit about light novels and Japanese literature. I could have added a small line or two about my interests in the subject to an already nuanced review and feel regretful for not doing so.
So here’s a whole post dedicated to resolving that and I am writing a letter to the people who have been using my post to advance their racist, sexist crusades against this fine book and studio which I do actually like.
To the people who read the Violet Evergarden review and went light novels and Japanese literature are bad,
Let’s talk for a bit, shall we? You can drop the spears and stop writing death threats to kViN and Megax for a while, right? While I am friends with those you call the “sakuga cartel”, I have no interest in being part of your religious crusades. I have no interest to fight you or them because I am not interested.
This may not matter since who cares what a reviewer thinks. You are right: this review doesn’t matter. It is a review of a novel that will be adapted and modified to suit the anime medium. It may or may not resemble what the anime will be in the future. It may or may not spell the doom of KA Esuma. It may or may not be good. I cannot say that objectively. I don’t recommend the book to anyone, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t buy the book if they’re interested. My post is merely a review, a personal opinion on the matter at hand.
But people are using this review as a sign of God from the Old Testament that the Apocalypse is coming. They are using this essentially useless thing as a predictor of the world ending. Cue in criticisms of light novels, Japanese literature, and novels written by women, painting them as inferior creatures that should be euthanized for their poor efforts. Then comes in the criticisms of those criticisms, suggesting the reviewer is a snobbish elitist literary critic.
All is well in the stealth marketing wars. Like all wars, it is senseless and violent. People feel the need to harass others for having different ideas. This allows them to form generalizations of subcultures from opposing sides. Anime fans are sexist. KyoAni fans are cult worshippers. Light novels are shit. There is nothing good in Japanese literature. People who read literature are elitist. They might point to this little review that started it all — I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln meeting the writer of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe , and declaring, “So this is the little lady who started the great war.” If you read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, you will find it to be sentimentalist trash suffering from white savior fallacy. It is a horrible little book. So is my review — a horrible little review of a book. Yet, despite people being aware this is a horrible little review, they can’t help but to make it useful and practical in their big, glorious wars. These wars allow them to have these unsavory generalizations that will not be accepted in normal circumstances. Their narratives and agendas will be reinforced by my horrible little review and others to come.
I won’t be the only one whose review will be used as a talking point. Nor is Violet Evergarden an isolated incident. It is this worship and abhorrence of reviews and essays that have caused the visual novel community to be toxic; everyone is searching for the next review on a “kamige” and using that review to validate their prayers or suspicion. I know several people who have confessed that writing visual novel reviews feels dreadful. This idolatry dehumanizes them and makes them uninterested in writing more. Some have left the community because of this. I myself have detached from most of the echo chamber and focused instead to write reviews and articles.
No one can really avoid this curse of being a critic. We can be fans of critics like Anthony Lane, Jim Sterling, and Roger Ebert to the point we are as obnoxious as the stereotypical idol fan. Yet, no matter what how controversial a critic is, they are still human beings. It must be frustrating for them to see their horrible little reviews invite so much hatred and judgmental speculation. They find their articles engulfed in a sea of endless debates. Are films art? Are video games art? And why do people care a lot about how we see those debates. I can’t speak for them, but with my circumstances writing both professionally as an English book reviewer on a literary journal and a blogger on Japanese media I can say it is intolerable. I feel like my psychology is being examined by random people on the internet. It’s not even an argument on taste anymore. Innocuous tweets, Curious Cat answers, and articles/reviews are analyzed for all their worth and then used to mock or worship me. People can point at me for being an insightful researcher of subcultures or a pretentious literary Tumblr cunt. I am neither of those. Nor am I a social justice warrior, a gator, a sakuga nerd, a visual novel fan, a fan of anime, a literature nerd, a history buff, a film lover, a proponent or opponent of censorship, a cynic, an optimist, a realist, a 理系, a 文系, a 文理系, a sexist, a racist, an egalitarian, a libertarian, a Democrat, a Republican, a leader, a follower, a poet, a philosopher, and most importantly a critic.
People do like to think me as a critic because I publish critical reviews of literary publications and offer analysis on various places. However, I don’t see myself as a critic. I don’t see myself as necessary in this “great war” and I certainly don’t see how a horrible little review of mine being a participant of it. Whether one uses my Violet Evergarden review to denounce Japanese literature as inferior or use my Sakura no Uta review to fight back against those claims is of little concern to my beliefs. I may have said something along the lines of how writing these reviews can expand the knowledge about niche subcultures in the past; however, the little help they provide only pushes both sides’ agenda further.
My reason to write comes from a drive to write about things I like to talk about and share. I want to see what other people think about these thoughts. If it brings awareness to a work or a subculture, that will be great. I am merely reviewing for fun, not to pursue a greater truth beyond the clouds. It is a useless activity I enjoy doing and I am glad people have found ways to make meaning out of these horrible little reviews. This shred of hope that people do enjoy what I like to write and read is why I will keep blogging.
This line of reasoning and my review of Violet Evergarden have no application to your holy wars against the wicked forces. Dragging my mental state and my review is like dragging a rooster to a wrestling match — unnecessary and at most, disruptive. Nothing about me or that post have anything to do with your crusades. I may disagree with your actions and could have ranted about that, but what is there to say when I am not in your wars? These wars have nothing to do with me. I have deliberately written my review in such a way it can only be described as wishy-washy. It is not fully negative nor is it positive either. You may be bringing a sword but with closer inspection, you are merely bringing a table knife to battle. You are going to be obliterated by other people if they find that out. Blaming me is pointless as well — as much as I do have that small regret of not adding a disclaimer that I do like Japanese literature and light novels, I have nothing to say. Psychoanalyzing me doesn’t help your fight. It worsens my mental state, yes, but I am a civilian casualty in this said war. I am not an authority figure — a general, if you will. Killing me solves nothing.
You are staring at my powerlessness to control the situation. I am unable to convince most people against their prejudices with my reviews and articles. That is my position because I have no place in this great stealth marketing war. People who decidedly hate on Japanese literature, light novels, or Kyoto Animation don’t need to be moved by a hypothetical positive post by me; they would still find excuses to say I am being bought by big money. Nothing will actually change if I am able to time travel and make different decisions. My horrible little article will be used no matter what, regardless of how impractical any horrible little articles are in wars like these.
This is how little my articles and me matter to the ongoing war. Using my articles and my psychology will in the end cause ridicule to your religious cause. When this letter is posted, it will make the whole debacle even more absurd. My reviews and opinions are not meant to be arsenal; they are just words and punctuation marks that express my thoughts. If you do believe in your causes, find better weapons. I suggest reading the book yourself and forming your opinions to be weapons. You will find that more credible than relying on some reviewer who happen to read a lot of books and have little to zero influence. I have adoring fans who will say otherwise, but in the larger cosmic context my posts have no pageviews. I wield no authority, so I cannot be an authority figure. But you, the people who read my Violet Evergarden review and thought light novels and Japanese literature were bad, can be authority figures. You may be able to explicitly state why they are inferior pieces of art. I like to see you try and create these weapons.
I was one of you people except I was on the other side. My weapons were useless, so I backed out of the war. There are many reasons as to why, but the biggest one comes from this one single fact: These weapons have always been horrible little posts.
What are they going to do in a war like this?