Ironically enough, there are no major spoilers in this, other than briefly touching on certain episodes or arcs of shows without any detail.
We live in a period where spoiler culture is rampant; where the slightest hint of what happens in a piece of media is seen as a grave sin. That’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s certainly not unfair to say that people are particularly afraid of spoilers nowadays. As the internet has expanded and media has ditched time-slots in favor of immediate, permanent access, it’s become much easier to get spoiled, and the increased amount of people you can talk to has only made it worse. It’s no shock that people are now incredibly careful about spoilers. While that makes sense for many, it’s something I find incredibly annoying on a personal level, for many reasons.
For my argument to make sense, a few things need to be made clear. The first is that I don’t value media which is only interesting on the first approach. Twists can be enjoyable to experience, but if a story relies on twists in order to be entertaining, I won’t look highly upon it. If I were rewatching a show I used to love, and I were to realize I hated it, I wouldn’t give it leniency because of the first experience, at least not consciously.
On my first watch Code Geass was a 10. I had never really seen anything like it at that point. Being totally unexposed to anime as a whole, I saw it as a masterpiece. Now, multiple watches deep, I see it as a fun show with massive issues in its writing. I do value my first watch of it, but not because of the show itself. I value the first watch because it was a major step into the anime community. It would have worked for any other show, and I wish it had been a show which wasn’t so flawed. I don’t bump its score just because I loved it in the past, and I think doing so is kind of silly.
The second thing which needs to be made clear is that I actively prefer to rewatch shows. I love the feeling of spotting things that lead up to events or reveals I already know about, and I vastly prefer that to feeling of experiencing something for the first time. The first time might be more memorable than any given watch, but if I truly like the show I’ll enjoy it much more on successive watches.
For example, K-On was fun the first time, but it was only on the second watch when I truly was able to appreciate the show’s masterful direction and great character writing. The events of the second season were no less emotional because I knew they would happen, in fact the opposite is true. I enjoyed seeing all the foreshadowing and buildup, and when the emotional moments did come, they only hit me harder.
The final thing that needs to be made clear is that I’m incredibly used to being spoiled. This isn’t exactly replicable like my attitudes are, but I grew up seeing spoilers everywhere. Even as a kid I was exposed to them through early internet usage, and I spent my early adolescence on forums and other public spaces where spoiler rules were unenforced. My natural curiosity lead me to seek out info on media I hadn’t finished, spoiling me further.
This only intensified once I got into anime. I spent around my first two years as an anime fan on /a/, and while I don’t go there much anymore, some of their attitudes in regards to spoilers stick with me today. /a/ hardly ever spoiler tags anything, and spoilers for entire shows are often dropped in totally unrelated threads. I went into Lain, Eva, Madoka, and many more shows already knowing what happens, and I loved them in spite of that. Over time this, combined with that curiosity I mentioned earlier, lead me to feel a natural sense of apathy towards spoilers. I rarely seek them out actively, but on a personal level, I don’t mind when I get spoiled.
A recent piece on Thoughts That Move presents the opposite argument to mine. In particular he uses the example of watching Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid after seeing twitter gifs of it for months beforehand, explaining how it made the show feel a bit more “done before” to him. I understand this perspective, though I disagree with it. To me, when I watch a show after seeing gifs of it or discussion on twitter, I’m only more interested. I wouldn’t have watched Kemono Friends if I hadn’t been spoiled on some of what it does, and it ended up as one of my favorites of this season. I never get the feeling of something being done before unless it’s already boring; rather, I get the feeling that I get to see it again. I lack the surprise of seeing it for the first time, but if I already enjoy it I really don’t care. It’s this inability to be emotionally impacted by spoilers that really shapes my attitude; if spoilers made shows less emotionally effective I wouldn’t like them, but that simply never happens for me.
Those specific feelings and experiences have lead me to not caring about spoilers, but I think it needs to be made clear why I think it’s actually a problem that other people do. This entire thing is going to sound incredibly selfish, and for the most part it is. I want spoiler culture to end because it conflicts with the ways in which I personally enjoy media, and that’s not entirely fair, but I don’t really need to be entirely fair here. I don’t actually expect others to change their opinions on spoilers, but I feel this argument is necessary to give some context to why I’m so laissez-faire about spoilers on this blog and elsewhere.
The biggest issue with spoiler culture is that it simply hampers discussion. People are so hesitant to explain or discuss the events of a series that they’ll often go without stating what they like about something. I’ve been reading a lot of Nier: Automata essays lately, and many of them have vaguely made allusions to the game’s final true ending without actually saying what was good about it. I’ve beaten the game, so I know what’s good about it, but when I’m reading an essay I expect another person’s take. It hurts the essay when they talk about the game’s themes without actually explaining how the ending contributes to it. I’ve seen this in essays on some anime before too and it always annoys me, because it makes the rest of the writing seem incredibly lacking, even when the point being made is sound.
You can see this in more simple ways on places like reddit and twitter. People will be discussing a show while straying around certain aspects to avoid spoilers, despite clearly thinking those aspects matter. How can you talk about Hunter x Hunter without discussing what the Chimera Ant arc does so well? How can you talk about Evangelion without mentioning all the weird stuff it starts doing later on? How can you talk about any of Ikuhara’s shows without explicitly giving away the themes and plot of the shows? You really can’t, and yet people attempt it in order to protect others from spoilers.
The worst part is that I do this too. I might hate the idea of spoilers, but I’m not a complete asshole, so I try and protect other people from them. I’ve noticed at points that many of my essays and articles avoid using fitting examples, because I’m afraid I’ll spoil others, and I don’t want to upset people for no reason. If spoiler culture weren’t around I feel fairly confident that I’d be able to use better examples in some of my writing. My only alternative is to spoiler tag each post, but that turns off anyone who hasn’t seen every show I even mildly spoil, which isn’t a very effective strategy.
The second reason I hate spoiler culture is the fact that I believe spoilers are often helpful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been interested in a show because of a clip from a moment late in the show, or due to an interesting plot detail I was told about. Let’s be honest here, how many people would have watched Madoka without being told what happens in episode 3? I like magical girls, so there’s a good shot I would have, but to the average anime watcher it would have gone totally unnoticed, and now it’s a modern classic.
A good example of this is ceicocat’s recent video, Why You Should Watch Flip Flappers. Throughout the video she spoils large parts of the show, including its main themes as well as events that only occur in the final episode. Despite this she titled the show as a recommendation to those who hadn’t watched it, and I think it does its job as a recommendation. Sure, some people may be turned off now that they know what happens, but had I not previously watched the show I’d be far more interested after that video than I would be after reading the synopsis on MAL.
I think a lot of people would watch a lot more shows that they would like, if they were willing to indulge in spoilers. I understand that this isn’t something people can easily change, but the simple fact is that some media is more interesting than it appears at first glance, and spoiler culture means that people often won’t be giving a piece any more glances after the first. This leads people to not experience things they would otherwise enjoy, which I think hurts the community for fairly obvious reasons.
As Thoughts That Move said in his post, what ultimately matters in a piece of media is its emotional impact. Every show impacts you emotionally in some way; whether its by making you have fun or touching you on a deeper level. Spoilers simply don’t hinder my ability to enjoy media in the slightest, and if anything, they often help. I think the same could be true for others, and I certainly believe my life would be better if everyone gave in to my ideology on this topic, but I don’t expect that to happen. I just want it to be clear why I feel the way I do: that spoilers don’t matter and that spoiler culture should be abolished.
10 thoughts on “Why Spoilers Don’t Matter and Hurt the Anime Community”
Hey, good piece! This highlights some clarifications and further points I’d like to make to my own audience so I’ll be responding with a follow up post in the next few days. Cheers!
Maybe we’ll get a fun little chain of follow ups going, haha. Thanks for the praise.
I wrote something similar a while back using One Piece and Game of Thrones as examples of spoilers not ruining the enjoyment of something.
One of the pet peeves I have when I want to write about something, but need to mention spoilers is the expected addition I have to make of including spoiler warnings/tags to let people know (which ruins the flow of writing for me).
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Nice to see someone who agrees with me, haha. Yeah, the influence on my writing is one of my biggest reasons for this. I hate breaking my flow, and try and avoid it wherever possible, and spoiler warnings definitely hurt that. Anyways, thanks for the comment.
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I think this has been my favorite of your posts that I have read so far! (And I’ve read quite a few of them today, after you compiled a list of your favorite posts!)
I agree that some level of spoiling is good for a show. I know that I never would have watched one of my favorite cartoons if I had not watched a video talking about the deep life lessons viewers can walk away with. The video had some spoilers, but it didn’t spoil everything. It intrigued me to watch the show and see how those life lessons played out in the goofy looking animation.
I also often struggle with writing about a show without including spoilers. I find myself writing vague statements intended to not spoil it, only to realize that what I wrote amounted to empty fluff without the meat of the details. Many writers seem to struggle with the same thing. I’ve read a number of blogs about shows and games that I have not seen, as well as ones that I have, and remember thinking “wait, are you ever going to actually say what you mean and get to the point?” At the end of the post, I feel like the author was leading up to a big reveal that never came. I’ve often solved this in my own writing by mentioning that there will be some spoilers ahead as a natural consequence of talking about a show. This allows the audience the choice to read on and risk spoiling something, leaving me free to not feel like a jerk.
Thanks for the post!
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Agree so much. There were some scientific studies done on this, and they show that people actually enjoy books, even mystery books, more if they’ve been spoiled. I’m assuming the same applies to other forms of media.
Spoilers don’t *usually* bother me in the slightest. There are rare occasions where a spoiler might hurt my viewing pleasure (think “Crying Game”) but generally, I’ll watch a really good anime twice or even three times and enjoy it more the second time. The only reason I don’t go to 4 times is that life is too short and it would crowd out new stuff that might be good.