2. Death of the Author
I’m guessing you’re going “what?” and I’m also not sure what the hell I’m writing. What is death of the author? There’s a cool video done by Lindsey Ellis about that and I’ll link it here. Go watch that video and maybe let your mind wander while she talks about deep academia.
The short version of the concept is that a work should be able to stand on its own. The author’s intention, the backstory leading up to the creation of a story and the possible parallels to real life that a story has, does not matter. The things written inside the book is the only thing that matters. Likewise, the things that are shown in the anime are the only thing that matters.
“An anime should be able to stand on its own.”
“I want to review the anime on its own merits”
These are the main idea behind the concept. The author is dead. He does not matter.
A reviewer should always contemplate on this concept. I’m sure some people subscribe to the idea of killing the author. On the other hand, others believe that their intention is what shapes the experience. Personally, both ideas are correct. When it comes to reviewing, there is really no right and wrong about it. It’s how you interpret your experience and whether the author was with or without you on your journey is up to you. As a reviewer though, you have to decide which camp you lie in. Do you believe that a work like Evangelion is amazing in its own right and your own interpretation of its mindf*ckery is enough, or do you believe Hideki Anno’s depression really did play a part in making it such a god status monument?
It is up to you. There is no right or wrong way to go about it. You just have to decide now, contemplate hard, on which side you belong to. This will help your particular review style develop immensely. I’m not here to convince you to pick one side though. I’m here to talk about the merits of both sides. Basically, I’m fine with killing the author but I want to drink beer with him first.
Yes, Let’s kill the Author
The main idea of Death of the Author is to let the reader decide for themselves. The text exists on its own, and the author’s bias should not box the reader in. They should be able to have a chance to let their own experience dictate their viewing. The anime’s merit stands on its own. After all, do you watch One Piece caring what Oda thinks of his characters? Can Clannad make you cry more when you understand Jun Maeda’s background and his personal relationships? Is Cardcaptor Sakura more of an adventure when you know about CLAMP’s struggle as a doujinshi circle first? I’m guessing the answer is no to all of those shows, because they are good in their own right. I can dive hard into each show, dissect them and share my opinion on each element without any idea about the author or the studio or anybody else that worked with the show. These shows are great enough to be able to digest them on their own. In fact, you should watch, enjoy and appreciate them by their own merits.
Now, if you agree with everything I just said then you always want the author dead. But what if the author does have a voice and he shout “no, for the love of gawd, don’t kill me.”
Let him live
Personally, I don’t want to kill the author because I always wonder why some shows end up the way they are. Evangelion is a good example. Yeah, it’s a classic but why is it such a mindf*ck of a show? I will personally buckle down and do my research about it. I want to find out why Hideki Anno’s depression was such a huge factor. In fact, I want to find out why he had depression and how it was able to help him craft a classic. My newer reviews always have a section for the author and it’s mainly because watching the show and dissecting it as is can be boring for me. When I watch Cowboy Bebop, sure I can fall in love with it as much as everyone else, but I’m not satisfied with that. I want to know Yoko Kanno’s influence and how the music was composed first before the story or the actual show was ever made. I want to know how far reaching was Yuki Midorikawa’s touch that Natsume’s Book of Friend became such an enduring classic. I personally don’t want to kill the author, because I love the author. Every experience for me is something crafted by the author, so I will actively seek them out and say my thank you.
Now do your own introspective and reflect. In reviewing anime, do you subscribe to the Death of the Author? If your answer is “I don’t know”, then find out quickly. Is it more beneficial for you to experience an anime on its own, or does Serial Experiment Lain’s existential crisis a product of Chiaki Kon really liking Lovecraft?
And again, whatever side you are in, there is no wrong answer. Have a good day.