The False Positive Pitfall in Discussion of Anime and Manga

“Intertextuality” is the idea that there is a conceptual space where ideas brought forth by books, movies, texts, etc. interact with each other. One way to think about it is the old addage that the “truth lies somewhere in between.” This is the space where differing (or similar!) opinions confront each other. Don’t think about it too literally, but with the internet available, it’s become a lot easier to have this sort of thing happen beyond the scholarly journals and academic settings where this sort of thing usually occurs.

As anyone who has read Ogiue Maniax probably knows, I quite enjoy finding and seeing any connections which may connect one aspect of anime to another, be it from show to show, or from staff to real world events or whatever, and it’s something that’s consumed my time and the direction in which my hobby has gone. I think I’m pretty good at it, and apparently others do too.

However, there’s a drawback to having an open mind which actively seeks out connections among the material you’ve ingested mentally. Sometimes what happens is you see connections that do not exist, but because of the success you or others have had in taking this approach to a topic, it becomes difficult to break free of this trap. In other words, sometimes we tend to overthink things. This is what I call the “False Positive Pitfall,” and it’s something I feel anyone academically-minded towards anime and manga (or any other topic for that matter) has to watch out for. Failure to acknowledge this effect can result in a number of problems, from undermining your writing to being seen as unnecessarily elitist to simply leading you down the wrong path until all you see is false positives and you become a case where you’re an anime reviewer everyone makes fun of because you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about anymore.

Now, I’m not immune to this at all, and there’s multiple instances of statements made out of false positives that are on this blog. But people aren’t perfect, and even if you’re constantly on the lookout for them, some are bound to slip through, especially as your knowledge of anime and manga expands. Again, it’s more that I want people to be wary of the False Positive so that we can foster better discussion that is both relevant and respectful to the topics we engage.

10 thoughts on “The False Positive Pitfall in Discussion of Anime and Manga

  1. False positive huh.. hmm I am always thinking about what makes people respond to comments in a conversation? But I usually think of False positives is when the reader speaks first/comments first and then think later.. of how odd their response is.


  2. To have a mind so open my brains fall out… is something I try to look out for. I’ve no idea how successful I am and I don’t mind being shown how I fail at it.

    I’ve only known ‘false positives’ in statistics/math, and I’m quite terrible at those.


  3. It’s the basic plague of every XYZ Literature concentration in higher education. Most people receive significant degrees by finding some “theme” between texts and exaggerating them to too a large extent.

    Basically, this is the problem that literary theory set out to tackle from its outset: how do you not simply make crazy ideas up and run with them, but actually attack a text (book, film, what have you) from a “correct” angle. I talked to Frenchy Lunning (Mechademia) about this, which is oh so common when it comes to anime analysis (Napier’s first book provides too many examples), but she rides them off as “interesting” perspectives, regardless of how serious we have to take them in the end.

    Basically, anime currently doesn’t have its own “literary analysis,” so there’s not objective way to approach critiquing shows (not that there’s an objective way to do it with literature or film, except that there are at least recognized or popular methods). Film criticism suffered at first because scholars approached it directly with literary theory, but eventually a “film theory” developed. Anime’s still pretty different from film — art, as well as production — so I wonder what kind of approaches will develop as it becomes a more serious topic of discussion.


  4. I would agree, but the false positive bit is too much a scientific term to use when discussing works of art. Yes, surely you can make connections that the artists didn’t intend, but that in no way negates the “false” connections the viewer makes. The artwork is what it is. What we get from it will differ from viewer to viewer. Great works of art that have lasted for centuries do so for different reasons in different times and cultures.


  5. I’m not that against to this but of course people have different perspective of how we view things so I don’t think there is actually a false positive in any discussion of anime.

    There might be some inconsistencies but I don’t think we should regard it as false since there must have been a factor that caused it, implicitly or explicitly.


  6. I don’t know that it’s necessarily best to call something like this a “false positive.” Science deals with objective truths that remain the same independent of perspective; liberal arts deal with subjective experiences. “False positive” is a much more apt term when the truth does not depend on perception.


  7. @Alex

    I wonder if you are familiar with Deleuze’s approach to films because he came up with some very interesting ideas on analysing films as art. I personally am not so much concerned with literacy angle as much as Deleuzian angle that applies to many forms of art and, I don’t know if anyone reads my blog here other than ghostlightning, that’s the approach I took in writing many favourite anime of mine.


  8. One of my history professors recounted a story where he was tasked with writing a paper that argued that the Holocaust (his example, don’t go all Godwin’s Law on me) did not happen, using actual, vetted, academic secondary sources, and the appropriate primary sources. And he wasn’t looking in The Ku Klux Klan Academc Review either–these were doctorate-holding, vetted, academic sources.

    That is the Liberal Arts “False Positive” at its most extreme absurdity. That is the sort of danger this is cautioning against. I suspect (but am not certain) that the sources used subscribed to postmodern historical theory (which, by my admittedly terrible understanding, seems to be “if it can’t be proven to have happened using the primary sources, then it didn’t happen”), but I do know that postmodern historians have made the argument with a straight face that the Holocaust did not happen.

    There’s “I see this, and these potential connections/interpretations are pretty interesting, and I’m going to make a case for them” and then there’s “I see this, and these connections/interpretations are there, and I’m going to prove it to you.” The difference, it seems, is largely semantics–which, itself, is highly subjective and, er, semantical, which is why we get two people separated by the gulf of a common language.


  9. Pingback: “I’m an Anime Scholar! Why Should I Watch Anime?” « OGIUE MANIAX

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