Stop Using the Word “Trainwreck”

shouko_cooking

I understand that not everyone likes the current bombastic mecha offering from Sunrise, Valvrave the Liberator. One could chalk it up to its elements, which only seem to exist to deliver the maximum helping of shark jumpings every week. You got attractive boys and girls, some war drama (and comedy), garish mecha, and the occasional song-and-dance routine. It does seem aimed for just about everyone.

There are those who describe the show with a word, and that is trainwreck. My first encounter with the word stemmed back in 2008 with Code Geass R2. Somehow, I was watching a show with other people who deemed it bad, but could not bear themselves to drop it. Despite their claims of the show’s lack of quality, they seemed to be enjoying it, for what else keeps them coming back? I guess it makes people feel nice and special if they have something to mock, something to feel better over. And they do it to a cartoon, or even better, the cartoon’s fans, because they deserve to be mocked for their bad taste!

Everyone in the hobby has probably mocked something. But why level a sustained effort in putting down a popular show? Is it too much to be grinning wildly along with the show’s fans every week that you have to say you’re watching it ironically? That if you like a show that’s bad without knowing it’s bad then you should feel bad, but if you know it’s bad then you should feel good because that just makes you better than the others?

Maybe you watch Valvrave, too. Maybe it’s like Shouko’s cooking, absolutely awful on the surface but actually nutritious and tasty. Maybe you think it’s pretty dumb, but it manages to walk the tightrope of expectations up to the next week. Maybe you genuinely want to know what happens next, because there is no other anime that deals with nanomachine space vampire pilots. Maybe you just don’t want to call it good, because you lose to some high and mighty arbiter of taste if you do.

Then maybe you could stop calling it a trainwreck? I fail to see how it makes you smarter. Quite the opposite, in fact.

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15 Responses to Stop Using the Word “Trainwreck”

  1. Shinmaru says:

    These days I don’t really have the time to watch shows I don’t like. I watch Valvrave; therefore, I like it! Simple enough for me. I like a show that recognizes and embraces its own absurdity. Not really sure how someone could take Valvrave seriously enough to hate it, but hey! People are free to do that, I suppose.

    And, yes, trainwreck is among a litany of words that has been bandied about so often that they’ve lost any real meaning. “Trainwreck” to me implies that the creators have no control over what’s going on. Obviously I am not one of the Valvrave team, so I don’t know for sure, but I’ve seen nothing to suggest the show isn’t aiming for an air of lunacy.

    • schneider says:

      I really think that Valvrave is a concerted effort in controlled absurdity–the show may seem all over the place but it’s holding itself together very well and it’s consistent in tone so far. I believe that Kou Matsuo is a talented director and Ichiro Okouchi can write a riveting, if not entirely deep script.

      Also, why would you spend time mocking a cartoon and its fanbase when you could be doing something else, unless you have nothing better to do– OH WAIT

  2. wah says:

    Gonna kinda echo Shinmaru here: I’ve not watched Valvrave, but from what I’ve heard it seems like it’s doing everything it’s doing on purpose. I think there can be joy derived from watching an actual trainwreck–like you know, bad 80s OVAs–and you can still not be an asshole about it.

    That said, I kind of think R2 was a trainwreck. Like, it actually seemed like the writers were kind of making it up as they went on. But I don’t remember it very well, so I may be wrong.

    • schneider says:

      Word was that Taniguchi’s plans got shafted when his proposed 50-episode run of Geass got changed into what we know, so the staff had to improvise a lot. I don’t have a source but Okouchi seemed to be pulling out scripts out of his ass every week, and that’s how we got R2. In all honesty they pulled it off better than I would’ve expected given their situation…

      Valvrave is too self-aware to be a product of dumb luck–the cold open in the latest episode (8) employs a chock-full of Sunrise mecha anime tropes!

  3. Eldar says:

    Just idiots trying to justfy why they are watching a mecha anime instead of some high-browed dark edgy psuedo-intellectual piss.

    The average anime fan is just typically tsundere for both the genre and the material they enjoy.

  4. froggykun says:

    I totally agree with your post. I think people have an inexorable need to justify WHY they like something, and when they can’t come up with what seems like an intelligent enough reason, they just label the anime as a ‘trainwreck’ and be done with it. I think Valvrave’s really copped it badly for being a so-called “guilty pleasure”, but honestly, any reason for liking an anime is a good one as long as it’s not hurting anyone. I enjoy Valvrave because it’s creative and you get a real sense that the creators had a fun time writing the story, and that’s good enough for me. ‘Trainwreck’ has nothing to do with it.

  5. rockmanshii says:

    I wholeheartedly agree too. It’s always cooler to hate something on the net, so I guess the word “trainwreck” easily made it’s place among cool kids talking about anime. Probably one of the most used words now along with “autistic”, and others.

  6. Honestly, being a fan of super robot shows has sort of broken my irony detection mechanism. At some point early on I liked the ridiculousness of these shows “ironically,” but soon the line between serious and fake liking blurred and finally dissolved outright. Now, I watch stuff like Valvrave because I think it’s awesome. That post credits scene from the first episode will probably live with me for a while.

    I do think it bears mentioning that the cases of Geass and Valvrave are different in key ways. I think people are more justified in being annoyed by the former because of the kind of show it bills itself to be (aka smarter than you), so when the writing went south but the show still stuck to its guns about its own intelligence, fans reacted. Valvrave is different in that it never claimed to be smart, realistic or anything other than swimming in its genre inheritance. As wah points out, it is very intentional about what it’s doing.

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  8. sadakups says:

    People are just calling Valvrave a trainwreck in the making because the Code Geass writer is in it and they are trying to force the two as the same, which is not. Valvrave, as much as it’s ridiculous at times, is actually enjoyable. The first episode already made me think that this is one show that I don’t take too seriously, kinda like what I felt watching the first episode of Star Driver, hence, the quirks of the show is intentional.

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  10. OtakuAnthony says:

    Trainwreck like pandering and a few other terms have gotten to the point where they have just become “buzz words” and don’t mean much anymore. I dropped Valvrave because it wasn’t doing anything for me.

  11. Cho says:

    Great post. I agree that the word “trainwreck” is thrown around way too much.
    My opinion on Valvrave is that the show knows what it’s doing, and is simply willing to have fun being a crazy, unpredictable story. As such, I’m hesitant to term the show “so stupid it’s awesome,” or anything along those lines. The story is definitely utilizing anime-style theatrics for extreme dramatic effect, but I don’t think that makes it *stupid*. Are there plot elements that don’t make perfect sense upon thorough scrutiny? Sure, but most the time the plot elements people are analyzing are utterly insignificant in the context of what Valvrave is actually going for. Complaints about a cell phone working in outer space, for example, feel absolutely ridiculous to me when this is a story starring a body-hopping space vampire who pilots a mecha with a final smash activated via hari-kiri.
    On a different note, I’m also a bit tired of Valvrave being compared to Code Geass so constantly. I suppose that is primarily because I did not enjoy Code Geass, but I do feel the two shows are quite different in what they are aiming for. People need to look at Valvrave for its own merits–I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much foreshadowing there has been of recent events, for example.

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  13. Ray Trace says:

    ‘BIG KEES FOL YOU FOL YOU!’

    I have to say, although Valvrave never really managed to return to the dizzying heights of the non stop onslaught of WTFery in the first ‘season’, I still would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy most of it. Though seriously the emm ‘r’ scene was dealt with very badly :s.

    I liked the L-elf/Lelouch-y type ‘elaborate battle strategy’ bits a lot.

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