Style versus Substance

in anime •  2 months ago

Most of the requested topics I got are all about making a video about the importance of things like animation and soundtrack. Since there’s very little I can say about that, I will group them all under the word style, and I will pit them against the word substance.

These two things are opposite sides of the same coin. One has to do with evoking emotions from the viewer, while the other evokes thoughts. One is about external looks, the other is about internal themes. One makes something eye catchy, the other makes it memorable. And yet, you need both to tell a good story. Substance alone is not enough; no amount of good ideas make something interesting if the presentation feels lifeless.

Style on the other hand is like floodlights in a theater; it helps the viewer to retain his interest throughout the play. Yet it can lead to some very superficial entertainment when something like special effects feels more interesting than the characters or the story.

Which is also why I keep telling you people not to score based on entertainment. If animation and music are the style part, while story and characters are the substance part, do you know what that makes enjoyment? An unfair advantage for style. It makes people to care more about how fun it was and not how well its material was handled. Substance is not enjoyed, it is appreciated. And anywhere you look, you won’t find any scoring section for appreciation.

It’s not like style must always be kept to a minimum. Lots of series and movies don’t have substance so they might as well be enjoyable as a spectacle. And yet, in the hollow minds of casuals, the spectacle is the most important aspect of them all. Have you noticed how most people excuse their fondness of something by simply saying “It was fun” or their lack of interest with a simple “I was bored”. These are legit reasons but miss thought process, the very thing substance relies on.

And on the opposite side we also have those who love to overthink stuff. They can get the most minor and unexplored element of a show and write a whole encyclopedia about stuff that are simply not part of the show. They are not appreciating substance, they are inflating it to the point it becomes a joke in the eyes of anyone who is not an overthinker. It is extra insulting when you realize that most of the overthinking is done in the titles that are full of style.

Meaning, they don’t really appreciate the theme exploration, as they are mesmerized by the premise and the mere mentioning of topics, to the point they feel the need to make them seem more important than what they actually are, as a weak excuse regarding why they like something for more reasons than simply the spectacle. They assume that this way they are not blinded fanboys, because they can excuse their fondness of something. And it would be a lovely excuse too, if they weren’t making up shit from thin air.

There are those who believe that style is limited to stuff you can see or hear, while substance is stuff you need to read or think about. That is not true because style is not about everything that is said and shown. It is about the way it is said and shown. Events and facts don't need style to be there. Movies are not all about style in the same way books are not all about substance. A director can use subtlety to present substance through style, and an author can use his writing style for flavoring whatever substance his books have.

Another thing is that there is no specific amount of style or substance a story needs in order to work. Something with barebones plot and characterization can benefit greatly in terms of enjoyment from style, even if that way it doesn't become any smarter or deeper (disregarding overthinking). On the other hand, a show with lots of things going on in it can actually be damaged if the style supersedes the substance.

Describing something as plain as possible can become boring to follow after a few minutes. The words I use in my topics for example can be considered to be dry but since the topics are short and to the point, they do not hurt the message I am trying to make. Plus the occasional “tasteless casuals” I am throwing around is a simple way of adding style.

Style can supersede substance as much as it likes, but it should never be treated as more important. Although most people run after trends and sparkly fireworks, and say stuff like “it’s all fake, anyways” as means to excuse why the spectacle is all that matters, a true enthusiast must always take into account both the floodgates and the actual happenings on the stage. Because if he doesn’t, we might as well have annual awards for the best actor, and most candidates can be lamp posts and neon light projectors.

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