[Seven] Zaregoto: Nonsense and Expertise

Two weeks ago I watched the first episode of Zaregoto. I’ve been a fan of NishioIsin ever since I watched Monogatari so I was excited to see what this series of his had to offer. Zaregoto is one hell of a dense show and I couldn’t even begin to decipher all of the things that the author wanted to convey, but there was one scene in particular that stood out to me.

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The scene featured the main character “I” and his conversation with genius painter Kanami Ibuki. Kanami asked “I” for his thoughts on her latest creation, to which he responds “I guess… It’s very pretty”. Not being satisfied with his considerate answer, she asks once more for his real opinion. He then replies, “I don’t have the eye of a critic. I’m no judge of art. I just thought it was pretty.”

Upon hearing his answer, she quickly disposes of her creation – deeming it a failure. Our main character protests, saying “I don’t know what I’m talking about, so why does my opinion matter?” And she then responds, “If you have to choose your judges, it’s not something worth calling art”.

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The scene reminded me of a conversation that I had with a couple friends from a few days before I watched this episode. We were talking about our favorite singers in an idol group (ten points to whoever can guess which group) and one of my friends said something that annoyed me a little. He talked about how singing technique was one of the leading factors to how he rated the singers and how our lack of knowledge on the subject resulted in our opinions on the singers. He seemed to suggest that his opinion was better than ours because of his knowledge or expertise in the field.

The opinions of my friend and Kanami seem to conflict. Does the impression of the average person carry any merit when it comes to judging the quality of a piece of art compared to an expert? Kanami seems to believe that it doesn’t matter who is looking at her work. If even a single person doesn’t believe that her work is a masterpiece, the piece is worthless. This idea seems to deny the existence of expertise in the first place leaving the quality of a piece as a measure of its appeal to everyone.

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Now I, like our main character, am not an expert in the arts. There are very few things in the world that I would consider myself experienced enough in to give a concrete opinion on, so I can see where “I” is coming from with his answer. I don’t think that my opinion as a single person is a valid measure for the quality of a piece of work. However, I don’t think it’s quite that simple. Mass appeal is something that can be – and usually is – used as a measure for gauging the relative “quality” of a thing. A single person’s opinion may not matter, but the opinions of a large number of individual people does.

But that’s just my opinion. I’m sure a lot of you would disagree with me.

And that’s perfectly fine.

That just means that there’s something worth talking about. And there lies the beauty in shows like Zaregoto – it really makes you think.

So what do you think?

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