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Also, do themes songs or background music leave the bigger impression?

One of the defining qualities of Japanese animation is how much meticulous effort gets poured into the various aspects of a production. That thoroughness is reflected in the medium’s fanbase, as you can find not only anime enthusiasts ready to wax poetic about the art of their favorite shows, but others who find themselves deeply affected by themes, attached to characters, or moved by music.

But ultimately what’s the most important factor in catching a fan’s interest? In search of the answer, Internet portal My Navi polled 194 anime fans currently in college, and asked them what element, if done well, has the greatest power to make a show interesting.

Let’s look at the top five responses.

5. Animation (4.1 percent)

It might feel odd to see relatively few Japanese animation fans proclaiming to be fans of, in the literal sense, animation. Still, the actual process of breaking down and drawing movement in tiny segments can be a hard thing to critique, especially if you don’t have first-hand experience trying to animate something. It takes a lot of viewing experience to be able to really appreciate all the subtleties that go into that, which might explain why this relatively young group of survey participants didn’t vote for “animation” in overwhelming numbers.

4. Realism (4.6 percent)

There’s nothing wrong with a certain degree of escapist entertainment. Still, most intense media consumers would like to think that their enjoyment of their favorite TV series and movies stems from how they speak to some sort of real-world truth with greater implications than the story unfolding within the confines of the screen.

3. Background music (5.7 percent)

While anime theme songs get the vast majority of the glory (and CD sales revenue), background music is what respondents picked for their top five. BGM may be the less flashy musical category, but it’s also the one with the greater potential to affect one’s enjoyment of the anime itself. Opening and ending themes are often designed primarily to promote a new vocalist or appeal to the singer’s preexisting fans, but background music can be crafted to accompany the emotion of individual scenes and in-story events.

2. Characters (25.8 percent)

In real life, we’re much more likely to listen to someone if we have positive feelings about them, regardless of whether or not what they’re saying is really all that interesting in and of itself. The same phenomenon holds true for anime, as nearly one in four survey participants said that if they like a series’ characters, they’re willing to come along for the ride.

This broad response covered both fans who liked a character’s personality or psychology as well as those who simply liked the way the character looked. And while that last reason might seem a little shallow, one respondent brought up the fairly convincing argument that “If the characters don’t look good, you might as well read a novel instead.”

1. Story (49 percent)

By far the most common response, though, was that an interesting story is what makes for an interesting anime. These days, almost all anime are based on a manga, illustrated novel, or video game, meaning the anime is already starting out with character designs that have resonated with a large group of fans. “There are a ton of anime with cool-looking characters,” explained one respondent, “but only a few with stories that grab you,” showing that not all anime fans are watching just for the bulbous boobs and sweaty, slim-waisted young sportsmen.

Source: My Navi Gakusei no Madoguchi via Jin
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