Before I discuss the style of a show further, though, I should probably first define it. I'm going to do this by telling you what it isn't; the substance. The "substance" of a show is its clearly identifiable, tangible (so to speak) aspects, like the voice acting, animation & art quality, music, and so forth. The style of a show is its more "ephemeral" qualities, the ones that can't be as clearly identified. Another way of saying it might be that the substance is the parts used to make the show, and the style is how those parts are used.
So with the definition out of the way (cough), let me ask you a question, much like I did with my Journey and Destination post: "which of the two (style or substance) is more important?" Only, unlike the other post, this one has a more definite answer. Since this is a little harder to explain than bodies and endings, I'll just jump right in and start with some examples.
|Unrelated eye-candy screencap that every blogger talking about Hyouka has used|
Of course, I've also rewatched FMA, but the thing is that FMA is a really good show, while Trinity Blood is...not so much. But then, is it because of the substance that FMA is a better show? I say not. Take Seventh Heaven, for example. While I won't compare it with FMA, a lot of what makes Seventh Heaven good is the great style of the series. I mean, the dream setting is cool, but what was so good was the way that setting was handled. By now you may be thinking, "So, the style is only good for making bad substance sub-par to par?" to which I answer no. I'll explain this in a moment, but for now I want to look at another media form style and substance can be applied to: games (remember, that other thing I blog about?). Admittedly, with games the substance (in this case gameplay) has to be good, or it will still be a poor game no matter what. But even within this, it can be a game's style that makes the difference between a merely good game and a great game.
|Behold, Disciples II|
|Fallout. Truly an amazing game.|
|I never had that look of wonder in my eyes while watching Fruits Basket...|
Anyways, now that you've gotten all this information, let me ask again. Which is more important, style or substance? As you've almost certainly guessed, I believe that the style of a series or game (but not necessarily blog) is more important. Of course, I won't say that the substance is unimportant. On the contrary, I believe it's remarkably important; there is simply no replacement for a good story. I just feel that it's more important for a series to use its substance in a way that only it can do. There's no denying the style is important, too. There's no replacement for the unique way in which a story is told. Overall, it would be ideal to have both, but as our harsh friend reality has shown us many times over, this cannot always be the case. We often get series like Trinity Blood that fail our substance tests but stay afloat with unique style. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have series like Fruits Basket, which are entirely substance with no (or negligible) style to make it stand out or be memorable. And so, if you were forced to pick between one or another, which would you choose (not Fruits Basket and Trinity Blood, of course, but substance and style)? Like I said, I'm on style's side, because I believe it can do so much more than substance. I recognize, though, that my focus is rather narrow, and I'd love to hear of conflicting examples you've run into. I'd like to believe that the one's I picked were representatives of the rule and not the exception, but I may be wrong. And, aside from that, I'm always willing to accept other viewpoints and ideas. So, what I'm saying is, sound off in the comments! Do you also think that the style is most important, or does substance matter more to you?
*I realize all this is hypothetical because there actually has yet to be a really good harem anime (to the best of my knowledge). However, I believe my point stands. For example, take Sket Dance. The show, at first appearance, is little more than just another highschool comedy show. However, because of the series' style and the way it handles both comedy and serious issues, it becomes much more than "just another anime." And (though I admit I have yet to see it) I feel that Puella Madoka Magicka may be the same way, though I may also be wrong about that. Anyways, just some food for thought.