Warning: This will be slightly ranty.
By DEW standards, anyways.
There were complaints that the overall quality of OMF's has decreased. I wholeheartedly agree. The Big Three haven't given people much to work with, but damn if there hasn't been some low-effort posting going on lately. I'm not saying that people have to put as much effort as the people in the examples I have linked below have put. If all you have to say is 'Good chapter', go ahead and do so. If you're running around starting 'debates' with the same empty criticisms? No. Bad.
Obviously this isn't a directed criticism against the people reading this. This is half a rant and half a 'guide' (I use this loosely as there is no 'proper' way). What I have now is how I go about it and I'm interested in how others conduct their analysis.
Why You're Wrong
You could simplify our relationship with media to a simple two-way street: the authors intentions and the reader's interpretations. In truth, our relationship with media is much more complicated than that. How you feel about media depends on where you are in life, how much like media you've consumed, your personal beliefs, and much more. That means a lot of what we consider good -- characters, aesthetic, plot -- is mostly subjective. That means telling someone X is better because the characters are better is kind of a terrible point.
Some people think Death Note has deep, complex, characters and a great plot. I think the characters are shallow and the plot boring. That doesn't mean I'm right and people are wrong (although, to be fair, I'm always right). It just means I don't like it. This brings me to another point: liking something really doesn't make you a better/worse person. Enjoying Vagabond doesn't make you a better person than someone who likes Sword Art Online. It just means you appreciate different things.
You can also like and dislike a piece of work. I don't know why most of the forum defaults to binary assumptions. Just because a part is criticized does not mean they hate the whole. I love the mythology and cinematic style of Bleach. Of the long running shounen out there it's really second to none in those departments. But that doesn't mean I don't hate it when most of the fights follow the same generic formula and when Kubo takes seven years to do anything. Also the end to the Fullbringer arc is retarded. And fuck Kubophysics. I digress.
Ultimately people's opinion on media are meaningless. Yes, how you feel about a series is often a reflection of your personal identity, but that doesn't have to mean anything if you don't want it to. I'm not advocating not caring about what you watch -- because that is the complete opposite of what this rant is about -- but to not to take it to heart. There are a lot of people who blindly and immediately jump to the defense of their favourite authors. There are also a lot of people who continually spout the same 'criticism' without actually being open to discussion or debate. That in itself is not only pointless, but annoying. Stop being annoying.
Why Your Posts Matter
But DEW? Didn't you just say our opinions are meaningless? Well, yes. Whether you like moe blobs or grimdark isn't going to change the world. But just because they don't mean anything doesn't mean they can't have significance to the people who are receiving them. And that is why I'd like to stress the importance of critical analysis (almost getting to the topic of the post). It's fine and dandy to simply state that you like X and hate Y, but that really isn't going to convince anyone of anything. Of course not everyone intends to convince, but what's the point of being in a forum if you're just going to state your opinion and walk away?
Unlike your tastes what you post is reflective of you, and in turn, reflective of the forum. Try and make it a good reflection.
Examples of good posts:
I don't necessarily agree with everything in all of the posts above, but that doesn't matter. What's important is that all those posts are examples of what I'd consider 'good' analysis. They provide reasoning and that in turn is conductive to discussion. If you look at the replies it's often good discussion.
Honestly there are a lot more examples I could give, but I have terrible memory and finding anything on OMF is near-impossible. I do want to build a list of good posts, so if you guys remember any other ones feel free to post it here.
Critical Analysis: How to DEW it
The most important part of critical analysis is context. While you can acknowledge that Daily Lives of Highschool Boys does not have a compelling plot, nitpicking about it is idiotic. It's always important to keep in mind genre, and for older works, the time period it was created in. Admittedly, I'm pretty weak when it comes to history in general, never mind Animanga history.
Outside of context there are two main ideas to focus on: what is the work trying to do and how well does it do it?
What is this work trying to do?
This is the ambition or theme of the work. What is the point of the show? Why do characters do what they do and how does this reflect on the work thematically? How ambitious is this theme? Is it a response to anything?
For example, Yuri Kuma Arashi has the overarching theme of homosexuals in society, Katanagatari has the weight of legacy, One Piece has freedom (and then each mini-arc has its own theme as well like Fishman Island and racism). All of these are pretty obvious to most people, but the point isn't that they are difficult to identify, but that they must be kept in mind when consuming media. Otherwise, you end up nitpicking.
Keep in mind thematic significance, and all of a sudden the actions of characters have more weight to them. This is particularly true when it comes to the success or failure of characters. It's a sort of meta-reason for in-universe actions and reactions. Obviously, the ideal work will be consistent both in-universe and thematically, but aren't those what we call masterpieces?
That said meta-reasons are not answers to problems. Saying X character had to lose for Y reasons does not make it realistic. It makes it understandable and easier to forgive; but not better. A 'competent' villain acting stupidly because of characters being underestimated is a theme doesn't make it any more realistic. It's just an explanation of why. I know certain people disagree here like @Relinquisher and @zetruz, so I'm open to being convinced otherwise, but so far I remain unconvinced.
How well is it executing it?
This is pretty self-explanatory and the most subjective part of this attempt to be objective. Not that a 'true' objective measure can be reached as said before; we're just trying our best to approach it. How well its goal is executed has a lot to do with your suspension of disbelief and the goal itself. The whole series from setting to characters culminates in a message -- no matter how shallow -- and can be criticized as being successful/unsuccessful.
Criticizing execution involves breaking down the parts of a work and trying to understand their purpose. Then you put it all back together and see how effective the pieces are at telling a message. This often includes all those things I called worthless before: the characters, the aesthetic, the plot. As an ultimately subjective experience, people will differ on how well they respond to different pieces. For example, I find younger fans see Attack on Titan as groundbreaking in the way that it illustrates mortality and how humanity is 'caged'. The older fans see the less-than-subtle presentation of the themes as distasteful. Not that there is anything wrong with being explicit.
In this age where so many different works are available to consume, I do think execution is more important than the theme itself. Every story has already been told; the genius comes from how. And this is where medium comes into play. Pay close attention to the stills and the framing and character design. It's an experience you really can't get from novels.
That's about all I have for now. Since I'm binging anime movies this weekend (if all goes as planned), I'll try and do an in-depth review that better shows how I analyze things. Might do Kara no Kyoukai but if its complex, I doubt I'll be done in one day.
A few questions to get the discussion started:
1. How do you go about analyzing animanga. Be as specific as you like.
2. Do you watch series again to better understand them? Are there specific series you've done this for?
3. How important is the message and execution to your enjoyment of a series?
4. How do other people's posts influence your interpretation of a series? Examples?
5. Do you think in-depth analysis is necessary? Is experience animanga at a surface level 'good enough'? Is the quality of OMF good enough?