I do not recommend having this many things in your bedroom regardless of whether you’re sleeping or not, no matter how much you think you like them.
Those who pay attention to my favorite anime list (either on the blog or my MAL profile) will have noticed that I removed quite a few things from it over the last few days. Garo: Carved Seal of Flames. Revolutionary Girl Utena. All the Rumiko Takahashi stuff bar the second Urusei Yatsura movie. A few others that I’m not going to bother naming because you either know what’s missing since the last time you looked at it or you don’t care. The point is, the list is now only thirty-eight entries long – and believe it or not, I wish I had been able to make it shorter. Because I’ve been at this anime thing for so long now to know that the longer a list goes on, the more it doesn’t really represent the individual’s personal tastes.
As I said on my Twitter, Concrete Revolutio is the main reason why I decided to be so ruthless with my favorites list. Even if the second season didn’t quite live up to the first, Darker than Black 2-style (okay, it’s better than Darker than Black 2, but I’m trying to make a point here), that doesn’t change the fact that the first season blew me away and some of the second season’s episodes made it onto my top ten list as well, reminding me what exactly it is I ultimately stick with this medium for despite the regular bile I dish out at it. I’ll still call an anime good when it’s good, sure. But whilst it doesn’t have to be at Revolutio’s level or anything, I want to feel a rush when completing one of these cartoons. The same rush that made me love Welcome to the NHK when I marathoned it in the span of a few days. Or when I saw The Dark Knight for the first time and became hypnotized by Heath Ledger’s Joker. Or when I saw the first season of Daredevil after people told me such a thing existed and became more interested in live-action dramas as a form of entertainment as a result. Yes, only the first one of those things is actually an anime, but that shouldn’t matter when it comes to stuff you like.
That said, I was a little surprised at the result at first when I got done pruning the thing. The plan was to remove everything I wouldn’t grade at least a ‘9’ on my MAL if I actually bothered to still use that rating system (with some stuff like Guilty Crown, Clannad: The Motion Picture, and Mawaru Penguindrum – even though I never actually reviewed that one – getting bumped up after careful consideration), but even I was surprised that not a single pre-90s series survived. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. Movies are one thing, but the majority of what characterized 80s anime series are flaws I lash out at current anime as of today (more focused on style over story, taking too long to end, etc.), and there’s only so much the nostalgia I got from watching Ranma can carry me in my late twenties, especially when 80s sitcoms with laugh tracks like Cheers exist and continue to make me howl for far longer times after thirty years of existence.
But then there was the cutting of stuff like Planetes, Psycho-Pass, and Samurai Flamenco. Well actually, cutting the latter two wasn’t hard at all. I’ve never been able to summon up any energy to revisit Flamenco after it finished, plus having to be compared to Bones’ take on the superhero genre does it no favors. And a revisit of Psycho-Pass with the sequel film confirmed that the series as a whole was solid, but ultimately not the best cop thing out there. As for Planetes, it’s kind of sad to see my one link with Goro Taniguchi flutter away, but it was always only “8” territory for me and I don’t think I’m ever going to finish rewatching the show’s “only decent” first half in order to appreciate its much more powerful second half (and if I’m being honest, I’ve forgotten the particulars of the plot in general). Even Guilty Crown kicked into gear by the quarter-mark, y’know?
Unfortunately I had to make the sacrifice. Because at the end of the day, there’s a difference between a solid show and a favorite – something I think anime fans that continue to ride the hype train forget because the tickets are free. The former is something you think is good. The latter is something that defines what you’re looking for. And having a lot of things that define you is the equivalent of a fictional product trying to have something for everyone and just being bland across the board. It’s a shame I had to experience that first hand before I realized this, but in a way, that only lends credence to my claims.
And as a guy who has gone through all sorts of loops in regards to selecting favorites and whatnot, I want to debunk a few common fan arguments that I keep hearing in regards to what constitutes a “good anime”. Truth be told, I’m getting really sick of reading articles/discussions about how “anime was better years ago” or “good anime are still being made” and all that other stuff that I thought we’ve moved on from by now. In regards to the former, I’d say that just like the live-action scene, movies were better years ago and series are better now, but let’s play it the oldfags’ way for a bit. Saying a trend that you liked is no more is perfectly valid, especially if you’re a big fan of the 80s/90s ultraviolence wave and whatever you call the wave that brought us Rose of Versailles and Legend of the Galactic Heroes. But similar to a man who’s been dumped by his girlfriend (or any variation of that that doesn’t involve murder), what good is it to not move on? What good is it to pine for something that most likely died off for a reason? And are you trying so hard to focus on the good that you forgot the bad that came with it as well? Or are you one of those “bland people” I sniped at a paragraph ago?
Admittedly, I’m in the apparently rare position of not caring for any particular trend and the even rarer position of not liking a majority of those anime that people stuck in the past praise. But even if I did have a pining for anime past, I’ve seen what happens whenever creators try to reclaim what was once lost, and just like when they were popular, only a few of them are actually worth watching whilst the rest is rubbish. Not to mention, you do realize that the quickest way to ruin your enjoyment of something is to become exposed to it over and over again, right? Granted, I seem to be in the minority regarding that now, and given the number of people still hyped for more Sword Art Online, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Steins;Gate, and various idol anime, I don’t think “now” will ever translate to “soon” for a long time. I’m guessing these are the same people who continue to support Hollywood’s continued practice of producing shitty remakes, copy-and-paste superhero films, and the cash-grabbing sequels that are flooding the summer movie season (I think The Nice Guys is the only new thing from this year’s season that I’ve seen). But hey, “cut-and-paste” light novel adaptations aren’t selling very well anymore, so progress.
As for the whole “good anime are still being made” argument, I get what people are going for with it and it seems like a valid counterpoint on the surface, but it’s when they start using their own personal experiences as evidence that I raise a few eyebrows. Recommending a product is one thing, but at the end of the day, no one else is going to put the Clannad film on their favorites list, let alone acknowledge its existence. One other common anime thing I see thrown around these days is watching an anime based on “people you trust”, but I say trusting anyone aside from yourself is a myth because when it comes down to it, they’re not you. They’re never going to be 100% interested in what you like because they didn’t grow up with your background. Maybe the beard episode of Dennou Coil isn’t that special to them because “Simpsons did it”, and thus 99.76% of your argument just got undermined.
At the end of the day, a good anime is determined by what the viewer makes of what he sees, and you don’t speak for them. Maybe ultraviolent fans don’t like elitist-bait, or maybe what’s new about current elite stuff doesn’t mesh well with the people who proclaim Akira as the greatest anime of all-time. Even though Cowboy Bebop is a popular choice for one of the anime greats, my reasons for liking it are ultimately my own. And you can bet that’s true for the rest of my list as well. In the great wide world of opinions, it’s important to remember that your judgments should be more about you than about the product as a whole. Because there’s just no substitute for determining a product’s quality than to actually try the product, and anyone who tries otherwise doesn’t deserve any sort of respect. I sure didn’t when I went through that phase.
That’s why my favorites list is so (relatively) short as of now. That’s why I think all favorites lists should be short. That’s why my list contains the anime it currently has. And since I spent three hours writing this post in the middle of the night, that’s why I’m tired and thus need to end right here and go to bed before I end up as more of a curmudgeon than I already am.
- For the record, I’m pretty sure my nostalgia for Ranma was a large factor regarding why Fumoffu stayed on the list.
- Pruned my favorite non-anime shows list a bit as well, for the record. Can you see what got off?
- Very much aware of the hypocrisy in this post, thank you very much.