It’s Best To Only Like A Few Things, Especially In Terms of Anime

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 TwitterConcrete 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.

Minor Quips

  • 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.

7 responses to “It’s Best To Only Like A Few Things, Especially In Terms of Anime

  1. I agree with what you’re saying, but I am a bit sad you took off Planetes, which is one of my favourites because it makes me so happy every time I see it. 🙂

    I particularly agree about getting pissed off at the “anime used to be better” discussions, because those seem to always end with people getting angry at each other. And yeah, people should just appreciate the past and all the good shows that came with it instead of moaning about it. Rather than comparing now to the past, I think people should LOOK FOWARD to what’s to come! I saw a similar discussion about ‘old anime’, and someone commented how they didn’t like Cowboy Bebop very much, and someone replied with “how can you not like Cowboy Bebop? You’re stupid! It’s a masterpiece!”

    From your non-anime shows, I see you’ve taken off Don’t Trust the B, but at least Krysten Ritter still remains on your list with Jessica Jones! 🙂 I haven’t watched Don’t Trust the B yet, but I think I’ll get around to it soon.

    Thank you for such an insightful post!

    • I still have quite a few anime on my list that make me happy on a personal level. Whisper of the Heart, The Tatami Galaxy, Welcome to the NHK, the Clannad film, and Spirited Away fulfill the feels quota quite nice

  2. I agree. I only truly love one or two anime per season, and that’s enough. I’m too busy to worry about whether anime is dying or not. I also have books to read, games to play, TV series to watch, so why should I waste time arguing with people on the net?

    And for all the fans bitching, things change constantly. I dislike how RTS games genre is on life support, I don’t like superheroes, and I don’t like Game of Thrones. None of that matter. No matter how much I scream, those things will not simply disappear.

    So yeah, the internet can be a pretty sad place. But there’re plenty of choice now. Hey, I’m going to buy steam games that I likely will not play, since they’re cheaper than dirt.

    • Recently bought the new Doom game on sale myself. I’m interested to see whether it’s as good as people claim, but Tokyo Mirage Sessions comes out today and I want to see some films this weekend.

  3. I’m not entirely sure about if I think it’s better to have few favorites or a ton. From my perspective, I do get where you are coming from, since having few favorites but having such a deep love and appreciation of those favorites, is a lot more interesting than having a lot of favorites with less of an understanding of most of them. On the other hand, I value such a wide spectrum of things, and I think that my favorites list manages to cover each aspect I value. I’d consider myself open to really any genre as long as I find what the show’s doing to be interesting, and I think my favorites list shows that, for the most part.

    That being said, one thing I extremely agree with here is this idea that having “tastes you trust” is a load of nonsense. It reminds me of these people who judge anime purely based upon the trailer to see if they are interested, then if they aren’t based on the trailer, they won’t watch the show. They then use the argument of, “if people tell me it’s interesting, I’ll watch it”, but what makes these sources trustworthy? Who’s to say someone is going to tell you a show’s interesting? I don’t entirely put my trust in public opinion, because at the end of the day, there’s no guarantee our tastes will match up. For example, I’m watching a show called Zettai Shounen right now, no one has really seen it, no one talks about it, but I’m liking it and I’m finding it interesting. If I went purely with what public opinion is enjoying, I’d miss out on stuff I could end up really liking.

  4. But isn’t watching anime based on people you trust how you find new things? I get your point – I’m never going to like everything you like for example and if I do, it would be to differing degrees. But in my case, I feel your taste aligns with mine enough to at least give consideration to what you like. I’ve found dozens of movies/anime from your lists in the past few years that I’ve absolutely loved – others maybe not so much. But I’d say the hit rate of watching things I like is so much higher by taking recommendations from “people I trust” then simply selecting based on what I think I might like from plot synopsis or something. And it’s not like I’m going to take recommendations from say Draggle when I know his taste is pretty much a complete inverse of mine. So how else will I be selecting what I watch next?

    But yes, I’ve found favourites by watching things totally on a whim, but if I were to do that all the time, I’d be watching a lot more crap then if I were to follow recommendations from “people I trust”.

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