It’s Hard To See Anime As “Special” These Days

But honestly, does that really matter?

So I was watching Gigguk’s video regarding how he became an anime fan and it sort of mirrored mine. Like many people, I got in through Pokemon, Digimon, and Dragonball Z before I knew what they were actually called, and I was never public about liking that sort of stuff because Internet culture wasn’t around then and you could get teased for wearing a Pokemon shirt in the sixth grade. Hell, I still wasn’t all that public with it in college, only briefly mentioning it to my roommates who didn’t understand the appeal of JRPGs. I’ll never forget the first time I started reading Shonen Jump magazine, playing Tales of Symphonia for the first time, discovering that I could watch episodes of Detective Conan or Ranma for free on Youtube, and learning the existence of animated porn. And a lot of that was due to my brother introducing me to these products, which is ironic, because he’s not an anime fan at all. Those were innocent times. Well, except for the hentai stuff, obviously.

If you were paying attention to my blog back in my neophyte days, you’ll know that whilst I was trying to be critical of what I watched even back then because of my fondness for “negative” reviewing due to growing up with it, my eyes were still open to the amazement that anime had to offer to a certain degree after almost eight years, and I could still declare Clannad and Code Geass as good anime with a straight face. I had only kept up with like one or two shows a season (or none at all) back then, I’ve never watched a single ultraviolent OVA in my life, the only mecha shows I was familiar with were Code Geass, Guilty Crown (sorta counts), and Gurren Lagann (which I never bothered to finish), and I hadn’t seen a single frame of Yuasa’s output. Also, I really enjoyed reading the blogs. It was so much fun discovering others who were passionate about these cartoons that I mostly only mentioned briefly in public, as well as cartoons they loved that I’ve never even heard about (Kaiba, Honey & Clover, Tokyo Godfathers, etc.). And a lot has already been said about my joy in regards to actually participating in the same activities they did so I won’t bother repeating it here. Hell, I still get jealous seeing what my far more popular colleagues contribute to the anime community even though I know that stuff isn’t for me.

One of my favorite activities during the stronger years of my anime fandom was to go to my local Frys retail store and blind buy something. Even back then, I never had any interest in anime merchandise beyond the actual anime, but that turned out for the best because I’d be broke otherwise, and it definitely didn’t make me any less of a fan. Whilst the online stuff never went anywhere, there was something thrilling about ignoring the “try before you buy” rule in my younger days (especially when it was acclaimed stuff like Trigun), amassing a collection the likes of which the Shelf Life guys on Anime News Network would take pictures of. And of course, there was Kickstarter back when it was a new thing. I knew the risks, but being a part of that risk held a certain appeal and the finished product always seemed like something that’d make a good “fandom” trophy if nothing else.

Man, it's hard to believe these days are long gone.

Man, it’s hard to believe these days are long gone.

Years have passed since then and as you can see, things have turned around. I barely interact with the anime community anymore, I pretty much reject everything they consider fun these days (mainly Twitter conversations), I don’t give a shit about Kickstarter, and the number of anime I like has been run through with a hacksaw. My blind-buying days have long passed me by, and most of what I have blind-bought, I have since sold. Basically, I’ve become another oldfag who’s grown disgruntled with the current community, except with the self-awareness to realize that half of the reason for that is my fault along with how I still play by my own rules even by oldfag standards. I mean I could complain about Re:Zero’s massive popularity all I want, but I don’t even like the more “mature/elitist” stuff airing this season like 91 Days or Mob Psycho 100 even though I would have easily enjoyed them back in 2012 when appealed to me (and no, I never watched the sequel. I’d since grown the awareness to realize how crap that thing was). And last I checked, most oldfags don’t suddenly decide they don’t like “this” anime anymore. They hold onto its dated nature the way Final Fantasy elitists still onto VI despite the fact that having an apocalypse halfway through a story is no longer unique. Hell, the first Shin Megami Tensei did it even earlier, and Nocturne had one after ten minutes.

You know what anime I do like this season? Orange, Planetarian, and both Danganronpa 3 shows. And the last one is sort of a special case brought on by my familiarity with the games (granted, I think both anime work fine on their own so long as you watch them simultaneously since the new characters’ characterization is split between the series), so just Orange and Planetarian if we’re going by standalone stuff. I want to make note that they belong to genres I usually don’t get into (shoujo romance and visual novel anime) so in some ways, I’ve grown more flexible in regards to what I find enjoyable. But that’s kind of a scant improvement compared to the amount of genres I’ve grown to actively reject (space operas, war stories, anime comedies, little girl stuff) along with how I don’t see either show as anything more than decent at best. Neither show is something I’d go out of my way to purchase if they ever get released to the states, and of course, I don’t buy merchandise to begin with, let alone have any interest in the ones related to those shows. Basically, they’re just shows I watch for fun and/or for the blog. No more. No less.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still love my favorite anime and I still like writing about it. But I’m at a point in my life where I’m pretty sure I’ll never have the same feelings my highschool self had when he first got into this hobby, and I can’t help thinking that the only reason I still like writing about it is because it’s so easy to make fun of. Even anime that do get on my favorites list these days don’t exactly make me go “damn it feels good to be an anime fan”. The closest one I think was Concrete Revolutio, and whilst that’s still my favorite Bones show, it didn’t exactly bring me back to the time when I first discovered Fullmetal Alchemist, nor bring back the magic my brother and I experienced when we both finished Brotherhood. In fact, the positive feelings I have for Revolutio are more superhero-related than anime. Not helping is the fact that I have no desire to seek out anime beyond what comes out in a new season anymore. I mean what would I watch? All the big anime that are left like Touch and VOTOMs belong to genres I have no interest in, and I’d rather catch up on all the other mediums I mostly neglected during my more hardcore days of being a part of this fandom.

And it’s not just anime of course. That sort of thinking has bled into my other forays, most notably the serialized television side of things. Some of you are probably aware that I’ve been making a conscious effort to watch more western cartoons and live-action shows as of late (or at least the popular ones), similar to my desire to watch more anime when I officially became an anime fan. And whilst I have seen a lot of good ones, most of them are really no better than watching Orange at the end of the day despite their superior construction and content matter, and they definitely don’t recapture the feeling I had when I first discovered anime. Admittedly, that’s unreasonable to ask for even if you’re The Wire, because the reason animation is my favorite medium is for the amount of freedom and expression that live-action can never achieve. And the reason why I prefer Eastern cartoons to Western cartoons is…well…do you see anything amongst my favorite Western cartoon series that’s not a comedy? I may talk shit about anime humor, but it’s not like Western cartoons are impressing me outside their humor bubbles either.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this at this point. Do I desire to re-experience the glory days? Am I just telling it like it is? I mean I’m certainly not blaming my current situation on any one thing, because the behavior of human beings is far too complex to pin the source on any one event, especially in this “instant gratification/everyone is connected” world we live in now. Neither reason is really wrong, but if I’m being honest, the reason I wrote this post is to respond to the title of Gigguk’s video “You’ll Grow Out Of Anime…Eventually”. Yeah, no I won’t. Because whilst it’s still a niche hobby to this day, anime isn’t exclusive enough from any other activity to the point that it needs growing out of. Not to mention, almost all of my favorite anime are for adults anyways. Saying you’ll grow up from Princess Mononoke is like saying you’ll grow up from Toy Story.

I’ve never been an otaku to begin with (even though she never really got the medium, I always related more to Saki than any of the other Genshiken characters), but whilst it’s true I’ve definitely grown out of some things related to anime, I think people are confusing the end of “fandom” days (or your desire to watch stupid stuff at any rate) with the end of being an anime fan. So what if I don’t pay attention to anime news anymore? So what if I don’t care about anything but the final product? So what if I basically live in an enclosed bubble, even by anime blog standards? Maybe one day I’ll get tired of going to anime cons as well. But will doing that make me any less of an anime fan? Will doing that make me grow out of anime in general? If so, then obviously “anime” has a different definition than what I’m used to.

At the same time, I won’t deny that I feel like I lost something precious that can never be reclaimed as I started seeing anime as nothing more than another hobby of mine. Something far greater than having the entirety of Star Wars spoiled to you before you actually watch those films. Or getting married and losing out on certain “single” benefits. But with marriage comes a whole lot of other benefits (provided you’re not married to a serial killer) and whilst the benefits I have with my current place in the fandom aren’t nearly as luxurious as certain other individuals’ with over a thousand followers on Twitter, I’m happy where I’m at right now. And as long you’re happy in the present whilst keeping some plans for the future, isn’t that enough? If nothing else, I’m never going to end up like one of those guys who burnt out from watching too many bad shows or one of those whiners who think anime stopped being good after the 90s ended. I mean it’s just foreign cartoons at the end of the day, guys. Stop taking it so seriously.

Anime may not be “special” to me anymore, but I still like it and I doubt that’s going to change anytime soon. I may see the majority of it as a wasteland of untapped potential nowadays, but I’ll never forget the days when I saw it as a treasure trove. The day when I took an anime trivia exam at a high school test site and won a second-place trophy (no really, this actually happened). Hell, I’m sure those memories are part of the reason why it continues to be my go-to hobby to this day. It may weird me out that most fans seem to think those exaggerated faces are funny, but…actually no, I don’t get why they’re supposed to be funny at all. Someone want to inform me of the appeal?

Well either way, regardless of my current stance compared to my history, I think we can agree that there are all sorts of anime fans out there, and how they choose to celebrate their fandom is up to them. As long as they like anime, it doesn’t really matter to what degree they choose to express that affection. And as long as they pay for the anime they like, then they’re not unwanted industry-destroying trash.

Minor Quips

  • Mind you, watching people tweet Pokemon memes every time a new monster is revealed would make any sane person want to give up their anime fan rights.
  • Still find it strange that I never see many Deadpool fans amongst the anime circles I interact with given how popular a cosplay he is at the conventions.

4 responses to “It’s Hard To See Anime As “Special” These Days

  1. Not that it addresses the central point of your essay, but I’d like an explanation as to why you think Planetarian is an appreciably better work than Plastic Memories. While Plastic Memories was admittedly filled with awful humor, something Planetarian thankfully omitted, at heart, aren’t both shows just manipulative, tawdry sobfests? Weep for the cute, dying robot!

  2. “I could still declare Clannad and Code Geass as good anime with a straight face.”

    Well, I can still say that and we are probably not too far removed in terms of age, one way or another. That said, we are definitely relatively far in terms of general entertainment preferences, anime included.

  3. I just like good stories, it doesn’t matter whether they are anime or not. That said I can’t say that the culture surrounding anime doesn’t make it at least “different” if not “special.” And I suppose the reason that I find exagerrated facial expressions in anime funny or cute is because I have a different aestethic sense and sense of humour than you. The culture and the aesthetics (and to a lesser extent the tropes) are probably the reason anime is my go-to medium.

    But yeah there are all sorts of anime fans, it’s not an exclusive club. Just to be clear that also means that there is nothing wrong with being serious about “foreign cartoons” in and of itself.

    P.S. Re: Zero is shit.

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