It is hardly a stunning revelation that ease of obtaining digital fan-subs and streaming anime has changed the anime fandom in an irrevocable manner. The good, the bad, the ugly of the major effects are talked about on this blog and countless others for several years now. What has struck me more and more is that the subtler effects are more interesting at this point because they are not the hot button or polarizing topics that effects like piracy and licensing are but they are just a powerful and influential. The topic I have been recently fascinated with is the way we inherently perceive anime has changed. The fact is anime fans anywhere in the world can be part of the fandom almost as if we were Japanese fans. The time between when the Japanese fans get an anime or manga and when many places in the world get a translated copy can be as little as an hour. We the foreign fans are for the first time living at the speed of Japan. And this change as changed the way many people interact with and react to the mediums of anime and manga.
As a bit older fans, we can recall the days before digital fan-subs pretty readily. My friends and I bought out that Best Buy shelf of VHS anime and rented anything we could our hands on at the Blockbuster down the road, usually multiple times over. I can also remember the slow build of elation realizing I could get and watch anime online, sitting there with my 56k dial-up pushing it for all it was worth. And finally transition to bittorrent primarily and more recently streaming for some shows. I can say with clarity that my passion has not diminished, after all I have been watching anime for more than 15 years, but the way I watch it and for certain the way I appreciate it is different.
Two events really drew into focus this major change in our attitude. The first was the large number of negative reactions to the current reactions to the Winter 2011 anime schedule and the other was the Patton Oswalt article for Wired. They both made me realize that we no longer consume media the way we used to and therefore our perception of the anime and manga has changed forever. We get everything instantly today which has led to an increased idea that everything is disposable and worthless. Rewatching something is a rarer and rarer concept. Praise seems faint and far between especially the longer the commenter has been in the fandom. The fact is that we are so immersed and have so many choices that the value of everything seem to been deflated to so many fans. Great shows that would have been analyzed and reanalysed are now merely given a nod and then forgotten. Mediocre shows are as seen more as abhorrent crimes that are killing the industry more than just forgettable now that everything is accessible. Even the worst shows seem to have even lost their place as comedic diversions. Part of me wonders that if we could switch whole seasons of shows from say the early 1980s and the early 2010s would the reactions actually change that much. Has the quality changed or just our perception? Can anything have the staying power and good will that a title would have gotten 10 years ago?
There was, by necessity, a “take what you can get and be happy” attitude that accompanied my earlier days. It was not odd to be watching the same anime over, even if it wasn’t very good. I’ve seen M.D. Geist more times than I’d like to admit, but by the same token, you also watched what you liked twice as much. The first half of the first season of Slayers (which was seriously out for like 3 or 4 years before we got anymore) I’ve seen probably 15+ times, the same can be said for the Record of Lodoss War OVA, and you can double that number for any movie at the time. Jumping ahead to the late 90s and the growth of DVDs as well as the variety of anime, those numbers start to drop. I still watched things I didn’t like, but I was less likely to watch it so much, and even things I loved like Cowboy Bebop I have only seen all the way through maybe three or four times (I’ve seen the first two episodes probably a dozen or so times). However, even those numbers have dwindled for me today. I can’t actually recall the last thing I rewatched just because I liked it so much; the last big scene in the second Eva movie, I guess, but right there I didn’t watch the entire film again.
This almost seems to be a case of being careful of what you wish for because you might just get it. Early anime and manga fandom was starved for anything it could get and sometimes hunger proved it was the best sauce. That can be the only explanation for M.D. Geist having a legitimate fandom as opposed to a joke fandom. Now that we have access to everything it seems people are more unhappy than ever. It is easy to see this as a call to accept things as they are or to force yourself to enjoy mediocre titles. I’m not asking anyone to re-watch (or watch for that matter) this season’s Trouble Chocolate or Lime-iro Senkitan. Garbage is garbage and should always be treated as such. In fact with so many options it is the time to be selective and choosy. But the selection should be done with an open-mind and a positive attitude. Lets try to focus on the benefits of living in a time of plenty and how to improve what can be fixed.
It seems fairly reasonable that overtime as a watcher you will become more selective and perhaps even more critical. I know this applies to me, while I’m not the pickiest person out there, I certainly don’t watch every show that comes my way. But that’s just it, everything comes my way; I can go watch pretty much any anime put out in the last five years without too much hassle; I can make a statement like “the 2010 summer season was quite weak” and actually back it up; and I can browse the latest merchandise for the latest popular show. With so much anime available, having a keener eye is necessary. But becoming more cynical is not a natural part of the process, that is all individual attitude and personality.
8 thoughts on “Keeping Up with the Yamadas”
I thought there were some rather interesting points brought up here. It’s really funny to take a look back and remember all the titles I used to be obsessed with before the wonderful world of internet availability.
But I would like to say that I’m an avid re-watch and re-reader. There are certain series that I have read/watched over and over again. And I get just as excited at every moment. I’m not sure what makes me differ from anyone else on this matter, but I get great joy out of re-experiencing things like that. Especially if it’s a manga that I own and can hold in my hands.
I am always much more likely to reread manga than rewatch anime. I usually reread Maison ikkoku at least once a year. I usually need a second person to convince me rewatch a series. But I own most of the anime in my collection with the hopes of finding someone to rewatch things with or to lend out to people so they can watch it.
As an interesting side note Narutaki is sort of famous/infamous for rewatching certain movies countless times.
I don’t know how to explain the idea that I rewatch things. I clearly do rewatch some things based that when I go looking for screencaps in my One Piece DVDs that I end up watching the whole episode (maybe two) at the same time. Then currently I am taking the chance to rewatch Durarara since I have the DVDs and the dub available to me. That is considering that I had already rewatch some of the episodes two or three times already. I rewatched most of Shugo Chara twice.
I do admit that I don’t go and watch every anime that comes out. I just literally don’t have the time nor do I feel like watching some of the things that come out of Japan. I just take a look at the list of new anime and see what may look good and then watch maybe two or three tops off that list. If I really like it then I will watch it week after week. If I don’t then it will just drop like a fly as I get more into school work and blog stuff. Still I enjoy what I watch and I don’t force myself to watch things that I hate. My time is limited and I prefer to enjoy the free time that I get.
Screw keeping up with the Yamadas….I watch what I want to watch when I want to watch. If that includes shows as they come out of Japan then okay but if not then oh well.
That is the best way to do things. When you let you watching habits be open minded but organic you will often find that you watch move of what you enjoy and enjoy what you watch. It seems like a simple idea but is is apparently not as intuitive as you would assume.
To be honest, I think I just rewatch series less often because I’m far busier than I ever was “Back in the day”.
Still a shame tho…
Well getting older almost always means more responsibilities that eat up more of your time. Sadly you must then prioritize. That sometimes leads to often choosing between hobby A and hobby B. I know that sadly leads to a response that when some people choose A they distinctly begin to dislike B because they did not choose B. It is an odd phenomenon but anyone who has seen the great video game console wars can attest to the phenomenon.
Made some interesting points. I read the Patton Oswalt article you linked and I think there’s some truth to his writing, though I don’t really agree with his conclusion.
I know “the good ol’ days” are something brought up a lot among anime fans, and like Oswalt demonstrated, are something that exists for nearly every type of pop culture that existed pre-internet or pre-broadband. The internet has changed the consumption of media forever, and we’re coming closer and closer to everything being instantly available. As broadband connection speeds ramp up globally, digital media storage becomes cheaper and cheaper, and web traffic/hosting becomes cheaper per megabyte, I think we will begin to approach “etewaf.”
The fact that by just spending a few minutes searching the web I can find a link to download a DVD that was only released in the first issue of a video magazine, that was only available at some conventions, that stopped publication after 3 issues, is a testament to this. This is something that without the internet would be nearly a mythic relic of geekdom, sure you may be able to find a crappy 4th generation VHS copy after hours of searching, but to find a clean copy of the real thing? Impossible. Not so much anymore. In case anyone’s wondering what I’m referring to it’s the “Welcome Back” episode featuring Hideaki Anno released with the first issue of AnimePlay.
There is certainly a difference in the level of effort it takes one to dive into otaku subculture today. Before, it took of course money (or connections to people with the product), potentially months of waiting between releases, and possibly some footwork to try to even track the stuff down. Now, you google it and you’re pretty much done. Does that make fans today any less of a fan? Not necessarily. Just because it takes someone way less effort to consume the media you so enjoy doesn’t mean they enjoy it any less than you.
On the subject of rereading/rewatching stuff, I’ve never been much of one to do either. Though back in the “hard copy” days of VHS/DVD I certainly did rewatch things more than I do now. I’ve watched the whole Evangelion series probably a dozen times or more, and watched End of Evangelion about as many times and I’m sure I’ll watch them again in the future. Other than that I don’t really rewatch a series/movie. Interestingly though, I would keep copies of these things for a long time. This was less in the intent of rewatching them myself and more to have them available to show someone else.
A few of years ago I sold around 90% of the anime/manga I owned (surprisingly for a fair amount of cash at Half Price Books, granted it was maybe 10% of what I paid for all of it). I haven’t regretted it once. I kept only the things I really wanted to keep either because I knew they’d be very difficult to find again or because I knew I would probably watch/read them again. Since then I’ve only bought maybe 3-4 DVDs and a modest amount of manga. For me, personally, a big component of my current spending on anime/manga is the time I have available to invest in it.
I think most people who have read Patton Oswalt’s article see where he is coming from but at the same time he sounds like a crotchety old man complaining about how things were better Back In My Day™, how people are doing it wrong, ect ect. But he does bring up some interesting points about media saturation and ease of entry often killing some of the hardcore spirit of a fandom. That said he could have done it all with a bit less cane shaking at the whippersnapper culture on the lawn.
But as you have stated there is a convenience and sheer power of the modern Internet. In ye olde days you might have spend years tacking down that issue of AnimePlay and spent far more than it might have been worth. Now you find it on the internet in a matter of second. You gain convince but lose the thrill of the hunt. But like you said it does not make anyone a less of a fan if they have an ease of entry. I think that the number of hardcore fans is around the same. There will always be the truly dedicated who go out of their way to delve in deep and truly explore a fandom. They just seem less common because there are many more casual fans once things become easy for the casual fan to participate in. It is also a bit easier to be closer in knowledge to a fanatic without being one. That is great for the casual fans make once hard one information seem trivial.
I mostly keep the things I buy on the off chance I can lend it to someone. I admit 95% of the time that person is Narutaki but still … maybe one day I will find someone to watch Galaxy Angel with. But such is my foolish optimism.