5 Reasons I've Been Having Trouble Keeping Up With Anime
Anime is a fun, rewarding hobby. I'm genuinely glad I've been apart of it all these years (almost ten now, more if you count watching Sailor Moon and Pokémon before I knew the meaning of the word anime).
However, lately I've been noticing that most of what anime fans are talking about is stuff I have no clue on and have never seen or seen only a couple episodes of. And it gets especially irritating in memetic form when I find that I don't "get" the majority of anime jokes anymore because they're mainly concerning characters from shows I don't watch. I can't tell you how many times I've seen an "anime birthday" post only to have no clue who or what most of the characters on the list were.
And it's not that I'm not watching anime, I'm just not watching new anime, and not very often. I tend to pick shows that have been around long enough to have considerable numbers of fans. I like shows from my early years as an anime fan, and prefer them to new shows because of the horrible, but human phenomenon known as the Nostalgia Filter. I mean, I could wipe my ass with Sailor Moon's dialogue or Dragon Ball Z's understanding of physics now, and routinely love to laugh at them, but the shows that I liked first still remain as cherished memories in my heart, and new stuff just looks stupid in comparison. And hey, even knowing consciously that the Nostalgia Filter thing is bogus and unfounded doesn't make you any less powerless against it.
So, this is just me, venting a few little gripes, and in now way should it be interpreted as me saying that 1) I don't like anime any more or 2) I hate all new anime. Nothing is actually further from the truth. What I'm really just frustrated with is myself and my own inability to keep up with all the trends in anime as they come. (And with myself for having biological, educational, and social needs that can interfere with my anime needs.) It seems to me like doing so is like playing tennis with five balls: exhausting, endless, and all but impossible to keep up. So here's a grumpy old (ok, 23 year old) woman's rant about keeping up with new anime.
1. Keeping up with ANY TV has gotten harder.
How many cable channels could I conceivably buy if I had infinity moneys? Thousands. Basic cable would give me about 50 channels, a better cable package would give me a few hundred, but the more money I'd throw at the idea the more networks I'd get to see.
The abundance of channels makes it hard for popular culture to be studied, because TV is nowhere as monolithic as it was in my parents' day. My mother remembers growing up when there were only three channels, now, there's more than three channels just dedicated to selling you crap 24/7. It makes it kind of hard to be a critic, because the media is so broad, diverse, and scattered. TV and other types of entertainment used to be uniform, and that's why bits from famous movies, when parodied later, were always funny to large audiences.
Today, if a comedian tried to do a bit with some celebrity jokes or impersonations, the difficulty would be in finding celebrities to mock who are well-known by many different types of people. It's cool that TV is separating into so many different genres and sub-genres and sub-sub-sub-genres, but any individual show's chance at success is diminished by the increased competition. And everything that applies to American movies and TV applies to anime as well.
Anime has increased production, it seems like, and also seems that more anime is getting translated and dubbed. That's awesome for occidental otakus like me, but not awesome when you're trying to figure out how to fit last week's 30 new titles into your busy life.
2. I don't have cable.
I know this is going to sound whiny, but that's because it kind of is. I am a college student, I don't get enough financial aid to get an apartment (the student places in my town usually have cable, internet, and utilities included in rent), or even to pay for my own cable, because it's a luxury and not a necessity. My financial aid and any precious little money I'm able to eke out of a minimum wage job needs to go towards necessary expenses like textbooks and cheap powdery noodle-like substances that technically can be classified as "food" since our laws on that are somewhat libertine. What I'm saying is, I'm poor.
Now, I don't bitch about being poor or even really notice it much, because I get basic comforts like showers and ramen, and I have a boyfriend who kindly takes me out to restaurants I can't afford on a regular basis so I feel less poor than I really am. But it really becomes noticeable when you're talking about media. Not having cable isn't a big deal. In fact, I hate about 99.99% of what's on it right now. I get my fun stuffs from the internet, and the TV is there if I want to watch Jeopardy or the Simpsons, but that's about all I care about.
The thing that makes it irritating is when it becomes painfully obvious, when talking about anime to other anime fans, that the majority of them get their fix from Cartoon Network's late night programming, Adult Swim. I was that way back in high school when we had cable. I came home and watched Yu Yu Hakusho, Rurouni Kenshin, Digimon, Zoids, Hamtaro, Sailor Moon, G Gundam, etc. At night, I would watch Evangelion, Trigun, Witch Hunter Robin, Fullmetal Alchemist, Cowboy Beebop, The Big O, Wolf's Rain, etc. And basically this was my first real time of getting seriously into anime. I'd always liked cartoons, but felt that I'd grown too old for them, and yet I started to appreciate anime in high school because it was more mature and serious.
But now, I no longer have cable, so the Adult Swim thing was pretty much swept out from under me. I can still watch the stuff they're showing online, but only a few select episodes seem to be free, and why watch what they say anyway, when the whole internet affords vastly more possibilities? I'm glad I transitioned from watching whatever was on AS or Toonami to watching shows because I deliberately chose to. And this means I no longer have to sleep through hours of crappy anime just to see the shows I want to see, which is also nice. And it means I can view anime any time, whenever I want, so I don't have to mold my life to fit some TV station's schedule like I used to do. I mean, one time they did a Trigun marathon and I did not sleep. Ever. Or blink.
But perhaps, this has also made it harder to stay current in the anime game. Since I don't know a hard and fast rule like "11 on a Saturday is anime time", and instead anime time is whenever I can fit it in, it probably means I'm not watching as much, and certainly not watching as much current (it tends to be more picky about piracy than older stuff) anime.
3. I don't like what's popular, and what I watch is what I like.
Well, maybe this is because I don't have cable. But it's also that my tastes seem to be different from the tastes of the average anime viewer. I like dark horror, twisted sci-fi, and anything that's very cerebral or philosophically interesting, like Death Note. As a fan of Star Trek and other sci-fi, I love that genre. But when does a sci-fi anime get played on Adult Swim? I mean, on Toonami sometimes Tenchi Muyo, G Gundam, other Gundam series, and Evangelion got played in my day, and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, as a diesel punk, comes close. According to Wikipedia, AS now has Sword Art Online, which it says is more of a science fantasy, which I can add to my list of incredibly popular shows I'm probably not going to watch.
It's not that I just hate anything that's popular. It's that 1) there are so many anime shows out there that are great that I think don't get the attention they deserve and 2) I do hate Bleach and Naruto, based solely on an initial impression after a few episodes of watching them.
I feel like I don't need to talk about Bleach and Naruto, or Fairy Tail, or Blue Exorcist, or Sword Art Online, or any of those mega-popular shows because everyone else already is. I want my blog to be mostly about highlighting shows, like Claymore, that don't get enough love from fans and networks, but are awesome nonetheless.
The impression that Naruto and Bleach are over-hyped and over-rated has all but ruined the "check out the latest popular anime" thing for me. I used to get super excited about new anime, but now, I just worry about it being another Inuyasha. And speaking of Inuyasha...
4. What IS popular is usually a long-runner with tons of filler.
Yeah. I watched Inuyasha for many years but after a while I would have paid a substantial amount of money just to see Inuyasha and Kagome finally admit they have feelings for each other, and for them to just f***ing kill Naraku already. Sailor Moon wasted more villains than Inuyasha did in fewer episodes, and that was a chick's show.
It doesn't seem to be better with the majority of popular shows either. It makes getting into your average popular show a bigger time commitment than say, a 1 or 2 season show. And the extra episodes are typically useless extensions of the plot that bore the audience because they know that like a good addict, you will keep coming back for more even if they're injecting you with cheap junk. I know animators and voice actors like their jobs, but putting a ridiculous amount of useless episodes and story arcs is not the way to keep them. Just finish a show and move on to the next one.
5. I feel like I'm getting too old for these schoolkid plots.
In 2004, I was 14 and had just started high school. At that time I was getting into anime like never before. One anime I watched a lot was Yu Yu Hakusho. The protagonist is also 14, and he's cute, so of course I developed a crush on him. He was the ultimate bad boy.
But now, it's nine years later and I'm not ancient, or even middle-aged, but I feel too old to like a 14 year-old boy, even one with supernatural powers that kick total ass. And it's not just a problem with a few personal favorites like Yu Yu Hakusho and Sailor Moon, it seems like almost every frigging title that debuts anymore is about high school or junior high school kids. Nothing wrong with that, especially since Japanese children are treated more like adults and as teenagers this is especially true. But it's weird because I no longer relate to everything the character's are going through. It's like when I watch Daria, and I'm like "yeah, curfews, haha, that used to suck". There are certain aspects of life that can't be shown by having every single plot revolve around teenagers.
Many of my favorite anime are subversions of this overall trend. For example, samurai animes, such as Rurouni Kenshin, have older protagonists. Many science fiction and psychologically complex series, like Monster and Death Note, also feature more mature protagonists.
One thing I like is that the teenagers in anime are complicated, varied, and usually very mature. The teenager aspect of their personality isn't usually a large portion of who they are; and it seems to me that it's just done because teenagers are pretty and anime characters must be pretty. But it's also not impossible to find good adult characters in these shows. It just kind of aggravates me to an almost table-flip level when I see an ad in an anime magazine that's basically just 6 smiling kids in some kind of school uniform. The text of such an ad might as well say in big letters "THIS ANIME HAS NO PLOT AND IS TOTALLY CLICHÉ AND UNINTERESTING TO ANYONE WHO HAS EVER WATCHED ANY OTHER ANIME SHOW!"
So, that's just my list of a few things I find frustrating about anime right now. And it's only really an issue when I talk to other anime fans about the anime they're watching, or hang out in corners of the internet with a lot of anime meme content. The latter is of course much more common.