I’ve grown up watching anime. Even if I haven’t seen as many titles as some of the more hardcore fans (I’ve completed over 500 titles, and of them around 340 are full-length TV series), I’ve still spent more time watching, thinking and writing about anime than I care to admit.
But you know what? None of this makes me a better fan than the person who only watches Naruto or Bleach. And in a lot of ways, I kind of envy those who can dedicate themselves to a small number of anime. Lately, I feel as if I’ve been losing perspective on what it is about anime that drew me to it in the first place.
In other words: I miss being a casual.
I started to get the uneasy feeling I was missing out on something when I just couldn’t get into Attack on Titan last year. I could not disagree more with what my coauthor wrote about the anime being a “daring social commentary”. I occasionally got into the cool action scenes, but as a whole, the story failed to engage me and the themes did not strike me as being very intelligently portrayed.
At the time, I put it down to the anime just not being my thing, but I really think it has more to do with my changing social circle. My high school friends love Attack on Titan, but I don’t talk to them much anymore. Meanwhile, my uni friends are hardcore viewers who watch 20+ titles every season and who are very much immersed in otaku culture. In order to keep up with the conversations, I had to readjust how much anime I watched.
Then there’s my blogging and Twitter circle. I tend to follow people who are critical of anime precisely because they’ve watched so much of it. My conversations online tend not to focus on simple things like favourite characters or what’s going to happen next. Instead, they’re usually about exchanging Internet memes and laughing over all the silly anime tropes that pop up time and time again.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’ve become very self-aware as an anime fan.
This really shows through what I write about. I’d imagine if you didn’t watch much different anime, you’d be completely lost reading my blog. I tend to assume the reader’s familiarity with anime tropes like the tsundere and I delve a lot into topics that really wouldn’t interest someone who has no academic interest in anime. I don’t think anyone can deny my passion for the subject, but some of this stuff is pretty darn esoteric.
What I think has happened is that I appreciate a lot of different kinds of anime now. I enjoy them a lot and I’m genuinely moved by a lot of what I see. But it’s been over a year now since I last got obsessed with a specific series to the degree that I would watch nothing else and just look up fanarts and AMVs in my free time.
What’s more, I appear to have lost the enthusiasm I once had for popular shonen series. I stopped keeping up with Kuroko no Basuke and Magi, not because I disliked them in any way, but because I just didn’t feel as if I was concentrating on them 100% when I was watching them. I even dropped Hunter x Hunter, my favourite shonen anime of all time. I didn’t want to just like these series. I wanted to be fully engaged with them, but something was stopping me from getting into them.
This is why I’m actually pretty envious of casual anime viewers, who can get so invested in their favourite series without feeling the need to know more about anime as a whole. For me, curiosity is a switch you can’t turn back off. I still want to stay connected to those raw feelings I get from watching anime, but it’s very hard to keep a good balance!
Still, it’s important to aim for some kind of balance, at least, because I can’t help but feel that losing perspective on why you became an anime fan in the first place is the first step towards falling out with the medium.
This humble little post has a happy ending. I decided to cut down the amount of ongoing anime I was watching to three (Kill la Kill, Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren and Nisekoi) and I started rewatching an old favourite of mine: Cardcaptor Sakura. Maybe it was because I was concentrating all my energy into just that one show, but I loved it. I smiled and laughed. I blew threw 46 episodes in, like, a week. I felt like I was twelve years old again, discovering anime for the first time.
I remembered why I like anime all of a sudden. It’s because of the characters. I first got into anime because I got to hang out with all these likable characters for longer than I ever could reading books or watching films. Just because the story tended to repeat itself over its long run didn’t mean it was worse than a one or two-cour length anime that tells a succinct story. Not in the slightest! All that meant was that I had more time to get attached to the characters. It grew on me in a way some of the masterpieces in anime never did. No wonder I got obsessed and spent hours looking at fanart yesterday.
Having your tastes change is inevitable, but I suspect as long as you find a way to keep anime fresh to you, it’s easy to grow up with anime instead of growing out of it. As for me, no matter how much anime I watch, I still want to be a “filthy casual” at heart. And there’s totally nothing wrong with that.
To those reading this post: do you consider yourself a casual or a hardcore fan? Can you relate to that feeling of no longer connecting with your old tastes? If so, how do you deal with it?