By Sullivan Wallace
Suppose one day you have a terrible craving for ice cream and walk down to the ice cream shop to get a cone. You have three flavors to choose from: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. It doesn’t take you but a minute to pick the flavor, and walk out with ice cream.
Now, let’s say you go to a different ice cream shop, and let’s say they have 31 flavors, or 47, or 108, how easy is it now? The point I am making is that the more you have the less ability you have to make a decision.
What does this have to do with anime, you ask? Well skeptic reader, the answer to my little riddle is that nowadays, we in the otaku world are spoiled for choice. In a matter of seconds you can pull up a catalog of hundreds upon hundreds of anime, manga, and movies from legal sources right in the comfort of you own home. No need to wait for TV airings, or fansub releases, or DVDs to arrive via the Japanese shopping service you contracted. No, now you can have anything your heart desires in an instant. It’s such a good thing!
And you know what they say about too much of a good thing.
Anime News Network’s very own Answerman (AKA Justin Sevakis) touched upon this in a recent column, and boy was it not relatable for me! Back when I was but a tiny fledgling weeaboo, back in the far-flung years of the early to mid 2000’s, things were far, far different from they were now. I still have very fond memories of rushing home from school and planting myself in front of the TV in time for Dragon Ball Z, which if memory served correct, aired promptly at five in the afternoon. If you missed an episode, it wouldn’t come on again until late at night, past my prepubescent bedtime. I still remember loathing my sister for a week because she simply had to watch Dragontales for the second time that day and I had missed out on the Cyborg Frieza/Trunks battle!
Then as I got older, anime started getting more popular. Soon, anime could be found outside the realm of Toonami and Adult Swim airings, now you could watch even more series, fansubbed for your viewing pleasure. Now to be fair, I had sort of dipped out of anime by this point in my life, other than watching the occasional Miyazaki film during Cartoon Network’s Month of Miyazaki. I wasn’t hard-core, I was living off of dubbed action cartoons airing in the afternoons that I soon turned away from .
But when I came back to anime, it was a time to be alive…for everyone else. See, I was a child of divorce and my mom often struggled to make ends most of the time. We also lived in a house on my grandparents’ farm in the more rural part of the state. It was so far out that high-speed internet service didn’t reach there until I was a senior in high school. We had dial-up, well into the late 2000’s.
So even though there was a plethora of anime out there, accessing it was hard. I had two options – the terrible anime syndicated on the “Ani-Monday’s” block from the Chiller channel that my mom got with our TV package (shout-out to yaoi gateway drug Descendants of Darkness), or option two, during visitations with my dad’s side of the family who had high-speed internet. The first anime I watched was Hoshii no Kaabii , or what we in the states knew as Kirby: Right Back At Ya! back then it was fansubbed and put up in parts onto YouTube. Later, I found what I recall to be GoGoAnime and watched my first “real” anime, the perennial slice-of-life classic, Clannad.
Eventually, my mom and my grandma got me a huge gift for my birthday, a first generation iPod. Now I had something that I could carry my music and videos on, and the first thing I did, was load it down with anime. When I had to visit my dad, I would download three episodes from a few different series at a time, usually from sketchy file-sharing sites or ripping from streams, and then watch them later in my room at mom’s. My dad’s side was (well, is) rather conservative, so I couldn’t really watch anime around them, watching it at home was the best solution. So I would sit in my little bedroom and stare at a tiny iPod screen and read the minuscule subtitles at the bottom.
I’m always up to date on the most cutting-edge portable anime experience.
The point I am trying to make with this long, rambling, and entirely too-personal story is that for the longest time, anime was a rare commodity to me, something that I had to take what I could get and live with it. I got a couple of episodes from series that I would guess I might like, and I had to hope they were good. I discovered a lot of classics and personal favorites that way, such as Excel Saga, or Doki Doki School Hours. I wasn’t really aware of the concept of seasonal anime yet, I was just watching what I could find and seemed interesting. I appreciated every anime I could manage to get my hands on because it took so much to obtain and watch it.
Now, I have a Crunchyroll account, I share a Netflix with my mom and sister, I can buy anime DVDs/Blu-rays and manga more easily, but the thing is I just sort of …stopped watching anime as much.
The lonely kid in high school would watch anime on his iPod whenever he was able to get it, but now the adult me, the one that has both the Netflix and Crunchyroll apps on his phone doesn’t do it. I have manga I haven’t read yet, anime sitting in a to-watch queue for months, a MAL account that gets updated when I remember I have it. I bought Fire Emblem: Echoes a month ago and have played two hours. With all of the resources I have for a hobby I claim to love, I never really seem to do it.
Like I said, spoiled for choice.
So how do we fight that? Especially those of us who have to find a place for anime in our work/life balance. Well to be perfectly honest, it starts with making time. One of the hardest parts for me keeping up with my hobby has been actually sitting down and making myself do it. Because it’s so easy now to seek out immediate gratification through social media, memes, and posting trash online. I’ll scroll through “Morticians of Reddit, what’s the sexiest corpse you have come across?” with a bored, distant interest before I really engage myself with any of the manga I have piling up both online and on my bookshelf. You have to turn off all distractions, sit down with something refreshing, and focus your mind to the story. This is something I should know all about, being a stickler for film viewing etiquette, but I don’t practice it with any of my otaku hobbies.
To briefly return to the ice cream metaphor, there is such a thing as “mindful eating”. That is, taking the time to enjoy, and savor the experience of eating ice cream , to enjoy the sensations it brings and to really indulge yourself.
I challenge everyone reading this to become a mindful anime watcher. Turn off your phone, pull down the shades, and close all the other tabs, and just watch an anime, or a movie, or play a game. Lose yourself in the story, pay attention to the talent and skill of the voice actors, turn on your critical brain or just enjoy the ride, in the end, anime, or any hobby, is an indulgence, and in today’s world, aren’t we entitled to our simple pleasures?
And most importantly, be selective in your viewing. There is no law that says that you have to see every show in the new season, or any of them at all. Watch what catches your interest. Be open to new genres and stories but never sacrifice your enjoyment to hit a number on your MAL account. When you have so much to choose from, you have to know how to refine your tastes as you go along. You don’t even have to watch anime all the time, shocker I know. I don’t know about you or your personal life, but I have other hobbies that sometimes take priority over watching anime or reading manga.
And if you really want to get yourself excited about your hobby again, find friends to share it with! I’m so lucky that in working for TIAnime, I get to talk about anime and manga with my closest friends and share our favorites with one another.
I hope my thoughts and long, rambling personal stories were of some help. Nowadays it can be hard to really invest yourself into a series like in the old days, but it’s not impossible with the right motivation. Hey, if you’re not in the mood for anime today, it’s OK to take a break, it’ll always be there waiting for you. Now if you excuse me, I have some things to catch up on…
‘Til next time~
The way you used to watch anime reminds me of the way I watched my very first anime, Yugioh. It took me at least 10 years to watch all the episodes but oh boy, it wouldn’t have been the same if it were easy.
Now, being very ‘picky’ is one of my strategies, but I think that being a mindful watcher or media user in general comes from discussing and sharing ideas. The anime I enjoyed the most are those where there was a defined community I could interact with. I think it’s a nice way out of the ‘too many anime’ problem you talked about.
Haha the part where you download episodes of anime to watch it offline in places you downright know that you wouldn’t be able to stream them…
Too relatable! 🤣
I’m still doing it. My job involves serious amount of travelling so I do it all the time.