A lot of the time, the posts I put up on this blog can easily be seen as aimed at people with at least a faintly large investment in the medium of anime as a whole. With how much I name drop shows or reference them to help drive a point home, while a majority of them are newer titles, I can only imagine it makes it difficult to follow what I’m saying without at least keeping up with some airing shows and having watched a few of the dare I say “classics” of the past ten years. This is undoubtedly my fault, but the lack of people not understanding the context required to read most posts either isn’t that high or is completely non-vocal. I like to believe this means that a majority of the time I can get my point across with or without an example and still maintain an audience, which is great and all, but every so often those practices buzz around in the back of my head as if I’m misusing them or should be avoiding them altogether. This is primarily because my three most popular posts this year so far are all ones without those name drops, but also because the mini-me in the back of my head criticising everything I write dislikes them. What’s interesting is those criticisms eventually fade with the idea that most people will likely understand the references anyways and I can move on with my life. Today, I want to look into that expectation a bit.
Undoubtedly, in this community we put an emphasis on the number of shows we’ve watched, which shows we’ve watched, and our opinions on those shows. While this is true in other mediums, most notably video games, I don’t think I’ve seen any other community put as much of an emphasis on it as us. One of the biggest merits we hold each other to and in some cases to ourselves, is how much of the medium we’ve consumed. We pride ourselves on how many days we spent watching show according to our anime lists and, although rare, from time to time we use it to place ourselves in a hierarchy with the more experienced ones being on top of the newer members.
While keeping in mind that a lot of the negatives I just mentioned are typically unintentional, it’s something very interesting to me. As the title of this editorial would imply, this effect is a sort of obligation to be constantly engaging with the medium in order to keep up with what everyone’s saying and what everyone slowly comes to expect from one another. While there’s a pseudo-expectation for people who claim they’re into video games to have played games like System Shock and Deus Ex, there’s never as much of a downright surprise as when people haven’t seen something the rest of the community has just assumed close to everyone has seen. To be fair, these expectations are ones we all slowly adopt as we see more and more people come to expect them. As I mentioned before, it’s something I unconsciously do in the moment when writing these posts all the time by name dropping shows to help drive a point even though there’s technically a possibility a section of my readers won’t understand the context. I just assume they will and move on.
Perhaps it’s just in my writing style when it comes to these editorials, and it may just be in the writing styles of those I looked towards when first learning to write in a more essay-like format regarding anime, but I personally find it much easier to convey an idea regarding this medium whenever I refer it to a piece of media I expect everyone to have seen or at the very least know something about. In realising that, it pushed me down a path of thought that made me realise that in a lot of ways the entire community thinks in a way of mass expectations and an adopted obligation.
That obligation to constantly be engaging with the medium of anime that I mentioned isn’t one we impose on each other, but rather one we adopt from each other. As a lot of the quirks about this community are, this mainly comes from anime being a very niche medium. It’s far from a unique thing to get into anime by binge watching a bunch of shows and getting hooked then slowly burn out and take it easy by watching a lot of airing shows at once. While this isn’t the case for everyone, it’s a case I’ve seen time and time again, and it’s partially what I think is responsible for this adopted obligation. When we first get into the medium of anime by binge watching, if we hit the anime community at any time during this, we’ll quickly get our list of entry-level shows for whichever part of the community we first joined via Facebook or Google+ (yes, people use Google+) and then as more and more shows are mentioned in these communities, we just add them to the massive pile of shows to binge. Since we’re already binge watching, we might as well hit things people are talking about so we can interact with them. We meet other people entering the medium at similar times to us, we get entry level shows to watch from them, and eventually we get this mindset of expectations. As we grow within the medium alongside the same people we entered it with, we just figure that newcomers have seen the same entry level shows we have. We expect from newcomers what was expected from us by the “veterans” of the medium expected from us in giving us the entry level shows for us to watch.
At least, it seems that way. While there could be a million and a half different theories as to what’s going on, I’m certain at the very least the reason this obligation to consume anime consistently comes from the anime community itself. This obligation is completely absent from every single person who consumes anime casually. From the few people I knew in high school who watched anime without interacting with the community, to my brother who enjoys more normal activities like running and riding bikes but just so happens to watch anime because he likes it, to people who have burned out and given up on watching seasonal shows; none of them have the obligation to watch shows like I’ve seen people who watch seasonal shows and avidly interact with the community have. To casual consumers of the medium, anime is just something they enjoy and that they can enjoy perfectly fine on their own. They’ll see shows if friends suggest the very best ones to them, but they won’t go out of their way to watch as much as avid members of the community.
While you’re avidly in the community, you want to avidly be able to talk to the community not only about new airing shows but about sequels that everyone wants or classics that all effected everyone in a special way. From the start of having a list of entry-level shows, and I’m sure a different list of shows comes to mind for every person reading this, this obligation to consume was adopted. No one said you had to watch a show, but the surprise that happened when someone found out you haven’t seen a show made you feel like you should have seen that show so you make it a priority to watch that show. With those sets of expectations in mind, everyone who wants to become a part of each individual community has a barrier to entry.
It’s a cycle, and it definitely happens in varying levels of severity (It’s not like the community is slowly brainwashing person by person into feeding the Japanese animation industry), but it’s not bad. It’s something I find interesting more than anything else, mainly due to the minor part it plays in the community as a whole. It’s not something completely unique to our medium, as streamable television and video games can also be seen to have a similar “phenomenon”, but none of them have structured an entire community around that singular phenomenon. I find it fascinating that anime does this, and it’s something I’ve undoubtedly, at least on some level, been paying attention to ever since I started being a part of this community. While I don’t think it’s even close to being a bad thing, it’s still something worth thinking about if not exclusively for how intriguing it is.
Words cannot express how difficult it was to not name drop anything in that entire editorial. I’m not sure what that says about my writing style and I’m even less sure of how I feel about it. Anyways, thank you as always for reading today’s post! I hope it’s as interesting to everyone else as it is to me. If you have anything to add to the topic, do feel free to leave a comment; even if I don’t reply to them I read every last one. With that said, if you’d like to see what I’m up to when I’m not writing for this blog, feel free to follow me on Twitter. I have something somewhat interesting planned for next week’s post, so I look forward to seeing you all then!
The featured image for this post was drawn by pixiv artist あきま.