Before we jump into this post I thought it’d be prudent to add a disclaimer, because too many people don’t read very far past the title. This post is by no means a dig at anyone’s favorite shows, but rather an observation of the pitfalls of staying in the past. Fans of all forms of media are guilty of this, and it often hampers their ability to enjoy the progression of their favorite medium of entertainment. With many fans in the anime community just as guilty as the rest, I decided to take a look at this issue in detail. These are my opinions, and anyone who wants to challenge them is perfectly free to. If nothing else I hope it at least starts up a discussion about the progression of anime.
To be able to talk about nostalgia, we must first define it for our vocabulary challenged friends. Nostalgia is a yearning for the past, most commonly a point in the past associated with happy memories. You hear it more often in the elderly as they have the most time behind them to be wistful about, but every now and then even I, in my 28 years, find myself with pangs of nostalgia. This is not at all a bad thing, nor something to be ashamed of. It is only natural to long for days gone by that in your mind seem “simpler”, even if at the time your life felt anything but simple. The problem dear reader comes when nostalgia is the only emotion that colors your perception of whatever you are contemplating.
The stubborn unwillingness of someone to adapt to change is something usually reserved for the ranks of the elderly, but in the entertainment industry it seems to be all too common as well. Fans will decry any show that doesn’t meet their ridiculously high standards, or they will bash a show for being a copy of another show. They moan on forums and social media for the days of their past when all the anime was “original”. What they don’t know, especially here in the west, is that most of the anime that came out in their childhood wasn’t all that original. Anime has been around since the early 20th century, so quite a bit of the genres you love were already well established by the time you started watching. Unless you speak Japanese and lived in Japan between the 40’s and the 80’s most of what you’ve seen had it’s roots in a previous intellectual property.
As to shows not meeting standards that comes from a slightly different kind of nostalgia. Every fan has shows they hold above reproach, or at the very least worthy of very little criticism. Many use these shows as a point of reference to any other show in the genre that follows it. This in itself is actually not a bad idea, as having a point of reference can help you quantify where you stand on new shows. The problem lies when people only use that “masterpiece” of a show to judge a new one, rather than using the new shows own merits in conjunction with those of its predecessors. These types of fan cling to their nostalgia like glue, and find little enjoyment in shows that aren’t on the level of their treasured favorite show. It baffles me why these people still watch anime after they’ve seen the “highest it can achieve”.
Fans like this can be found in everything from entertainment, to sports, and even scientific research. I’d say the anti-vaccine morons of late were nostalgic about a time when humans were susceptible to all manner of horrible viruses, but then most of those people aren’t old enough to remember the horror of polio or small pox. I’m getting off topic though. My point is while it is great to remember and learn from the past, clinging to that past like a finger hold on a cliff is no way to facilitate progress. Many in the anime industry disliked the move from paper and film to computers, but look at how much more anime we have now. Some might say “quality over quantity”, but do you honestly think there weren’t bad anime in the hand drawn days? There was also resistance to the CG animation movement, but look at how much better it’s getting with shows like those of the “Fate” series!
Anime is art to those of us who enjoy it, and like all art it must move forward. It will have periods of change that starkly contrast the past, but in the end this is what we as fans should look forward to. What’s coming next? What’s the next big project? Which director will take our breath away, make us laugh, make us cry, or leave us in a state of introspection? Sure certain genres (harem/sports/shonen) seem to be stuck in the past, but if you take a closer look even those genre is moving forward (slowly). The anime of the past will always be there for us to enjoy and reminisce about, and I even urge fans to keep those old shows in the back of their minds to appreciate how far our beloved art has come. As I stated before having a point of reference for certain shows can give you great insight into the writer and directors inspiration, and a reasonable perspective of the past can help you with this.
Again the point of this is not that nostalgia is a bad thing. In fact I could wish that many politicians in my country took the past into marginal consideration, but that’s a post for another blog. Nostalgia alone as a consideration for judgment only hampers progress. I understand that not every fan or reviewer can be a glass-half-full guy like me, but there is almost always something good to be found in the turning of the anime seasons. Saying things like, “This season is garbage” or, “This is what’s killing anime” only feeds the mindless internet parrots to repeat you and sends a message to the industry that we don’t want change. As long as anime has been around its creators have continues to push the boundaries towards new horizons. With a rational fanbase that doesn’t consistently dump on newer shows due to their nostalgic “rose tinted glasses”, I believe it will be easier for the innovators of anime to shine through.
Arigatō my fellow BrOtaku!