About Watching Bad Anime and Being a Good Hobbyist

Rant train, I choose you!

Some of you may be aware of such a thing as Desutalks, a seminar-style anime event held annually around these parts. The latest one was held last week, and lead to the creation of this bloated pile of poorly articulated ranting. A webcomic artist blogged her experience on the event in a comic form, which was promptly posted on Ylilauta (the Finnish poor man’s counterpart to 4chan) along with expectedly snarky commentary. I know, I know! Bad Nova! You don’t bring f/a/ggotry to these superior parts of the internet! But the discussion on the thread was something that I’ve been exercising my mind on while busting ass at work, and eventually it turned into an inspiration I could not overlook.

What especially seemed to stir up discussion was this strip, translated by yours truly.

My regular denizens may remember that I’ve ranted about a related phenomenon in the local scene recently, and this provided me with a little push to continue on the subject. The question of the day is: “How much anime must one watch to be a good/respectable hobbyist?” I know, it sounds pretty insipid but bear with me, mikos will be had! Observe the word hobbyist – personally, I’ve come to dislike the widely used term “anime fan”, because a fan is “…a person who is enthusiastically devoted to something, such as a band, a sports team or entertainer.” A fan implies fanatic interest in anime for the sake of itself, and this doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone who actively consume anime. But back to the topic at hand.

An interesting string of comments on the thread started with this guy:

I don’t understand this nolife anime nerd thing that one should watch 500 unknown shitty series when one could watch 50 good series?[sic] Nobody ever talks about those 450 anyway. It’s not like movie hobbyists are supposed to watch every Adam Sandler film and Uuno Turhapuro.

To which someone replied:

I’m annoyed by these guys who watch “only good series” and every other show is shit. How can you even know that you’re watching good shows if you haven’t seen bad or mediocre ones? The arrogance that you’re better hobbyists and know just as much about anime as those who have taken the effort to watch those 500 series is the greatest cancer in the anime hobby.

Some bright guy has a clue:

Crappy shows are watched so that the good ones feel even better. Watching only the best series just dulls and you sink into the state of mind that you’ve already seen everything and that anime has nothing more to offer.

This is so very much true, and probably the reason people “grow out of anime” – as you begin hoarding only the cream of the crop, there is only dullness to be found. It may well be what’s causing this:

It’s one of the things I was quick to notice when I decided to acquaint myself with the real life anime circles – a whole lot of people in them don’t actually give two craps about anime these days. They used to watch it way back when, eventually “grew out” of the medium, and decided to stick around just because they’d made a lot of friends on the way. That’s actually one thing why trying to discuss anime in real life community circles is kind of a bother, as you can never be quite sure whether the person you’re talking to has seen anything that aired since 2006. Surprisingly often all you get is “Sorry man, I don’t really watch anime these days.

This is perhaps one of the biggest disappointments that have caused me to start drifting away from the local scene, because it’s very common to run into people who hang around conventions – or organize them – and yet haven’t watched anime, read VNs, or consumed manga at all for years. Hell, if you dig deep enough you’ll even find the subtype that takes twisted arrogant pride in this. They’ve seen it all, and have evolved to Level 2 hobbyists who are beyond the pathetic levels of modern anime. I feel nothing but contempt towards these failures. Just the use of “grown out of” uncovers them, so stay on your guard.

Doesn’t apply to everything, though.

The artist of the comic blog seemed to have misunderstood the point of the lecture, revealing that she hasn’t watched anime in three years while standing in the middle of a pile of manga in a statement of irony. No, you aren’t an anime hobbyist if you read manga but don’t watch anime. Likewise, I’m not a manga hobbyist because I read very little of it, but watch anime all the time. But maybe it was just a bad lecture – I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there. It’s regrettable that “anime” is used as the umbrella term that’s supposed to describe every single person in the scene regardless of whether they watch anime or not.

Okay, so then what makes an anime hobbyist? How many series listed on MAL could possibly earn one the much coveted title? Maybe 100, maybe 1000. Simple numeric measurement is useless, as you can have someone who has watched everything from 1997 to 2005 and nothing since. Likewise, a fledgling hobbyist could be watching everything from every season but hasn’t been at it for more than a year yet. Personally I think it’s mostly a question of attitude. If you think you’ve seen everything anime has to offer and then some, then you’re done. Go huddle in the corner with those American oldfags who quit after realizing there will never be another Cowboy Bebop, or write up 4000 word analysis on Revolutionary Girl Utena and 90’s Ghibli movies you just finished watching for the 150th time.

Better yet, consume mikos.

If you ask ol’ me, it’s not about how many series you watch in a season or a year, just as long as you fucking keep at it. Keep watching all this stuff Japs crank out, even some of those that aren’t sure winners – as one of the anons pointed out, it’s imperative that you don’t only go after the tried and true winners, creating yourself an inescapable comfort box where you sit hugging your knees staring at the wallpaper. When confronted with the common insult-question “Why do you even watch this if you’re clearly hating it?“, my instinctual answer is the bread-n’-butter “Because blogging bad shows is so much fun, and it’s what critics do.” But this is only half of the whole story. Perhaps the most important reason is that watching a wide spectrum of anime keeps my senses sharp, adds contrast to my tastes, and keeps me up to date in both good and bad.

All in all, it’s like a relationship: You can’t just expect to only get the best parts of your significant other – you get the whole ugly package, and will have to learn to deal with it. Or you can pay for a gold digger 20 years younger than you who is always hot, horny, and ready to do whatever the hell you want with a smile – I’m sure that will be a fulfilling and worth while relationship.

As for Desutalks, looks like once again I missed nothing. The only reason I go to local events these days is to meet up with friends, and discuss anime with the select few folks that I’ve found being somewhat on the same wavelength. Apparently a few Desutalks attendees were also out with this in mind, only to have their plans thwarted by the breakneck-paced programming and the afterparty full of dubstep and drunk. There’s my second big disappointment with the local anime scene – there are actually very few occasions when I could sit down and talk about anime with people. Not only because of the “I don’t watch anime, I just work here” types or the lack of suitable locations due to party animals, but also due to the nerds who have the irresistible need to argue about everything.

This is one of the greatest plagues of any nerd scene – there are a lot of people who apparently have never been able to satisfy their need to look badass at something, and thus take it out on anyone by escalating every statement into an argument and playing the devil’s advocate at every turn. Not only are these people shallow and boring, but outright tiring to interact with. And believe me, they exist in great numbers. More often than not a promising meeting of minds and tastes has turned into a clusterfuck as one or two of these people show up, later followed by the pseudo-hobbyists who pull the conversation apart. I saw enough of this shit back in the airsoft scene.

Good times.

Well, about as clusterfuck as this post. I better call it quits for now. Here, a Raymoo just for you:

PS. As for the comic blog’s text part I can only state the following:
>complains about the use of the -fag suffix
>newfag detected

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  1. Posted November 28, 2012 at 23:20 | Permalink

    Thighhigh Raymoo is best Raymoo.

    Anyway, I basically agree with all your points. Yay!

  2. Posted November 28, 2012 at 23:41 | Permalink

    Mikos? Bah. What a boring fetish, just like those Japanese swimsuit. Still not as bad as clumsy maids though. Anyway, your constant use of Mikos kills the variety and that’s why you should, in true connoisseur fashion, post some onee-san material. Let’s spread that wonderful, underrated fetish all across the world!

    Eh… oh yeah, your points. Well, I guess I can’t relate to any of that, seeing how in my case, it’s been the complete opposite: Throughout the years, I’ve learned to acknowledge a wider variety of shows and to value several things about them. This doesn’t mean that I’ve lowered my standards or anything but it’s opened my eyes regarding a lot of things. F.e., during summer, I watched noitaminA shows, otaku shows, kids shows, sports shows and each of those categories had at least one decent show in store for me. I’ve become more tolerant towards, say, kids shows. I wouldn’t have watched Phi Brain two years ago. Sure, it’s still got quite a nonsensical premise but once you’re willing to look past that you stumble upon a neat execution. There’s also, for instance, Horizon. If you pass on the show due to the boobs, then you might miss out on something decent, whereas willing to give it a chance nevertheless would easily present you with a show that keeps delivering. Once you get past your prejudices, you’re willing to take a look at the execution and recognize it’s worth. It makes you value things you wouldn’t have gotten in touch with before. If I remember correctly, you used the terms “connoisseurs” and “veterans” in relation to the people watching Horizon and I’m quite sure that’s what you were getting at.

    Well, with my mindset, it’s more like a “If you can’t do anything about the bad/the mediocre, then at least make the best out of it!” affair (that train of thought is probably also where my use of gallows humor originates from) anyway. There might be shows like SAO which are outright bad and bore me to death, but I can at least laugh at how utterly shitty they are and blog them so I can make use of them.

    Last but not least, one of the reasons why I can’t relate to this is probably because I just don’t give a damn about what a “true” anime fan is or not. I don’t consider myself an anime fan anyway, seeing how I can’t stop criticizing that stuff. I’m more like a passionate watcher, but certainly not a fan which is why those discussions don’t concern me in the slightest. Besides, is “anime fan” a prestige term or something? There’s nothing more to it than a descriptive meaning. If someone were to tell me, boasting, “I’m an anime fan, you know!”, then what, if not “So what?” would I be supposed to answer?

  3. Posted November 29, 2012 at 02:05 | Permalink

    Crappy shows are watched so that the good ones feel even better. Watching only the best series just dulls and you sink into the state of mind that you’ve already seen everything and that anime has nothing more to offer.

    Oh yes, this. This is why I still watch upwards of 15 shows a season.

    • Posted November 29, 2012 at 07:04 | Permalink

      Amen to that.
      The only series I categorically reject to watch are badly acted fanservice series (oni ai for example) and generic shounen series (Magi)

      Pick your poison.

      • Fadeway
        Posted November 29, 2012 at 07:17 | Permalink

        Magi is actually really fun. I generally avoid shounen, but Magi is far from being generic (in fact, I just now realize it’s a shounen, I never looked at it that way).

      • Posted November 29, 2012 at 16:58 | Permalink

        Lol, I dismissed Magi at first but I picked up the manga again and well… it’s definitely more seinen than shounen!

    • Fadeway
      Posted November 29, 2012 at 07:12 | Permalink

      I thought you’re just being endlessly positive about almost everything. It makes you a good foil to Tenka Seiha :)

      • Posted November 29, 2012 at 16:57 | Permalink

        The reason I can be positive about stuff is because I know how bad it could become. Besides, I want my blogging to be fun… not as a reminder of what I wasted my time on :P

  4. isamayou
    Posted November 29, 2012 at 16:45 | Permalink

    If you’re trying to preserve diversify better find some the icky-goey shounen and shojou. Unless you’ve evolved past catching all those too…

  5. Posted November 29, 2012 at 16:59 | Permalink

    I would say, that watching at least mediocre shows, is an inherently necessary part of being a fan. Like you said, a “fan” implies fanatic interest in anime for the sake of itself. (Though I don’t see how “hobbyist” is different). If you are only watching the best of anime, then you are just following the law of diminishing returns, rationally maximalizing the amount of instant fun that you can have in your free time, by watching anime as long as it’s the most fun, then jump to something else as soon as it isn’t.

    That’s what normal people do. They switch the TV channels until they find the best show of any genre, miss the big soccer match if there is a cool concert nearby, miss the concert if they expect to have more fun from arguing with strangers on the Internet, etc.

    Being a fan/hobbyist implies that you are sticking with your interest, solely because it is your interest.

    You watch anime even when you could have more fun from doing something else on the short term, just because on the long term, the general act of spending so much time with anime is a reward on it’s own right, even without “having fun” from watching a particularly great series.

    • NovaJinx
      Posted November 29, 2012 at 21:34 | Permalink

      Difference between a fan and a hobbyist? Merriam-Webster has it all.

      a person with a strong and habitual liking for something

      a person who regularly or occasionally engages in an activity as a pastime rather than as a profession

      Fan has a connotation that you’re passionate, devoted, and obsessed. I don’t fit that category, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

  6. 9taileddemon
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 01:17 | Permalink

    I would consider myself a manga hobbyist more than anything else. I don’t watch too much anime except for a few of the must watches if only because I don’t have the time for it. Manga is just so much faster for me to engage in and it doesn’t require me having to purchases dvds or deal with my flash player which hates me for some reason.

    But I do get tired of the people that consider themselves anime fans while at the same time saying everything is ruined forever or just not being interested in anything current. You aren’t a fan or a hobbyist at that point you are just someone that likes certain old series, not the medium as a whole.

    While I mostly watch great anime I am the type that will read all kinds of mangas some of which are kinda bad but they do make the good ones just stand out so much better. Its fun to be able to tear into a bad or mediocre series and be able to compare and contrast to properly explain why the good things are good and the bad are bad. Its why I still read some of the harem schlock like to love ru darkness. Sure is dumb but its so in your face I can’t help but enjoy while being very clear that its a dumb fanservice manga.

    I do have a bit of a trouble now with jumping into new series though as several of the ones I follow are in their last arcs or have recently ended and I do get the feeling of how difficult it is to jump into new stuff after awhile which can extend to some anime hobbyists who eventually get tired of having to take the plunge only to be disappointed over and over again but if you really like anime or manga that much you will do it anyways.

  7. Posted December 4, 2012 at 04:57 | Permalink

    I prefer to use the word “connoisseur”. Of course, that goes beyond hobbyist, but doesn’t necessarily imply fanatism.

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