It’s easy at first. You just need to watch anime. That’s all it takes. For a few years, that’s all I did. I finished one anime and moved to the next. At some point though, things changed. I became curious and the sub-culture opened itself to me. Why anime? I don’t know. It’s been this way for a long time. I enjoy other hobbies, but anime, being an anime fan, is still important to me.
Finding a community
I can’t just consume, consume, consume, watch, watch watch. I need to create.
Well, anime fandom is full of creators. The ani-blogging community is a great example of this. Through reviews and editorials, you can connect with other fans at the same time as express yourself in a cathartic way.
Anime can be your muse.
If writing isn’t your medium, why not draw? Or make video essays? Or… tweet!?
I remember a time before MyAnimeList, a time before I tracked every episode of every anime I ever watched. Such chaotic, innocent days. Today, I won’t even look at you if you haven’t ‘completed’ 400 anime! And what’s this? You’ve given Cowboy Bebop a 6? Bloody hell!
I’m poking fun of course, but slavishly tracking and rating anime is second nature to anime fans now. Immediately after watching an episode, I’ll head straight for my list and press the little plus icon that increments the counter by one. It feels good, like I’m making some forward progress and getting on top of my Anime Problem.
The Anime Problem is all in my mind, though.
I love my lists, but do you ever feel like you’re drowning in anime? Swimming up to the surface before another wave comes crashing down? I do, but I push it all down and add them to the backlog.
The anime fan’s backlog, which is to say, the list of anime that we know we should watch but never will.
Depending on which community you join, there are certain (unspoken) rules that you’re expected to follow. If the community decides that a certain series is bad, then that’s it. Thou shalt not praise that anime, nor acknowledge its existence in a positive light ever again, on risk of being treated like a tasteless, morally-bankrupt ‘person’.
I’m exaggerating, but some of the hyperbole that’s thrown around at the beginning of every season is ridiculous and counter-productive. I mean, what’s the best way to get someone to watch something? Tell them that they shouldn’t watch it! Scream that it’s evil incarnate and that watching it makes them evil too!
Sometimes I’ll catch myself self-censoring, telling myself that what I’m watching is trash and that I shouldn’t be enjoying it. But then I shake it off and tell myself that I’m stronger than that. It doesn’t matter.
You aren’t what you watch. No-one is.
I follow a lot of anime reviewers, and the internet today is very much geared towards cults of personality. Like in politics, for them, it’s important to have a stance on popular anime. They will tell you, authoritatively, what you’re allowed to watch.
Time is precious, and it’s important to spend that time wisely. These people will tell you what you’re not allowed to watch too, but every once in a while, please just ignore them and go against the grain. You’ll be better for it, I promise.