An idea that I thought was interesting ever since I first started interacting with other people who enjoy this medium is how long this might last. It’s been a lingering thought in the back of my mind for these several years and while it’s not a negative thought by any means it brings out some interesting ideas from time to time, but ideas I’m sure everyone by now has thought about. Thoughts like those that have had small place in a handful of editorials, but for the longest time I didn’t know if it was worth dedicating an entire editorial to a very specific idea I’m nearly certain everyone has touched on to some degree. This week, I want to talk about the different generations of the anime community as an audience.
For the past month and a half I decided with Crunchyroll’s recent addition of Mirai Nikki to their catalogue that I’d rewatch it. I got what I expected and I can’t say I was ever really disappointed; rather that just now I could notice it’s flaws while still enjoying the whole ride. However, when I’d start an episode and the opening song would play I was left sitting there remembering the excitement and pure joy I had when I not only was first watching the anime, but first getting into anime as a medium and how far I had come since then. It was an interesting thought in that moment, not because I had never thought it before, but because now I had a very solid reference point for how my preferences and how I watched shows changed. I wasn’t watching something I had seen early on and still adore, like Madoka Magica, but I was watching something I knew I adored when I first got into anime and now was more or less unable to see that initial joy, or why I considered a show like Mirai Nikki to be a masterpiece.
While I could get into the “rewatching dilemma,” and I’m sure I will in the very near future, that isn’t something I want to focus on right now. Instead I want to focus on that feeling of wonder that a generation of anime watchers beginning their adventure of sorts and how it changes from person to person. Anime, without a doubt, has generations (for lack of a better word) and how each section of its audience interprets or experiences each generation is entirely dependent on how they entered interest in the medium in the first place. Or, at the very least, this is what I want to propose.
To me, there are clear entry points for people to get into anime with shows that explode in popularity. The two I want to focus on for the sake of keeping things simple, are Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan. Without a doubt, both of these shows were popular enough to reach an audience outside of the typical anime community (to the point where Ellation, the parent company for Crunchyroll, released separate apps on the both the Apple and Google Play app stores to watch the shows through Crunchyroll despite them still being available through the main app) and both brought in new people to this community as a result. For argument’s sake, I’m going to treat the audience that these shows brought in as a generation of this audience.
Both shows came out about a year apart from each other and because of that they both focus more or less on the same audience. Sword Art Online is a show about a boy who gets stuck in a video game in which people are killed in reality if they die within the game which casts a rather dark tone over the show but it quickly becomes about high-octane action instead which slowly undermines the initial premise introduced. Attack on Titan is a show about a boy whose family gets killed by giants that are a looming horror over society which, again, casts a rather dark tone over the show but it, again, quickly becomes about high-octane action instead which, rather than undermining the initial premise, slowly undoes the horror and puts more of an emphasis on these fights on an unimaginable scale (at least as far as the first season is concerned).
I point this out because while the latter of the two are written infinitely better, they took the same exact approach to audience they knew they had. The entirety of the first few episodes for both series was used to develop their dark premise to justify the fighting taking place near constantly so they could focus on the presentation of those fights later on. There’s surely an argument to be made about whether or not this a good or bad thing and whether or not both the shows I mentioned are good (although I feel like the Internet has made its opinions on both rather clear), but the reason I related the two is to show that there was a similar appeal they both played to, similarly to how K-On! set up the premise of “moe” anime which was used as the primary appeal for a few years to come. The generation of the audience Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan brought in were all of a similar mindset and all had specific expectations and tastes that differed from any past generations and perhaps from any future generations.
While specific generations of an audience may slowly adapt to the entirety of the medium and figure out how to enjoy both past a future productions aside from the entry-level shows, at least when I first got into anime the commonality of the phrase “Anime isn’t as good as it used to be.” was much higher than it is now. I knew people who stopped watching anime because none of the shows they watched were good in their minds and to me that’s worth thinking about. By now, however, I’m certain it’s because of this generational audience. No one is in for the full ride, everyone will eventually get sick of this medium because it’s not what it was anymore or because they’ve outgrown it. Each generation of this audience will eventually pass on and no longer be fixated on things you enjoyed.
The audience of the shows like Sword Art Online got into anime for a very specific reason. Even if that audience adopts a more “universal” ability to enjoy at least something in a wide variety of productions, slowly the shows will become less and less enjoyable and become too dull to be worth justifying spending so much time on; and the amount of time that will take for everyone will vary. For me personally, Boku no Hero Academia gave me the most fun with an episode of anime I’ve had in a long time with a fight that just by mentioning its existence in the second season everyone who’s seen it knows what I’m talking about, and Little Witch Academia was the first show in at least a couple of years for me having watched anime to, in its entirety, make me happy with every episode and instill a sort of child-like joy inside of me.
But before I get too down the path everyone’s seen before and without a doubt most people have thought about, how many generations of the anime audience can each of us go through before we inevitably don’t want to be a part of it anymore? In other words, when will be “grow up” and stop watching anime? Despite its inevitability, I don’t think when matters. While it’s something that I have no doubt many people have thought about and something that most if not all people have witnessed, I think there’s a more important question to be asked and a more important mindset to instill in ourselves: Why are we watching anime?
For me, it’s to have fun. Having fun initially distracted me from my boring life with fantasy and an, as of now, unmatched form of storytelling. While not every show is fun, and not even all my favourite shows are fun; Kimi no Na wa was far from a production I would call “fun” but rather a production I’d say makes you feel a whole rainbow emotions and I still adore it, fun is what I can turn to while I’m still enveloped in this medium and actively watching shows. Even the shows I dislike can have fun in them. Sure, Glasslip was a flaming train wreck, but mocking it sure is fun and the ridiculous out-of-place lines that made zero sense were at least funny because they made zero sense and you remind yourself that this was a show that cost people money to create. Fun and enjoyment is at the forefront, and for all I know every single person reading this has a different opinion on why they’re watching anime. Regardless of how you got into the medium, how long we’re here doesn’t matter, so long as we stay here for a reason and that reason doesn’t ever ultimately fade; while we’re here, we’re sure to run into some phenomenal gems we would have never experienced otherwise.
Hey there everyone! I took a bit of a hiatus for about a month because writer’s block sucks and writing half-baked posts isn’t what I ever want to do, but I’m back at least for the foreseeable future. Thank you so much for reading this week’s post and I hope you enjoyed it! I’m always reading every comment, even if I make a point not to reply, so if you have anything to add to this topic please do. If you’d like to follow me outside of WordPress and see what I waste my time with when I take these spontaneous breaks, you can follow me on Twitter! I’ll see you all next post.
The featured image for this post was drawn by Tea.