Anime is a Social Drug

A lot of my friends are stoners, and nine times out of ten they smoke with a group because it’s more fun than doing it alone. We can all relate – while there may be anime fans out there who’re content with enjoying it alone, you and I are clearly not those fans, as proven by us being here right now. We like discussing anime with other people, but just like you won’t get far around potheads if you don’t know the difference between ‘dank’ and ‘chronic’, you won’t get far discussing anime if you aren’t up to speed on the shows that get talked about.

That’s not to say everyone has to watch what’s popular to be a part of the conversation, but if your tastes and knowledge are limited, you won’t have as much to talk about. This doesn’t matter to some, but if you have lots of fun getting in on intense discussions like I do, then it matters to you. For instance, I’m not huge on mecha and sci-fi anime, so I lose out on a lot of discussion over at We Remember Love, which sucks because there’s always a lot of it going on after each post, and I love ghostlightning and his audience.

^ How anime bloggers visualize their conversations. Art by peg http://gelbooru.com/index.php?page=post&s=list&tags=peg

Now, I’ve always thought it silly to watch anime that you don’t enjoy – I’ve dropped over 200 shows on the principal that I shouldn’t bother with something I don’t like when there’s still anime that I WILL like to watch. And I don’t plan on picking up all of those shows again either, since most of them will never work for me, but in the comments of my Shitty Male Leads post, reader Hogart introduced me to the prospect of watching a series that you know will get talked about, even if you don’t care for it.

I’d never thought of this, as I’ve looked down on completionists in the past. I’ve seen plenty of people who watch a whole show just to feel justified in bitching about it later, which pisses me right off. However, just because you don’t like a series doesn’t mean you have to flame it, and what’s even more fun is that you can engage in conversation with people who do like the series and can discuss it at length. Hogart isn’t a fan of Railgun nor Index, but he, Taka (also not a fan), and I had a pretty lengthy discussion about them in that comment thread and traded ideas about how we saw the series. They highlighted some of the flaws while I countered with some of the ways that those flaws are balanced out or justified, and I think we all came away from it with some level of appreciation and affirmation for each of our thoughts on the shows.

I’ve seen firsthand how watching a popular series can be hugely beneficial for a discussion junkie such as myself. I recently caught up with K-On!! and was able to get in on many inside jokes among bloggers, and also have some intense discussions with ghostlightning about the show across both of our blogs, twitter, and AIM. I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t watched Code Geass in 2008, though I even had a hard time with that craze because I stopped ten eps into R2 and only knew about the rest vicariously through /a/.

The prospect of watching a series not out of love for the show itself, but out of a love for conversation about anime is something that had never really occurred to me, and seems like an excellent prospect. It’s pretty rare for me to completely hate the shows that are popular anyway, but I definitely feel that I’d be better off if I stuck through shows like Fate/Stay Night that I may not like, but see tons of conversation about. [F]

Have you ever watched a show that you didn’t really care for, but had it pay off in the long run because you got to talk about it?

(Post title is a reference to the phrase ‘Weed is a social drug’, which Funeral uses a lot. By the way, he’s on twitter now – so how about we get him in on the worldwide conversation, eh?)

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55 thoughts on “Anime is a Social Drug

  1. No, but I’ve sometimes given higher consideration to watching a show I already wanted to watch sooner so I can discuss it more readily.

  2. If it’s fun to discuss, even if it’s crap, then my roommates and I will often go for it. It doesn’t even have to be just so you can discuss it on /a/ or MAL, because it’s often fun to just compare and contrast anime, in a MST3K kinda way.

    For us it’s not about feeling smug and snooty, but rather because we find ourselves intrigued by the concept of an anime’s “popularity”.. why is it popular? Is it on it’s actual merit, or simply because it hit the ground running by being hyped, and now no ones wants to give anything else a chance? It’s even better when a show has potential that isn’t being tapped, like in the case of Railgun/Index.

    Note that this doesn’t mean we actively watch the entire show right the way through. We’ll still drop shows or just watch the “highlights” we’ve heard of. Oddly, it’s the “good stuff” that we find ourselves watching on our own in the wee hours, because we’re able to quietly enjoy it.

    • I don’t think I’d want to discuss anything seriously on /a/ or MAL lol but I would certainly like to be able to read blog posts about certain shows. Yeah, it’s interesting how good shows can be enjoyed alone, but a bad show can be just as fun with a crowd. Like Garzey’s Wing.

  3. Easiest question to answer:

    MOBILE SUIT FUCKING ZZ GUNDAM

    Now I got much more out of it than simply being able to discuss it with others, but sure; I get what you mean and my experience fits.

    Otherwise, fuck Canaan, fuck Kannagi, fuck Special A. I wish I dropped these shows. Oh I DID DROP Canaan, WHY DID I PICK IT UP AGAIN?

  4. I’ve definitely watched shows out of pure curiosity. Rozen Maiden, Index, Railgun, and those “popular” shows are just some examples of what I’ve watched just because there’s been so much discussion on them. I’ve actually been going through Working!! lately, just because some people have said that it’s good (not really imo, but whatever). I don’t think though that I’ve ever considered watching an anime a waste of my time… except maybe Shana and Zero no Tsukaima, both of which I can’t believe I suffered though. Most animes bring something interesting to the table that I can relate to. That being said, I am a rather selective anime watcher, so I probably just haven’t watched those animes that I would just regret watching.

    I would say that I’ve had a lot of fun discussing Railgun though. It’s certainly an interesting show for the diversity of opinions that surround it.

    • ~ a piece of advice about Working – in spite of the anime having great animation and a cool op+ed and voice actors, the writing just doesn’t stand up to the manga at all. If you really want to try the series, I suggest reading it.

  5. I fought watching Ouran for well over a year. I always figured it was just a big fangirl phenomena and there was no way in hell I could possibly like it. Well, two things worked against me:

    1) I perform for Whose Line is it Anime, and so I have to be able to come up with and do scenes involving it.
    2) I have a lot of female friends, and they kept dragging on me to watch it.

    Long story short, my friend Alex did an AMV, and it won an award at Ohayocon, and after about an hour conversation I eventually said screw it, I’ll watch it. Not only did I like it, but it’s one of my favorite series.

    I’ve also watched series simply so I understand what people are talking about. See: Baccano, Manabi Straight, Gunbuster/Diebuster…

    • Hahaha, Ouran is classic for doing that – every guy goes ‘ew no gay’ and then watches it and is blown away (myself included). I’m up for a rewatch of it since I watched it during my ‘fail’ period of viewing, and I need to see it because I’m trying to expand my Maaya Sakamoto knowledge. In any case those other shows are all amazing though~

  6. I find it interesting that people seem to be responding directly to the question you ask at the end of the post more than what you’ve said anywhere else in the post.

    That being said…
    I watched Arakawa Under the Bridge this season against my will. It ended up turning out well, since I love it, but I never intended to pick it up. I was just following the crowd (and prodding of Scamp).
    On the other hand, I also picked up Angel Beats! for the purpose of being able to discuss it with my friend Lily (and so that I could understand half of what people’s blog posts were about. orz), but I hate this one. And somehow, I will still bring myself to finish it, because I have been asked to, and I do enjoy our sillier discussions on the subject. (“wah~”)

    Perhaps in a way (or…really), the root of the cause is simply peer pressure. :D

    • That’s what the questions are for though, since obviously I’ve been making crazy amounts of discussion happen~ I’ve been missing out on/getting spoiled for Angel Beats, but I’ll be watching it as soon as it’s over, so at least I’ll get to see all the afterward pontifications (which are what I care about most anyway).

      • Yeah, but it’s nice to see what people pull out of your posts at random! Since it shows what you said that got them thinking. On the other hand, it does encourage commenting…especially for lazy people like me. XD

  7. I remember I watched all the way through Lucky Star, even though I realized about half way through that it was shit. And I didn’t really get anything out of it and knowing the inside jokes. So I learned to drop the show when it came to K-On. I stopped watching that after just 4 episodes.

    I guess I value the opportunity coat of the time spent watching shows I don’t enjoy more than the opportunity for discussion that comes from doing that with relatively popular shows.

  8. If a show’s being talked about, I assume that’s because it’s interesting, so I watch it. Even if the show turns out to suck, I’ll usually keep watching it because I hate dropping anime.

    (Or at least that’s how it was before my eyes went bad.)

    I’ll admit my reluctance to drop anime has increased since I started blogging. If a show does suck and I want to write about it, I should support my opinions with an adequate basis. I rarely review shows I drop unless I’ve seen a significant number or percentage of episodes.

    So, in essence, one-way discussion has influenced my viewing of anime, but back-and-forth discussion hasn’t.

    • In other words, you are a part of what is, for me, the problem. I consider your posts about shows you really hate to be all of your worst (the fact that I like those shows notwithstanding).

        • Yeah, it IS with people who talk about things they don’t like… but they wouldn’t be talking about those things if they weren’t watching the shows.

          • No, I mean, I can only assume you’d have the same problem with someone who constantly railed on a show they *hadn’t* ever given a chance. Unless you really mean that you have a serious problem with people who try to substantiate their opinions about things with evidence…

  9. I keep watching K-ON! because I want to get on with the discussion. I don’t actually hate it (first season was OK but the second one is getting on my nerve so far) but yeah, it’s definitely not masterpiece.

    As for anime being a social drug, totally agree with you. Unfortunate for me, none of my real life friends is into anime. I have no one that I can spasm with. That’s why I visited anime blog and created my own. It’s fulfilling.

    • Yeah, the comparison very warranted since they are based on novels byt he same author and made by entirely the same production staff lol.

  10. I usually won’t watch a show for the sake of a conversation, but have been compelled to finish series I didn’t really enjoy based on recommendations and the fact that I can bitch at the person who recommended it to me more thoroughly if I actually finish the series. Case in point: Eureka seveN.

  11. Mine was Haruhi. I just didn’t care for the anime, as it infuriated me right from the get-go. But everyone was watching it in my anime club, and I did eventually warm to it a bit when the discussions started turning into weird interpretations of the characters more than their base appeal. I even largely forgave endless eight after seeing the Hitler subtitle mashup.

    I tried repeating the same thing with Geass shortly thereafter but got the opposite results. But I’m not at all regretting it, because it was such an iconic anime I’d have missed a ton of the funnier memes and flamewars about it. To this day the Spinzaku flash with “You Spin Me” makes me laugh at how aptly it describes both that song and the Geass phenomenon to me.

    • Yeah, not seeing Haruhi or Geass would leave you really in the dust. Once again, I know everyone has their own opinions, and not everyone will like the shows, but… man, I hate people watching shows and bitching about them, Which is why even though I understand that you have to see Haruhi and Geass, I wish a lot fewer had seen both so that I wouldn’t have to hear all the bitching. I’ve actually grown a bit distant from both series just because their legacies have blown the shows themselves so far out of proportions.

      • haruhi and geass can be very fun to watch unless you’re hanging out with a shitty crowd, they can and will try to drag it down for you

        in the case of haruhi, skip endless eight (i will never understand anyone who defends that decision, it was bullshit when they totally could have found a mini-arc from the novels or something instead of doing the same episode a bunch of times) too

        in the case of geass, stay 50 feet away from any internet in the event you tell specific groups of people you’re watching it

          • i mean like, if you want to watch code geass skip making a thread on /m/ and don’t even read it until you’re done

        • Truth be told, I was much more impressed by the Haruhi novels than the anime. I don’t know why, though. It’s like the Bakemonogatari in that regard.

          Geass isn’t the kind of thing I would personally consider worth talking about, even to troll. I only mentioned it because the Haruhi anime always reminds me of Geass and Zero no Tsukaima (the latter of which was also much better in novel-form, though I could only stomach so much). Perhaps I’ll read the Code Geass novels someday and discover a trend.

          • Code Geass novels came after the anime, though.

            I actually didn’t care for the Haruhi novels (gave up halfway through the second). I tend to like 90% of light novel adaptions, but whether I like the novels depends entirely on the writing style.

  12. I like to watch the popular shows because I enjoy being part of discussions, but mostly because I’m not picky at all when it comes to anime and have never watched a popular show that I disliked. In fact, the most hyped ones are usually the ones I enjoy the most each season, so yeah =P

    I’m trying to think if there’s any anime I had qualms about before watching it, yet ended up liking it, but I can’t think of any. I usually have at least a neutral view of a series before watching it and I always try to find the things I like about it even if I didn’t enjoy it as a whole that much.

    BTW, I don’t know what anime the picture on this post is from but their expressions are a perfect example of the various discussion participants in the anime blogging community. Great job picking it out XD

    • Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention that the only anime I’ve ever bitched about (to the point of writing a criticizing post about) is Nogizaka Haruka season 2. Like I said, I don’t like complaining and I just try to focus on the good things about a series rather than the bad =)

    • I’m pretty sure at least one of the characters is from Strike Witches, but the others seem to be original.

  13. Good post, I can relate a lot to it. Everyone has really been hyped about Angel Beats this season, so much that I really want to watch it even though it doesn’t seem up my alley. Haven’t gotten around to that though.
    And having a passing knowledge of popular shows is helpful. I couldn’t get through the first episodes of Lucky Star or Haruhi (I know, I know. I read the LS manga scanlated tho, and I liked that.), but having some familiarity with both series helps a lot in nerd discussions.

    • I just caught up with Angel Beats, and I have to say that it’s quite sloppy. Don’t let the hype machine fool you, unless you have an irrational love for Maeda I advise keeping your expectations pretty mild. It isn’t as “deep” or conversation-worthy as I was hoping based on some of the aniblog posts I’ve skimmed.

      I just mentioned above that Haruhi was a better read for me than it was as an anime (by far). Maybe the light novels would also sit better with you?

      • I think you’ll have something to talk about when I watch the show. I already know I’ll love it since the first ep blew me the hell away.

  14. Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu. I enjoyed maybe 1/3 of the show; what got me through the rest (up to around 09 when I dropped it, though I ended up seeing the last bit with IRL friends – your point again!) was the sheer volume of in-jokes and memes that sprung up around it online. Most of it bored the hell out of me, but the water-cooler effect was pretty powerful.

  15. ~brofist~

    yeah…I’ve only recently come off the huge rush I was in devouring (and enjoying) show after show. I can think of a couple shows this season that I would rather have said…nah…maybe not. Angel Beats being numero uno. I am a Jun Maeda fan but barring a 2nd season this isn’t the masterpiece he claimed it to be. I will take his word with less salt from now on because of it.

    Death Note is one show I regret not completing. I never understand any of the later memes from the show. Lucky Star…I will eventually finish. It’s on a huge long list that I rarely have time to crack into when I’m following so many shows on a season by season basis. I might have dropped the first season of Spice and Wolf but I wholeheartedly enjoyed the 2nd season. The same goes for K-On. Very nearly dropped Kimi ni Todoke on more than one occasion. I wish Ookami Kakushi had drowned in a pool of it’s own excrement but it was funny to watch the blog posts go from hopefully optimistic to completely disparaging.

    I also end up watching shows that get almost no coverage; Fairy Tail, Skip Beat (bitches missin out), Mayoi Neko Overrun, Kiddy Girl-AND, Basquash. Twitter has somewhat been alleviating that trend. I’m just waiting, patiently for the day someone writes something insightful about one of those shows (ghostlightning’s history with Skip Beat not withstanding) and then I will pounce…probably right around the time I will have forgotten any details of the shows in question.

    • I’ve noticed that some shows grow on me once I find the right time or state of mind to watch them.. Lucky Star and K-On are prime examples. Both grew on me enough that I didn’t hate them, but then I still didn’t care to finish them at first. It wasn’t until I realized that Lucky Star works as a drinkin’ anime, and K-On works as a wind-down anime (like watching kitten videos or Azumanga) that I managed to finish them.

      I completely agree with the problem of lack of coverage/discussion.. I haven’t been willing to keep watching Fairy Tale or Skip Beat for much the same reason. Strangely, these days I find myself trying to watch the stuff that I can’t get through on my own while it airs.

      • I know what you mean. Unfortunately for Lucky Star, I don’t drink. I finished Mushishi and Casshern SINS by watching them every once in awhile. Mushishi is the single greatest wind-down anime barring maybe Aria which I haven’t seen. Lucky Star’s case I just have so many more shows I’d rather watch/finish before Lucky Star. To name a few: Higurashi, Bokurano, Monster, Space Adventure Cobra, and Excel Saga.

        As for the shows without discussion. I genuinely enjoy them all with the exception of Mayoi Neko Overrun. Though I’m sure if Fairy Tail goes the way of Naruto or Bleach with crappy fillers I’ll probably drop it. If it however goes the way of Soul Eater with complete with A-1 Pictures version of a BONES ending, I’ll probably finish it and be absolutely perplexed. Then again they’ve already had 1 walking castle in Fairy Tail so at least they are setting a precedent for it.

        • Bokurano.. thanks for reminding me of that one. I’m not sure whether to watch the anime or read the manga first. I guess it doesn’t matter much, but it’s tough to do both to begin with, knowing how horribly depressing it is supposed to be and how amazingly polarized the fandom is with respect to which one’s better.

          Mushishi and Casshern SINS were “too good to marathon” (the first time around). That might be a weird thing to say, but it’s how I felt while watching them. Some good shows demand to be marathoned, other good shows demand to be enjoyed over time. To this day I haven’t had a good discussion about either of them, actually..

          Higurashi and Aria are two examples of shows that I’m not sure will be worthwhile for “the discussion factor”, but I’d still like to watch eventually (maybe this coming season I’ll find the time).

          • I recommend reading the manga. I don’t know which one’s better (haven’t finished either) but I could never respect the fact that the guy who directed the anime seriously hated the manga, and changed things because of it.

            I marathoned Casshern Sincs lol. Mushishi god damnit, I don’t know why I can never remember to finish that show. I watched 14 eps back in 07, bought the first 2 DVDs, rewatched those, still never seen past ep 14. I loved the show so much that in my head it’s always like I watched the whole thing lol. Fun that you compare them, too, since they are quite similar, mostly in having the same art director~

            Higurashi is definitely worth discussing, but you also run into the problem that half of the people who want to discuss it have played the games and know a shit ton more than you do lol.

      • I often forget this, but I also had to let Lucky Star ‘re-grow’ on me, so to speak. I thought it was alright when it was airing but dropped it after the sickeningly boring 11th episode. Then later on no name and I marathoned it and I still only found it decent. Then we watched it a year later with my brothers there as well, and we had it on the huge living room TV and were laughing our asses off and having a blast. No name and I kept celling out every single background reference, and then if we were stumpted, we’d pause the show and look on animesuki to find out what it was lol (but only after minutes of trying to get it ourselves XD) I loved everything about the show that time. And now it’s in my top whatever (15?).

    • I also regretted never completing Death Note for much the same reason. Once I finish Mayoi Neko Overrun, you’ll have someone to talk to, hehe.

  16. I watch Anime I don’t like ALL THE TIME.

    I’m watching Gundam right now (fleshing out my knowledge of classics) for exactly the ‘need to understand its place in otaku culture’ thing. …anything with a mech in it already has a strike against it, with me.

    I’m also watching Popotan, not because I think anyone I’ll meet will ever want to talk about it with me, but because I’m coming to a better understanding of what the transition from mid-rent eroge to low-rent anime means.

    I didn’t once care about or believe in any of the characters in Ichigo Marshmallow…but in the course of watching it, I came to a better understanding of both Japanese otaku and of Japanese culture in general.

    …and even though I only have so much free time, I will probably eventually watch K-On (I don’t hate the manga…but I forget the characters as soon as I stop reading.)

    Yeah; tl;dr, all The Fricking Time.

    I even feel a duty to go back and watch things I once loved but I know I’ll wince through (remember Outlanders? Dominion Tank Police?) (and, come to think of it, now I need to rewatch Angel’s Egg and find out whether there really was depth there or whether I was just snowed.)

    Being able to understand things so you can talk about them with friends (or at least people online) is big. …but I think that most otaku would be as obsessive about becoming familiar with things they don’t like even if we were still back in the “Americans don’t know about ‘japanimation'” days.

    (Privately, I almost the secret club I worked so hard to let everyone know about.)

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