Remember That Episode of Gurren-Lagann Where There Was That Crazy Village Underground With a Religion That Had Them Practicing Sacrifices in Order to Keep Their Population at a Certain Level but Kamina Didn't Like it and Kept Trying to Change Things, but the Others Were on the Fence and Certain Cave-people Were Angry, but Then the Non-believers Left and the Village Presumably Kept Acting the Same Way? That Episode Was Kind of Boring.

Partly inspired, somehow, by Omo’s latest industry-based post, I’m going to talk about the sort of moral code and unspoken laws that exist between hardcore fans, how a fad can make people confused, and how three corners of the industry triangle might be completely misunderstanding each other. It’s all speculation.

I know I really shouldn’t bother, because I don’t think I’ve accrued the proper intelligent audience who can actually make a meaningful reply, but whatever. Maybe I’ll get some Omo trackback hits.

I admit, I was confused and a little insulted when some people, Omo included, were saying that if you weren’t willing to pay 4 dollars for the HD version episodes of Xam’d, even in spite of the fact that they are a bad deal, you weren’t much of a fan. However, I realized later just what they meant by that, and how I am a special case. I’m not a person who bought my own PS3 and plasma TV, they are things my parents bought, I don’t have a bunch of money. If you own a PS3 and an HDTV that you bought, and you have the money to pay 4 dollars a week, but because it’s a bad deal, you don’t buy them, then, indeed, you can’t call yourself a fan. Because if you’re an otaku, what the hell is your spare money going toward besides anime? Are you really obsessed with anime if you’re ready to spend our money on something else instead?

Among anime fans, there is an unspoken (and, occasionally, spoken, or even misspoken) code of ethics. There are certain things that define you as a fan, and, in that way, will define you as less than a fan if you break the code. There is no way of ‘putting your finger’ on what is or isn’t worthy of the title of ‘fan’ but it’s the kind of thing where ‘you know one when you see one’ so to speak. It doesn’t make me more of a fan than my buddy Shin that I have over a hundred anime DVDs and he only has 2, but when you look at my collection, you won’t be thinking ‘oh, that guy isn’t an anime fan.’ Every fan has their own way of defining themselves as a fan, and there are certainly different levels withing those ways. A lot of those levels and ways can be defined by the reasoning behind them.

Let’s give a definitive example. I would consider myself a high-level anime fan. I spend a good amount of my time (over 80 days of the past year and a half apparently) watching anime (or reading manga of course), and most of the rest of my time talking about anime, writing about anime, thinking about anime (fantasizing about anime?), or anything else relating to anime (perhaps the occasional video game?) The space on my hard drive is all taken up by anime-related files, the links in my favorites bar all go to things regarding anime and manga, the posters in my room are of anime characters, the things I display in my room are anime and manga and related paraphernalia. The money I get, when I do, is spent on anime and manga and related things. You could say that my life revolves around anime.

Shin’s life also revolves around anime. He has the posters, the mindset, the activities, but he doesn’t have the anime and manga. He has a hell of a lot more hard drives than me, though, and all of them are filled to the brim with anime and manga. So here’s the question: am I more of a fan than him because I buy the licensed merchandise?

In Shin’s case, he comes by a lot more money than me, but in a less steady form. Like me, he is an unemployed hikikkomori, but unlike me, who gets 25 bucks a week for doing some chores, his income comes from random odd jobs he finds on the internet. He can’t say ‘I’ll have 50 bucks by Friday’, but at any given time he might be able to say  ‘I have 50 bucks.’ As far as money goes, our situations are not entirely dissimilar, as neither of us has a definitive income. However, our lives, obviously, are not the exact same, and therefor even with our equal status of living, there are other reasons we won’t be the same kind of fans.

Unlike me, shin understands Japanese. For me, subtitles are a necessity, meaning that I am required either to watch fansubs on the internet/via download, or to purchase the DVDs. Shin, however, is required to do neither, as he can watch anything when it airs – if he had the money, he could move to Japan and watch anime on TV like they do. Even though he is an anime fan, he cannot be considered in the market for DVDs, because he has no purpose for them unless he wanted to build a collection. However, because, like me, he has a limited income, he has to keep his priorities in order about what he needs in terms of collection, fandom, and just seeing what he needs to see. As a person who watches virtually everything, and is very picky about the quality of his video, he needs to have high-end technology so that he can acquire his anime quickly, watch it at maximum settings, and have room to both store the anime and store all the programs he requires to facilitate whatever it is he needs to have a comfortable fandom. All that shit takes money – all the money he has – money he can’t spend on anime DVDs or manga volumes. If he had more money, and believe me he wishes he does which is why he’s trying to get a job, he’d expand on the number of things he bought, purchasing the DVDs of all his favorite series, the manga volumes, the figures, the wallscrolls, or whatever it is that floats his boat. He just can’t right now.

Unlike him, I’m not a techno-junky, I don’t need the high-end technology, I’m fine with watching streams, wiping things from my hard drive, and because I’m a newer fan, I have a massive back-catalog of anime to watch, whereas he has seen everything that isn’t new (plus I don’t play video games, and he does). My money is better spent on things I care about, like anime DVDs, manga, artbooks, what-the-fuck-ever. With my limited income, I can’t necessarily buy all the things I want to, and I do which is why I’m trying to get a job, but if I could, I’d be buying more DVDs, more manga, more artbooks, more figures, and those fucking HD episodes of Xam’d (which, I should note, me and Shin are actually buying and splitting the cost).

Both of us are high-level otaku within our own boundaries, and with the extension of our boundaries, we would continue to be high-level otaku. What makes someone ‘not a fan’ or simply a low-level fan depends on how far they are willing to go within their own boundaries, which brings us to the meat of this post – the fanboy code of ethics.

Taking all the above into consideration, it should be obvious that if it is within your capability to buy the HD episodes of Xam’d, but you do not, you cannot be considered as much of a fan as someone who does. Now, obviously, if you’re Wildarmsheero and you vehemently hate BONES, or if you can’t stand anything that isn’t balls-realistic or whatever, you’re exempt from this because you’d just be buying something you hate. However, if you genuinely would enjoy Xam’d but won’t pay for it just because you don’t like the fact that it’s a totally fucking retarded price, you aren’t a fan. How can you deny yourself the viewing experience if you’re a real fan? you can’t, by definition! And as some have said, you honestly at least have to give it a chance – 3-4 dollars is well worth the first episode if just to give the fucking show a try, it’s downright silly to ignore the show completely when you might even turn out to be fully willing to pay for it.

This kind of fan-defining principal can be applied to the fanbase as a whole when you add in the filter of the unspoken code of fandom ethics. My little brother is obsessed with Gurren-Lagann. It is his favorite show ever. He watched it with me fansubbed at the time that it aired. The show was licensed. He had enough money that he could buy the first DVD when it was released. There was nothing else that was more important for him to spend his money on. He purchased the first DVD. He did so, even though it’s a sub-only release, and he’ll probably have to buy the show again on it’s re-release a year from now – even though it had no special features, because he is a fan of the show. Now, let’s create a fictional guy named Jim. Jim is living under all of the exact same circumstances as my brother – for all intents and purposes, Jim is my little brother. He, too, has enough money, nothing else to buy, and Gurren Lagann is his favorite show. However, knowing that the show is going to be released again next year, he decides not to buy the DVD. He and my brother both plan to buy it a year from now, but only my brother buys it now. Which of them is a bigger fan of the show? It’s not that my brother is less intelligent of a consumer – both of them had nothing better to buy (Jim blew his money on food because he’s a bigger fan of PF Changs than he is of McDonalds, zing) he just cares more about Gurren Lagann. He’s a bigger fan.

Now let’s create another comparison, only these people are both billionaires. Both of them are anime watchers who watch a lot of anime online. Remember, their billionaires, so we’re assuming they already have all the top-of-the-line technology and shit to max out they sub-watching, and they have much, much more money to spare. One of these billionaires, who watches subs so that he can see shows as they air, buys the DVDs of all the shows he likes (assuredly all special editions, hehe) but the other doesn’t. The one who doesn’t reasons that because he can watch the anime online, he has no reason to buy the DVDs. He can obviously still watch them online, and maybe he’s found rips of al the special features, and there’s nothing the DVDs can offer him that he doesn’t already get. He even has a massive stock of DVD boxes and prints the artwork (yes, I know how much I’m pushing it) so that he can have exact replicas of the DVDs (for the sake of analogy, this is somehow less cost-deficient than DVDs themselves). We would say that the guy who’s actually buying he DVDs is a bigger fan because even though he can access all of the stuff already, he pursues everything that deals with the anime, and in the official way. No matter how you look at it, people who don’t care about officialism, or don’t care about the merchandise, or don’t care about this or that aren’t as big of fans as people who do.

Looking at things this way has me envisioning the industry as a triangle. On Side 1 is the industry itself, who, of course, makes DVDs. Side 2 is the hardcore fans, who buy DVDs. Side 3 is the lesser fans who don’t care about DVDs. (and Side 4 is the Frontier Side.) The troubles in the industry seem to come from the misunderstnadings these sides have about each other. The industry is pissed because it can’t sell DVDs, but it’s because there are too many lesser fans that don’t care about DVDs who the industry is trying to sell to. The hardcore fans are far more ready to support the industry, but all too often the industry doesn’t try to appeal to them, and instead reaches for a wider audience, missing them entirely. Companies like Right Stuf recognize that it can be a good idea to appeal to the hardcore audience, don’t try to stretch out to the wrong audience, and stay making profits. Others seem intent on trying to sell anime (and certain shows more than others) to the wrong crowd and then wondering why they aren’t having any success. When a company can’t recognize that there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to dub Kanon or try to release Glass Fleet at full price, they’ve got a serious fucking problem recognizing their audience, and that misunderstanding is their downfall.

16 thoughts on “Remember That Episode of Gurren-Lagann Where There Was That Crazy Village Underground With a Religion That Had Them Practicing Sacrifices in Order to Keep Their Population at a Certain Level but Kamina Didn't Like it and Kept Trying to Change Things, but the Others Were on the Fence and Certain Cave-people Were Angry, but Then the Non-believers Left and the Village Presumably Kept Acting the Same Way? That Episode Was Kind of Boring.

  1. I’m actually interested in Xam’d but no fucking way I’m paying 4 dollars for a 24 hour rental since that’s a fucking ripoff.

    Also some people only watch anime once so there’s really no need to buy tons of DVD. I mean it is awfully disposable.

  2. Awesome post. It’d be hard to find someone who wasn’t an idiot to disagree with the points you make there.

    Once I get a steadier source of income I’ll start buying the dvds I can find of stuff I’ve already watched (I already have a steady flow of manga I buy, only about 30 volumes so far). Don’t think I’ve watched enough or have enough anime in my life to call myself a real fan though :)

  3. wildarms: Who doesn’t rewatch their favorites? I’d be hard-pressed to believe you could like a show as much 3 years later as you did when you first saw it without rewaching. I’ve pretty much gotten into the formula of rewatching my favorites once a year, myself. Also, need I mention Tape Guy from Otaku no Video?

    jurz: thanks man, and don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll see plenty of anime before long. I was a big anime fan 4 years ago but I was a noob and hadn’t really seen much – I only got into anime in February 07 and I’ve seen more anime than many people who’ve been watching for 10 years.

  4. I would think twice before making an equivalence on what is important to a fan or if a fan is a bigger fan or not.

    Obviously, you can be a huge fan of Xam’d and not buy in to Sony’s VOD, and that is fine if your circumstances are a sufficient excuse. You say so as much, but it becomes a matter of principle in how some people refuses to spend money a certain way.

    In the end anime is just fun stuffs and I wouldn’t be looking down at someone who isn’t willing to pay $4 to watch 24 minutes of (MINDBLOWINGLY AWESOME) anime but is more than willing to worship it as much as I do once he gets to see it, perhaps even illegally.

    But that is no reason to talk down on a company who is helping to produce the said show, who makes the show available and is willing to release it (despite the limitations). They’re not screwing anyone over, but actually providing a totally new service.

    The whole Xam’d thing has to be approached from a “featured offered versus price paid” perspective. What is sad is that there are a number of people who would argue that they would rather not buy Xam’d now while they could, to discourage Sony’s price and DRM schemes. I think that’s just bullshit. What you are also discouraging is spanking new, awesome anime being made, and that is just as anti-fan as you can get.

  5. And your triangle thing, I like it; it’s similar to how I see things. In reality it’s much more fuzzier but I think it’s a good way to explain the whole BV bad blood.

  6. Last comment for now: Wah’s point about DVD is exactly what my post is about. Granted far most people today do not import R2 DVDs anymore (I’m probably going to stop… BRD only now), but that is a starting point to explore just what makes a DVD worth buying.

    A lot of people like the cheapass DVDs ADV put out before their recent trouble with ARM/Sojitz, but I think that is the death leader of the US anime industry–what exactly are they selling? And why is it so cheap?

  7. >>I’ve pretty much gotten into the formula of rewatching my favorites once a year, myself.

    I’d love to do that if I had the time/attention span. It’s hard to balance school/work, life and your hobby. As such I mostly only watch new things and rewatch things very rarely.

  8. If they had not just said “It’s only for PS3 owners” I would have been glad to spend $4 (though its a bit over £2 in the UK) on an episode each week; I wouldn’t even notice the difference as I don’t spend much of the money I have on anything (I used to be constantly trading in games and scrounging together cash for new games, but then the PS3 came along and there are no new games worth buying, and I’m not spending £200+ on a PS3, too expensive) and it’s spread out over half a year, which isn’t too bad. And you don’t have to watch everything in HD either; higher quality = higher price. I don’t have an HDTV but I’ve seen them and it’s not ZOMG AMZAING MUST BUY AND SPEND MORE MONEY. I’ll go for the cheaper, more affordable route anyday.

  9. Buy a PS3. I spent about a year and a half calling it the stupidest console ever and trolling it, until I got one, and now it’s by far my favorite next gen, as an owner of all three. When you hear about the special features, you think they are all lame and pointless, but when you actually own the thing you’ll be surprised.

  10. 21cdb: I can say I’ve watch probably about 60 different series averaging at about between the standard 12-24 ep series, that’s all since about Feb ’07 as well lol; how is that?

    and also, I think we can call them “current gen” rather than “next gen” consoles.

  11. Wait.

    “Every fan has their own way of defining themselves as a fan, and there are certainly different levels withing those ways.”

    But then in your examples you clearly said that one is a bigger fan? (such as the little brother examples.)

    I agree with the statement I quoted. Fans shouldn’t need to buy shit to be considered a fan. To generalize the moral of my post and to link it to the title I’d say, “believe in you who believes in yourself”, and hold fast to your standards.

    Using Xam’d as an example, I’m rolling in money haha, but I sure as hell won’t rent it to see it. However my past times do consist of numerable anime related activities. Am I a fan or not? In the eyes of multiple people, maybe not, maybe so.

  12. >But then in your examples you clearly said that one is a bigger fan? (such as the little brother examples.)


    The point you missed is that you may be an anime fan, but you are inherently not as big of one.

  13. Yes I realize you did say different levels. But what separates the levels is also different for each individual.

    The point you said I missed I had intended to have it adressed with your quote. When you say one is a bigger fan than another that is according to your standards, but, for example, if all it takes for someone to be a huge anime fan was watching Gurren Lagann, then both kids have met the criteria and will be viewed as huge anime fans.

    While I’m not bashing your opinion as the point of a blog is to voice your opinions. The general statement is that you gave everyone their own freewill with the statement along the lines of “to each his own.” But then you set your standards among them, unless I misinterpreted and you meant: “You each have free will, but these are MY views.”

    I hope that clears up what I posted originally.

  14. I call myself a fan, and don’t worry too much if the other fans look down on me because I’m not hardcore enough.

    I don’t own dvds. They’re hard to come by over here and are really expensive for our income level (I live in the Philippines). Now I’m not poor at all. By our standards I have one of the most high paying jobs (I’m in senior management of a relatively small company). I make more money than most people here. I’m married but don’t have kids yet, and my wife is a lawyer.

    So why don’t I spend on my so-called obsession (except for the odd Gunpla)?

    It’s because my form of obsession is talking about anime and sharing about it, less about experiencing it, and far less about owning it. Sure it would be nice to own copies of the shows I really like, but I don’t feel like I need to own them. I get my kicks talking to people about them, finding out what others find awesome. Sure I feel guilty about not buying, but I cannot justify the expense versus securing my family’s future. Also, here in the Philippines it is customary to support our parents and both my wife and I do so for our now-retired folks.

    So I don’t see a future wherein I buy DVDs or whatever formats the shows will come unless they’re ridiculously cheap. 2 episodes of Xam’d would be the MINIMUM DAILY WAGE over here.

    So I’m not making excuses – I could give up a bunch of things like Tennis or books or the odd Gunpla to begin owning some of the anime that I find myself re-watching every now and then. But I probably won’t. But this doesn’t stop me from calling myself a fan. That said, I make no value judgments on those who believe otherwise. It’s all deculture to me.

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