Anime Generalism – True Otakudom?

Post BGM – Love is War – Hatsune Miku

There was once a time in my life where I could confidently say that I liked anime because it had action, bloodshed, and badass characters. There was a time where I could confidently say that I liked anime because it had better plots or directing than other mediums. There was a time where I could confidently say that I liked anime because it represented some specific thing that I enjoyed. However, at this time, if you asked me what I looked for in anime – what specific thing was my reason for consuming Japanese cartoons, I’d probably be at a total loss. The best explanation I have is: I’m an otaku.

This answer, of course, will not satisfy most, if any. It’s might just make you ask ‘why are you an otaku, then?’ since it sounds like the same question. But I couldn’t offer a better explanation if I tried. As was stated in Genshiken, ‘once you’re an otaku, there’s no going back to normal,’ which means that at the point that you are an otaku, there is nothing else. There are some people in my experience who got largely into anime only to, at some point, for any number of reasons, get out of it. The difference between regular big fans and otaku is staying power. Anime can leave your life if it doesn’t define it, but for otaku, your life IS anime – after all, the word is defined as ‘obsession.’

I’ve gotten far beyond defining my anime preferences as they’ve expanded too damn much. I’ve got End of Evangelion, Manabi Straight, Lain, and Lucky Star in my top 10 and none of those shows are anything alike. The only kind of person who likes all of these shows is the kind who’s really obsessed.

Consider this – I am very pretentious about music. I mostly listen to obscure bands, mostly in metal genres. and yet, I also listen to a bunch of cheesy Japanese pop songs thanks to anime. Funeral, meanwhile, has the exact same musical taste as me in most areas, but he can’t stand the cutesy Japanese pop music. The difference is simply that, as an otaku, I am somehow wired to like anime music. No matter how you look at it, your average Opeth fan probably doesn’t sing along to Tsurupettan.

And I know that some of you reading this are otaku (thinking ‘so what’s the big deal?’) and some of you aren’t (thinking, ‘wow, his taste is odd.’) Some of you are like me, who aren’t sure WHY they’re willing to shell out $100 for a Black Rock Shooter figure, they just are. And some of you are more normal fellows who wouldn’t be caught dead with pornographic doujins in their room.

Otaku may have preferences, but they don’t have boundaries. When an otaku dislikes a show, it’s for a very specific, personal or emotional reason. It’s not because the show was from X genre or is X years old, it’s either because the show had technical flaws or something personal like a character you couldn’t stand or some plot twist that pissed you off. And for a lot of otaku, disliking a show isn’t even a condemnation of that show. When I made a list of the shows that I dislike, a lot of them were shows I actually want to rewatch and have elements I love. Being an otaku has made it difficult to truly dislike an anime unless it is fundamentally or technically atrocious.

The reason I bring this up is that last night I wanted to watch something that could potentially enter my favorites list, and OmegaDogma on Twitter asked me ‘what elements are you looking for?’ I realized then that I have no idea what I look for in a show. certain shows just have that thing all their own that reaches out to me it seems. So I ended up getting back to Toradora again, which has long had a place in my favorites reserved for reasons I can define, but not tell you why they are so important to me.

8 thoughts on “Anime Generalism – True Otakudom?

  1. Great post. Really agree on the like/dislike things. To cite Toradora!, this shows goes from “interesting” in pre-anime period to “exciting” in the middle of airing, “indifference” at the later half and finally right down to “dislike” by the end of the airing. If someone ask me, I would still have to say it’s a good show, but I dislike it. I just don’t. Simple as that.

    And I like another quote from Genshiken, “Otaku is not something you try to be. It’s just that one day you wake up and you know you are.” As for me, I watch some anime when I was a kid, and those (Doraemon, Cyber Formula, etc.) still hold unchangable favorite list of mine. That was the time I can say I like anime for a reason. I start watching anime again right around entering high school, and this time, not because of reasons, but because I woke up as an otaku.

  2. Um, ah, well, shit. I feel that I have something to add to this real nice post, but I really don’t. Rings true, I must be an otaku too. The difference between is that I have preferential taste: I like big robots smashing each other up, and among the many anime that feature those big robots, I favor the ones with transforming spacecraft, love triangles, and singing idols.

  3. Many people don’t watch anime because they view it as “geeky.” There’s a form of “shame” attached to it, and a ridiculously stupid one at that, as any anime fan can attest to. Once you get past that “shame” and become an otaku, then what’s to stop you from watching genre X? Nothing, really. At that point, there really isn’t a genre out of bounds. What series you then enjoy simply comes down to execution. Any genre is fine, any setup is fine, as long as the producers do the best they can with their material. I’m talking about good direction, music, timing, voice acting, etc. That’s why any “otaku” — or simply someone who’s seen plenty of anime across genres — knows that it’s nearly impossible to tell a good anime by synopsis or categorization. No matter how odd an anime setup may be, the execution is what matters in the end.

  4. @gl: precisely. I have some things that perk my dick up more lively, but I like just about everything.

    @Michael: Yeah, a good point. Last year, after Otakon, Funeral decided he wanted to become an otaku. However, he gave up because he couldn’t get into the moe and cutesy stuff thanks to his predisposed disliking of anything not fundamentally manly and awesome.

  5. Forgot to comment on the bit about music. I think we tend to come to like music through associations. I like song X because it brings up feelings of Y. With anime music, these songs conjure up memories about the series they were featured in. Let’s use Aria for an example. It’s one of my favorite series. It’s a extremely relaxing show. Normally, slow music isn’t my style. But when I listen to Aria’s various OP whenever, wherever, I start feeling relaxed. I feel good. I enjoy the songs. This works for other songs across other anime in similar ways. The songs conjure up good memories of the series, and the good memories make me feel good (and I come to “like” the song).

    Of course, sometimes there’s something else at work. Your post BGM is not linked to any specific fond memories. However, that song is simply awesome in its own right. And some anime-related music is simply awesome in its own right too.

  6. @Michael: No, the rule still applies for the BGM. Because as an otaku, I like anything that has the feeling of otakudom. When I think of the hard work and guts of making not only the badass song with complex programming as well as the CG video of fuckwin not to mention I’m a HUGE hatsune miku fan, it makes the video more awesome than just a song ever would be.

  7. i posted here hours ago, but i guess it didn’t go through. basically, i was saying that one good thing about otakus is that they accepted what they liked, unlike a lot of “regular folk”. so in that sense, there’s this maturity to being an otaku.

    i don’t usually like anime songs. even when i like an actual op or ed song, i’ll start disliking it as soon as i’ve completed the show. the lain op is one notable exception. i also don’t see the point in cosplaying or buying pvc figures…i guess i’m sort of an otaku failure..

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