In my high school days, I used to read The Wheel of Time, working my way from the first book to, by the end of my senior year, the tenth book. I remember the first few books fondly (up to the fifth). Not so much for the other half, and I gave up on the tenth book 2/5ths in. The pacing became glacially slow, and the tenth book featured plot lines that were happening concurrently with the ninth book, which was a thousand pages long.
One more book got released during my college days, and then the author died. The series still had one more book to go, which the new author split into three. The last book just came out last month.
I want to revisit the series again someday, now that it’s finished, but we’re talking about several thousand pages to go. Every time I think about The Wheel of Time, I can only sigh in relief that the story I once followed had finally concluded after so long.
How does this relate to anime and manga? Well, there are a lot of long-running manga that suffer The Wheel of Time’s same malaise, of taking ages to end. One might ask if they even intend to end. Some have even sacrificed coherence just to keep on running.
Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But think of a hypothetical reader who started reading a manga ten years ago because it was about something he liked. Say, samurai, for instance. A few lengthy arcs later, it switches genres from adventure into fighting. Old characters are killed off and replaced by new ones, and the manga gradually shifts tone until our reader is all but reading an entirely new manga altogether. (Maybe that’s the point, that the author slowly worked his manga into something he really wanted to write. But that’s another post.)
So what does he do? He keeps on reading.
It may sound strange. But I know a lot of people who read and watch long-running shounen works. Very few of them drop what they’re reading, even if the manga changes so much, or if the last few arcs turn out to be stinkers. These people aren’t manga fans, not in the sense that they read a wide variety of manga and are always looking for more (which, by the way, is my definition of a fan). They’re Naruto fans, One Piece fans, Fairy Tail fans, etc. They just continue to read what they’ve been reading, and love it.
Why do they? Well, if the discerning anime fan can pick a couple of TV anime every season to watch regularly, then it sure is easier for anyone to go to a manga scanlation site every week to read popular, long-running manga. It’s a habit that doesn’t even take thirty minutes a week. Now, I won’t go a huge step forward and say it’s because they are stupid casuals who only follow mainstream manga (which are shit, because the only reason they’re popular is because they pander to the dumb masses who don’t know any better).
Ehem. That is certainly untrue, and I only put it out there as a ridiculous strawman. What’s sad is that some people actually believe that, though.
I’m still confused as to why this is the case, even if I’ve done this before (that’s what preamble on The Wheel of Time was for!). Is it just because people don’t know any better? After all, I take fiction more seriously than most around me, and not just because I create my own fiction too. I’m just really interested at it. I consume fiction because it’s interesting and I like it, even if sometimes it’s not the case for the latter. But if it becomes deadly dull or offensive in a way that I don’t want to pick it up anymore, then I won’t. I think the saddest thing to do is to brave a hundred chapters in the hope that “it might get better”. Because that’s the same excuse that abused people give for their abusive spouses.
I will talk more about this subject, recounting my own experience with long-running shounen works (Naruto, One Piece, Dragon Ball, and Bleach), and maybe come to a conclusion after a couple more posts. If you help me in the comments, then I might not have to write so much!
And I’m going to reply, I promise. Promptly.