One of the most challenging things I must handle as an anime fan is when people ask me to recommend them anime. I take recommendations seriously, because I want others to enjoy what they watch–if they get a dud and hate it, I would hold myself liable. My knowledge as an anime fan isn’t just for myself; it’s also for the service of other anime fans. It’s challenging because anime is so vast and wide that one can’t just hope to throw out a couple of shows and expect them to be well-received.
So what I do is ask the person to narrow down their preferences. They give out a genre or two, or mention a specific show they like and would like to watch more of.
“Would you like to watch a classic?” I ask, giving a baseline, like “older than 2000”.
“Umm… I guess not. Something newer, maybe?” they answer.
This is where my heart breaks a little. But I give them what they want, and hope for the best.
What’s with this exclusion? When pressed gently for reasons, my friends say, “because it’s old”, or “they’re ugly”, or shrug. I, too, have once harbored a strong case of aversion towards old anime, but when I actually sat down and watched a few of the good ones, I realized that I’ve been closing myself off to excellent works. Though I think that I take anime more passionately than your average anime fan, which makes me more accepting of anime regardless of their age.
Giving a bit of thought for this, here are some reasons I could think of:
- Most people live in the present
- “Old” is conflated with “ugly”
- Old is no longer relevant
Most people live in the present
I once overheard a conversation about music. One person remarked that he liked listening to old pop music, like Michael Jackson’s Thriller era. The other said, “that can’t be pop! It’s old!” While this statement is false, because pop music is pop music regardless of how old it is, the second person’s attitude illustrates what most people think about old stuff.
The average person don’t actively seek out entertainment by himself. We are bombarded every day by music and TV and movies that we could just grab whatever we fancy, give them a spin, and go on with our lives, doing the same for the next hits that come in. Naturally, if everyone is watching and listening to the same things from the same places, it all starts to become homogenous. There’s a whole lot of stuff at hand that we tend to forget anything that’s already a month old. It’s not that they aren’t good and are therefore forgettable, it’s just that we stop thinking about them.
Also, the sheer volume of presently-available entertainment tends to make us fickle. At the first sign of an unpleasant voice, a boring stretch of time, or an uninteresting episode, we discard the work and go ahead to the next. We channel-surf. Because there’s so much at our fingertips, we grow afraid of wasting time. We rush into the next thing right away.
How many anime blogs do season previews? They answer a special need–to note up-and-coming shows, so that people would know what to follow. And yet this just shows that people live in the present–they are concerned with the soon, that will become the now in a few weeks.
I don’t blame them. After all, most people don’t want to take charge of the entertainment they consume. It’s simply something to distract them from the harshness of their daily lives. They’re content with others curating for them.
Old is conflated with ugly
Have you watched a show before 2000, before digital animation? Back then, anime was made with cels, which were painted and layered to make a single frame, many of which form animation. It used to be a problem that studios ran out of paint to color these cels, like in Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko (directed by a pre-SHAFT Shinbo!). It was far more expensive and time-consuming to animate with cels than with computers. Nowadays, digital animation allows a wider variety of colors, and CG allows backgrounds or mechanical objects to stay on-model with less work. Anime can be made faster, easier, and cheaper.
(I had put in Gunbuster as an example in the above paragraph, but it turns out that the black-and-white thing they did for the final episode wasn’t to save up, but it actually cost more!)
I make it sound like cel animation is a bad thing. That’s not true at all. Despite its limitations, some of the most gorgeous-looking anime were produced with cels. It has its own charm–some people prefer the less-saturated look (digital is often criticized to be too bright and colorful for its own good). The problem with cel, however, is that if it looks ugly, then it looks really ugly.
On the average, if you sample an old anime, it’s probably going to look unflattering. A lot of the classics haven’t aged well in terms of looks, but we still love them because they’re still good. It’s just something you have to keep in mind if you want to watch older shows. All things being equal, it’s harder to watch an older anime than a newer one, because it was made in a different eera.
But when you stumble upon an anime that looks beautiful despite its old age? It’s worth it.
Old is no longer relevant
Anime is continually evolving throughout its storied history. It is a lot more diverse now than before–anime used to be the domain of giant robots and espers and adaptations of old classics. And since anime today is a result of years’ worth of iteratively trying out things, watching something old might seem a regression.
It would make sense that someone who got into anime today had been hooked by watching recent shows. Their taste is calibrated towards such shows, and so older anime may look strange or uninviting. Entertainment is a product of its own time, and older anime was made with different mores or values than today. And when the anime belongs to the science fiction genre, it may look extremely dated with its limited knowledge of science–The Galaxy Express 999 movie amused me to no end because of all the liberties it took with space travel!
But is it really a step back? I am interested in how stories have evolved, so I want to see how the classics first approached things. Appreciating the original Mobile Suit Gundam made me more receptive to the entire franchise; I could draw a clear line of innovation and consolidation from past to present. (Some may look upon this more negatively, that Gundam has regressed since the good old days.) Even if such works are flawed, it pays well to understand what they had tried and why they didn’t work, and how succeeding works had refined these elements.
Isn’t it refreshing to see how something was done first? Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was influenced by Getter Robo. Gurren Lagann is larger in scope; it deals with a rapidly increasing scale that by the end, the fate of the entire universe is at stake, and the titular mech reflects this with its impossible size. To watch Getter Robo, the OVAs at least, you could get a feel on how the super robot genre has grown.
Conversely, a lot of old anime fans lament the passing of their favorite genres. They dislike shows today and lament the disappearance of those that which they used to like. They are still anime fans, though they aren’t fans of anime today. It works both ways!
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I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface; there’s probably an entire area of study for this, which I’m interested to know. If you have your own answers, why not post them here! How do you convince people to watch an older show that they wouldn’t see on their own? It’s agonizing for me, because most of my favorites are pretty old!