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Anime fans fornever

But I’ll be Peter Pan forever: To Aru Majutsu no Index and I

It’s a common story. A Saturday night, no plans. What do I do? Seek out a new anime to watch, of course.

To Aru Majutsu no Index has been on my list for a while, but I’ve passed it up for things I’ve categorized as more “high brow”, “mature”, or newer. It wasn’t high priority. But on a  quiet, snowy Satruday night I figured why the hell not? It’s nice to know what the younger generation is into these days (since my own, refined tastes are oh-so-far removed).

I set up my torrent, and as I was doing so examined that last train of thought mentally:

The younger generation? Bullshit.

It has come to my attention that, somewhere in my recent history, I’ve identified a “younger” generation of anime fans, and for the first time ever, I haven’t self-identified with them. This “younger generation” is the Other. At the tender age of 23, I am now old.

In fact, recently, quite a few ‘firsts’ have been recorded in my anime viewing career. Notably:

  • Consuming alcohol when watching anime. In fact, I sat down to watch Index with a glass of wine and croissant in hand.
  • Dropping more anime that I pick up. Both for currently airing series; even ones I’m interested/emotionally invested in, such as the –monogatari series. And for older series (still haven’t finished Mirai Shounen Conan).
  • Watching anime with someone else. Not that this is particularly new to me – my early days of anime watching were spent alongside my sister and good friends. I’m talking in more of a significant other snuggle-up kind of way, which is certainly novel. If I may be frank, this impedes viewing the screen properly (one person is always more off-center than the other) and isn’t the best arrangement.

I suppose this time was bound to come. I’ve been watching anime for well over a decade, and well over half my life, and that anime watching career has gone through more than a few translations. From dub watcher to sub zealot, anime fansite creator to blogger, and all the stages inbetween. In the end, as a person I’ve gone out into the world, and experienced things, and matured. It’s hard to keep any part of your life static when the core of who you are seems to have refined itself so much.

What I find funny about watching To Aru Majutsu no Index as an “older generation” anime fan is that other older generation anime fans tend to view it as a part of the same pile of harem moeshit that is the Cancer that’s Ruining Anime. Ironically, Index is probably more quintessentially anime than anything I’ve watched. It’s all chibi characters and banter and action and fireworks and chase scenes, even a token bit of random appropriation of Christian imagery. It’s kind of fun, in that way.

Interestingly, To Aru Majutsu no Index extrapolates the traditional setting of a school, instead choosing to set itself in a city of schools, Academy City. With a population of 80% students (naturally), Academy City, and the To Aru Majutsu franchise is leading itself towards one elegant conclusion: once the casts graduates, they must invariably leave, and scatter across Japan to become adults. A true ‘going out into the world’ if ever there is one.

There is a reason for Academy City, of course. For a normal character, the confines of a small building in a big city are enough to develop themselves. But I suppose for espers and lightning-bolt shooting teenage girls, like the ones in To Aru Majutsu no Index, an entire city is needed.

The prospect of being an “anime fan forever”, much like being a high school student forever, is one doomed to failure. However, though we may grow up and grow older, and appear to move on, there is a part of our histories which will always remain in a certain time, and a certain place. In the tweeted words of a famous Japanese idol – “I’ve become an adult but I’ll be Peter Pan forever”.

Comments

Peter S says:

I wonder what this says about me, 51 years old, becoming an anime fan six years ago? There are things in media I’ve “outgrown,” like sitcoms, most pop music, most western TV and film. But I’ve embraced even some stupid anime shows in a way that surprises me. Maybe my Peter Pan-ness came to the surface late, though I think people who know me well would disagree with that.

Not that I think the Index franchise is stupid. In fact, I’m very fond of it. I’ve sometimes wondered why that is. I never placed it among “the same pile of harem moeshit that is the Cancer that’s Ruining Anime,” though it took me a while to warm to it. Your comment on it being quintessential anime might be a reason I rank it higher than other such shows. It has some of the same narrative failures and cliche moments, the creators seem to have random tech-babble and catholic cult-babble generators close by (though to me that’s part of the fun), and too much fanservice (though they can turn that on its head, as with Misaka’s baggy shorts). On the other hand, I think the characters are endearing, and even the minor ones are given some little quirk to make them memorable. I like Touma’s sad-sack life and dogged heroism, and while Misaka might be the most dangerous tsundere I know, she’s also one of the most sensible characters in the franchise. Thinking about it as I write, watching all these weird characters bounce off each other is the series greatest charm.

Celeste says:

Not being nearly that age, I can’t really say if that “Peter Pan-ness” came late for you or not. I suppose the moral of the story is that people and interests change over time.

Now that I’m watching it, I agree – I don’t find it fits in with my initial perception of it. It’s very anime-ish and outlandish, but I agree – ultimately the characters are endearing, which is a nice touch, especially given the situation we meet them in. Index starts itself in medias res, and the first story arc concludes with the main character losing his memory completely – and hiding it. I can only guess as to how this is going to develop, but it’s got me interested to say the least. I’ll definitely be picking up Railgun after this, because I’ve taken quite a shining to Misaka at any rate :)

bateszi says:

I must admit, I feel distant from anime at the moment. Not just anime, either, but the ani-blogging community at large.

When I started doing this, I had idols I’d aspire to reach and compete with, but most of those are gone and forgotten now, and when I look at Anime Nano, I see shit post after shit post by (obviously young) people I don’t know.

I’m well aware I’ve strayed into typical “old fag” territory, but that’s seriously how I see it, and it’s not like the anime community is much different now to how it was 5 years ago; I’m now just seeing things from a broader perspective, a little less idealistically, more disconnected.

Although it seems stupid after saying all that, I still feel like I’m the “anime fan forever.” I’ll always be fascinated by this stuff, I enjoy keeping up with what’s hot, but that insatiable desire to be heard by the anime community, to debate and share, has mellowed.

Celeste says:

But do you think your desire to share has mellowed because there’s less people to share with? Somehow I doubt that, though it is less interesting and very sad to see bloggers leave. That said, Bateszi Anime Blog has never been a blog that takes jumping off points/bounces off of other blogger’s posts, for better or for worse. We exist in our own little castle, I suppose.

I see what you mean about viewing anime less idealistically: basically, the more anime you watch, the greater a framework you have to judge it by. Similarly, I’ve found in my time of watching anime with other people that I’m much less willing to shut off the critical voice in my head. If I were watching Index with someone else, I wouldn’t have made it past the first episode, truly. But now that I have I can see why it’s worth it, even if it isn’t god-tier anime (which it isn’t.. it’s just good fun I suppose.)

okiru says:

At 40, Ive been enjoying anime (off and on) for thirty plus years. I especially enjoyed the early to mid 2000’s. I’m more discerning now. Our mutual interest in the animated form is even one of the things that brought my wife and I together. While I don’t watch as much as I used to, there does seem to be a general lack of interesting new stuff. I know my tastes have changed, but I’m still a sucker for a good story. I’ll always check in with what Japan is producing. I may not watch it, but it’s really interesting to see the genera change and grow (or not grow) over the years.

Celeste says:

Agreed.

I love that all these old anime fans are coming out of the woodworks. At age 23 I’m already much older than the bulk of Narutards, but it’s nice to put things into perspective.

I agree – anime has gone through a bit of a slump in the last 5 years or so, but I can’t help but feel as if it’ll all come back to its late 90’s glory days sooner or later. I don’t think I’m going anywhere anytime soon, at any rate :)

dengar says:

The aspect of anime fandom I’m most worried about is whether the “younger generation” of anime fandom exists outside of Japan. I can only speak to the situation in the US, but I don’t see how that many new fans will get into anime without the exposure that the anime industry was afforded by broadcast tv in the past. Where will the new fans come from?

Manga seems to be bucking the trend to some extent, but even that is suffering with the demise of Borders booksellers.

Celeste says:

Where will the new fans come from? The place that forced greater exposure on broadcast TV in the first place: the internet.

The boom in anime fandom in North America in the early 2000s was a direct result of the internet boom. Prior to that, subtitled anime was traded on VHS tapes via mail-order services run by small groups of fans. These mail-order services were advertised in what essentially amounted to large fanzines; Protoculture Addicts was a famous one. With the coming of the internet, these mail-order services could move their services online, which attracted more people, and eventually lead to the digitization of their catalogues (as an FYI, the first time I watched Evangelion I watched it via an encoded VHS rip. This would have been 1999 or so.) Once digitzation occurred, the rest is history – broadband connections became commonplace, and filesharing networks and sites increased as well. As exposure in general increased, profitability for licensing anime increased, which lead to greater penetration of broadcast media. All in all, I’d say this trend began to hit its crescendo with the airing of Escaflowne in the early 2000s on FOX. For anime fans of the dark VHS ages, this was a dream come true – anime on a major TV network.

In my opinion, most of the traditional anime licensing companies are suffering the same fate as the traditional music and movie companies are: they simply aren’t adapting to the new methods of distributing content, nor are they adapting to the new pricing for content. Companies like Funimation are adapting, however, and they will survive in some way or another.

I think the question is not where the anime fans will come from (they’ll always come – there’s always a friend who gets you into weird things, and anime imagery is all over the internet these days) but how they’ll receive their content.

Kim says:

I’m 29 you make me feel really old with this post :)

But I don’t really think of anime as something “Peter Panish”. Or I don’t link liking anime as something that is separate from growing up. Maybe it’s because I first became an anime fan in college and actually became a bigger one afterwards (thanks to the Internet).

I mean I have other interests besides anime (I am also really into classic film for one thing) but it’s just that it’s just an interest and it’s only one thing that defines me. I don’t see why I should have to stop watching or even change my tastes because I am older.

I mean okay I take that back slightly my tastes have changed as I’ve gotten older but it’s not that I like stuff only for “adults” (in fact I find labels like that dumb) but I feel I am more discerning about quality. I don’t need to watch the new popular show if it sounds stupid. Although at the same time I won’t not watch a new show just because it’s mainstream & popular if it does sound interesting to me.

Celeste says:

Don’t worry, Bateszi turns 29 this year, and he’s not old so :p

Hmm. I suppose I link liking anime and growing up so strongly because I grew up with so many people who loved anime as teenagers, but now that they’ve graduated college/began working/whatever, they’ve fallen out of that habit. It’s a bit sad to watch, and it always makes me wonder if for some reason the same won’t happen to me. That said, loving anime has been such a defining part of my person for so many years that I don’t feel like I could ever really give it up completely – it’d be like lopping a leg off of a chair or something, I just wouldn’t stand up properly after the fact.

Like you, I have quite a few other interests; I suppose its just that anime seems to occupy less and less of my time as I grow older. Which makes sense, because as I grow older I seem to take on more and more, and the number of hours in a day just doesn’t increase.

Martin says:

You wouldn’t believe how reassuring it is to know I’m not the only one who ‘feels’ old…I’m about to run into the big 3-0 this year and I’m still not sure how to feel about it!

TV often has an element of escapism, and the ‘guilty pleasure’ thing is I’m sure part of that. By which I mean there’s no shame in enjoying something you probably shouldn’t, although it does sometimes require a lengthy explanation as to why you like it at all, as you’ve done with To Aru Majutsu no Index here. It’s a safety release valve of sorts, or perhaps it becomes more – not less – important to have some ‘different’ place to escape to when Real Life gets you down.

Right now for instance I’m quite enjoying Sasameki Koto, a shoujo-ai drama. Visually, musically and even in terms of story it’s nothing special, but it’s gentle and undemanding, and the characters are pleasant and likeable. Since my usual viewing consists of hard SF, Type Moon and numerous slabs of angst I feel like I’m allowed something like that now and then.

Oddly though, my tastes haven’t really changed – they’ve broadened for sure, but it’s more a case of appreciating the familiar material while embracing stuff that I wouldn’t have been seen dead watching or owning on DVD a few years ago.

I’m sure I can formulate an opinion on the big picture and where the Industry and fandom are heading, but right now I’m a tired Mr Average who wants to watch some lightweight animated TV before going to bed and getting ready for work tomorrow morning. :)

Celeste says:

“Oddly though, my tastes haven’t really changed – they’ve broadened for sure, but it’s more a case of appreciating the familiar material while embracing stuff that I wouldn’t have been seen dead watching or owning on DVD a few years ago.”

I can relate to this immensely. I think, after a while of watching anime there’s a bit of pressure to know what the “good” ones are (from your peers, etc). Particularly in the anime blogging community, but I have quite a large number of friends who watch anime IRL and the pressure is the same. And therefore, we often pass up on first round things which are good but not high-brow good. I’ve been passing up Aoi Hana for years because it’s a shoujo-ai drama; irreverant of the fact that it’s one of the most famously touching shoujo-ai stories out there, and it’s the show that pioneered the visual look Hourou Musuko then made famous.

I kind of enjoy that my tastes are becoming broader. I’m less of an anime elitist hipster now, I suppose; more anime for all!

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