I have been a fan of Japanese anime for some length of time. What initially drew me into the anime sphere was how different the animation was, from anything that was being broadcast on the old TV at the time. It was like a fresh breath of air and managed to get me – my then younger self – to be ever so eager for what would come the next episode.
Though age and the abundance of pieces I have now seen has brought with it a different set of standards towards the media I consume, I still feel that a truly good anime can bring out something within me that no other type of "normal" movie or television series can.
Now, my very first ever encounter with Japanese animation was, much like how I imagine a great deal of other people's first was: via a downloaded movie from LimeWire, which then turned out to be an incorrectly named hentai episode...
Maybe that was just me? Fair enough. No matter, the point is that my entry into the world of anime was by way of the high digital seven seas.
Following that line, it was from there I watched everything from Naruto and Bleach, to Love Hina and Golden Boy. And boy, I loved almost every single series in between. I could not stop pulling up the most random shows and watch them – everything was new and awesome, and I constantly wanted more and more.
Considering my jump-start into the anime fandom, it might seem strange that I have only just somewhat recently taken a fancy towards other types of otaku media – manga and light novels specifically. For whatever reason, I held a steadfast and deep prejudice towards manga, deeming it something for kids; and books I was never that huge on reading. In fact, I had always dreaded any and all topics which required one to utilize any of those darn things with lots of thin pieces of paper bound together back in school more than anything. That dislike for the written medium held on for quite some time following those years.
Fast forwards a bit, and for a period of time, I was massively into reading manga. I read all sorts of series on my trusty rusty Celeron-powered personal computer, and I loved it. Then I stopped. I burnt out really fast on manga, unlike anime which I still continued to watch, even then.
Years went past, and one day I came across one of the English translated novels for a particular series – one that I had watched the anime of and loved a great deal. I figured, "Oh why not, I'll give it a shot," and so I fondled that Purchase-button and bought the first volume – physically, since I did not have a tablet at the time, nor did I believe that reading on a piece of plastic could be that great of an experience... Turns out I loved reading that (light) novel so much that my next order was the whole lot of volumes that was available, plus a few other series I had been craving a new season of, but knew would never come.
My fate was sealed, and my bank account was actively screaming in terror, begging for mercy.
Although I spent a few months worth of dollarydoos on a ScrunchyScroll subscription, my time buying light novels was the first time I had spent a significant amount on Japanese media. I loved the feeling of holding a proper book in my hands – a sentence which I could never have thought I would one day utter. Although I might in Current Year have moved on exclusively to e-books, I still very much prefer the feeling of a good book in my hands to holding a piece of plastic.
Those were different times though; nowadays I have almost completely stopped paying for light novels, manga, and anime altogether. Why? Well, there are no one singular reason, but rather a combination of different ones, all with varying levels of importance. For one, my level of financial freedom were in a completely different ballpark. But not only was my income multiples higher than now, my view on the industry as a whole were vastly different.
What I have learnt since my time of mass-spending, includes CR et al's vile stance towards their consumers, and their overall politics; the blatant censorship and propaganda insertion that permeates translations; and much more than I care to list here. Seven Seas has shown themselves to actively censor on more than a couple of times, insert activist material, rewrite characters, and who knows how much deeper that particular hole goes. Then we have Kadokawa, which incidentally owns a major part of Japanese publishing, and now even a significant part of English licensed translation, who are no strangers to taking a dump on their consumers.
Frankly, I could never in good conscience, no matter how deep my pockets had stretched, be able to stomach giving money to those that butcher the original author's creations. It will not matter how great my budget gets, I can confidently swear that I will never knowingly financially support such disgusting business practices.
With all that rambling out of the way (as if I do anything but), I should hopefully have made my stance pretty clear. That is to say: I do want to support the industry, and I will certainly not fault anyone else for doing so – even if that includes supporting those which I would describe as media-censors. I am not against piracy, but I am not some sort of piracy-elitist either – as in, I will not refuse to pay for a good product and exclusively pirate all my digital media like some might do.
I truly and honestly do want to support those that made good products and do not treat their customers like dirt. However, I am certainly not some stuck up asshole who is somehow above pirating either, regardless of the individual's reasons for doing so.
As a creator (of sorts; kinda) myself, I understand the feeling of frustration of having others take your work. I have created things which I have later found to be re-posted with minor, if any editing done to mask their deeds; more often than not with absolutely no credits and acknowledgement whatsoever.
I feel that doing that is not okay, ever. Doubly so for those cases where my work was posted under an open and free license. I have made almost all my creations freely available, and I try to keep e-begging to an absolute minimum.
Having said as much, that does not mean I have ever seriously considered restricting the content I put out, or seek to utilize the DMCA to have my work taken down – see certain fan translation groups.
Not only do I believe my creations to not be worth the hassle, but I also can not help but feel that going down that route would never end well. The best outcome is, what? I get the content taken down...and then? I have ultimately not accomplished anything but paint myself in the same light as those types – the ones I hold nothing but absolute dislike for. So no, I'm not going to go down that route.
If anything, I am more disappointed than angry with regards to the ones who engages in that kind of behavior – read: big corporations, taking open source and making millions, even billions of it, never making their derivative work public in turn.
While my passion for anime has been been going strong, all throughout my years since I discovered the world of Japanese animation, I can not help but feel my critical attitude towards the media growing during recent years. That, or anime has simply been on a decline since, around and about, Current Year-Minus-Five. Which it is, I cannot say with certainty...
Then again, at the point one has spent decades consuming a particular media, you are no doubt bound to start finding flaws therein. Perhaps it is stranger yet that it has taken me so long to truly start viewing the medium with this level of critical thinking. At the same time, I have also had many years to discover all those true gems that exists within the history of Japanese animation.
Whether said gems are more of a physiological variant like Ergo Proxy, Serial Experiment Lain, Ghost in the Shell, Cossette no Shouzou, or Monster; fantasy such as Natsume Yuujinchou; comedy gold like Gintama, or Golden Boy; shounen like Fullmetal Alchemist; Steins;Gate; Code Geass; peak harem trash like Love Hina; or any of the many, many more "obscure" gold nuggets, buried within the sea of dirt – Great Teacher Onizuka, Read or Die, Gunslinger Girl, and Little Monica Monogatari comes to mind.
Age tends to influence taste, of course, and retrospective has an interesting effect which tends to paint everything in a tint of rose gold, but I can not help but feel that even the trash of old had more charm to it – examples which comes to mind includes Mahoromatic, Onegai☆Twins, Midori no Hibi, Stratos 4, Yumeria, and Scryed.
Again, I fully realize this might purely be those fabled rose-tinted glasses through which I no doubt view those old memories of mine, making those series seem better than they actually are. However, I genuinly do believe there is at least some merit to that statement. Series are basically being mass-produced by production studios today, more and more willing to employ (bad) 3DCG animation for scenes, and even whole series.
Many a fan outside of The Land of Moonrunes during the olden days, prior to high speed internet connection and same-day releases on streaming services, had to seek out other means to understanding the story, and so they turned to fansubs – either waiting ages for a single episode to download over a modem connection, or, for the real old-timers, subbed VHS tapes.
As time went and even once connections became fast enough, there was still no official sources for but a select few samples, leading to more groups spawning where weebs teamed up to release subtitled content for everyone to enjoy.
That area, too, feels like it has seen a steep decline. Many groups of today just take the official subtitles, sometimes grammar checking them and/or "weebifying" them; seeking solely to profit; and everything in between. A sad state of affairs in many ways. But everything will eventually decline, eventually ceasing entirely – that is life.
Perhaps age truly has affected my view and opinions more than I would dare care to find out, who knows. Ask a million and a million different answers you will get, given a detailed enough answer. Not that it matter much, in the end, as nothing would change either way – my opinion is just that, an opinion. In fact, the world at large will not care for what I have to say. No, Earth will simply continue to spin along as it has done for so long already, not caring in the slightest.
I do not see myself loosing interest in anime, manga, or light novels anytime soon. Besides, I believe the more likely case would simply be that modern production ceases to appeal to my taste. Now, should that come to pass, I can always go back and try discover more of those buried gems of the past; and thanks to piracy and the many passionate archivists out there, re-watching what I have not discovered yet and already seen will remain a possibility for many years to come – hopefully from many more generations to come.
Who knows, I might just find some series to be even better than I remember them – though there is always a chance for the opposite, that, too, will be something worth having done.