At What Point Are You No Longer A Fan?
by Justin Sevakis,
From 2007-2010, I always considered myself a huge anime fan. I checked out every anime that came out in Japan each season (eventually sticking with no less than 5 shows), bought and read a bunch of manga, went to my local convention each year and my bedroom was covered in anime posters. Around 2011 though, I got terribly burned out and stopped pretty much all of that. Slowly I've been getting back into it, but it's nothing near the level that it was. I still listen to ANNCast all the time, and read various anime websites, but I only watch maybe a single 13 episode series per year. I also haven't gone to a convention in 3 years. I guess my question is, am I still an "anime fan"? I still enjoy what I do consume and still follow what's going on in the anime world, but my enjoyment has changed entirely since that burnout period that never actually ended. What behaviors constitute being a "fan" of anime, and at what point should someone admit to themselves that they might not be a fan anymore?
There's a big difference between being a fan, and being an otaku. The former means you like something, and doesn't really specify the degree to which you like it. Being an otaku means you're truly obsessed and the subject of your obsession basically rules your life. What you're REALLY asking is, are you still an otaku? And the answer is, "no, you are not still an otaku." You have become a far more casual anime fan. Consequently, I must inform you that you must report to your nearest anime convention for mandatory flogging and corrective brain surgery.
Seriously, though, you're fine. Not every anime series is worth sitting through, and there's so freaking much of it these days that one can barely even keep it all straight, let alone watch all of it. Every season there's a handful of good shows, and of those, probably not all of them will be to your taste. Some seasons might not have anything that excites you.
That's just fine. In fact, I would wager that it's normal. At the beginning of the otaku life cycle, most otaku go nuts and try to want to watch and consume everything they can. All of anime is new and fresh and cool, and even though the tropes that the shows are following might be decades old, you still enjoy them because they're new to you. But so much of anime is barely different from what came before, that if you consume too much of it, you can very easily burn out. You can only watch the same basic story so many times.
The obvious solution is to dial it back a bit. Some people need to do this more than others -- we find we care for some genres more than others, require a certain level of artistry or a certain threshold of writing quality in order to engage. Maybe we get sick of shows about school kids, or milquetoast guys who nonetheless get all the great women. We learn what we like, and we jettison what we don't.
There is no test. You do not have to turn in your geek card. Liking more stuff does not make you a better geek, it just means you like more stuff. Conversely, being more selective doesn't necessarily mean you have good taste. But who cares what people think? These are all just labels. The media you consume is (or should be) just a small amount of what you are as a person, so that shift shouldn't mean that you, or your own self-image, should change drastically.
The important thing is that you keep an open mind. New stuff comes along all the time, and every once in a while a show completely blows away genre expectations and conventions, and really does something new. I think it's important to keep on the lookout for stuff like this. For an example, I was pretty much sick of magical girl shows in all their forms when Madoka Magica came around. But at the behest of friends, I gave it a shot, and holy crap...
Fandom at large is a gaping maw that will consume just about anything Japan throws at it, to varying degrees. Trying to take it all in feels like drinking from a firehose sometimes -- it's just too much. To stay sane, and keep from burning out, you do have to back off a little bit, and there's no shame in doing so. As you age and you become a more advanced viewer, you'll find your own limits and tolerances for what you want to watch. It's important to do that. Your heart really only has room for a certain number of favorite shows, after all.
Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!) animenewsnetwork.com.
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