11/22/2007

Being on the Frontlines of Anime

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The 2007 fall season of anime is something that has been discussed and, naturally, will continue to be discussed for quite a while. In fact, that's exactly the rather broad topic for another post rush by the Anime Blogging Collective (every word is a separate link, so please click and enjoy accordingly); the autumn 2007 season.

Now having already debated to the end of a story arc and back what shows merit attention this season (undoubtedly the answer, if you ask the right person, is all of them), it's time to look behind the scenes as always in classic meta-fashion.

Being relatively new to the anime scene (having laid low until about March or April of this year), being on the cutting edge of anime is something that I'm experiencing for the first time.

While in the past I could survive solely on old shows of great merit (and sometimes of great length), or on shows of the season past, having finally caught up with most of the shows of the past I depend to a large degree now on the latest releases from the fall season, with only two or three 'retro' or 'rewatch' shows completing the list.

It's certainly a different ballgame to be watching anime 'live' per se, rather that catching up with seasons past. In a sort of meta way, the experience one derives from both is rather different.


Variety is probably one of the leading reasons that staying on the bleeding edge is different. When watching shows from long (or just a few months) ago one can specialize to a large degree in one show. A few days of downloading and whole series can be at your fingertips.

As such, I spent at least one month almost solely watching Da Capo, a harem series that spans 52 episodes over two seasons (and continues to add to the total). With a viewing schedule that averages one to two episodes a night, if something grabs my attention I begin to almost live and breathe a single series for weeks on end.

And for apologetics, since 'seeing if it gets better' is as valid a reason as 'it's a good show' to watch things, that's not uncommon.

Conversely, if you watch shows week-by-week, it's virtually impossible to marathon it. Maybe if you get into a season late you can speedrun the first quarter or half to get up to date but eventually you reach a point where there simply is nothing left to watch.

This does a number of things, first the forementioned increasing of diversity of anime watching. If you're structured like me and watch at least one episode every night, that's 7 different shows to balance, maybe more, instead of seven episodes of one show.

As such I am 'forced' in a sense to find new shows to replace the ones that I drop or put on hold; I say it in quotes because it's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm a very horrible bandwagoner and when someone else says something good about a show it usually jumps to the download list within days, even if it happens to be something I consider in less-than-great taste or aimed at girls half my age.

Having nearly ten shows (a number many people will scoff at) to watch comes with other predictable pros and cons. If there happens to be a show that doesn't click, it can quickly be forgotten the next day with a new show, or, in extreme cases, replaced altogether. There's enough Different Stuff to keep one awake from day-to-day.

On the flip side, having a different show every day hurts. I don't claim to have the brightest memory and so juggling shows, especially those with less-than-rapid release, can lead to a few dropped balls here and there. Japanese names don't mesh as easily with a white mind, and the frequent amount of plot twists that get thrown in need to be kept track of as well.

Usually this confusion only lasts for a few episodes while I try link names with the character roles / stereotypes; one can reason that this is why many anime color-code their character's hair if only because when they start naming them after flowers with huge, even stranger names (cough) it gets even messier.

This isn't a completely detrimental factor, since as said it can be overcome with time, but it has caused a few casualties this season, like ef, a great show with a little too much SHAFT and ren'ai plot for me to hang on to along with 9 other shows.

Undoubtedly trying to keep up with so many shows allows for a little more competition between them as they fight for attention. One can be more critical of a show if there is something waiting in line to replace it, just like working in real life.

For people like me who are very bad at saying bad things about shows this isn't always the case, but for those with more shows and less time it's a great microcosm of natural selection. The most I ever do, at least, is put off a dissapointing show until the downtime of a later season (winter does seem rather barren...), but this has advantages in itself.

Staying with the current times of anime certainly seems to expose one to a lot more shows than is normally possible, as as much as (that's a messy phrase if I've ever seen one) any one blogger can extoll the virtue of shows from years past there is much more attention given to the new shows in pretty much every case.

Too many older shows are victim to the passage of time - both in fading into obscurity and being a bit too fondly recollected - and so the best way to find new shows to watch, is to watch new shows.

One of the other major changes that watching shows weekly does to you is tension. Simply put, there's a lot of waiting involved.

A lot of waiting.

7 days never seemed so long, and when subbing groups stall it's even harder on you at times. And even when most fansub groups get into a decent schedule where you know what day to expect the release, you've still got that gap in-between raw release and sub release to plug your ears and sing while avoiding all the spoilers from Japanese-literate bloggers.

For people like me who fervently try to remain unspoiled this results in a lot of careful tiptoeing around blogposts, something that's really tough when you really want to read the latest entry by a blogger, but realize you'd have to wait 5 days before it would be safe.

Granted, the same problem exists with old shows but in a different way; while you may not be as actively at risk for spoilers as with the recent crop, more often old show spoilers show up when you least expect it, where bloggers reference interesting happenings of shows past as a sort of in-joke. Anyone who's used the words 'Nice Boat' in the last few months or so - and let me tell you, that's everybody - knows what I mean. Although that reference is a bit less blatant as other ones such as Aeris Dying. (The only one I could reference that everybody already knows.)

But on topic, with week-by-week shows there is a lot more drama build-up involved, personally; perhaps that is the fault of my first 'live' show being School Days of all things, but having to wait a whole week for The Exciting Conclusion really does something.

One would think that the show would fade a bit when idling for seven days but rather if an anime can pull off a good cliffhanger, or at least leave some open storylines, it makes it even stronger. This is due to the largely speculative nature of a lot of bloggers, or people in general, who like to make predictions and pretend that they are right for at least a week.

Myself;Yourself is a good example of this, as despite being a show that largely choreographs its actions, it keeps me interested every week by telling me just enough to give me an idea of where it's going, but not enough to actually connect the dots. For example, Sana's ever-present watch seems obvious enough with the impending plot revelations it would have, but just exactly how it ties into the plot and how it'll affect things really fuels the show, and gives people a lot of things to say about it.

Not to mention, the fact that sometimes, things don't always turn out as expected, something that's infamous from the "Oh, I'm just a normal high school student (that can see lines of death/that's actually in a coma/that can read people's minds/that can emit EM waves/etc)" genre of visual novel adaptations.

To choose watching shows entire series at a time or episode-by-episode with a bunch of other shows would be a tough choice, and arguably one that doesn't necessarily need making.

Being one that argues the middle line seemingly every time, it should be no shock that I alternate frequently between marathoning shows and picking from a smorgasboard. While frequently it's a mix of romance and harem stuff, sometimes I'll take some time on the slow side of the fansub week to catch up on my latest manly fix of Kaiji and Wangan Midnight. And when things pick up it's back to, as it appears, the revolving door of tsunderes (Nanaka, Kyou, Shana, Ami, you count 'em).

But I would reccomend to anyone who's not familiar with the cutting edge of week-by-week anime releases - which, among the highly active anime blogging network, should be very few of you - to give looking into some new shows a shot. It really does wonders for expanding diversity.

-CCY

(diversity pictured)

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