Does anime need a gateway drug?I got into anime really late. Oh sure, I'm a 90s kid, I watched Pokemon after school and on the occasion I was somewhere with cable (most commonly my dad's) I'd enjoy watching Dragon Ball Z on the evening Toonami list (or renting episodes from Blockbuster/Hollywood Video). I watched Yu-Gi-Oh for a time, too, and a few others at random on the public networks. But I preferred American cartoons. Extreme Dinosaurs, Street Sharks, Arthur, Simpsons... And many more (on both public broadcast and when you get into the cable networks like Nick). Notably I've never liked Sponge Bob, which I use as evidence against me being a "millennial". 90s kid!
I have chat logs from June 2009 (just before I moved out onto my own for college) of a friend saying: "Maybe I'll watch Neon Gensis Evangelion."
My response was a condescending: "I'll pass on this annie may."
"Ooh, nice show. I'm watching Japanese version. Not dubbed."
"Father is baaad. Hasn't seen son in 3 years. And now he asks him to come so he can pilot some machine thing. That he doesn't know how to. And might get killed."
Well, I never got around to watching it at that time. I was pretty anti-Japanese-the-language then too. My high school even offered Japanese classes, much raved about even by fellow slackers because a lot of time was spent watching anime in class, but I took French and Latin instead. Not for practicality, really, but for intellectualism.
I don't think it was until early 2014 that I really started to get into anime. I moved in with a new set of housemates in 2011, and after enough time one of them who became a good friend got me to watch some shows in our basement theater (or play video games) and exposed me to all sorts of fantastic entertainment. (Halo, Babylon 5...)
It was either early 2014, or maybe a bit earlier, my memory is hazy... At some point though I started watching a bit more anime, especially after I finished school and needed to unwind between my job hunting. I think I watched Nichijou then, and thought it was hilarious. Talking to my friend (who is ~5 years older than me) he revealed how well-versed into anime he once was, I'd tell him about the few one-offs I'd seen that were cool, he said there was much work to be done in terms of catching up on the classics... He convinced me to watch Ghost in the Shell (movie) as an introduction to how good sci-fi themes can be in anime that one doesn't find elsewhere. I'm pretty sure this came after my own random watches, but maybe it came before and led to the random watches?
In any case I resisted, I've long held the idea that the best sci-fi is in books (it still is) and thought other mediums, especially anime, wouldn't really be worth my time. That part at least was wrong. In particular with GitS I knew I'd be comparing it to my favorite sci-fi book, Permutation City. Even though they both deal with non-physical brains and philosophy of mind, they are quite different, and after I watched the movie, I was easily convinced to move on to the two main SAC series. And then we both watched Psycho-Pass. Later on, Evangelion. We watched a bunch of stuff, and I watched more on my own too, but I was basically hooked by that first Ghost in the Shell movie. And generally I have a preference for subbed now, with a few dub exceptions like Psycho-Pass or DBZ that are just way better than the original JP dubbing.
I've watched enough now to develop my own taste in things a bit more. Through an IRC channel back then in 2014 I got some interesting recommendations, and one of them was Shinsekai Yori, which I liked quite a bit at first, though watching it a second time (after hyping it up to friend) I realized it wasn't that great after all. (Friend also gave me a big list of older, better anime.) And of course some of the things I like quite a bit (even on rewatch) are "objectively" maybe not so great, but I like them anyway.
Writing this I started to think of this "lifecycle" video by Gigguk. It addresses some of the same subject matter.
(And now that my memory is jogged, there's this video to a lesser extent with a similar theme in speaking to one who has completed the lifecycle.)
So I might rephrase my title question as, does anime need a gateway drug in order to kick off the lifecycle and eventually conclude it? Does the initiation matter?
This video contrasts how anime "used to be", and how people "used to get into it". My own initiation was very much a classical one, thanks to my friend, even though I came into anime late.
For me, I needed a gateway drug (which was GitS) to realize that anime as a medium had a lot to offer. Before that, I don't think I had entered the "lifecycle". Sure, I did buy one wall scroll in summer 2012, but it was more for workout motivation than anything and like my action figures of Extreme Dinosaurs from the 90s is more a callback to childhood than anything. It wasn't until after my initiation in 2014 that I started down the dark paths of watching significantly more shows and acquiring more scrolls/posters/things to cover up crappy rental unit paint jobs... I think I reached "acceptance" stage pretty fast, though perhaps some things are just out of order. That is, I resisted on the figures side of things for a long time, until preordering this last year... And then ordering another around the same time... Oh no! As far as the lifecycle of "buying crap" goes, I suspect that the kickoff is just first, having money, but then second, allowing yourself that initial purchase in that category of merchandise.
Posted on 2019-08-04 by Jach
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