Dean Talks Anime: Final
An Opinion, By Christopher Kinsey
The year is 2006. The popular internet reviewer, Noah Antwiler AKA “The Spoony One” wanted to get more content for his site inbetween his own reviews. The idea was floated past that we, several longtime friends and fans, could put up articles about things we were pretty familiar with. We had a guy who was really great with comics, another with horror films, and then there was me. “Dean The Adequate”. The anime dude. At the time it was fun. It was a hobby, no one competing to make this a full time job. Just a place to talk about what we loved. I was the only one who openly contributed.
My goal was simple. To talk about anime in that mid-2000s way, and foster some discussion. At first I kind of aped Spoony’s style of over analyzing negativity and really put the press to “Bad Anime”. But eventually I gained my own style, and it certainly made things better. And it was very easy to have discussions over these articles. We had a healthy forum, little drama and a community built out of a steady love/hate relationship with pop culture that was, looking back on it, more a friendly rivalry rather than outright hatred when it came to pieces of media we didn’t like.
But of course we know how that turned out.
You can find anything on the Wayback Machine. Now, the question is, do you WANT to?
But it’s not as if I was regularly churning out articles and besides, they were more blow by blow reviews. Sure, my own voice, but still not something that would be out of place read aloud by someone on fledgling video sites at the time. I moved on. Kind of. Sort of…
Losing a platform, and perhaps even an internet hangout, is a weird blow for someone like me. It’s always been hard to cultivate lasting relationships offline with the hours I’ve kept over the years. Always working evenings or nights meant socializing on message boards or instant messengers or even e-mail chains. Places where you could pick up correspondence at your own pace. So I found another forum. Through that came Anime3000 and then Anime Outsiders as we know it today.
We never knew how good things were until it was gone.
But everything else has changed. The biggest change has been the anime community itself. And even the entire structure of anime has changed. In some ways good. In many ways it’s become kind of a struggle to keep up. I’ve already talked a bit about how unsustainable anime is becoming as a hobby, and how the major players on both sides of the Pacific seem to be locked in detrimental business models that only function if the fans remain dysfunctional with their finances. It’s easier than ever to watch anime now. However, it’s much, much harder to keep anime you like now as well. For all of my griping about how much anime cost on VHS and DVD, at least the products existed. Like all other visual entertainment industries there is a push to make sure you can’t own things physically without a huge premium. This has always been the case in Japan, where anime on physical sets were always incredibly expensive. But you can’t do that in the western markets, where if you want a movie cheap just wait a few months after the DVD drops and you can really stretch the entertainment budget. And just when the localization companies were striving to make physical anime more affordable there were huge buyouts of every competitor leaving us with three main players that seem more than happy to leave the majority of their catalogs either streaming only or put in some of the most maddening distribution schemes since paying a premium on subtitles.
So OK, the anime fandom is glued to Crunchyroll all hours of the day on PC, tablet or phone. How about discussing these things with your fellow anime fans? Well, these days everything is social media. I’ve never enjoyed Facebook. Trying to enjoy a discussion in a Facebook anime community is like trying to eat lunch next to a sewage plant. If the breeze is blowing the right way you might be able to finish before the stink hits you. I kind of liked Twitter because it got to the point, but it’s not really a way to foster discussion. Now we have Ventrilo’s kid brother Discord! A constant flow of topics that might, might have something relevant to you for the time you spend checking out whichever server you might belong to. But most of the time it’s like being on a large role play chat that you’ve been away from for years, even if you just checked in yesterday. And it’s hard to just plop in a random forum these days, no one’s really using them. Being wired in all the time is the way the world works now and perhaps it’s just my advanced age in comparison to the median, but I don’t have time for that.
Ehhhhh… Still on the fence with this one
Speaking of things I don’t have time for: MyAnimeList.net. This is a site where weebs look at what media they have consumed and mark it down like some sort of checklist. Then go over what’s out and coming next and update their checklist of what to watch next. This could certainly be a handy site to catalog a collection or something, but more often than not it’s used for flexing nerd muscles. Everyone complains about that nerd who sees a girl in a comic store, then decides to test them if they’re a “real” fan with a bombardment of familiarity with titles. This site, used improperly, is pretty much that nerd only everyone is testing each other. Equality at last! This whole site has had a side effect of some fans deciding that the way to keep the anime industry going is to make sure their checklists are up to date, season to season. Watch it all, or we lose it all. It all feeds into that constant need to be on, watching, and talking, in real time. Simulcast right from Japan!
Ah yes. Japan. In 1998 I watched “Perfect Blue” and it destroyed any illusions I had on Japan being this perfect place. And, being the kind of person I am, I’ve kept my eye on the place my hobby came from. You can’t avoid it. Especially when you decide something you’re going to do for fun is review and comment on anime. So you look at trends, and notable news and the like. Now I will always tell you that there is always something every season that will appeal to you, and I stand by that. But unless you’re what I call an Akihabara otaku the majority of what’s coming down the anime pipeline won’t appeal to you. For those who might not know, Akihabara is a ward in Tokyo that was filled with electronic stores until about the 1980s when they shifted focus to computer stores, anime, and manga. It is the place to see what the big trends are in anime, and those trends point to one thing. Loneliness. Why is “Slice of Life” anime featuring wholesome cute anime protagonists so popular? Because in everything I’ve mentioned above we’re replacing that direct human contact. The last time many of the Akihabara otaku had this kind of daily interaction was high school, hence why so many of such shows are centered around that time. Couple that with the shows earmarked as “ecchi” every season and it’s plain to see the mirror Japanese media is holding up to it’s own society.
The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of… Provided you are a Japanese male between the ages of 16-28
Anime, manga, books and movies seem to be the media that can get away with criticizing Japanese society. A lot of Japanese media is simply commentary on how good things are, how interesting things are, and upbeat take on the everyday with just enough comedians showing up to make the uncomfortable comfortable again. I watched a series of videos on a man from the UK who has been living in Japan for some time give his opinion on Japanese TV and the biggest thing he says that feels alien is it’s lack of conflict. Everyone is so agreeable. The only time it seems you’ll get conflict is in the realm of fantasy, so far removed from real life. You won’t find it on TV, but you will find it in cartoons. And I think that’s why anime has flourished in the west. It’s closer to what we like. And it’s from a culture that views these conflicts in a unique way. But the “Comfy” anime takes away from that somehow. Not in volume, but kind of. I haven’t seen any mech anime all year, or on the horizon. Alternate worlds, fantasy and the slice of life rule for now, and they probably will continue because Japan needs an escape.
And so do we. Things have gone so far into an Us versus Them mindset here, we could use things to take our mind off them. But we can’t even do that anymore when the seriously underpaid and under supervised translation teams at the official sites decide to throw good ol’ American troubles into their anime. I can’t say it happens as often as some folks claim, but it’s out there and it seriously damages the view on the producers of a translation. America isn’t the world, and one of the nice things about anime was it was a great reminder that America ISN’T the world. Japanese culture is so far removed from our own it’s a pleasure to learn about through things like anime and manga. What are their struggles, their values, their customs. Anime set me on a path not just to learn about Japan, but about a lot of Asia in ways I would have never considered if I never decided to take up the hobby.
Turn off the anime from time to time and pick up a few travel books, history books or even watch some documentaries on Japan. You will be the better for looking beyond the cartoons.
I suppose if I want what I consider an “honest discussion” about anime I could start a podcast. But while I like and respect podcasters I can’t say I have the chops for it. I have a nice voice, to be sure, but you wind up talking to the same 2-3 people with guests from time to time and I’m not sure if I could make that work. My favorite podcasts usually have people from different backgrounds and with different tastes talking about a subject I’m familiar with, but most podcasts, at least what seem to be the most successful formulas, are two people who are almost identical when it comes to taste and knowledge but are just slightly one degree off from each other. Well then it’s not really a discussion, it’s a dual monologue. And then there’s the public. I don’t want a discussion from just 1-2 points of view, I grew fond of getting them from all over. It’s the dilemma I face that wraps right into where I started… It’s just so hard to foster discussion about anime anymore before it drifts either into factions or worse, back into our real-life conflicts.
Which brings me right back to where I started. Longing for a reasonable medium to talk about anime in. “Dean Talks Anime” was meant to be a kind of guidepost for discussion but in the end it wasn’t made for the way we consume media now. It’s not clickbait, it’s not in a list format, it’s not an attention-grabbing hateful rant. It was me reflecting on the various things I’ve experienced in this hobby I’ve had for about 26 years now. But I don’t think the world needs a middle-aged man going on and on about Japanese cartoons and how better things were Back In My Day. Or at least, it doesn’t need another one. Instead, I think I’ll stop by from time to time if something catches my eye to review, keep focusing on my family, maybe even write this book I told myself I’d write. I guess one last thing, a parting gift if you will. A list of recommended anime and manga from me. It’s not a What’s The Best Ever list. Just some anime I think is fun and has always brought me enjoyment over the years. Thank you all very much for reading!
>Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still
A property that has been around since 1967, had a popular live-action show in the 70s, the 1992 OVA series was a celebration of everything giant robot from that time period as well as fantastic superpowers against an evil organization.
The Big O
A unique take on giant robots from 1999. Mysteries and that kind of smooth 60s machinery style that lets it go hand in hand with Giant Robo above. But add to it what could have been done with Evangelion, some actual discussions on humanity.
The Works of Shinichiro Watanabe
The man has not missed. Macross Plus, Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy, Samurai Champloo, Kids on the Slope, Terror in Resonance, Carole & Tuesday and he’s doing the upcoming Blade Runner anime? The man hasn’t got an “L” yet.
The Works of Yoshiaki Kawajiri
But then again, I talked about these already huh?
The Works of Satoshi Kon
Another prolific director who always pushed a stunning product. The only shame of it all was his untimely death.
Mob Psycho 100
“One” has a knack for making the overpowered interesting, and while One Punch Man seems to be more prolific and get more press, I think it’s handled way better in this series.
Dieselpunk anime at it’s finest. It’s a sky adventure that is great to look at for an early CG animation. Class and faction warfare, sky races… this series is a lot of fun in a really well-built world.
Any adaptation of this work is good. Either the 2003 or 2017 version will draw you into stories fit for The Twilight Zone, or examinations on how humanity treats each other.
Another 1999 staple. The journey of Vash the Stampede and his tagalongs is something to see. And even the variances of story from anime to manga are good.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
As pumped as I was for the 2003 anime back in the day, Brotherhood was the series that took the Elric’s quest to become whole straight from the manga and it only benefited from the retelling. Season three of the original man…. just… man…
This was Rumiko Takahashi at the top of her silly shonen game. She did striking drama, but hit gold with both Urusei Yatsura and this. It did have the unfortunate side effect of turning Inuyasha from a straight horror into, well Inuyasha. But for silly relationships and martial arts antics this is the 80s potato chip anime I push on to anyone.
Gunsmith Cats/Riding Bean
Cars, guns, action. Nuff’ said. Manga and anime, it’s all good.
The Irresponsible Captain Tylor
A great Sci-Fi anime that really honors and completely overthrows what we think of when we think of anime space operas. It’s fun and serious and… it’s hard to describe.
I talked a bit on this one too. Watch it, read it, enjoy it.
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
A sci-fi re-imagining of Dumas’ great novel. There are few anime that I’ve ever seen be as pretty as this.
The works of Naoki Urasawa
This is a manga artist without compare. 20th Century Boys, Monster, Master Keaton, Pluto. There is nothing but greatness from this man, and every adaptation to anime has been great too.
The master thief is pretty good. The anime varies from season to movie to season, but the original manga was always on fire.
This was Tezuka’s best work in my opinion. Entertaining, educational and a touch of the humanities. It also didn’t end abruptly, which was nice.
Bolt Crank wanders the wastes of the post-apocalypse with the power to eat anything, then summon it to his right hand. Much like Mad Max or a hired gun his travels are the vehicle for the stories therein.
Delicious In Dungeon
Adventurers in a dungeon suffer a crippling setback. With no money for new supplies, how will they delve deep enough to rescue their party member? By learning how to cook and eat monsters of course! But there is a lot going on below the surface of the adventure. What is the dungeon’s purpose, and who is in control of it?
Just a manga about a girl, her dad, and their neighbors. It’s the only source of any sort of real “comfy” in the medium.
Dean The Adequate was always Christopher Kinsey. It’s been fun contributing to the communities like this one. And it was wonderful that I had a voice out there. If you want to keep in touch please follow my Twitter, @DeanTheAdequate. Remember in the end you can turn off the computer, you can watch something else if you don’t click with it, and you can be done with a shonen story whenever you want and pick it up later. It’ll still be there. I leave you with the words of James Sherman “If the Movie Stinks, Just Don’t Go”. Words to live by. See you!