Tag Archives: Anime Viewing Habits

Bridging The Gap: Crossing The Stream Rubicon

It’s an amazing thing, to be able to watch such a subculture-centric form of entertainment like anime at the instant click of a mouse. It’s so easy to lose grasp of just how wild this very concept is, not merely to industry, but to those long in the fandom. The very idea of streaming video has been with us long enough to make this a possibility, but to consider anime as an accepted staple of it continues to blow my mind a least. The far reaching effects of something like this bringing an all-encompassing end to flawed business models, forcing companies long dependent on physical media to survive has been both an painful, yet exciting ride to witness. So when it has come to pass that anime studios/producers find themselves late to the party, but more than welcome to the sphere, it also comes to bear that it affects more than merely their bottom line. It can also be said to affect the very nature of not only how we watch our favorite shows, but how often as well.



When one considers a time when waiting & access was the greatest barrier between fans and their next fix, the very idea that being able to watch a recently released series mere days (or sometimes hours)post release has been something of an impossible dream realized. In a bold progression, legitimate entities can now beat out an often outmodded fansub model to present high quality translation and treatment, which can be upgraded for a small subscription fee. This is something that had long eluded fans not only here, but in so many other fan communities. So much so that it renders so many of the more DIY elements fandom used to comprise of. And as it becomes such a direct line between creators and fans, one can almost say that the gap is indeed closing to those originating parties most willing to work with their viewers. It cuts out the old network TV model that anime had long been a part of. Opportunities lie to those willing to open up to the possibilities. And what this means to us, is more content, better treatment, and possibly..some semblance of crossover potential.



What this promotes, is an olive branch to a global viewing audience that may force the industry to better consider what will be watched, let alone purchased. To think that audiences outside of Japan had that kind of impact before can be debated, but more than ever, this makes for an important moment between the viewer/potential consumer, and those that purvey the medium. The long term effects is something that continues to concern many, but the potential is certainly there. Especially when considering that until this point, file sharing was the de-facto alternative to purchasing, and before that it was tape trading. And then before that, it was purchasing of old 16-35mm printed film of shows and movies without subtitles, often with a need for a friend or “source” to interpret the scenes out loud to a roomful of con-goers, watching the movie years after release. One had to know the lingo, the secret handshake, or have the friend or relative in the military to even have access to shows which had zero chance of ever seeing light in the states in any legitimate manner. Which is why the previous trade models were in place. But where we are now is at a point that virtually negates this as long as the studios are willing to play ball.



On the flip side, there are also plenty of pratfalls to all of this that continue to concern not only the studios looking for new ways to turn a profit, but me as well. If there is any possible major drawback to the streaming anime, it lies in the new reality that once we become inundated with anything, as people, we have a tendency to filter out what we don’t either like or care for. The novelty of anime was something the Japanese had depended on for sales. This is something so many have neglected to consider. The allure of pretty girls, machines, magic & monsters can in fact become boring if one delves into the medium a bit more than most. Burnout is not only the concern, but the general attitude of an industry obsessed with cornering increasingly trope-based stories and concepts runs potentially against those looking for something new and fresh. Crossover potential has been a growing concern with anime for the last several years, and fewer general interest shows have been produced. The loss of shows that can garner a constant stream of new, fresh-minded fans is a deeply concerning one if one wishes for the medium to survive beyond a niche audience. Too much access, and having little in the way of choice is something both sides have to contend with today, as it can also turn away potential converts, as well as turn off older fans with a hankering for those types of shows from the past that saw potential in anime as a wide –reaching artform, with less restrictions as to story. In essence, streaming becomes the new TV, and anime just becomes another part of the background, much like in Japan. Which brings the challenge to an even greater plateau; the shows need to be more than self-serving to survive. This is a global audience to consider now, and to assume that a self-cannibalizing creative pool will keep it alive for long is worth questioning. Novelty is dead, and with that, comes a need for clarity of vision.



So when it comes to our habits, and what it is we do with this wild new world we continue to see develop, It’s well worth considering what it is we consume, and how we do it. A personal favorite benefit of all this, is a big one-up from broadcast/simulcast, and that’s the ability to sample shows whenever I like. And taking this into account, one does not have to watch every new episode the moment it is released. As a kid who is only used to marathoning shows depending on their strengths, I personally enjoy the option of pacing myself with a series. Sometimes waiting several weeks to pass, in order to catch up with them in several hour bricks at a time. And since so many shows are released per season, it also helps to be a little more responsible with what one is more willing to dedicate time to. Unlike many bloggers, I don’t see the potential in perusing so many shows just to make burst reviews. As a general rule, it simply isn’t my cup of tea, and it often only works if the series starts off incredibly strong. (which rarely if ever happens) Which brings us back to the notion of novelty, and how we are now in an era where anime doesn’t have to be on par with dangling a flashlight in front of us to be amusing. There is actual content to be considered now, and analysis can happen truthfully, and without some kind of cloud of freakishness to make it seem more vital than it is. Because much like Japan, we have the potential to clock the changes that come, and how they affect us in the grander scheme. Our anime diet can in fact be a healthy one, representing what it is that drew us to the show, rather than the mere idea of its origins. It’s all a big conversation that just continues to get bigger, so let’s live it up and act, shall we?



So as for the moment, what excites me about where we are? The shows that continue to dominate my time continue to be Moretsu Space Pirates, and Chihayafuru. Both series that continue to live up to what I prefer to see in my occasional intake. And the recent classic Hulu acquisitions by way of Tokyo Movie Shinsha have been great to share and talk about. Having Space Adventure Cobra and Lupin III: Mystery Of Mamo within instant reach keeps me hopeful that more films like these will continue to have a home for more movie and animation fans to discover. In fact, that’s pretty much my biggest pie in the streaming sky at the moment. I’d love to see more classic shows to pull a Captain Harlock, or Galaxy Express 999-style presence here. Licenses of many older, lesser known series would be the most exciting next step these studios could possibly take. In lieu of decades of fighting to have many of these shows even considered for VHS, I’d be over the moon for an “anime classics” line, myself.

New Column -The Habit: Part Of The Problem?

Introducing, The Habit: Musings on the viewing rituals of Wintermuted (aka. Mike Olivarez). I think I may have a problem..

Could it be that this crusty old viewer is borderline getting soft? Or is it more a matter of being acclimated? Sometimes the answer is incremental, as if certain degrees determine where a reviewer sees the oncoming product, and cannot help but be concerned when new approaches come to the fray. It hasn’t always been this way for sure, but perhaps I’ve been weaned far too long on the safe to where I can’t let go of what seems to work most often? As the new season has been well under way, it has become apparent to me that as someone who does in fact defend artistic diversity of all shapes and approaches, especially in a medium so drowned in sameness…that I seem to be more caught up by shows that do small tweaks to otherwise formulaic concepts this time around. So when a certain population of the fan community (myself included) see Hiroyuki Imaishi’s latest, and can’t seem to find the hip within the jive, I begin to wonder if we ourselves have at least a small part to blame for the medium’s evolutionary congestion. We can’t seem to get out of this mire, and yet here I am, actually watching Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt, wishing I was watching more Star Driver, or even Shinryaku! Ika Musume.

Seriously. Have the screws come loose at last or what?

It is no secret that many of my writings, whether they be for this site, or on mine, or even on The Wandering Kaijyu, I’ve often worked to shed light on some of the more strange, independently motivated pieces of work released into the ether. So when something like GAINAX’s latest leaves me colder than a bowl of naengmyeon, I begin to wonder if it is perhaps the fault of some of the more staunchly pro-originality bloggers & critics that studios continue to crank out the same mass production cheese-whiz. It isn’t often when even a well-respected anime studio takes the risk, and goes for broke in the manner that P & S has exhibited, but it also says something about how anime is digested, and by whom that shows like this come out into the world seeking their own lives as pieces of commodity.

Which isn’t to say that P & S is in any way an awful series. In fact, as I had mentioned in my Kaijyu review of the debut episode, it is an eye-raping tour de force in regards to sheer style. But in a time where excess is maligned, and originality of story should take precedence as fringe fans are what are really required in order to ensure a future, a show like this seems ill-conceived, and out of place. And yes, this remains true of the G-folk who for decades as a studio has never been known for their business savvy. But one would consider that for things to in fact improve, it is important to remain focused on the moment, and to shoot beyond mere wankery on par with Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi with sex & scat. It simply won’t do.

So what is it about the more traditional shows I’ve actually been enjoying?

See, this is where I run into trouble since so many of my previous posts run rampant with the expected grumbling about the dearth of ideas in anime today. So I offer this addendum to those wishing to cry foul at my apparent double-standard; it is not enough to have a unique idea, writing compelling stories with interesting characters is damn hard work, and I only wish to see more of this rather than mere animation fan porn. ( Think Kannagi from a few years ago. A tragic waste of great resources imho.)

There, I said it. Tropes are fine, as long as there is a sense of energy and fun to the written proceedings, which is probably why Star Driver has been fun so for for me. And even as the parade of archetypes rolls in, and the pageantry barges in like some kind of acid-laced throwback to the heyday of the so-called “edge-anime” of the late 90s, it is important to consider the writing behind the series. And since so many do not remember the name of Yoji Enokido, all I need say is FLCL, Utena, & RahXephon, and there you have it. It is pretty clear that we’re looking at a classier than normal surrealist take on not merely visual chutzpah, but in the storytelling to boot. And that is pretty exciting to consider. There is an economy of talent that can in fact turn in Studio Bones’ favor should this series continue in this manner.

And really, this is what it is all about for me. Economy of talent, which also…strangely..shows up in some of the least expected places. Had you asked me a few weeks ago regarding the story of Masahiro Anbe’s Shinkyraku! Ika Musume coming to Crunchyroll, I would have scoffed like so many an anime hipster. Flash forward to now, and I’m eating those notions with a giant, Pee-Wee Herman-sized spoon. As stupid as the premise truly is [Squid Girl, embittered by the carelessness of land dwelling humans declares invasion by disrupting a beachside noodle shop, only to become an employee, and friend to the proprietors-See? SEE?], it is the clever combination of fun writing (some by scribe Michiko Yokote), and clever animation that sets it apart from the current pack. A show like this simply shouldn’t work, and yet it does in spite of itself.

But there is only so much guilty pleasure to spread around, which is why Imaishi has not impressed me this time around. While it does ease off on the poo-humor, it does offer a nonstop barrage of parodies of not merely US animated shows of the last ten years, but of american culture in general, which could make for some terrific cannon fodder, the problem lies largely within the format. Had this been a series of late night three-minute shorts, I probably could be more open to it, but the assault inherent in every two segment show mows over us only to become boring.-The Worst Possible Sin. Even as a longtime Dirty Pair fan, I have to still dismiss this. After all, I like my Dirty Pair story packed, and FUN. P & S, with it’s stunning colors, animation, and sugary oxygen is just exhausting, and everything but.

So perhaps some of us are in fact getting old. I know it isn’t just me. But I do feel a little bad for defending the tide this season. Revolution works in stages, and this is perhaps one of the longest in history.

Bridging The Gap: The Anime Blurring Effect

Ever have the feeling that the modern Japanese Animation fan is missing out on what could be the coolest series you’ve ever seen? Has it ever felt like the fandom is so splintered now that there seems to be no singular hit to take the medium to the next level? How about that one unique, mind blowing work that seems to just float over the heads of all of your peers, leaving you the single fan of it in your anime club? When does it stop being exciting, and start becoming a chore? While it is true that there are many more shows out there vying for our attenion, that it feels as if the anime medium may cover more interests, and types, it’s important to consider the big names that achieved that magical pull on us. Much like classic rock, punk, or even garage, the gateway drugs haven’t been as out in force as they once where, and I for one am curious if it isn’t merely burnout that is enabling many of us to feel this way.

What if we have witnessed a game-changing title that has in fact the potential to alter the landscape, but many of us have accidentally tossed it aside, leaving the sponsors and studios little faith in the project to continue? Are we in fact punishing creativity & rewarding mediocrity? The last statement has always had some weight to it, but could it simply be something much more fundamental in how we consume anime in the post broadcast/OVA era? Some younger fans may initially look at us older fans and argue that we simply do not understand the timbre of the times, and have been missing out on what many consider to be personal favorites, or even classics. But we have indeed seen titles appear in the past that nearly had an all-encompassing love for them. The fandom hasn’t always been this compartmentalized, and yet this is what the anime studios seem to be attempting to do with increasing ferocity. Much like how mainstream films have been multiplexed, and oversimplified here in the states, it’s easy to see who these shows are made for, and are clearly not made with all audiences in mind. But could there in fact be such a thing as too much? So much in fact, that even a massively well done risk-taker with a real vision can get lost in an ocean of product?

And so the sweepstakes begin anew. Another season of anime offerings is now upon us, and as fun a year as it has been sharing thoughts, ideas, and qualms regarding the current state of the industry as a whole, it’s probably safe to say that as much as I tend to gripe, there are some cool things happening here, and there. The problem is whether it reaches the viewers or not. Looking at this year’s number of television-based anime, the numbers are still impressive given the state of media all over. According to sites like Moetron & Animeraku, we are looking at 20-30 new shows per-season leading to almost a full 100 new shows (including new seasons of continuing favorites) released annually. Doing the math, that is a LOT of material to choose from. And being perhaps a little more preferential with shows than the average anime fan, this coupled with our evolving online distribution system, we are looking at what the now-infamous Mr.Plinkett called a “Blurring Effect”, which essentially means that with the advent of new and changing methods with how we utilize media and entertainment, it becomes much more difficult to navigate toward shows that may actually break molds, and offer something new to the more discerning viewer.

Which leads to the panic of investors. Hence the often desperate acts of studios to remake classic shows, add another unnecessary sequel to a middle of the road favorite from last season, or stranger yet, imitate the animation of the west, with delusions that it’ll translate back to an already weaned western audience (Gainax, I’m looking at you!). It is understandable to wish to recoup on your investment, especially now. This is why one sees so many of the same character archetypes being reused so often.  Noone wants to be broke. But also, noone wishes to see panicked studios resort to animating shows like Hannah Montana with no contextural understanding of what it is. (“American moe” Are you serious?)

And as a result, it can be easy for so many to become discouraged by such a phenomenon. I have many friends who have in fact, given up completely on looking for something to recharge their love of anime, and have moved on. No harm done, it makes sense. The waters are thick, and choppy. And not everyone will be as patient, or even sure of what it was that had them coming back for another fix. As for the rest of us, we keep trucking forward with an endless hunger for the hunt. To share what we have found, in the hopes that someone else out in the ether sees what we do.

So now we have seen some pretty interesting genre-breaking titles come out of the woodwork from The Tatami GalaxyDurarara!!, to House Of Five Leaves. Even last year’s Higashi No Eden, and Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 were valiant attempts to do something new & exciting from a story standpoint, and yet we still see many fans feeding off of splintered tendrils, unwilling to share in what could be a communal experience of a story. Perhaps when considering American fandom during th VHS days, it was easier to do so as we had less options as we do now. And when we had less, higher concentration was made upon the bigger hits of the day. So all we were exposed to outside of bootleg tapes were the heavy hitters, the anime equivalent to Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, or even a Smells Like Teen Spirit. With the anime bombarding us from all corners, and coming in ever more still with an increased number of productions, not including OADs & features, are the chances of an anime blockbuster continuing to tumble down? Or have we not experienced a show to that caliber just yet? If so, it is a lot like waiting for disco to end, lest we remain vigilant. And you know what had to happen there.