Over the past few days, I’ve been talking about the stories that are told to us. I’ve talked about how companies have given shows a unique identity, or how they’ve gone so far as to drag the characters into the real world. We’ve discussed how small gestures and minor additions can turn a product into something truly special, and we’ve talked about how a bad experience can sour one’s attitudes.
Tonight, I’d like to talk about the stories that we tell ourselves.
Before we begin, let me ask you a simple question: Why do you like anime?
This is the type of question that will elicit an eye-roll and a groan from many fans, mainly because it’s something people have likely had to answer numerous times in the past. We all have a reason, we’ve all formed our own stories. Some will argue that it’s simply “better” than western animation. Some will claim that the characters are stronger, or that the medium aims at a more mature audience.
Now, let me put this in perspective.
We’re talking about cartoons. Japanese cartoons, but cartoons nonetheless. This is a medium in which titles clutter the airwaves season after season, many of which are blatant toy advertisements or blatant marketing schemes. And, frankly, for every great title that hits the market, at least fifteen mediocre-to-bad shows are made and released to the airwaves. This means that for every Paranoia Agent or Revolutionary Girl Utena, there’s at least ten shows like Melty Lancer, Rio: Rainbow Gate!, or Glass Fleet that pollute the airwaves.
People base their opinions on the ten to fifteen shows worth watching every year, and they pretend that the mountains of steaming crap don’t exist. Shows like Melty Lancer, R-15, and Blassreiter simply don’t fit into the rose-tinted worldview that many of us hold. They’re exceptions, and nothing more.
But that’s perfectly okay.
Humans, as a whole, tell themselves stories. They hold their own worldviews, which marketer Seth Godin defines as “the lens used to look at every decision a person is asked to make.” Out worldview holds our biases, our prejudices, everything that factors into what we do in a day. I’d be surprised if this didn’t bleed into one’s anime choices.
The reason why we are so forgiving, so tolerant of the mounds of crap that we dig through is caused by these worldviews. Many of us were exposed to anime through a show we found great, maybe even incredible. It’s also probable that the we’ll hop from show to show on recommendations from friends or family. Due to human nature, our expectation that the next show will be great increases with each great experience. Bad experiences get written off as rare misses.
We tell ourselves these stories because we want, and expect amazing experiences. We want to believe that our time is being to its fullest, and that our hobby is always worth the effort it takes to find that next great experience, that next incredible experience. Because of this, it becomes easier for people to remain enthusiastic, excited even, as each new product rolls onto streaming services or into stores. The bar was set for amazing experiences, and we’re simply not willing to admit there’s an area beneath it.