Since moving into the new house, I’ve begun the tradition of hosting a “Bad Anime Night” at least once a month. It was something that was met with initial reluctance. Several regarded this as strange, and others feared as potentially cruel and unusual punishment. And while it is indeed cruel (words cannot describe some of the shows I find), the event has proven to be a hit among those who attend. Not everybody that arrives is an anime fan, but they all certainly enjoy the evening and entertainment.
Why is it such a hit? Frankly, it’s hard to say, but the social aspect can easily turn the most horrible of entertainment into something worth watching. Droning monologues get cut off by a snarky peanut gallery, cheesy jokes are met with biting wit, and bad acting is met with a collective face-palm. Uncomfortable facts about shows get shared, and collective groans are heard with every inevitable plot twist. What is normally a spectator event becomes something interactive. Instead of sitting on a couch in quiet conversation, it’s a more lively affair that welcomes, nay encourages everyone in attendance to enter the fray.
“This is sentimental bull!”
Hush, dear reader. I’m approaching my point now.
I promise, I’m getting to it. Now, hush.
In addition to Bad Anime Night being a night of, well, bad anime, I often like to use the event as a test bed for other titles. These are titles that I like to call “brain cleaners” of “palette cleansers,” as they’re often carefully chosen selections that are either fan favorites, popular sellers, or chart toppers from a bygone era. This is my chance to observe, and to learn which titles resonate with the group. In this social context, a number of interesting revelations begin to arise among the various viewers:
- Light-hearted, or action-oriented titles like Shinesman, Dirty Pair, and Hellsing: Ultimate get the strongest reaction
- Serious or dramatic titles like Shiki and Darker Than Black promote the mot discussion between viewers
- Supposed “shoe-ins” for a casual audience, like Panty & Stocking or Fruits Basket are more hit-or-miss. The anime fans find them fun, while the non-fans are often disinterested or outright bored.
- If a title is strong enough, it will encourage even a non-fan to buy it.
- The average person doesn’t notice the difference between anime on Blu-Ray versus anime on DVD.
- Trailers do little to sell shows to the average audience
The last point proves to be the important one. This is the moment in which the “third tier non-customer” we often speak of begins to move inward in the Ocean. This is the moment where the market itself expands, and a completely new demographic opens as a viable sales target. This is currently uncontested market-share that, if engaged enough, will gradually shift inward toward becoming a regular customer. Once these customers are engaged, it’s easy to point to Amazon or Right Stuf to seal a sale, or to point to Netflix for a series offered on streaming.
And how thrilled these people are to find out that Netflix carries a wide selection of anime! Since the barrier of entry is so low, they’ll gleefully pick and choose titles, and find new favorites. Returning visitors often gleefully chat about the new shows they’ve found, what they’ve liked and what they’ve disliked. This is often punctuated by a request for suggestions, which get shuffled into the next list of Bad Anime Night palette cleansers. And, as such the cycle begins anew in each month.
So, in a nutshell, a positive social experience can create a positive feedback loop. This will continue to feed positive aspects and create a more approving image of anime as a whole. Suddenly, it becomes less about neckbeards watching hentai in their parents’ basements, or geeks with no social lives that bitch ceaselessly on message boards. Instead, the focus turns to the content, the stories, adventures, and characters that fill every good show. And, slowly but surely, the image of the typical “otaku” begins to fade away in these people.