When was the last time you watched something older than you are?
Apologies to older bloggers such as ghostlightning =P
Recently, I’ve decided I’d like to take some time to watch more of the older anime. It began with my newest attempt to watch Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, an anime with an admittedly absurd title; as I was watching it, I remembered why I love magical girl shows so much – specifically, magical girl shows that are actually meant for little girls (in other words, none of that Nanatsuiro Drops or Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha stuff). I have to admit – it kind of feels like this kind of show has fallen by the wayside, surviving on only in the Pretty Cure franchise and in Shugo Chara. On the other hand, I’ll also allow that this might just be pure myopia on my part – perhaps it only seems as if it is falling by the wayside because I am looking at a more limited segment of time, e.g. the past two to five years, and comparing it with a potentially ‘infinite’ past (since, truly, anime only extends back a certain amount, it can’t really be infinite). Thus, of course it would seem its falling out of favor.
Of course, my recognition of myopia also brought me to another point – the amount of shrieking filling the aniblogosphere about how much this season and last season have sucked. Just take a glance around, and you’ll see right away that everyone and their uncle is declaring that anime is in the worst shape ever. This is generally followed up with some anecdote about how anime in the good old days was sooo much better, soooo much more original, etc. But is this really the case?
When one takes the time to actually go back and watch older shows, the shows they are going to watch are, by their very nature, limited. Part of this is due to the fact that no one is going to go back and watch something which no one ever talks about. People watch older shows because someone mentions them to them, for the most part, and, usually, recommends them. This also connects to the issue of availaility. The fact is, many of us require subtitles in order to watch anime at all; if a show isn’t of some vague ‘merit’, then chances are there is no fansub or official sub of them out there. While there are occasional labors of love, these are the exceptions, not the rule. So you’ve already narrowed the field significantly. And, even if there are fansubs somewhere out there, the transition from the VHS fansub model to the digital one winnowed it down even further. Poor seeding for torrents does more damage.
While it is true that there was less anime by volume being made twenty plus years ago, you’re still only going to be able to access a fraction of what was out there.
I also, quite frankly, suspect that the folks who piss and moan about anime’s quality having degraded don’t really have that much grounding in historical anime anyway. Big deal – you watched the original Gundam series. Watching one show hardly makes you an expert. Or, alternatively, you watched shows in the late 90’s and early part of this decade – wow, what an accomplishment! You have such a good record on watching the old shows! Memo to the people: something made in 1998 isn’t really that old. Come back when you’ve seen a few shows from 1978, alright?
This lack of historical grounding frustrates me. As a group, we’ve become so obsessed with being on top of the latest shows that we’ve come unmoored from any true context. The visual flourishes in Ouran High Host Club only seem fresh if you’ve never seem Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Revolutionary Girl Utena only seems completely groundbreaking if you’ve never seen Rose of Versailles . You can’t really be a fan if you don’t understand the history of what you’re watching; to be a true fan is to have a love of a form that is so much that you want to understand the evolution of it, want to be able to pick out what got influenced by what, why it was, and where it went from there. Essentially, a true fan cares enough to make that investment.
Now, it would be unfair of me to say that I am some grand master of anime history. I’ve seen the original Terra e…, and I’ve watched most of the BL/yaoi OVA’s from the 1980’s and early 90’s, from Fish in the Trap (ARGH MAKE IT STOP) to Kaze to ki no uta. I’ve even watched good chunks of Oniisama e… and Rose of Versailles, and a bit of the older magical girl shows like Hime-chan no Ribbon and Magical Princess Minky Momo. But this is merely scratching the surface. So its time to go out and fix that.
Right now I’m watching the aforementioned Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, something I returned to in part because someone finally made episodes twenty-one through thirty-five available as a digital fansub. This was a show I originally pursued as a young fan, about ten years ago or so, when VHS fansubs were still fairly common. It was kind of a holy grail for me, as I planned and saved to get fansub tapes, but basically failed to because most of the VHS fansub distributors by the point I’d gotten enough money scrounged together to get all of NAR SOS had switched to a swap-only system. So when it popped up as a batch torrent on Animesuki, you can be sure I was on it in the blink of an eye.
In addition to that, though, I’ve added several titles to my queue. They are:
- Candy Candy
- Natsu e no Tobira
- Hakuchou no Mizu-umi*
- Hana no Ko LunLun*
- Sailor Moon Sailor Stars
- Angel’s Egg*
- Macross: Do You Remember Love?
- Star of Cottonland
Additionally, I’m re-downloading Rose of Versailles, which I got stuck on episode twenty-two of because my hard-drive melted down and I lost all the episodes, and going to re-attempt Oniisama e… Titles with an asterisk are pending the discovery of whether the subs I’m downloading are actually in English (they’re done by a group which is Romanian but generally subs in both Romanian and English). I’d watch the actual Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, except I don’t really like mecha and I really don’t like idols (folks, the only reason I am still inching through Idolm@ster Xenoglossia is the cute girls)… however, I still feel that I should have at least some knowledge of the franchise (/I’ll feel guilty for not being willing to give something ghostlightning lauds a chance). Sailor Moon Sailor Stars isn’t really terribly old, but the franchise launched a thousand ships, so I feel I should probably go full completist on it (although I worry that, like Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, the monster-of-the-week format of SMSS will prove to be simply tiring to me).
I intend this to just be a starting point, though, and am happy to hear suggestions (particularly as my list is very heavily shoujo). I’d also like to strongly encourage other people to dig into the old shows a bit, because I think it ultimately is of benefit to all of us as a whole to know where its all come from and how its all changed over the years. It also improves our own dialogue with each other as regards the medium. It should also bring us to discover some genuinely enjoyable shows. I suppose the basic reason, then, is that it makes us better fans.
* * *
 This isn’t to contend that Revolutionary Girl Utena isn’t groundbreaking; it just is a fact that it had a predecessor in Rose of Versailles in several ways, the least of which is, obviously, the presence of a few million roses.