Sunday, June 2, 2013

Phases of Fandom: Enjoying Cheesiness

*Peeks out of hole and waves shyly*

So, after chronically neglecting this place, completing my first year of college, finishing the rough draft of At His Whim, and very briefly considering abandoning the blog altogether, I return. I'm not I wasn't going to say much in this post. It's more an attempt to get the ball rolling again than anything else.

I do, however, want to say this: I'm noticing myself go through phases of anime fandom. So far, I can identify at least two, and I think (hope) I'm in a third one:

1. The Naruto Phase

Many, many new fans go through this phase, and some never seem to leave it. Don't get me wrong; I still follow Naruto Shippuden (barely... I'm really behind at the moment). And there's nothing wrong with loving it even decades after joining otakudom. But I'd consider shows like Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece to be gateway anime, along with The Wallflower and Ouran High School Host Club. When I first entered the anime world with Naruto, I did not know what fillers were (I miss that blissful ignorance). I had not seen enough anime to recognize cliches. Heavens, I wasn't even as aware of fan service back then! I was just happy to find that Japan, unlike the U.S., had a lot of shows with prolonged story lines. I soaked up all the new types of humor and culture, squealed like a fangirl (okay, I still do that), and started to learn the category names (thankfully, I didn't learn words like "hentai" and "yaoi" the hard way like some people did).

2. The Snob Phase

This is the phase I'm trying to leave. This phase is hyper-critical. By this point, I'd discovered glorious gems such as Gungrave, Baccano! and Miyazaki's films (why it took me so long to watch his work, I do not know). I became hyper-sensetive to cliches, started to read and even write a couple of reviews on Anime-Planet, and began to feel like I had to defend my love for Naruto. One of my reviews from near the beginning of this phase makes me cringe, it was so mean.

3. The Balanced Phase

I'm still trying to achieve this one, but I think I've made a step in the right direction: I just finished Uta no Prince-sama: Maji Love 1000%. Yes, it is as cheesy as the name sounds. But who cares? I used to love reverse harem style anime (especially before I realized that fan service can be aimed at girls just as well as at guys). I loved the idea of several young men caring about me. I can't enjoy these shows as purely as I once could. But worst case scenario, I can laugh. I can make a game of guessing which cliche way a character is going to respond in a cliche situation. And, if I try to clear my mind, I can almost feel the squeals and sighs coming on again.

From left to right: Height Complex, Personality Disorder, Special Secret, Enthusiastic Red, Sophisticated, Rich Flirt with Sob Story, and in front, with her back to us, Plain Pushover Girl. Ep 13 of Uta no Prince-sama. 

I'm not going to lower my standards. Now that Another, Gungrave, and other quality anime have graced my screen, shows like Uta no Prince-sama don't have the charm they once had for me. But I don't want to remain so snobby that I can't find joy in a Naruto filler like I used to. Most of these shows were made purely to entertain, not to be award-winning masterpieces. I want to learn to put aside my criticalness, sit back, relax, and let myself be entertained... even if the cheesiness itself is my entertainment.

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