Thursday, December 20, 2007

In My View: On Classic and Popular Anime

Cameron's first rule of Classic Anime: A series will be deemed a classic based on the popularity of the show among the elite when it was released.
So I've seen a lot of talk around the blogs about what type of anime is cool or good or defines a person as an otaku rather than just a casual viewer. I really wanted to write a post about it, but I couldn't really focus on it. Honestly, it's reminded me a lot of the whole new vs. old debate. And if there's one thing I've learned about anime "classics" much like other classics, generally it's based on what a select group of people think about a series at the time it was released.
Take a Nadia: The Secret of the Blue Water for instance, the elite seem to think that it's a classic. Hell even Bamboo Dong over on ANN supported the show and generally I agree with her. But, it's a horrible, horrible show. It's long. It's tedious. The characters are okay, but they're pretty predictable. The plot is tired after about ten episodes and decides to take a long nap. The world is pretty cliche (Come on, it's Atlantis?).
In fact, the only thing the show is good for is giving it the MST3K treatment. And even at that you need to have a bunch of friends to do it with. And I'm not even going mention the quality of the animation. They won't give it up though, mostly because of another trend:
Cameron's Second Law of Classic Anime (The Persistence Effect): A series or movie will persist to be a "classic" as long as the majority of the elite consider it a classic.
To be fair, I do like reading a lot of the columns and listening to the podcasts of the elites. Which means that they have the ability to continue to spread their gospel of what is a classic and what isn't a classic. The problem is that once a series enters the Canon it can't get shaken out.
Mostly, I think it's a factor of an emotional reaction. These were the series that the top dogs watched way back when and that got them into anime in the first place. So they're associated with a happier time, back when they were introduced to anime. So I have some sympathy towards their situation. But, not much.
Although it's interesting to note that there's another effect that goes on with "classics".
Cameron's Third Law of Anime Classics (The Degradation Effect): Each new generation of fans will reassess or dismiss classics.
With as much new stuff that is coming out year after year, those classics are starting to slowly lose their hold. Mostly because I think a new generation of elite is starting to find their way onto the Internet. Granted, I don't think enough time has really passed to supplant the current set, but I have started to see it happen.
Sure there are classics that deserve to be classics, but there are so many more that don't. In fact, I would even dare to say that a solid majority of the classics out there aren't really all that hot.
Although this has lead to another phenomenon that I've started to hear about, which is a culture clash between older fans and newer fans. Not so much from the newer fans side of things, but more from the older fans who don't understand why people would like X show more than they like the classics. In a lot of ways, they can't see past their own emotional opinion to really get at whether or not their favorites really are good shows. Or were they just good at the time.
Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail


M said...

Personally, I think the definition of a "classic" is a fairly simple one. If a series can be re-watched by a modern audience that hasn't seen it before, and they think it's still good, then it's a classic. If it's only the older audiences who think it's good, then it's more just a case of them clinging onto nostalgia.

For example, I absolutely adore Cowboy Bebop. Yet when I first got 'into' anime, which wasn't too long ago, Bebop was already an ancient series, and we had far more modern series out there. Yet nevertheless, that show is undeniably good (even if you don't like it, by the soundtrack alone..!), and it's still considered a classic.

And a P.S. -- Paradise Kiss. I saw you'd written another post on it, but you didn't mention you'd read the manga? Anyway, I highly recommended. I haven't seen the anime myself, but after watching one of Ai Yazawa's other series (Nana) and loving it, I bought the ParaKiss manga, and really enjoyed it.

Cameron Probert said...

Actually, I'm going to pick up the manga for it. Honestly, it was a really good anime in a lot of ways. It had it's weaknesses, and compared to something like Kare Kano it wasn't as good. But on the other hand, it really was a neat series.

CCY said...

I saw a similar discussion over on another anime blog (can't recall which), saying that quite often people have skewed views of older anime because of sentimental reasons. It's the 'first love' effect, that the first anime you watch (even of a specific genre) will typically seem better than it is, simply because there is no bar to compare it to.

Not to say that all old anime are bad, but just a note leading to a contemplation that, why are all the classics always old shows?

I mean, there are definitely some good "classic" classic shows - Cardcaptor Sakura, I've never heard anyone criticize, for one - but can newer shows be classics?

All the 'classics' that I've heard of (which isn't much; feel free to contradict my argument) seem to be almost from the pre-2000 era; is it that there aren't a lot of good shows now? That people are becoming more critical as the anime artform expands in size and popularity?

Maybe some shows are too recent to be up for consideration yet - it's true that have to wait for time to pass before truly passing judgment, but sometimes I wonder if we can get a classic that's vaguely modern-looking, for once.

(Not to say that the old-school, all hand-animated style of anime from the 90's doesn't have its charm, though. Currently powering through an oldie, Marmalade Boy, myself.)