On seeing a post today about anime elitism, I was reminded of an train of thought suggested by YouTuber DigiBro about a so called ‘most boring taste in anime’. The essence of which gravitated around a beige kind of ‘elitist’ anime taste which would invariably contain a number of select shows: a Masaaki Yuasa show. A Yoshitoshi Abe show. A slice of life show (usually ARIA). And then the two most important ingredients – the Legend of Galactic Heroes, and Hunter x Hunter (specifically the Yorknew and Chimera Ant arcs).
Symbolised in this kind of elitist ‘God Tier List’ is a sense of shows that the more ‘cultured’ anime fan will outline as their favourites. Just as music fandom has its imagine of the bearded indie hipster, so too does anime has its mythologised image of an elitist anime fan who bypasses populist hits like Sword Art Online or Re: Zero to mine a rich jugular of shows that offer some thematic or artistic depth that goes beyond the norm.
In the Legend of the Galactic Heroes, this attitude is epitomised via a kind of ‘above the odds’ mentality – namely, that because the show is not legally available in the UK, those that have sought it out (through illegal means) and watched its 100+ episode duration are of a higher calibre of anime fan – through their dedication. Through services like MAL which consistently showcase a high user rating for LOGH – the show has achieved a kind of mythical ‘white-whale’ quality which will no doubt persist until Sentai Filmworks (who previously announced they had licensed the show) actually release the show to disc.
In Hunter x Hunter, we have the apotheosis of the ‘thinking man’s’ Shonen action series. No Naruto or Bleach dross here – oh no. Hunter x Hunter is offered up as a kind of thematic ‘deconstructionist’ masterpiece that belies the bright, optimistic ‘kid’s show’ aesthetic of its early arcs to deliver a war-torn story of deep religio-psychological resonance.
And then in material from ‘auteurs’ such as Yoshitoshi Abe or Masaaki Yuasa, we are given a kind of ‘indie chic’ aesthetic – shows that either ‘don’t look like normal anime’ (in the case of Yuasa), or shows that subvert an idealised anime ‘cuteness’ into works that are, again richly layered with thematic depth (Serial Elements Lain etc.) – this concept can be furthered in the appeal of shows like ARIA. The idea being that you make sit back in your comfy couch, light up a splif and drift away on a sea of ambient slice-of-life bliss.
The irony of all these ideas is that this fan doesn’t actually exist – or rather, they are an amorphous figment of imagination that combines genuine tastes in fandom with a perceived image. A kind of ‘uber-hipster’ boogieman to rival previous figures of conjured hilarity such as the body-pillow-loving mega-Otaku who watches School Days and Kodomo no Jikan on a daily basis.
Fandom needs these illusory boogiemen to remind us that our own taste will always remain more personal, or ‘better’. That ‘our’ shows are the ‘best’ shows – or at the very least, that the enjoyment we extracted from them is valid.