don’t let me rant about anime before noon anymore ok guys

After reading the comments from Chikushou and OGT appended to the previous post, I realized that there’s a lot of clarifying I need to do on the subject – although while writing the post I didn’t have a particular subject in mind, which makes the clarification rather difficult. It was written in response to an IRC discussion that wound up pitting Desperate Housewives against Rozen Maiden for a reason that is no longer clear to me, something about downloading one but not the other. Normally I wouldn’t assert that American sitcoms and anime belong in the same logical framework, as the differences between the two are ridiculously obvious and and what makes anime different from American prime time television is a topic that has been exhaustively treated all over the place. As Chiku and OGT both said, anime tends to have a serial, continuous storyline and place emphasis on the emotional lives of characters over plot and setting. I said badly in a few hundred words what could just as easily have been said in a short sentence: the appeal of anime over sitcoms and etc. is its different (usually serial) narrative form. The end. The whole sidetrack into “indigenous fan cultures” was mostly a red herring; there are people who like to watch anime who aren’t hideous ravening fanboys just like there are people who like to watch American TV who aren’t hideous ravening fanboys, and vice versa.

The second point I was trying to make is far more radical, difficult to explain properly and may make even less sense in the end. The idea is that for those who do go off the deep end into hideous anime fandom, a major aspect of the fan culture’s appeal is grounded in the two-dimensionality of the medium, and the increased interactivity with it that the two-dimensionality provides. Let me try to illustrate this with a stupid and confusing example.

Case 1: The Stick Enthusiast. This individual is a fan of sticks. Sticks are highly interactive. You can make a stick yourself by breaking one off of a nearby shrub, and it is just like all the other sticks you see. You can hit things with it, you can break it in half. You can poke it in the ground and watch it for hours. Anyone who is a fan of sticks can do the same. Because everyone can create sticks they are not very special. The producer of sticks equals the consumer of sticks in absolute terms.

Case 2: The Symphony Orchestra Enthusiast. This individual is a fan of symphony orchestras. Orchestral music is easy to enjoy but impossible for an individual to produce. You can make a symphony orchestra by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, but making it is not involved in the typical fandom experience, nor is making orchestral music. You can talk to the individual musicians, you can listen to recordings in your home. You can practice condensed piano versions for hours. Some who are fans of orchestras can do the same. Because orchestras are complex organizations never the sole province of individual fans they are special and enjoyed by many, who form an “audience,” but rarely enter the creator’s sphere. The consumer of symphony orchestras and orchestral music equals the producer only in very rare cases.

Case 3: The Japanese Animation Enthusiast. This individual is a fan of anime. Anime is easy to enjoy, but difficult for an individual to produce. A related product, manga, is more easily produced by an individual. You can make an anime by either funding its production or working laboriously at a computer for several years of your life. You can make a manga by drawing a lot. Making anime is not involved in the typical fandom experience, nor is making manga, but the latter especially is an accepted outlet for fan creativity. You can make anime music videos, meet the creators at conventions, cosplay as your favorite characters, and write fan fiction. If you are a good artist you can create derivative parody works of your favorite shows and sell them at conventions in Japan. Some others who are fans of anime do the same. Because anime production is a complex enterprise its creation is rarely the sole province of individual fans (although manga often is) and is enjoyed by many, who form an “audience.” When that audience reaches a critical mass it occasionally turns around and enters the creator’s sphere. The producer of anime and manga often began as an amateur participating in fan activities including the creation of amateur anime and manga.

Don’t tell me that “stick enthusiasts” dont’ exist, this is a thought experiement. Do tell me that nowhere in the above description do I mention two-dimensionality, because it’s true. Aargh. The above “anime fan” example could hold almost equally true for people deep in American fandoms as well, whether they be tabletop or console gaming, science fiction, musical theater, whatever. I may just be shooting myself in the foot here. Is being a fan of an orchestra so different from being an anime fan? I thought it was. I still think there’s life in this two-dimensionality argument but I don’t know where it is right now. I think it’s time for a break. =_=