The wrong way to watch anime

Isaac Akers, over on Crunchyroll, has a column on the right way to watch anime, with the conclusion that there isn’t one.  I was intrigued, because there’s an old SDLC saying, that there’s no one right design for a computer system, but there are many designs that are demonstrably wrong. Could we say the same thing about anime?  I was in the midst of constructing a wonderful house of cards around this idea, when an old SF memory brought them all down.

Back in the mid-80’s, there was a spoof in an April edition of, I think, Analog magazine. It was an announcement for a new game, a game called Life (not Conway’s, but real life). They talked about possible adventures on a water-world with multiple continents and thousands of cultures, and an expansion pack to extend the game to the planet’s airless moon “as soon as we straighten out some issues with a subcontractor”.

The takeaway line, which has stuck with me to this day, is this:

In Life, you set your own victory conditions.

You get to set those conditions, and you get to decide if you have won.

What has this to do with watching anime, aside from the fact that for many, watching anime is Life? Just this. Akers categorizes ways of watching from super-casual entertainment to hard-core critical. More detailed categories are possible, mostly as an extension from that line. You could watch it for the artwork, for the fashions, for the furnishings, or for clues on how to act around girls (or boys). You could study Ikki Tousen and InuYasha intently in order to gain a better understanding of the Warring States period, or hang on every word in The Gokusen and Saikano to improve your Japanese pronunciation. In all of these, as in all of Life, you decide on the victory conditions, and you decide if your anime-watching was worthwhile.

There’s no right way to watch anime, and there’s no wrong way, either. The only requirement is that your watching remain true to its purpose.

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