**Please note that this is a discussion post, so it is quite lengthy. I would also like to offer a disclaimer saying that this post is not meant to offend or harm anyone. These are personal thoughts that I have been having due to some personal experiences and interactions with other anime watchers/reviewers, most of which who are close friends of mine (IRL), so I thought I would take the time to share them here today. Thank you**
This year, I spontaneously began watching the anime series Hunter x Hunter. There is a specific project that I am working on for my blog, and I felt this title would be the perfect one to jump-start my new project (one that I will be announcing in the Spring-Summer season). In addition to Hunter x Hunter, I picked up the second season of Inuyasha, which is an anime that I began towards the end of last year. For the past couple of weeks as I have been stuck on bedrest due to health reasons, I have been marathoning Inuyasha as much as possible. After watching a good chunk of both serials, I felt an immense amount of nostalgia beginning to waft over me. So much so that I decided to make 2018 my year of anime re-watches.
I have only seen Inuyasha and Hunter x Hunter once in my life, and the latter while it was simulcasting. I was not a blogger back then, and most of my subjective opinions were tainted by my significant other at the time, one who suffered from a major superiority complex. In the back of my mind, I knew that I had thoroughly enjoyed both shows, but I could not for the life of me tell you why if you had asked. Unfortunately, there are a lot of influential (for me) anime that suffers from the same type of memory (lack there of) within my mind. In all honesty, it is quite a horrible feeling.
During the episode of Hunter x Hunter where Gon and Killua are sparring with one of the examiners for the Hunter exam, I was overcome with a profound sense of warmth and I could not stop smiling. I remembered my very first time watching that episode and how much I enjoyed it. I loved the character interactions, as well as how passionate and driven both of those boys were. The sadistic tendencies from the examiner also had me laughing. This profound sense of nostalgia felt amazing and was helping to re-ignite my passion for anime, something that I have been struggling with for the better part of two years.
In another instance, I was watching an episode of Inuyasha where Sesshomaru first meets a character named Rin. There was so much compassion and character growth for Sesshomaru in these 24-minutes than there had been since he first appeared in the second or third episode of the first season, and I distinctly recall this episode being the one that made me fall in love with him. Regardless of having seen it before, I was completely engrossed by what was happening and that beautiful sense of nostalgia.
Nostalgia is an aspect of life that comes with growing up and getting old. I never much cared for it before because it would make me very emotional and sad. Nonetheless, as I have been experiencing more of it lately, particularly where anime is involved, I have a new sense of appreciation and respect for it. It reminds me of where my passions sprouted from and it makes me feel good about still holding on to those passions, regardless of the struggles that may come up occasionally.
Nostalgia has also helped me to recognise the struggles that I have been having as a sign that my interests are evolving with me as I get older and my tastes change. This is not necessarily a terrible thing, even though a lot of people see it that way. I know because I used to be one of them. My appreciation for anime has evolved with all the shows and films that I have watched in the past decade or so. I finally have a comfortable balance of critiquing anime—thanks to my being a blogger—while simultaneously enjoying a lot of familiar tropes that come with specific genres. Now when I think about the ruts that I have been battling for the past couple of years, I understand that it was my brain’s way of telling me that a lot of the issues I have with anime in general just need to be grasped from a different perspective and that watching some old stuff would help me out; a thought process I probably never would have explored if not for nostalgia.
The biggest reason I wanted to discuss nostalgia today, especially as it pertains to anime, is because a lot of older watchers of anime have been vehemently hating on the medium. Most of their opinions are called for, I will admit, due to the lack of originality in the industry today. However, condemning all anime in an extremely entitled manner seems like overkill to me. When I tried to bring up those feelings of watching your first anime with some of them, the very concept of those experiences, or nostalgia, were treated as the musings of immature, amateur watchers who did not know any better. I call bullshit.
By watching Hunter x Hunter and Inuyasha, specifically Inuyasha, I have learned that those “amateur” and “immature” opinions of mine held plenty of merit back then and they hold just as much now, if not more, many years later. In fact, I wish I could go back and watch anime from a completely clean slate. There really is no feeling like it. By returning to these shows, I can re-live that experience, and learn to tame any of those self-entitled feelings that I have about the medium. We spend so much time nit-picking every little thing that we rarely take a step back and look at shows/film from a basic point of view. I guarantee that there is at least one new series out there that the newbie anime watcher you used to be would have adored, even if you do not care for it much now.
Another problem with being so extremely critical with anime is that it allows us to hastily take a title jam-packed with potential and toss them under umbrella categories simply because it shares many similar aspects with others like it. It is far easier to just claim, “Well, this is another friendship-porn (as in there is a sole focus on friendships, not that it is an actual porno) series without any original plot elements, etc. etc.” Hunter x Hunter and Inuyasha are good examples. Yes, both serials employ the growth of bonds and familiarity between a set group of characters, usually with a common goal, that are reminiscent of the shōnen genre, but should they both be labelled as unoriginal “friendship pornos” that does not have anything else going for them?
Hunter x Hunter definitely utilises the friendships trope. However, it is far from being about friendships. At its core, it is a story about a child who is trying to understand the concept of child abandonment and what would make a parent choose anything aside from their own kid. Gon is not the only character that we see struggling with this. It is also a narrative about saying “fuck you” to anyone who creates a pre-conceived notion of who you are as a person without every really bothering to get to know you. It taught me that life sucks, no matter how hard you work at it and how good your heart is. The world is a cruel place and you cannot runaway or escape from it. It also taught me a lot about depression and how sometimes the only thing that can keep you going is the simplest of goals or ambitions, or the most extreme ones—something I have experienced on both levels.
Inuyasha is less about how to build bonds of friendship, and more about how to deal with and overcome all the dysfunctionality that comes with maintaining friendships. Like Hunter x Hunter, it is about a kid who struggles with his identity because of his parents, but his struggles also stem from him being a marginalised person. Being of mixed race is just as heavy with harmful stigmas today as it was back in the feudal era, and even in the early 2000s when the anime first aired. That is one of the most powerful elements of the series: Inuyasha’s internal conflicts of having mixed ethnicities. Yet it is rarely discussed in so many reviews that I have read. Most of them compare all the generic ways that the series fits the shōnen mould, missing out on the plethora of intelligent offerings it has.
As an anime reviewer, I forget to take that step back and take the time to truly look at an anime from behind the curtains of every trope or unoriginal characteristic it entails. I see it for what it is on the surface and sit down and began to comment on it without ever really understanding why people love it so much, or what it has to offer me aside from friendships and basic character flaws. After my time spent watching the two titles of focus, I returned to some of the Winter 2018 serials with a whole new set of eyes. Shows that were originally bothersome, or boring to me, have new meaning to them. While they still are not the greatest things in the world and hold a good chunk of issues in terms of quality, I can at least comprehend what connects it to another watcher and why they think it is the most wonderful thing ever. I am definitely entitled to my own opinions, even if they are negative in nature, as is everyone else, but it feels wonderful to see the other side of the coin and not be an entitled asshole about it.
Fifteen hundred words and a strange discussion on nostalgia later, my biggest goal for 2018 as an avid watcher of anime will be to re-watch a lot of old shows and films that originally made me fall so passionately in love with the medium to begin with. All of the stuff I watch will get reviews and will be under an original blog series called Anime Nostalgia. I expect it to be enlightening, either positively or negatively, and humbling. I also believe it may be emotional as I do love a couple of shows with heavy sentimentality to them. Nostalgia has been a fantastic teacher and friend these past few months, and I do not think people should shy away from it or look at things we used to love as being the musings of a moronic newbie. While we critique and review anime because we love it and enjoy it, we should also take a seat and refer to why we love it and how we got here. I am sure that it will help you enjoy it and appreciate it even more, as well as to help you become an even better reviewer. I know that it has done so for me.