“Ironically Enjoying Things” A.K.A. Treating Your Hobby Like Shit Means You’re Shit

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You know, I’ve been brooding over whether or not this headline is a bit too crass but at the end of the day, I’ll gladly take it.

You might have heard this statement before: “Dude, I IRONICALLY watched this anime! I don’t actually like it!” – as spoken by a douchebag with no personality thinking he’s achieving the exact opposite. No, you’re not cool for being ‘above’ it when, according to you yourself, all you’re doing is stooping down to the level of entertainment media that actually is not worth your time yet eats it up anyway. Feels a little bit contradictionary to me.

And for some reason, it’s something that I primarily see with anime (and occasionally video game) fans. “Ironic weebs” is what you might call this phenomenon. And this makes me beg the question: if you have that little respect for your hobby, do you have any respect for your time management at all?

So why exactly does this happen? Why do people feel the need to spend time and then reiterate online that the time they spend they don’t spend seriously, meaning that they are still totally respectable human beings? I think it has to do with insecurity. See, people protecting themselves with layers of irony serves the purpose of spending your time on something while also having a safe backdoor just in case someone could raise an eyebrow at your pasttime. A defensive measure so to speak. Sure, you do watch anime but… *winks*, not that seriously anyway. Because taking things seriously is for nerds. Unlike the Nekopara desktop wallpaper, that’s just for show. Haha, catgirls, that’s so silly. We only do things in jest here. Cringe watches. lulz. Masturbating to ’em trap doujinshi for the epic memes and stuff, hehe.

Have some self-respect, will you?

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Maybe there’s also opportunism to it in a sense of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. Or it’s supposed to be an Internet personality thing. With that said, I doubt the approach of “Look at me wasting my time! Hilarious!” is the apex of humor. I mean, you’re kind of the joke here, really. And looking at you would be a waste of my time instead.

Because see, if I don’t see the worth in something, I won’t start looking ironically at it either.

I have no intentions of pretending that my hobby is star-spangling awesome. I won’t ever point at Pantsu Quest VII: The Animation and say “BUT DAD, IT’S A SUPERIOR FORM OF ART!”. Likewise, though, I also won’t bother with watching Pantsu Quest to begin with because why bother with crap. A revolutionary approach, I am sure. “This reeks, I better stay away from it” might just do the trick as common sense often does.

I’m not saying we should all only start watching the very best there is and neglect the rest. The entire concept of seasonal watching wouldn’t hold up to that. And I like my seasonal anime. And I’m also not saying entertainment media needs to have philosophical points and always go for deeper meanings for it to be worthwhile. First and foremost, it needs to be entertaining. But this entire „Man, I’ve seen some shit. And I’m proud of it.“ thing? Know what, I’d rather not see shit. You’re celebrating your own cynicism here. Your hobby should be fun and not a tool for your ego trip.

The mindset of “I’m really hardcore. I think lowly of what I enjoy.” has always baffled me and sadly become more and more of a staple on the Internet.  As far as I’m concerned, having standards was the most helpful when deciding what not to do than to negatively look at what I’m doing even though I could change my ways.

I’m not even trying to be elitist here. Even with mediocre anime like say, Caligula, you’ll sometimes get something valuable out of it. Like when Ritsu admits that words are hard but he’s going to try anyway. I took something away from that scene. It was inspiring. Had I continued to watch Persona 5 after its terrible first episode instead, I don’t think I would have gotten anything out of it. Heck, it never even tried to have its own protagonist since the source material did neither. Why should I bother then if it clearly didn’t?

And I believe I watch anime for these very moments of inspiration or reflection. Mostly because they’re entertaining and also to kill some time but not only because of these. Watching Argento Soma and Master Keaton alongside vastly inferior seasonal anime has made this obvious to me. And largely skipping out on this season to watch Six Feed Under and Serial Experiments Lain has too.

These things keep me going. To quote Girls Last Tour – a really good anime everyone should watch – on the question what its two main characters are still alive for now that the world has fallen to misery: „Because sometimes things that are good happen.“

I mean, when even Yu-Gi-Oh! GX can pull off a convincing coming of age story in its eleventh hour, there’s no reason why other anime can’t. Case in point:

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So why bother with ironically consuming crap? Or not actually engaging with the actual media at all rather than just using it as a tool like the people who let others tell them what happened in an episode as a substitute to actually watching it. There are so many things wrong with this and believe me, I’m usually the last to pull the “It’s a visual medium, you know?” card but my goodness. Might as well watch dubs at this point. Is this the kind of sad shit we have to deal with in a world where people judge things without having seen them by referring to CinemaSins/TVTropes? Or people who read summaries on WikiPedia so they can be part of the fandom? Which, yes, is a thing. Do you even like anime? Do you even have any respect for anything at all or a set of values?

I don’t ~ironically~ watch anime and I don’t understand any of this „guilty pleasure“ nonsense either. Watching bad anime on purpose isn’t about the anime itself, it’s about your ego. I don’t know, maybe it works in the context of groupwatches but quite frankly, watching funny YouTube clips might also do the trick.

Or people who watch One Piece but not actually One Piece, no, that’d be too slow for them, it’s gotta be a badly cut-together fan version to „improve the pacing“. You know, I’m not usually one to screech „READ THE MANGA YOU DUNCE“ at people but at this point you probably should. I even know people who skipped entire sections of their favorite manga. Methinks it might not actually be your favorite manga then.

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I know people who watch anime they hate – or rather dislike, „hate“ is a strong word after all – at twice the speed. What the fuck. What’s next? Turning the image upside-down for „the lulz“? Terrible subtitles because that’s funn- wait, people actually already do that. What an experience to have.

Hatewatches are such a stupid fucking concept. I mean, really? Value your freetime. Trust me, I’ve been there before. At some point, I learnt to let go of the Guilty Crowns and look for things I actually like instead. That’s not always easy but I assure you, it’s worth trying.

I’m pretty sure that when Twilight was airing in cinemas across the globe, there were some folks around who’d watch it with no good intent, pointing out every plothole and laughing loudly at every stupid thing in the cinema, bothering everyone else in the process. Well here’s something, chucklefucks: That doesn’t make you the educated person in the room. It makes you a fraction of a human being. At least the people with bad taste there were authentic. In a sense, you might be the dumbest person in the room even.

JOPs and their ironic Jun Maeda fascination weird me out too. „Haha anime is so bad these days, I’m gonna watch Charlotte now for THE MEMES™“ – You are the single biggest fucking tool out there. You think you’re above it but you’re just on a never-ending process of giving up.

Something I especially don’t understand are the politically motivated twitter people who watch things that go against their ideologies (the Internet was better when it had tumblr as its containment zone) only to complain about these things over and over and over again. Look, I thought Mushoku Tensei was fucking shit. And so I dropped it after one episode. Guess what I didn’t do? Watch every episode to list its sins on twitter.

I mean, look, I’m guilty of this occasionally as well. Just look at modern Higurashi. But at least that used to be one of my favorites and I don’t do that all the time. I don’t fill my life with things I use for pointing out that I shouldn’t fill my life with them because how dumb is that?

Likewise, I find it funny when people tell me that I hate anime because I have standards. Yes, my MAL score is at 4.75. Does that mean that I think the average anime is bad? I mean, yeah, kinda. Does that mean that I bother with bad stuff for the sake of it? No, because, see, I drop most of the stuff I rate badly. I’ve completed 716 anime and dropped 535. That seems very consequential to me for a hobby where its fanbase doesn’t do that.

At the end of the day though, I am still here, watching anime, reading manga and having fun with both, something other media might not necessarily give me. Just because I don’t like partaking in seasonal shiteating doesn’t mean I don’t like this stuff. I’ve been very vocal about the things I like like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Texhnolyze or MahoIku and even bought a lot of merch from the latter one and I buy the light novels too. I am the first to hand out recommendations of all kind (and to be really disappointed when people don’t follow suit but oh well). How about you try Mouryou no Hako, Black Jack ni Yoroshiku, Kokou no Hito, Punpun, Ping Pong and Bokurano? Or ACCA, Fune wo Amu and Rakugo? There, that’s enough material for you to have fun with. If you think I hate anime, you simply haven’t been shilled at enough yet by me. Which we certainly need to fix.

I’ve been seasonally following anime since Summer 2009. Ever since then, I’ve given many different things a try. I’ve been open to stuff like Tokyo Magnitude and Kuuchuu Buranko from the very beginning on, not just minding the seasonal drivel and that’s been a policy of mine. Heck, I even started studying Japanese as I would like to dip into the unlimited potential of Japanese-exclusive markets. “Zaku hates everything” is, by all means, as untrue as it could be. There are other people. People into anime for playing the elitism game, picking the most popular shows on MAL and then trashtalking them, rattling down a checklist and whatnot. If there’s an anime with a time loop/travel story, let’s just shoehorn in how all the ~overrated~ anime as of late (BokuMachi, Re:Zero, Steins;Gate, you name it) have used that as a tool and how this new addition is just riding the wave. Let’s criticize a school setting for the lack of world building. See, these people use checklists, not minding the context, as biased and undifferentiated as they could possibly be. These bullet points are blind hate or a tool for self-validation. To these people, anime has become a means to rather perverted ends. The ironically indifferent folks aren’t any better either. Yes, just jerk off to your “I wanted to watch anime but then I’d have to watch anime!” tweets. Clearly I’m neither of these two categories. So I am most likely more passionate about anime & manga than most of you.

This is why I don’t like to endlessly watch the seasonal isekai trash or those teenage nerd soap operas. I’ve done that in the past but I’ve quit it nowadays because I realized that I was simply choosing to be miserable, presumably out of a perverted sense of curiousity and grim self-satisfiction. Something like OreImo or Darling in the FranXX will never amount to anything.

Yet there are things that do amount to something. I like meaningful character journeys. Maybe you won’t be able to relate to their specific interests but to the overall gist of it very much so. This is why stories of making a dictionary or collecting trash in space can flourish while badly executed high-concept stuff is left elsewhere to rot.

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I like how Silver Spoon told me that if you skin a deer, it’s best not to look at its eyes at first. Knowledge I most likely won’t ever use in real life but it stuck with me nonetheless. An anime can leave a mark on me and that alone is a good thing. People wouldn’t watch Welcome To The N.H.K. or read Oyasumi Punpun otherwise.

Fiction can be engaging and not just one-sidedly so. If Ippo doesn’t make you feel like picking up boxing when he does, you have no soul. I’m not saying you have to and there’s nothing that anime has ever inspired me to do on a grander scale but people picking up hobbies and interests through anime sounds like a fine thing to me. If Yuru Camp inspires you to camp, go forth and camp. If Golden Kamuy gets you interested in Ainu culture, why not look it up or borrow a book on it? If Ping Pong is your sports anime to go to discover a new walk in life – why not tread the path?

I like taking away from one of Master Keaton’s episodes that a man who once won an olympic gold medal discovered that the coach of East Germany had used doping on him all along, is now a broken wreck without a family but finds a new one within an immigrant community. I’m not saying that wow, now that totally has changed my life. A world view obviously doesn’t change over something as little as that. But what you can take with you from this 20 minutes episode is something positive and somewhat substantial at the very least. So hey, instead of ironically watching BAD stuff, watch GOOD stuff.

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I’m pretty sure the last thing people need is someone like me telling them how to live their lives correctly but then I look at parts of Western fandom so hollow and cynical and uh, maybe they fucking do need a wake-up call after all? I’m sick of 4chan, twitter and YouTuber mentalities. I’d call these a sick state of mind but I doubt any part of the mind is actually involved with that.

Anyway, focus on the things that are good. Look for inspiration, not self-degradation. See that domain title of my blog? Turns out it’s there for a reason.