Thursday, September 13, 2018

Not Necessarily So

There is a common attitude among geekier circles involving normal people and their role in "ruining" said hobbies. You see it all the time. If it wasn't for these people, the loyal's hobbies would be perfectly fine and would be able to go back to the way they were. Things would instantly be set right again. After all, normal people came into the house party and burned it down. Before them, the couch wasn't lodged in the pool and the ceiling wasn't covered with smashed Cheetos.

This isn't necessarily so.

You see it in video game circles all the time. You know, the ones who were never involved with them pre-internet. It's "casuals" or "kids" or "consoles" ruining games and making developers create subpar products and publishers cramming them down their audience's throats. If it wasn't for those people, we'd be in a golden age!

But other hobbies aren't immune. In anime circles there's even a mistaken belief that casuals want to destroy moe in order to make anime palatable for the mouth-breathers. They want to infect it!

You're forgiven for laughing at the last assertion. You clearly haven't fallen for the revisionism yet.

All of the problems these fans cry about are misguided. The complaints are centered on a group of people who have done nothing at all. This is missing the forest for the trees. The only question is whether it's deliberate or not, but I will continue in the hope that the latter is the case.

You see, video games sold millions in the 80s and 90s when the main customer base were kids. Before that in the 70s the Atari 2600 and Intellivision were mammoths. They were always mainstream and aimed at normal people.

Most children played games like Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario World as easily as they would play DOOM or Diablo. These were normal games at the time, and the audience had no problem with them or adjusting to their difficulty and idiosyncrasies. The latter two were even ported to consoles with few issues, and original FPSes like Perfect Dark and Timesplitters thrived on controllers without being "dumbed down" for "casuals" because anyone that liked video games before the internet had no problem playing them. If they did, they found another genre. Normal people didn't care. The problem is that with the destruction of the middle market for AAA games and mobile titles, the normal gamers were left stranded and either became retro gamers, or walked away. This isn't their fault, if anything they were smarter than those who stuck around for horse armor and loot boxes. And they're being demonized and misrepresented for it.

This gets to my larger point of the "normal" argument. Normal people are a different group than what the companies (and fans) think they are. Normal people were those that saw the Super Nintendo and how fun Super Mario World looked, and bought it to play it. They then bought games like Street Fighter II and Final Fantasy III because they looked fun. They were not won over by Nintendo using focus groups to fine-tune and sand off the difficult levels like Tubular, or Square adding a newbie mode for harder boss fights. Normal people made the old Warcraft games sell millions. Normal people created the arcade scene. Normal people caused FPSes and adventure games to become huge with Wolfenstein 3D and Sierra's works. This group has been chased away.

Now they've been replaced by a dwindling audience of "Normal" people. "Normal" people are the ones Naughty Dog makes dumbed down movie games for. "Normal" people are the reason every game now needs a half hour tutorial before they start. "Normal" people are the ones who are begging for political commentary despite (allegedly) growing up on games like Mutant League Football and Earthworm Jim. "Normal" people ask for loot boxes in every game. "Normal" people who had no problem with Mortal Kombat or Dead or Alive decades ago are suddenly morally offended at their very existence. It is almost as if these two groups are different people.

Because they are.

The point is that normal people are necessary for success. I'm not even sure "normal" people aren't just infiltrators molding their selected medium to their tastes. The former was chased out which allowed the latter to slide right in. And hardcore gamers? They're normal people, whether they like it or not. Your tastes don't make you special.

You are not abnormal because you like strategy games or mecha anime. That's normal. It was normal for decades to like those things until the industry in question dumped them for an audience that doesn't really exist, for "wider" appeal. Criticizing normal people is a way of putting you in a box and give you the impression that you are somehow special or abnormal for consuming a product millions of others do. They want you to think your identity is shaped around consumer products. These dying companies are manipulating you into this attitude to make up for the fact that the normal audience has been chased off. Don't let them do it. You're the real audience, the standard. You are normal, despite what you might think. You have more in common with the guy who spent $22 in quarters to beat Final Fight in the arcade nearly thirty years ago to the goony bug man who considers Gone Home a 10/10 game as though it offers anything worth praising. The former is who has been chased off. And there's nothing normal about the latter example.

In anime there is another problem that comes with this revisionist attitude. This came about due to people who have apparently never watched a series before 2007 thinking themselves experts in the medium. You see this whenever moe criticism is brought up and the same snarky streamers come up with the revisionist assertion that the accused want to get rid of anime to make it palatable to normal people and lose its flavor. The fact that this backwards charge has never been rebutted should be proof that the normal people left long ago, but let me repeat it for the one hundredth time.

Moe is casual garbage aimed at the lowest common denominator. It is not "hardcore" or aimed at specialized audiences. It is not the baseline of anime, and didn't even exist throughout the majority of the medium's existence. It only exists because lazy corporations want to dig your money out of your wallet without putting any effort into what they make. And in case you don't remember: anime was popular worldwide throughout the mid-80s into the mid-00s. It is only when casual moe came out that the normal and hardcore fans were chased out.

You're the one arguing for casual garbage, not the moral busybodies. The latter has problems of their own, but neither of you are the majority of the audience. Normal people are. If it wasn't for them, you wouldn't have your trash genre to watch in the first place because there would be no scene for it. An entire industry existed before your fetish did. Your hobby exists because of normal tastes, not your niche one.

Moe was invented in 1999 by Azumanga Daioh. The creator of said series doesn't even dabble in that genre anymore. It wasn't until it got an anime a few years later that the medium began to eat itself in order to cash in and endlessly repeat it. Before that it was action, adventure, romance, and comedy series and movies. Once those were ditched, the audience left and the medium soured.

Are you seeing a pattern? Lose normal people, lose your way, lose relevancy.

Moe is the aberration, not the standard. Those "casuals" complaining about it aren't complaining because they're unpure non-weebs looking to ruin your hobby. They're complaining because your fetish took over their medium and almost destroyed it. By the mid-00s when anime was blowing up worldwide, Japan decided to fight piracy and fight declining homeland sales by focusing on a shrinking demographic of anti-social otaku at the cost of the original wider audience. They stopped making shows like Outlaw Star and Patlabor, and the results were felt nearly overnight. Anime's popularity dipped worldwide because the audience wanted hardcore stuff like Cowboy Bebop and not casual fluff like K-On. One goes back to the roots of what made the medium what it is, and the other is a concocted mutation.

This is about corporations constructing custom audiences for themselves at the expense of common people. This isn't about fans against non-fans. If it was, these companies wouldn't have stopped giving audiences what they wanted to begin with. They're not on your side, whoever you identify as.

As an aside, a lot of the conflict in these mediums come from hive pokers without any self-awareness that they are propped up by larger entities in order to morph and meld their target audience's opinions. Whether it's people like SuperEyepatchWolf, Mike Campea, or Anita Sarkeesian, these people all exist to stick their foot in the door and shape discourse to their whims despite their pedestrian opinions not adding anything to the discussion. But they all "coincidentally" hold views that corporations use to advertise their products, and they never rock the boat or step out of line.

Back in the day we called them what they were: posers and shills.

None of these people are "normal" or speak for the common man in their hobbies. They exist to shape the fringe fans and rile them up to sow division, which eventually end up pushing out the normal people who want nothing to do with the insanity. They're trying to be the new normal, and they're coming in the back door to do it. And your favorite corporation is all for it. Why wouldn't they want to tell you what you should like and buy? Why wouldn't they want to own your hobbies and choose who they can sell to?

This is what happens when your religion is not an actual religion. Find something better than a corporation to shine some light into your gunk-filled soul.

Believe it or not, hobbies actually did used to be for everyone. People went to see Blade in droves and no one pretended it was revolutionary when it made bank. X-Men sold over a million an issue at its peak and kids rode to their corner store to buy a copy with a can of coke and some chips. Dragon Ball Z did boffo and had merchandise in places like Walmart. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was a multi-million seller that people of all ages played and raved over. People expressed displeasure in the Star Wars prequels without being insulted by LucasFilm or their pet sycophants, and they actually wrote books and made video games that weren't total trash. All this success is due to normal people--the very ones currently being chased out of every hobby by extremist purity tests and empty-soul cultists. Those whipped up fanatics are not the ones that made any of these things successes, and yet corporations are backing them over the ones currently being driven out.

Need proof? Look at comic book sales on comichron. Look at video game software sales from this generation. Look at the billboard chart. Look at Hollywood's box office from last summer. Look at Toonami ratings now compared to its peak. Someone was there in the past that is no longer present.

And who benefits from throwing them out? What do they get in exchange for it?

This whole spiel isn't meant to demonize hardcore fans, because they aren't a monolithic block. This is meant to point out that a shell game is currently being played, and the enemy described is not the enemy that exists. Believing normal people are who's killing your hobby of choice just ain't so. Those are posers, and they've always existed. They don't even have to be casual to be one. Just ask anyone who was into punk in the 1990s and early '00s. Normal people aren't ruining anything, a certain group of parasites are.

There is no enlightened group of superfans that carried your hobby to nirvana, away from the unwashed and into divinity. Those "mongoloids" were what helped bring it to prominence in the first place. They were the marker for success. What is tearing your hobby apart are the wolves in sheep's clothing telling you that your fellow sheep are the real wolves and that the shepherd was always a misogynist/racist/sexist/x-ist to begin with. Now which one of those is working overtime to destroy what you like, and which one isn't? It's not that hard. There's no brain-teaser here.

The fact of the matter is that culture exists to be shared and connected to. That is how things get popular in the first place, by likes and tastes coming together to build something bigger. They're exclusive by nature, not design, as there are always things certain folk will never be interested in. That's okay: reality is not inclusive. No one will like everything. But be wary of the "experts" making up rules and anecdotes to keep out "normal people" because chances are the "experts" are the ones who need to be kicked out. They're the destroyers.

And really, who should you listen to: the ones who left when the punch got spiked, or the ones who stayed through the house burning down around them?

I'd pick the normal ones any day.


  1. Bravo, JD! You make a compelling argument I hadn't considered before.

    Here's how long I've been out of anime: I'm not sure what "moe" is. Perhaps you could post a definition in the comments for us folks in the peanut gallery?

    1. Thanks for reading!

      Moe is Japanese slang for cute girls. The genre centers on "cute girls doing cute things" usually at the expense of things like plot, action, romance, or entertainment. Dudes like it because they can watch attractive girls do normal things like go to school or drink tea. Also, there's usually a lot of yuri/lesbian poking to excite the viewers.

      It's postmodern porn, basically.

    2. I ... see.

      *douses self in kerosene*

    3. It's emotional porn, aimed first at 40-something burnouts that never married and missed out on raising a daughter, and then it became the "mai waifu" degeneracy of today. It came out of a strange mix of visual novel gaming and 4-koma comics, and is tailored to separate a certain type of unsocial man from his money--because single adults have more disposable income than families.

      Look at Kyoto Animation's lineup for examples of moe shows (Mikuru in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kanon, Lucky Star, K-On, etc.).

  2. Fantastic, man. Bakes my noodle to see what's become of pop culture consumption. Walking into FYE feels like going to the Marilyn Monroe church in Tommy... things that ought to be a 90 minute diversion blown out into lifestyle choices.

    I'd like to pick a bone about anime like Cowboy Bebop. Remembering when it came out stateside, and what Animerica Magazine was saying about it at the time, Cowboy Bebop seemed like it actually *wasn't* made for "anime fans." At the time there seemed to be a raft of shows and movies that were setting up to threaten the mainstream and use anime to tell mature (no, literally) stories with a mainstream appeal. Thinking of Master Keaton, the works of Satoshi Kon, the 20th Century Boys manga; probably others, but I stopped paying attention at roughly that moment. Even Cowboy Bebop was a Tarantino-style buffet of grindhouse imagery, and more than a few people at the time said as much.
    I guess the gambit into adult contemporary failed, or underperformed to the liking of the studios.

    I think the real problem that haunts both the US and Japan is actually the collapsing birth rate, and the fact that no kids means no market for shows for kids. The ones that do get through over there are probaby better than ours, I suspect. You want to experience anime washed clean of geek-gunk, I recommend the first Yo-Kai watch movie. I actually enjoyed it more than things that I think were made with people like me in mind.

    1. Thanks for reading!

      I wasn't reading magazines at the time, so you're probably right about what they were saying about things like Cowboy Bebop.

      On the other hand, it was also a successor to a tradition of anime like Lupin III, Space Adventure Cobra, Dirty Pair, and City Hunter, which were all episodic adventure-pulp inspired series. We also only ever got one of those licensed over here back in the day, so the context might have been lost for western audiences, but the lineage is there.

      But the collapsing birthrates paired with the rise of piracy are definitely major factors in why Japan is doing what they are . . . or were. Moe has been steadily declining for the last few years, with maybe only one series breaking out every other year before vanishing into the ether. Now you see studios tripling down on series like My Hero Academia which have major worldwide success, and working with companies like Netflix or Amazon Prime to produce anime like Karakuri Circus or Vinland Saga which have tremendous crossover appeal. They are aiming for the worldwide and wider audience again.

      There isn't much they can do to fight piracy as it requires overhauling entire infrastructures, or the declining birthrate, for obvious reasons. But they also can't rely on a shrinking demographic that consumes and disposes without a second thought, and is also a dead end for building any sort of future. And also tend to buy anything you put out, regardless.

      I do applaud them for trying to correct their mistakes, which is more than I can say for the Western animation industry. That one will require a full collapse and cleansing before anything will change.

  3. What gets me, is how ignorant of history a lot of anime fans are. it reminds me of pulp and sci-fi, and the reactions tend to be the same.

    I convinced a new fan, a fan who had only seen stuff like K-On, Lucky Star, and Bleach, to try one series, just one that I had suggested from the 'old crap' that his friends had told him wasn't worth watching.

    I told him to watch Dirty Pair. He loved it.

    Although, he then went to watch Cyber City Oedo 808, so uh, maybe convincing him to watch the older stuff was kind of a mixed bag..

    1. lol. Now that's a jump!

      Unfortunately, a lot of older anime fans got into it when it was mainly action and adventure stories. Nowadays the ones that get into it are usually not looking for that sort of thing, and the ones that are have a false impression as to what anime is.

      Thankfully that appears to be changing.