Elitism in anime has been ever-present in the community ever since the medium started producing more fan service and mindless comedy shows. Elitists are people who claim only certain titles, who they acclaim as superior by using a bunch of critical arguments, deserve praise, and that people who don’t like them are casuals. They often claim they’re doing the future fans of the medium a favor, because seeing boobs and cameltoes puts some people off, and they won’t want to go anywhere near the medium. While this is true, and while I believe some are well-intentioned, their logic has several flaws, and they fail to see the big picture. I’ll try to explain why:
A typical anime fan begins with shows such as Naruto, Bleach and One Piece, or some other fighting shounen anime. Granted, these shows are just about being cool, and most times they don’t have a complex story or amazing developed characters. And that’s why they’re a good way for people to get into the medium. Usually there comes a time when people leave their comfort zone, either that or they leave the medium entirely, and start getting into other shows, with Code Geass and Death Note being examples. They still won’t accept romances, dramas or complex plots, but they’re progressing through the medium. They then decide to try other genres, like the ones I mentioned, and sometimes find titles they become attached to. My personal example is Clannad, a show which I loved back when I watched it in 2012, as a new anime fan, and an anime I still love today. Now, the problem with elitists is that they complain a lot about all of these shows without realizing how many new fans they get for the medium. Sword Art Online was a show that got a lot of people, including me, outside of the comfort zone of the big three, and introduced me to a whole new universe of the medium. Sure, I think the anime portrays its themes in a horrible way nowadays, the characters are bland, and it has numerous issues that make it inferior to other shows, but is that enough to completely discard them as trash? Not at all.
They actually do more work for the medium than any elitist who claims he is trying to avoid showing non-anime fans mindless comedies and shows with fan service. Another example would be Attack on Titan: thousands of people worldwide who had zero experience with anime watched the show, and I’m sure many of them became curious as to what else the medium had to offer, and they probably kept watching anime after that. Yet, elitists say that Attack on Titan is also trash with no place in the medium. So what we see here is that elitists do NOT respect the average anime fan that watches anime only for entertainment purposes, and instead bash them for liking the shows they like, making them feel inferior. Now, the problem here is that their actions put off a lot of people from wanting to watch the shows they deem as superior, like LOGH or Evangelion, so in many cases it works in a counter-productive way. Sure some will become curious to see what is so good about these shows, but most will try to stay away from those, like I did after I had my first contact with the elitist community back in 2013. No matter what your taste in anime is, as long as you’re willing to try anything, and don’t discriminate shows for their age, you are NOT a casual, you’re an anime fan, and you have every right to call yourself one, regardless if your top consists of shows with no complex plot.
Now let’s talk about hype. Most Elitists say hype is inherently a horrible thing, because it will set the expectations of people too high, and they’ll end up being disappointed. While I definitely agree with them there, hype is also what helps the anime medium progress as far as its fan base is concerned. If Attack on Titan didn’t have the hype it had while being released, no matter how good of a job it does at introducing fans to the medium, non-fans will not hear about it anyway, so it will all be for nothing. Hype helps spread the news by word of mouth and on the internet, making a lot of non-fans curious about why it is so hyped, resulting in them actually watching the show. However, elitists once again fail to see the good parts of hype, believing it to be no more than something that’s worthless and makes the medium worse automatically. Another thing that elitists complain about is that a lot of shows seem to pander to the general audience that watches anime, and that is why such shows are always inherently bad, but I look at it from another perspective: while the number of shows that do that should be a lot lower, those shows NEED to exist to keep the average anime fan entertained. I have seen shows acclaimed by elitists, like LOGH and Tatami Galaxy, and while I loved them and see how superior they are when I compare them to others, I also happen to enjoy the shows they say are for casuals and pander to the general audience, A LOT. The number of complex and thought-provoking shows is decreasing each year, sure, but a true anime fan accepts all kinds of shows. I’m not saying you should like everything you watch, that would be horrible, but you should accept them. However, when elitists complain about casuals not accepting LOGH for its old age, they don’t realize they’re doing the exact same thing by deeming all modern comedies and ecchi anime as “trash” automatically, many times without seeing them, and many times just for the fact that they are modern.
Finally, elitists use the law of comparison in a very wrong way. They expect all shows to have thought-provoking themes and amazing consistency, as well as complexity, but that’s not fair. Titles such as No Game no Life don’t try to be more than they are, and yet just because they are popular and don’t have complexity, elitists bash them. So the criteria that they use are simply: Popular + Non-Complex = Bash. It’s fair to expect some shows to be complex, and sometimes they don’t deliver – Akame ga Kill is a case where the plot definitely tries to explore countless serious themes like corruption and gray morality, but then completely fails by adding fan service and comedy that are extremely misplaces throughout the show. But not all shows they bash are like that – shows like Akame ga Kill are a small minority. Many shows are extremely self-aware of what they are, and they should be judged as such. If an anime isn’t trying to accomplish anything big, besides entertaining its audience, then why should we say constantly bash it, just because it’s popular? In that sense, it’s understandable that people complain about shows like SAO, who also try to have a serious plot, but fail at exploring its themes in the correct way, it’s fair to complain about it, but it’s not when they call it trash that has no place in the medium. It’s an unfair advantage – these mindless comedies HUGELY outweigh the number of serious shows that air per season, but that’s how the medium works. What point is there in continuing to be part of the community if all you do is complain about how modern shows are worse than old ones? That’s what an elitist does, and it’s precisely the reason why I will never understand their thought process. Complaining about the medium and trying to make other people feel bad because they don’t have the same tastes as them or just don’t like intellectual shows that much – that’s the only enjoyment elitists have to gain by continuing to spread their cancer in the medium.
Granted, having a critical mind is something extremely valuable, not only for anime, but for life in general. Accepting the flaws of our favorite shows is something we should do, but we shouldn’t stop liking them just because they are flawed – everything is flawed in some way or another. I think it’s a great thing to be able to do that, and that’s what sets fans apart from fanboys. Having discussions about the themes of some shows is part of what makes the medium so fun for me as well, and a lot of people develop their ability to evaluate shows in a critical approach after they watch more than 100-200 shows. That’s why here I have to set apart the concept of a ‘critic’ and an ‘elitist’, since one has legitimate complaints but can also see the good in each anime, while the other is extremely biased. Being a critic is good, and helps developing your brain, which is useful to several activities outside of the anime medium, and it helps you be an individual, instead of being a simple gear of society. But when you only accept shows that you think are near perfect when evaluated critically, that’s when you stop enjoying the medium as a whole.
If elitists want fans to accept their shows regardless of age and dated animation, they should also contribute to that by not making them feel inferior, and they should NOT bash every title that isn’t great. It’s a fiction medium, most people, including myself, watch it because we want entertainment first, it’s our priority. Sure a lot of shows are just about escapism, sure a lot of shows blatantly say that reality is overrated, but that’s part of the themes that the show tries to convey sometimes. A lot of people want to escape reality, that’s why you watch fiction in the first place, watching over other people’s lives: you feel empowered by doing so, and you feel like the problems in your life maybe aren’t as bad as you thought they were. And that’s a great thing to explore in my book. But it also makes it seem like elitists do not hate these shows per se – they hate the community that supports these shows, and that makes the shows bad in their eyes automatically. That’s being extremely biased when judging, and it’s unfair.
The anime medium is already a niche medium to begin with, so when elitists try to make it even more niche by refusing 90% of it, it’s mind-boggling. Even if they claim they’re doing it for the sake of the medium, most of them do it to sound more intellectual, and feel superior to the average fan, or “casuals” as they call them. Their actions work many times in counter-productive ways, and they might put a lot of people off. They might enjoy and defend the medium, but only to make their specific favorite titles known to other people, not to make the anime medium more popular. I will repeat myself: “a true anime fan is he/she who doesn’t discriminate against an anime because of the genre or age”. If you enjoy it, don’t give a fuck about what other people say, even if they shoot arguments at you as to why the anime is bad if critically analyzed.
Casuals aren’t anime fans, but nor are elitists: but you know, casuals enjoy the medium much more than elitists do, and casuals can still enjoy a lot of other series they haven’t seen yet, after they decide to leave their comfort zone for themselves, but elitists have no business in the medium anymore. If I had to choose between being a causal or an elitist, I would definitely choose to be a casual.
Thanks for reading!