At this time of year when the Christmas holidays are mere days away my thoughts always turn to one thing. The backlog.
I have a backlog of almost everything that I enjoy. Movies, books, TV shows, but above all else: videogames, anime and manga. Just saying the words “the backlog” at certain points of my life used to make my soul sigh.
Of course it’s good to have a lot of things you enjoy and that occupy your time but I haven’t always felt that way. I’m sure a lot of busy people have felt this way at some point, like you’re never making much progress and that you’ll never get round to the things you really want to do?
I for example would very much like to write a book. One of the reasons I started this blog was not only to enthuse about retro anime and manga and encourage discussion about it with fellow fans but also to “keep my hand in” at writing so I didn’t get too rusty. I’d like to write some fiction books and maybe some non-fiction too but I never seem to be able to find the time. It always seems one thing needs to be sacrificed in order to make way for something else.
For example this year I have gotten through much more anime than I normally do. I put this down to the fact that I’ve barely played any games this year, something that used to occupy a great deal of my time. I love console gaming but so many modern games are such huge time sinks that I find it difficult to even start some games when I know how much of my life they’re going to eat (which is why I still have some RPGs from the last era of consoles that remain untouched).
Becoming an anime fan in the 1990’s meant I was often watching stuff that was made in the 1980’s. Of course at the beginning of British fandom licencing was a lot harder and not many movies and OVAs made it to the UK. Barely any anime TV shows were released at the time over here, I’m guessing the much bigger episode count made them too expensive for many fledgling UK labels to acquire. My point is that at that time I would buy every title I was interested in on VHS and watch it immediately. Because they were mainly movies and short OVAs watching them took up very little of my time. I knew there were hundreds of thousands of titles we couldn’t yet get our hands on but concentrating on the small number available to me at the time meant this was the only era in which I ever felt fully “up to date” (or as much as I could be anyway) and had no real backlog other than the tapes newly available that I couldn’t quite afford to buy yet.
This era also meant I started the lifelong habit of maintaining a physical collection first on VHS, then DVD and now Blu Ray.
I used to keep a big paper list of titles mentioned in anime magazines that hadn’t been translated but looked interesting. Many of these titles have since seen the light of day in English either through official or unofficial means. However, despite continually watching anime over the years without too much of a big gap I still am nowhere near having watched everything I’m aware of that interests me from the 1950’s to the present day.
That’s the curse of being a western fan; you can’t really fully appreciate the story of a title until it’s been translated. I’ve waited decades for many shows from the 1970’s and 80’s in particular to see the light of day in translated form. The last five years have been incredible for me regarding what I consider “the classics”. The rate at which the gaps in my list are being filled lately seems to be climbing considerably but there’ still a way to go….and so the backlog will keep growing as more translated titles are released.
To complicate matters further there’s the issue of “licence rescue” as well. There have been times where something has been available at one point on disc then subsequently deleted and it isn’t necessarily easy to find online either. If I don’t find that elusive title at the time then I’m left waiting for a re-release to recover the title from limbo. This too has happened on more than one occasion.
I have tried to learn Japanese over the years (not just for anime and manga, I love Japanese culture in general) but again time is the enemy. I can’t always find the spare time to take it seriously enough. I think maybe my new year’s resolution should be to make more of a sustained effort to make more time for it.
If you’re reading this blog you’re likely into old anime (and possibly manga) too. I can’t imagine that you don’t have any sort of backlog of titles that you’ve been meaning to get round to, even some that have been made available in English for years. That’s okay, we simply just don’t have time for everything.
Earlier this year I realised I was in a real rut where I was plagued by indecision. Should I read this particular manga? watch this anime? play this game? Would I be able to keep up with all of these titles? How should I prioritise stuff? By how long I’ve owned it/been meaning to get around to it or by other factors?
All this was taking time away from actually getting through the damn stuff in the first place. I’d started to analyse stuff way too much when I should have just been diving into it and having fun. I’d made what should have been a blast a bit of a chore. This realisation coincided with the birth of my blog shortly after. I figured the blog would give me more of a motivation to watch entire series so that I could do comprehensive retrospective pieces on them (hence the multi-part articles on Casshern and Votoms). Also that It’d be fun to look back on a history of many of my opinions on certain titles in the future.
It wasn’t long after setting up my blog that I also started on Twitter. I found a lot of inspiration there particularly from my good friend Ian Harper of the Retro Anime Podcast. I had a conversation with him online in which I said there were loads of shows I wanted to re-watch as well as ones I wanted to watch for the first time. I also happened to mention that I often found it hard to juggle multiple shows unless they were very short. He suggested an exceedingly simple method to tackle the backlog: alternate between old and new when it comes to shows of substantial lengths. I’ve embraced this fully and added watching short OVAs or movies in-between and it has worked tremendously for me. For manga I tend to concentrate on one title at a time.
It’s a marvelous thing having so many wonderful pieces of entertainment to enjoy. Cherish it. Sieze every opportunity to read and watch the titles that interest you with the fiery determination of an obsessive Shonen protagonist. This Christmas utilise your time off in-between family activities and all the usual festivities to get round to that show or movie you’ve been meaning to see for months, years or decades and get it crossed off your personal list.
After the last few Christmases where I went back to work thinking I could have fit more fun stuff in I’m not missing out on a damn thing this year. Follow in my footsteps and let’s make it an otaku Christmas to remember!
In addition to the blog you can also follow me on twitter at: animeheadsretroworld@animeheadsretro
BREAKING NEWS: Stay tuned to my blog and twitter for a major announcement about a new joint project (in a completely different format) with a friend of mine In early 2018.
In the meantime expect a festive blog entry sometime between Christmas and New Year! Merry Christmas Everyone! Hope you all have a great time!
Craig’s Note: By the way…….
I am not one of these grumpy old bastards who doesn’t watch modern anime shows and movies or read any new manga. I do enjoy newer titles and keep up on what’s hot. Just because older titles are the focus here doesn’t mean I don’t care about the newer stuff. There are plenty of people covering newer titles which is why I chose to talk about old school gems.. I never want to be paired in with the bitter, hateful individuals who think ALL modern anime and manga is rubbish. Sure there’s a lot of trash out there these days but it’s always been the case; the same is true in any medium and it always will be.
Please feel free to leave a comment if you enjoyed this article. I really love hearing from you guys and getting some discussion going.