RETRO ANIME FANS AND THE ETERNAL BACKLOG

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).

animetapes
Some Anime VHS from around 1992-1995 that I found at the back of my cupboard earlier this year. Proof I am indeed getting old.

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.

DVD shelf
Only Godannar and the Golgo 13 TV series lie unwatched on this shelf as recent additions to the library. It’s more often than not fansubs of older releases that I haven’t gotten around to.

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!

Marry Anime Christmas | Anime Amino for Anime Christmas Cards

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.

4 Comments

  1. I must admit, over the last year I started rewriting my watch list because it had just got too ridiculously long with anime I hadn’t seen. I only added older titles to the new list that people specifically recommended to me either on my blog or on comments on their blogs. The list is back to unmanageable lengths and I just keep thinking I will never be without something to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel very much the same way.I hope I live to a ripe old age to get through all this stuff!

    I felt the article was relevant to every anime fan out there but particularly to people who watch older titles. When I was growing up as a teenager in the 90’s I used to read Anime UK and Manga Mania every month and they’d always cover unreleased stuff so I was forever thinking “Hmmmm this show or manga sounds interesting” and making a note about it. Sometimes there would even be interviews with a manga author or TV/movie anime director and the interviewers asked questions about their works and maybe only one or two of the things mentioned were titles known to the west so it was a great learning experience.
    It’s fantastic that so much older stuff is readily available these days but there’s still a way to go. Still from where we were in the early days it’s somewhat of an “otaku utopia” we live in now. Particularly in the instant access world of the modern stuff with simulcasts and things like that. If time travel was possible and I went back in time to tell my teenage self about broadband and streaming new shows subbed on the same day as Japan my head might have exploded!

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  3. My current backlog of 21 TV series, movies and OVAs doesn’t seem too bad to the hundreds of discs I’ve had in previous years. Admittedly I have pretty much abandoned my streaming backlog in order to deal with the physical backlog of discs.

    While I don’t really want to go back to the 1990’s in terms of trying to acquire anime (NTSC to PAL conversion issues, shitty bootlegs of fansubs from dodgy hobby shops in Chinatown, the expense of importing tapes from the UK or via Nikaku Animart, Anime Planet or Anime Nation in the US or local surly comic book shop owners who just didn’t want to order tapes from the Previews catalogue even if you prepaid), due to the rarity of anime in English, I think people really valued and cherished what they had. Whereas now it’s ubiquitous and available anytime, anywhere and it’s become a disposable entrainment. When I went to AnimeJapan earlier this year, it really struck me how a lot of this material which is worked on with great pride and passion by staff, ends up ignored or quickly forgotten, which is a real shame.

    Also I think what causes massive backlogs for a lot of western fans who love anime and in general Japanese pop culture is that for most of us older ones, we did not grow up with this stuff per se. As children we didn’t see any episodes of “Heidi, Girl of the Alps”, “Aim for the Ace!” or “Tomorrow’s Joe” let alone other related pop culture such as “Kamen Rider”, the early “Ultra” series or even stuff like Takarazuka Revue or the 1980’s idols boom. To a large degree of this stuff is interlinked with modern anime which was built upon and evolved from a large cross section of Japanese pop culture. As a result I do want to explore as much of this history of pop culture in order to better understand some of references of modern anime and the origins of its evolution. This naturally leads to a larger backlog of stuff to watch.

    So far I’ve done rather badly with my backlog catch up over the Christmas break; two discs in two days. Hopefully I might whittle a lot of it down over the remaining eight days.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah I also want to understand as much of the history of anime, manga and other Japanese pop culture like Tokusatsu “effects” movies and shows as possible too. I’ve been pursuing this goal since I first understood what anime and manga was in the early 90’s. As you say not many of us in the west grew up with this stuff and as mentioned in the article we’re often playing the catch up game when it comes to translations. Many titles appearing translated decades after they originally appeared in Japan. Although some newer fans perhaps don’t appreciate how hard it was to get some of this stuff in the past I think there’s still a large section of fans who really do, particularly us older guys and girls who struggled so hard with some of the stuff you mentioned like difficulty and expense of importing, crappy fansub quality etc. Also it’s not like everything is easy to find these days there’s still a pretty significant number of shows and movies that are untranslated and in a number of cases there are some productions that don’t even have a Japanese home video release.

    It’s a shame that some real classics have been pretty much forgotten even in Japan. I have some Japanese followers on twitter who are delighted when I bring up certain shows and OVAs that they cherish and are really excited that someone is talking about them.

    As for pop culture references in modern anime and manga It struck me that I’d come a long way in terms of my knowledge over the years when I watched Space Dandy last year and realised I understood a lot of the nods to certain pop culture stuff 🙂

    In fact the project I mention at the bottom of the article is a lot to do with promoting awareness of classic anime of the past, particularly that of a certain genre. I have to remain tight lipped on it at the moment but I hope people enjoy it as my friend and I have worked tirelessly on planning it over the past year.

    I am going to try hard in 2018 to talk about a lot more titles as well as finishing off the current retrospective articles. I haven’t put out half the amount of content in 2017 that I wanted to, hopefully I can amend that soon. I’m hoping between the new “project” and the blog that I will have covered a sizeable and varied chunk of retro anime and manga by the time the blog is a few years old.
    I hope you enjoy my content enough to keep coming back and seeing my progress.

    Speaking of progress good luck with the backlog Grebouri!

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