As of this Spring season I’ve been an active part of the anime community for four years, and I’ve been a knowing fan of anime for around five. At this point anime seems less like an ordinary hobby I could eventually drop, and more like a permanent fixture of my life. I’ve started putting some thought into why that is, and I’ve come up with some interesting ideas. My reasons for watching have shifted a lot over the years, and I’m sure they’ll shift more in the future, but I think all those reasons are worth exploring.
My first experience with anime was, of course, through Pokemon and Yugioh. Unlike many at that age, I was aware the shows I was watching were Japanese, but I wasn’t aware of anime as a distinct entity. I kept watching these shows for years, watching a few others on the side like Zatch Bell, but ultimately I didn’t watch a whole lot. My interest in anime was connected to my interest in other properties like games at this point; I had no knowledge of the community surrounding it.
I really started watching anime in Middle School, and the reasons for that are diverse. A big one is that I was just a fan of cartoons. I’ve always liked animation, but as I aged I realized that many of the shows I’d watched in the past just weren’t that good. Western animation wasn’t doing great at this point, and outside shows like Avatar and MLP:FiM, I didn’t watch much animation from the West. By this point in time I knew anime was a thing, even if I wasn’t into it myself.
What really got me to seek out anime though was likely my fading interest in video games. I love games right now, but there was a solid period from 8th to 11th grade where I didn’t play that many, and the few I played in that time were mostly along the lines of Civilization or EU4; games you can play for hours and hours with podcasts or Youtube videos in the background. I never totally dropped more artistic games, but they became a much more minor part of my life for a while.
This loss of my main hobby pushed me to look for other things, and I quickly found my way to Death Note and Code Geass. These two shows were what I wanted at the time for precisely one reason: to 13 year-old me, they seemed adult and mature. At the time I was internally ashamed for liking MLP and Pokemon, shows made for kids, so I tried watching things which were mature in order to make up for it. Now I know that neither of those shows were made for adults, but out of American kids cartoons that I had seen, only Avatar came close in terms of darkness, and even that was nowhere close in terms of death counts or other metrics I saw for maturity at that point.
These two shows must have been enough to make me feel comfortable with anime, because the next show I watched wasn’t exactly casual friendly. I somehow stumbled my way onto Oreimo and really enjoyed it(I’m not eager to revisit it because I fear that I’d hate it now). This was a major step in getting me into otaku-aimed shows, but what really matters is how it got me into the community in the Spring of 2013.
I had watched Oreimo a few months earlier when April rolled around, and at the time I had no idea where to find anime. I had already been on 4chan at that point, so I decided to check /a/ for torrents. Finding /a/ here was the big step I needed into the anime community. That place is a total shithole that I only rarely lurk now, but it did a lot in introducing me to how the community actually functions. While there I met a number of friends who expanded my interest in anime, totally changing my taste.
While taking with that group of friends I developed a strong interest in slice of life shows. This was an interest shared by most of the group, but it took particularly strong hold of me. I loved these shows for their optimism and fun characters, for their calm atmospheres, and for their pure enjoyability. Those feelings are still with me today.
While early on I was interested in anime because of its ability to portray darkness and its tropes that I’d never before seen, today I’m into it almost entirely due to momentum. At this point I’m into anime because it’s anime. It’s so embedded as a part of my life that even if I no longer find anime refreshing or more interesting than Western media, I can’t really get away from it. Certain tropes went from new and interesting to dull and boring before finally becoming comforting in spite of having seen them before.
Anime still does offer me a few things that other media won’t, even if that isn’t the main reason I keep coming back. There’s simply more anime than there is western cartoons, so it gives me an outlet for my interest in animation. The other big thing is that it, obviously, is shaped by Japanese culture. The main benefit of this is different approaches you won’t get in the west. Iyashikei is the best example here. It’s a genre which literally does not exist in the West, and it’s my favorite genre. I could never give up the medium which gave me Aria.
Like I said though, the main reason is momentum. I feel like I’ll never stop watching anime, or if I do it’ll be far into the future, because I literally can’t see how I would detach myself from it. I’m so deep into anime culture that I can’t get out. I have so many plans for what I want to do as an anime fan, so many shows to watch, so many manga to read, so much research to do. I’m not unhappy with this, but the reason I love anime is pretty simple at this point: I love it because it’s anime.