Too old, huh? (Pt 2)

So, I keep saying ‘maybe I am too old’ but I might not have addressed that properly in the last post.

Part 1 of this discussion-thing/thought-experiment/rambling mess was optimistic, and I’ll try to stay that way now. But at times, I can’t help feeling like my younger self might be wondering – why do you still watch my stuff, old man?

Considering that my life is pretty far removed from that of most protagonists in a lot of anime, what exactly am I relating to with their struggles? Again, it comes back to empathy, I hope, rather than some half-realised Peter Pan Complex, lol.

For instance, I know it’s currently in vogue to dump on millennials for ‘joining’ a Harry Potter house, but I never saw that urge as very different from claiming to be a Gemini or proudly declaring oneself as a fan of a particular sports team.

I mean, spot the difference, right? You learn the names and vital stats of all those involved in the thing you like, you dress up in costume/team colours when you attend the relevant events and you cheer and express excitement, you share opinions with like-minded folks… it’s all the same.

Yet I can’t seem to shake the spectre of doubt – this interest of mine is considered the domain of younglings.

Sure, I teach film analysis and I write about this pop culture element I mostly love, but is that just me cloaking my enjoyment with professional trappings? “Oh, I don’t just watch anime, I teach and write about it too, blah, blah, blah.”

Not sure I’m getting closer to figuring it out, precisely.

It might all be that perceived societal pressure, pressure that chips away at my mind in the background, it might just be the stories that are most often told, or the ones that are super-popular right now haven’t changed much, but I have…

But let me try to return to a more positive frame. Sure, I don’t have to face the same problems as younger folks, and so of course some things won’t speak to me in those shows, but again, not everything has to.

And you’ve probably read a review from me here at the Heap where I’ve either:

a) complained a bit when an anime is once more set in a school.

or b) been happy when an anime was set somewhere other than a school.

Now, these are two phrasings for the same thought, but one is just a little more mean-spirited than the other.

And of course, I do want to see stories about adults too – maybe that’s part of why I’m enjoying No Guns Life so much, but once again, I enjoy plenty of shounen and shoujo and coming of age stories as well. One isn’t better than the other for me, I just want more of both, perhaps.

In fact, I guess I crave a market where stories ‘aimed’ at folks younger than me exist alongside stories about people dealing with the problems and joys of being around my age, or older. Or younger. I want to continue to see stories from all kinds of people and places, because I’ve seen plenty of both and I’m always happy to see more of both for that matter 😀

Sometimes, and usually this comes from fans who seem to be my age and older, I see complaints about how ‘everything is the same’ now, or there’s ‘too much [insert genre name here]’.

Well, whether there’s ‘too much’ of one thing right now is a judgement call and one that I won’t make because I’m simply not up to date with everything produced, but nor would I be comfortable saying that. If heaps of people enjoy a certain genre, cool, go for it! Of course more of that thing will then be produced – sub-genres thrive and then wither in cycles.

And if I want something different, I just have to put a bit of effort in and look for it – after all, there’s around 70 years of animation from multiple countries available if I care to seek it out.

Tired of my rambling, yet? 😀

Okay, having subjected you to two posts worth of this topic now, I will say that there are themes, tropes and settings that I’ve seen many, many times and which won’t be exciting to me.

Especially in shounen or portal fantasy. And so I know what Oshii is saying there, it can be hard to get into a new series if that new series is (even a fun) re-hash of familiar elements. That’s what happens when you age – you see lots of stuff, lol.

But where I disagree with what I cannot be certain he is truly implying is the possible idea that because plenty of new anime is aimed at people younger than him (and me) that such a thing is a problem. (For me, it’s a problem if less variety occurs in the industry, but not if a certain thing remains popular).

Did I even come to any sort of conclusion? I don’t think so.

I feel older because I am getting older but whether I’m heading for my own Oshii moment… maybe not just yet.

Too old, huh? (Pt 1)

Mamoru Oshii is one of the giants of the anime world, and certainly known internationally too, since most folks into anime or film are at least aware of Ghost in the Shell for one, even if they haven’t seen it.

Now, over the years it does seem that he’s drifted quite comfortably toward ‘old man yells at cloud’ territory at times… and while I definitely disagree with a few of his aspersions when it comes to other directors, I do wonder about this 2016 quote:

“I’m not watching anything. There are zero titles I’m interested in. I mean, I’m over 65. Trying to get into anime aimed at young people is impossible. That’s true for Japanese films in general, not just anime. Everything is made for a young audience.”

I certainly can’t speak to the veracity of the translation, nor the state of cinema in Japan, but I think some of what’s there is a fairly straightforward comment that partially rings true for me.

And it’s clear to see the hyperbole in his claims: ‘everything is made for a young audience’ etc etc, but the issue of age is something I’ve been wondering about for the last decade, especially in regards to myself. I’m still not sure I have fully satisfactory answers either. (Although, one thing that is interesting perhaps, is to contrast the comment Oshii made with his upcoming project Vlad Love.*)

So, am I too old for most anime?

I do wonder. Admittedly, Oshii has a little over 25 years on me, but I’m not a young adult anymore, not by any stretch.

And it’s true that the majority of current shows are not aimed at older folks, but then, nor were shows of the past, for that matter. And when I was in the target audience, it was like an endless buffet! Oh, I also wanted to note that ‘aimed’ is a word that relates surely more to marketing, rather than audience reception.

That’s an important distinction, I hope.

Because even if a show is ‘aimed’ at a certain audience, that doesn’t mean other audiences should not be expected to participate.

All I have to do is think of a film like Aladdin or My Neighbour Totoro.

Each movie could be considered a ‘kids film’ but I enjoyed those (or similar films) when I was in that age bracket at 12 etc, and enjoyed them in the years after, all the way up to today. The implication that I should have already abandoned supposedly childish things like ‘wonderment’ and ‘happy endings’ is sad, and probably even a sign of bitterness.

(Doubly important for a writer not to give those things up, I reckon!)

Now, I haven’t been told those things personally – but I do believe that society, in general, loves phrases like “act your age”. And it’s those kind of ‘parent voice’ phrases that I think have long-infected discourse around the entertainment we choose.

[…Hmmm, I’m getting the feeling that I could easily make this post way longer than it already is, but I’ll try to rein myself in a bit! Maybe split it into two. Because while this is meant to be a discussion-style post (one of my goals for this year) I don’t want to hit you with an endless wall of text either… but it seems I do have a bit more to say :D]

Despite my declarations above, I definitely feel that I am essentially ‘too old’ for some anime… but more on that later, perhaps.

Instead, I want to address something I’ve inferred from Oshii’s statement, and which he may not have meant at all. But it seems to suggest that the anime focus on youth is a problem if you’re older. That you’re ‘locked out’, perhaps. But what precisely is ‘lost’ for me as an older chap, if the most popular, current shows speak very clearly to teens and young adults?

Nothing at all, if other shows are also being made.

Which they are.

And plenty of entertainment had that youth focus in the past and it will do so in the future.

And I can also watch those shows if I like, even as an older viewer. I can do it and perhaps remember being a teen, and remember going through that kinda awful, frustrating, sometimes exciting time in my life. It allows me to at least reflect upon whatever growth I’ve managed, but also, I find that it’s another method to keep me in touch with my empathy.

For instance, if a character in an anime (or any medium) is struggling or succeeding, whether that character is a kid, a teen, a young adult or an elderly person, then I should be able to see that on the screen and understand, and not denigrate or belittle those struggles, and also to feel happy for them when they experience triumph.

Even if they’re fictional creations I should feel that. And again, not just as a writer, but I hope I can continue to do that as a person too. I hope what we maybe all hope – that life doesn’t beat that optimism and empathy out of us!

So, there’s a Part 2 coming but for now – how about you? Do you feel like you’re getting ‘too old’ for anime? For certain genres? For certain tropes?

[Part 2 Here].

*I should add, it can be easy to see ‘change’ and mistake it for ‘hypocrisy’ and so I hesitate to guess at the apparent incongruence between these two observations.


When can I say something is a classic?

So, when can I actually say something is a classic?

The glib answer is whenever I want, of course 😀

But while working on a semi-functional menu for the Review Heap and checking over some of my tags – I saw one that caught my eye: classic.

Of course, I instantly began to doubt myself, wondering “am I using this tag judiciously enough”? I think I’d only tagged three titles thusly out of the scores of reviews I’d done at that point. After a quick look through them I added two more and then started to doubt myself again. For instance, I thought about tagging Pyscho-Pass… but is it really old enough to be a classic?

Another pause.

.

‘Age’ is hardly the only valid metric for deciding whether something is a classic or not, right? I mean, I reckon it certainly is useful – if a text has maintained some sort of critical and/or audience-based acclaim over a long time then it probably is pretty damn classic. But should something quite good (in my opinion) like Pyscho-Pass be precluded from that status because it’s less than 10 years old?

(To change gears for just a tic, I wonder if this might be a good discussion-style kinda post? I don’t do many of them but this seems like it could work, and so if you’d like to weigh in, please do!)

So after a few quick searches I found some interesting quotes/posts/ideas from a few different areas: cars, games, beauty, literature, furniture and music. Obviously, they won’t all be directly analogous to film and television and further, not all of the quotes below are from famous or scholarly sources either, but I think they’ll still be useful.

At the very bottom I’ll narrow down some parameters that I want to try to use here on the blog perhaps.

To begin at last, generally speaking:

A classic is an outstanding example of a particular style; something of lasting worth or with a timeless quality; of the first or highest quality, class, or rank – something that exemplifies its class.

(Wikipedia)

That’s a pretty good start I reckon, high quality and exemplary. Now I’ll change gears into the world of automobiles for a moment, where one source defines ‘classic’ as:

For example, the Classic Car Club of America defines a classic as a “fine” or “distinctive” automobile built between 1915 and 1948. For insurance and registration purposes, the age of a classic car, in most cases, is at least 20 years old but not more than 40 years old.

Here ‘age’ pops up but there’s a minimum for ‘classic’ of around 20 years, and a top range too, when insurers get involved at least. Obviously I can’t speak to their categories but using that idea of age as marker would suggest Pyscho Pass isn’t actually ‘old enough’ yet.

A quick one now:

Furniture and small appliances tend to be considered ‘vintage’ from 25 to 50 years old and older.

There’s that ‘couple of decades’ kinda requirement again! Now I want to jump over to literature for a bit, to first come at the metric of Time from the opposite end:

Modern classics in literature are like that—smooth-skinned and young, yet with a sense of longevity… A classic usually expresses some artistic quality—an expression of life, truth, and beauty.

Thoughtco

Longevity appears here, which I like – in this instance they’ve suggested that the beholder has to make a call about what is an ‘instant’ or ‘modern’ classic based on potential longevity. That I think is pretty interesting as it sets us each up, in a way, as kinda arbitrary arbiters. Not sure beauty fully works in terms of language or say, a visual style when thinking of film texts, because those production elements can be outstanding, distinctive or exemplary without being conventionally beautiful, right?

Still, onward – now from Italo Calvino:

A classic is a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers… A classic is a work that comes before other classics; but those who have read other classics first immediately recognize its place in the genealogy of classic works.

I like some of this as well; a classic text rewards repeated engagement – seems like a criteria that most folks would accept too. It’s also interesting to see him mention genealogy but also a place ‘above’ the rest, perhaps – and so I now feel like a classic can only be a true classic if it’s seen as better than the other classics out there 😀

This from Richard J. Smith, writing about the I-Ching:

  • First, the work must focus on matters of great importance, identifying fundamental human problems and providing some sort of guidance for dealing with them.
  • Second, it must address these fundamental issues in ‘beautiful, moving, and memorable ways,’ with ‘stimulating and inviting images.’
  • Third, it must be complex, nuanced, comprehensive, and profound, requiring careful and repeated study in order to yield its deepest secrets and greatest wisdom.
  • [Fourth] One might add that precisely because of these characteristics, a classic has great staying power across both time and space.

Okay, more stuff I like here, though again I see ‘beauty’… but maybe I’m being too narrow in my definition when I see the word used here? I keep thinking aesthetics, yet maybe I shouldn’t – though I definitely believe memorable is a useful word. The first criteria is interesting too – if I double back to Pyscho-Pass, the series feels like it does identify fundamental human problems and maybe offer some guidance too.

I stumbled across this blog post from 2010 and it’s going back to ‘time/age’ again but brings in the idea of the wider genre – and I think it’s clear that while all the songs in the example are rock songs, (so the grouping is of similar things on the surface) there are still differences in how audiences respond to these purportedly equal members of that group of classic songs.

When I was at the gym this afternoon, before I had put in my iPod earbuds, I heard U2’s “Beautiful Day” on one of the local classic rock radio stations. No complaints from me, of course, but really … how old does a song have to be to be called “classic rock”?

“Beautiful Day” was released less than 10 years ago — September 2000. Partly because U2 has really slowed down its pace of album releases, that song was the lead single just two albums before the current one. Just doesn’t seem like it belongs next to 25-year-old Van Halen songs, 35-year-old Zeppelin songs, and things like “Freebird” and “Sweet Home Alabama.”

The other point this example triggered for me, is whether a band which started in say, the late 70s like U2, is always playing ‘classic rock’ even when they release a song in 2010 and such a term in music clearly refers to the past. Obviously, the band’s work spanned a range of genres and styles over the years but this becomes similar to a related issue, I guess: namely, when unpacking any art movement that features terms like ‘modernism’ or ‘contemporary’ I have to remember that sometimes that word is ‘frozen’ and it only refers to a particular period.

Therefore, ‘classic rock’ is perhaps closer to a historical genre than a description of quality and so we might have classic films that are of a time and place but more valuable as historical documents rather than paragons for the future.

Anyone else getting sick of the word classic yet? Just me? Okay, well, now I want to share a short exchange from a gamespot forum, dated around five years ago:

#1gamerguru100

I know this can vary for different things. In your opinion, how much time passes before a movie is considered classic? Video games? Cars? Something else?

I can’t really come up with an example. 😛 I mean, when did NES and SNES become classic video game systems? The early 2000s maybe?

What do you think?

Master_Live

Like you said, it varies. I would say for example (to name a few):

GoldenEye (1997)

GTA III (2001)

Halo 1 (2001)

are already classics.

top_lel

I would say 16 years but that would make me classic too.

The_Last_Ride

10-15 years i would say

deactivated-5b1e62582e305

I don’t think it’s only a measure of time but more about how much impact it’s had. Something like Call of Duty 4 that came out 7 years ago can already be considered a classic simply because of how it changed the industry.

So once again, time seems really important but also now the question of how much ‘impact’ a game had on those that followed. To me, that makes the two go hand in hand to some extent – for instance, to truly judge the impact of one text on those that followed, you obviously have to actually wait around a few years to see.

In that case, can I say Pyscho-Pass is a classic because it will probably one day be cited as an influence on future productions? Or is Pyscho-Pass the result of the influence of other classic texts? I guess we only need to look to Philip K Dick’s work (specifically the film adaptations like Blade Runner and Minority Report) to see what director Naoyoshi Shiotani felt were influences on Pyscho-Pass.

And as a side-note, is the series no longer a classic (in my head) now that subsequent seasons have lowered in quality or audience response?

But finally now, this from a 2018 thread online where folks were arguing about classic beauty:

Classic beauty just means a beauty that involves a symmetric, well-proportioned face, features on the delicate side, none disproportionate (even if its beautiful or sexy in its own way, e.g. Angelina’s mouth, Amal’s eyebrows), perhaps a statuesque, sculptural quality to face and body.

Here there seemed to be concerns around aesthetic and structure, which I think can be applied to art just as easily because we obviously care about the look of animation, the quality of the writing, especially the plot and characterisation at a minimum.

Phew – bigger post than I feared!

But it looks like idea of longevity (or at least a sense that longevity is likely) comes up often, along with the actual features of the text (which I take to mean both style and content) and yes, a certain amount of chronological distance from the present (distinct from longevity) along with the actual or even potential impact on a genre/medium and/or upon the texts that followed the potential classic, are all key factors that I should consider – based on my admittedly cursory research here.

I guess something like the following could be among things for me to think about before using the ‘classic’ tag in my reviews (not that it ultimately matters, but I’ve had fun here :D):

  • Longevity
  • Impact on other texts
  • Aesthetic or structural qualities
  • Worth multiple viewings

Okay, done! I’d love to hear if you’ve got anything to add, as I’m sure I’ve missed something.

And I haven’t decided on Pyscho-Pass just yet, though maybe it shouldn’t be so hard? I think the first season at least ticks 3 of the 4 criteria I mentioned above for me, but I’m wondering whether the Longevity aspect can hold out? I mean, will folks turn away from the show in the next couple of decades if the subsequent seasons continue to be received poorly/not as highly as the first?

I’ll keep thinking!

AND for curiosity’s sake, here are the films I’ve tagged with that precious ‘classic’ moniker so far:

The Review Heap Classics (as of Nov 2019)

Though if you’re expecting certain films or shows to be there well, they might not show up simply because I haven’t got around to them yet – for instance, GITS is missing but won’t be missing forever!