Backlog Eternal, Across Space, Time, and Medium; Good Practices

When people talk about “LOL I have a HEEUG backlog of downloaded anime” I smile and nod and roll my eyes. To me, that’s like saying you breathe air and eat cake; and sometimes you like to look up at the sky and you sometimes see some explosions there.

You should be like her when you watch anime

I suppose it is only fair if you react the same way to my backlog problem; my backlog is nothing unusual; 3-4 series that I want to watch, and countless DVDs shrinkwrapped sitting on my shelf, ready to be loaned to friends. The only real difference I’d like to point out is that I actively AVOID watching series that I know I cannot finish. This means shows like I’ll probably miss out on Saiunkoku Monogatari because people hyping it up are all using the wrong words (calling it josei or shoujo, or strong female characters, or that historic China motif, or that it’s purely story driven with drama in the middle). Oddly enough because I did catch an episode of it and I found out it has 1) Ryo Kunihiko 2) Houko Kuwashima 3) Tomokazu Seki and Hikaru Midorikawa, so that might get added to the queue of stuff to watch.

But I’m not here to talk about my backlog. I’m here to stand on an illusory box and tell you to get rid of (or lessen otherwise) your backlog by not watching them, and by reducing it by limiting of what you watch and download or obtain otherwise. Of course, the only real reason I have a huge DVD backlog is because I want to have those DVDs, not so much because I want to rewatch them (although all of them probably stand up to being re-watched), so that’s unavoidable. If you’re like that when it comes to your backlog, then you can just stop reading.

I think there is a value to be selective of what you watch. Anime is a hobby that can burn people out. And I think underlying it all is that the majority of anime are rather similar and what is original for many shows are only in the superficial. What I mean by that is if you just watch 2-3 episodes of a show, often you can have a very good idea what the show is about, and learn many of the defining characteristics of a show. It’s a big reason why I think I quit watching shounen fight type shows ever since I’ve had my fill of my first “favorite.”

OTOH, what’s unique about certain shows is the way it progresses, or how the characters build themselves up into a huge ball of unstoppable milk & pandering. I’m thinking about Initial D and One Piece; the former is a rollercoaster, the latter is like the Marvel Universe of characters and things. But those are not really “backlogs.” You can just read synopsis and talk to people and you’ll actually miss out on almost nothing, condensing your backlogs of 10+ or more episodes to virtually nil in the matter of 10 minutes. It’s probably not as enjoyable than the rollercoaster by following one cliffhanger after another, but you deal with it how you can. Well, if you’re the type of person who would rather marathon things, then it’ll affect you even less. One of my friends would just liberally use the fast-forward feature. It’s no big deal if you’re watching subs, anyways.

With these methods you can probably “deconstruct” or “skim” about half of the anime on the air at any given time. What’s even worse, is that you can guess about what goes on in those shows with reasonable accuracy even without watching the particular episode, as long as you have enough input to work with.

That leaves us with about half of the anime on the air that cannot be easily reconstructed. I hope maybe 2/3 of what’s left are shows that you don’t want to watch in the first place? That it would narrow things down to a manageable level? If you find yourself watching half of what’s on the air anyways, that might not be very comforting: let’s all remember that if you enjoy watching everything, you have no taste. And having no taste isn’t a bad thing, but it’s a curse. Don’t. Be selective. It builds character.

There is also the copy infringement aspect to it. The fewer fansubs you watch, sometimes, the better. Today we treat them as if we deserve these things, but we need to realize even the local Japanese often don’t get the treatment we do, since a lot of the anime on the scene are available only on cable or satellite, or airs later than the first air date in many parts of the country. Having your favorite fansubbed anime available 2 days after its first air date is a type of entitlement that we will never get legitimately.

That’s not a very rational reason, however. An even better one is that having a “fansub” backlog necessarily means I am filling all my free time, that I can afford to spent watching anime, by watching anime. Where does it leave, then, the incentive to buy and support your local anime efforts? It isn’t so much that you even keep the fansubs you downloaded as a substitute for what you may have to otherwise pay for (I delete my fansubs after I’m done with a handful of exceptions, for example). It is letting “oh I saw this so I’m going to think twice about buying” get in the way. I think invariably this is not a major problem as long as the commercial interests are ready to pander to the fansub fans the subsequent things they need.

However, there is a growing gap between those who do not dabble in the various local, domestic anime scenes at all, and the majority of fans cultivated by the domestic labor; one that can be better characterized as an elitist divide. Granted, today this is only really a problem in North America, but who knows how it will pan out. And while this is only a problem from a generalized perspective and really doesn’t apply to a lot of individuals, but the thinking is there.

As much as it makes no sense to tell people to watch less anime, I sort of am. I think people knows their limits, and it’s good to find out where yours are and don’t go past what is enjoyable. Certainly there’s no reason to worry about your backlog. Maybe that’s all I am saying. Fine things should be taken with moderation.

7 Responses to “Backlog Eternal, Across Space, Time, and Medium; Good Practices”

  • Lupus

    Yeah, one thing I really don’t understand is how some people can watch every single episode of anime ever available on torrent. I usually start with maybe 10 series, then drop to around 6-7 by episode 5. After episode 10 I’m usually down to my favourite 3-4, which I’ll finish.

    One way to have a small backlog is to never make a huge one in the first place.

  • Tobias

    Watch less! My backlog problem disappeared when I started to be more relaxed about anime. I don’t reserve time for it or set my mind on following a story: a great end does not make up for a boring start (dropped Simoun ;-). If there’s time I check my list and watch what I feel like. The rest just piles up indefintely: DVD-R come cheap. Sometimes I stop downloading after noticing that the third episode went unwatched for weeks. Maybe I’ll just throw away old discs once that Case Logic bag is full.

    I also stopped trying to order my favourites. Whatever gets finished first probably fit my taste best.

    The downside is that I watch more light comedy than interesting drama this way. But I can always buy those milestones on DVD and wait (years if necessary) for the right weekend.

    Of course this is horribly spoiled and highly illegal. Didn’t work that out yet. But is downloading wrong if I don’t watch it?

  • Ten

    Ah. The backlog of hell. Gone are the days when I tried to watch everything in sight. I currently keep up a leisurely pace, with 3-4 series in tow. I find this the most relaxing and fun way to enjoy anime. As much as I love anime, I need to read a book or do something else.

    Nowadays, I simply delete finished fansubs, with the exception of very few favorites that I know I’ll rewatch again. As for burning them, I don’t do that anymore. NOt because of the legal reasons, blah, blah, blah, but because of pure unadulterated laziness. I don’t worry about DVD backlogs. I’d get to it whenever I can. But usually, I’d whip out a couple of favorite discs from 12K or FMP or FuruBa and let it be background noise.

    Oh, and I’m looking forward to what you day about Kokumono.

  • TheBigN

    I do have a nice “large” backlog, and I know I can’t watch everything that comes out in Japan, so I don’t. I just have stuff that will interest me, which is to say a lot of things. But having discretion in choosing what to watch is key. I just have a bit less than others. :P

  • omo

    Heh. I just hope you all know that even as I say this in my blog entry, I still probably watch more anime than most of you. It’s an inner struggle more dear to me, as a result, I suppose.

  • dm

    I don’t really have a backlog (well, starting over on Mahou Shoujotai Alice and Mushishi, and watching them to the end). Otherwise, if something sits on my disk unwatched for a month or two, I delete it.

    DVDs don’t count — most of them I watched in fansub form, and I just have them in order to share them with people and to be less of a leech on the hard work of anime creators.

    I’ve been finding myself considerably more ruthless with series than I used to be — I only watch anime at the gym (as a reward for sweating), which limits the amount of time I have.

    Simoun seems to have accelerated this process somewhat — why bother watching anything that doesn’t measure up to it?

  • Jeff Lawson

    I suffer from temporary backlogs, but they’re nothing I can’t knock out over a slow weekend. The big “37 DVDs still in shrink wrap” backlogs, on the other hand… I don’t do that.

    I think a lot of anime fans insist on watching anything and everything they can get their hands on out of some weird sense of obligation. Sort of an, “I’m an anime fan, so I have to watch anime!” kind of thing. That, or they just don’t want to be the only person at the party who doesn’t know what happened in Episode 9 of Magical Canan. I went through that phase once… I suspect every anime fan does at some point. Problem is, some get stuck… and eventually flame out.

    For me, it’s all about staying in the proper groove. New anime will keep coming… no stopping it. And there will always be a bajillion old shows to watch. The only way to keep up, I think, is to figure out what it is you like, and continue seeking it out. When that gets old, look for something new. Who goes into a restaurant and orders everything on the menu? Just order what you feel like eating. You can always try something different next time.

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