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.
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.