The Nostalgia Effect & Anime.

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If you´re looking at the picture above and furrowing your eyebrows, no, you haven´t fallen into a time loop back to 2006, it´s just very hard to find a Code Geass screenshot that doesn´t look like a potato. I don´t think we appreciate how far video quality has come, which transitions nicely in the topic I´m going to give my uneducated opinion on: Nostalgia goggles, ironically, blur our views on our dearest shows, most of the time, it´s better to never go back to that thing again, be it anime, manga, movies or any other type fiction in case you realize how inherently awful it actually is. Why is this? have we all become bitter weebs on the internet? has the opinion of others clouded our own? did we just have shit taste or were our virgin animu eyes just too new to the medium to care about everything in it?

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Air Gear, a show I like. Ironically, of course.

What was your first anime? mine was Death Note. Or actually it was Sailor Moon, and if we´re looking at childhood shows, it was Yu-gi-oh and I cried because a character died at some point, but that doesn´t count. Death Note does. I was 11 years old at the time and I watched it in the Dutch dub, then I lost my patience after three episodes and skipped to the last episode, where I thought Misa was a magical girl and her throwing herself off a skyscraper was slightly depressing, so I turned off my laptop and watched some Winx Club instead.

A few months after that though, I watched it again and now, years later I go back to it at least once a year, and it has never once lost its magic. Death Note is a rare case in my old-but-new-school anime adventure, because shows like Code Geass, Air Gear and Gravitation haven´t aged nearly as well.

According to Clay Routledge – a social psychologist – nostalgia stems from insatisfaction and loneliness, as it is a comfort resource which reminds us that once, we were happy and satisfied. Clearly, this is a bit too dramatic for something like anime (although it does explain why the 50 year olds of the community are so bitter all the time) but the general idea makes sense – Nostalgia goggles blind us over the happiness and curiousty we felt back then when we knew nothing about the medium, and everything was new and cool.

On my personal experience with the bitter nostalgia goggles, I´ll talk about Code Geass, when I think about what Code Geass was to me back when I was 13 years old, I remember  it for the epic plotwists, the moments I cried, the drama and the ending – I completely forget about how the plotwists were a bit far-fetched, the drama not nearly as impactful and all the bland moments inbetween. This coincides with the Sturgeon´s Law, selective memory and  nostalgia goggles: we remember all the good stuff and exceptionally bad stuff, but forget the mediocre, therefore making the show seem great when new to the medium, but almost bad when we´re older and more experienced with the tropes and clichés.

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With experience comes critique – we´ve seen more and more shows, and nowadays we watch seasonal anime, which gives us the chance to watch anime we normally wouldn´t give the time of day if we were searching for one to marathon, therefore we become more aware of the flaws and appreciate the good more.

Code Geass isn´t a bad show, but I don´t think I´ll ever watch it again just in case it becomes a bad show. I have fond memories with Code Geass, I don´t want to dislike it, ya know.

Most of us got into anime in our tween middleschool years, at the peak of boredom and completely blind to priorities and responsibilites, going back to what Clay Routledge said, we might unconciously associate the anime we watched back then with the laid back days of childhood, anime might´ve been  our form of escapism, and we might remember it for that, and not the actual content of the anime in question.

Sometimes I think it´s better to just stay ignorant and easy to please, because I would love to go back to the first season of Black Butler and not cringe, but then I don´t think I would appreciate Black Butler – Book of Circus as much as I do right now, and sometimes it´s fun to just be a miserable oldfag on the internet and complain about filthy casuals.

To end this post that really hasn´t gotten us anywhere, I´d like to reflect on the fact that we´ve never been more exposed to anime and manga than we are right now, most of us haven´t started watching seasonal anime since a year or two ago, meaning we get a good look on the trash vs good stuff ratio, leading us to believe that everything coming out in 2006 was amazing, just because we watched the best things of that time in our early weaboo days, but when we look at the actual anime chart of that year, we see just how awful a lot of the anime was.

This has always been this way with every medium of entertainment, and it´s going to continue this way, too, in 10 years people will remember the Attack on Titans, the Sword Art Onlines, the Madoka Magicas and Bakemonogataris, not the Owari no Seraphs, Plastic Memories and Hibike Euphoniums, just like we remember Death Note, Code Geass, Black Lagoon and Fullmetal Alchemist, but completely forget the Love Get Chu´s, Witchblades and Tokkou´s, which is just as trashy as the seasonal things we watch and complain about about nowadays.

Tl;dr: Don´t rewatch your 15 first anime unless you want to feel confused, the old shit and new shit are both just as shit, adolescence has made us all more bitter but with better taste.

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  1. Long story short, “bitter but with better taste” is just something old-timers tell themselves to feel better. If your ability to view things critically improved, you will also be to see “why” the series worked and was able to overcome its warts at the time. Things that succeed always succeed for a reason. Even if I can’t get into older series in exactly the same I did at the time, I constantly find myself impressed by the skill that went into them.

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