Houston, We Have a Consumption Problem…

At the heart of anime lies a dark truth…

Being liberated from the stresses of my previous IT failures let me pursue some different things in international studies – things that, surprisingly, had a lot of crossover with sociology and anthropology.

Sidebar: You might be surprised to learn this, but I was seriously considering pursuing those two at one point and I remember going nuts for the former when I first learnt it was a thing to study, but now, sociological jargon kinda confuses me –  I mean, I didn’t even know what a “disjuncture” was until this year (it means “a separation/disconnect between things”). I think it’s fascinating to be able to dissect culture and people…even if that does mean having to deal with things that are a bunch more descrptive than I’d like…

Lately, I’ve been looking at the process of consumption through this lens and it’s telling me I have a problem. We all do.

That is, by labelling ourselves “fans” of anime, manga and so on, we spend excessive amounts of money on it, pride ourselves on our huge collections (physical or digital) and call it “wonderful”. We put stock into it because we resonate with it personally – i.e. we make our identities out of the things we engage with – then the bigger our lists get, the more we find we have to consume.

If we stream excessive amounts of anime, read huge amounts of manga or create huge anime lists and interact with an online community, we do it at the expense of the environment. Trees, CO2…whatever is involved in making merchandise…and because it’s made to be consumed only for as long as you want it, it gets discarded or given to charity stores/libraries. (Library manga gets nasty over time if it isn’t handled properly…that observation’s from a library-goer’s point of view, not a library volunteer’s or charity store volunteer’s.)

Furthermore, class disparity means inevitably there are some things people with lower incomes can’t get access to. This is something I brush up against when I say to other people “I can’t watch/read [this thing] because I’m saving up for the day I can watch all the subscription anime and read all the subscription/purchasable manga on my own terms (both in time and money)”. I don’t want to have to go back to being on the high seas when there’s so many simulcasts and other streaming anime I can get for free, though, just with a one week wait.

The ugly truth is that there’s no solution to this – in order to be a fan and create our identities as fans of this content, we have to consume. There’s no “going off the grid”, unlike fast fashion or ethically-produced goods. We can fight for more money to go to the people who make the stuff we consume and pay for what we can when it’s licensed, but that’s probably the extent of the things we can do…aside from not consume it at all, of course, but I won’t pursue that possibility further. This is an anime and manga blog, after all.

…and paradoxically, that’s what I love about looking at consumption (and by extension both international studies and sociology). It repulses you when people partake so much in anime/manga/whatnot that they don’t have a life, but then some fans also get repulsed at those who don’t partake (y’know, those who label others as “filthy casuals”)…this happening simultaneously reminds us we need to be moderate – or as moderate as we can be, we gotta compromise after all – in what we consume and how we consume it.

Hopefully I’ve imparted some interesting arguments here – there’s no way I could boil the significance of anime/manga (etc.) to an entire school of thought into one post, but…I tried anyway. I did also generalise a bit for the sake of flow and exaggeration, but through that you should be able to get what I’m saying.

So, was this interesting to you guys? Interacting with the new topics I’ve gotten means I probably sound more of a person of the humanities than ever (and hence gotten wordier than ever), but if it’s of worth to you guys, then I could always discuss more international studies topics in relation to anime/manga…

6 thoughts on “Houston, We Have a Consumption Problem…

Add yours

  1. I mean, you don’t have to label yourself a fan, right? Or for that matter, why even try to specifically construct an identity centered on consumption? In a sociological context, other people may unfortunately hoist certain identities on you, including disadvantaged ones, but why do so to yourself? The labels can make a useful descriptive shorthand, but you exist regardless of your name.

    Ehhh… I thought I had point, but I don’t really know what I’m saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I never really thought about that paradox of no-lifers versus casuals, but that’s a good point. I think people will always look to defend their own choices, which is why a no-lifer might call someone a casual, or a casual call someone a no-lifer. It’s a way to dismiss criticism, or take the perceived “high ground”.

    Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People tip #1 – don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. Because people HATE to admit they are wrong, or made a mistake, or whatever. It’s not constructive and will result in people getting defensive, even if they are in the wrong somehow, it’s just human nature.

    Anyways I liked this post, so I’d enjoy more like it. But I also just like reading posts where you educate on Japanese meanings and whatnot too haha. Always feel like I’m learning something here.

    Liked by 1 person

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