Getting Back Into New Stuff (Anime Edition)

After years of living alone and even more years of borrowing someone else’s Crunchyroll account, I’ve finally started watching new stuff again. Mostly anime right now, since I don’t feel like wading into the intermittent cesspool that is Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, or whatever else I’ve got out there. So much TV and streaming-centric movie stuff has happened in the last decade and so much of it ran for so long that even thinking about trying to catch up on what I’ve missed or saved for later has me feeling fatigued. In the anime sphere, it’s a bit easier. Most shows feel like they take longer to come out, the overall runtimes/episode counts are shorter, and it’s also a bit easier to get recommendations from my friends since I’ve watched so much less anime than any other type of TV show. I can usually just ask for the top five shows from a few people and watch what comes out of that without needing to worry too much about whether or not my taste aligns with my friends’.

I’ve dabbled a bit in the “recommended for you” section of Crunchyroll after I put a bunch of my favorite anime on my watchlist. I think I might have to actually watch those shows for the recommendations to change, though, since I’m largely unimpressed so far. There’s a lot of stuff that looks like the same show wrapped in a different skin, so I tend to skip right past most of that stuff. I’m not really into shows about being transported to other worlds, which has been a popular formula for a while now. Nor am I really into what feels like the evolved form of that, which I can only describe as “totally normal, boring people living in incredibly fantasy worlds.” A lot of the early shows in the format were interesting, but most of them felt like that had a pretty strong premise and the whole “being out of place in a fantastical world” was mostly just set dressing. A place to return to for jokes on occasion, but little else since the story is actually about something more complex than merely being in a different world.

I might be overly critical here, since I haven’t watched most of these shows, but I also don’t really feel inclined to watch them. I’ve grown fairly tired of meta jokes and characters halfway breaking the fourth wall. A lot of the modern action movie scene has left me feeling tired of stories that don’t take themselves seriously. Sure, a story taking itself too seriously is also tiring, but I’m here to buy in to the premise. I’m here for escapism. If every other joke is a winking nudge aimed at the audience to acknowledge that real life is also a bitch sometimes, then I’m not really interested in sitting through the story. There’s a lot more to talk about here, but Austin Walker said it best in a blog post a while back, when people got up in arms about the dialogue in Forspoken, so I’ll save myself some time.

With all that hanging over me and the recommendations, I’ve had no success finding anything new to watch that I didn’t already have on my radar from past recommendations or the rare bit of show press that breaks through to my spheres of the internet. I’m sure that, as I watch stuff my friends recommended and that I’ve enjoyed in the past, the recommendations will improve. And it’s not like I don’t have plenty to watch. From just one group chat (search marked by my frequent “I grew up under a rock” disclaimer to indicated that folks should recommend stuff from any point in our lifetimes), I’ve got enough stuff to fill all my time until after I move this summer. Even if I wind up not doing much for the week I’m taking off around my friends’ wedding. Especially since most of that time will go toward Tears of the Kingdom.

Honestly, regardless of the minor frustrations of struggling to find something that I will enjoy watching, it feels nice to be watching new stuff again. I spent a year pretty much only playing video games, where the only things I read or watched were stories I already knew well as I pursued familiarity and comfort over new experiences. Even some stuff I couldn’t rewatch multiple times over the past three years because I didn’t own DVD or Blu-Ray collections feels fresh and fun again, since it’s been so long (relatively speaking) since I watched any of it (some of which I only watched once since my ex roommates weren’t really the type to rewatch stuff). I’ve spent so long watching things I know very well and pursuing the comfort that comes with them that even the more mild surprises and mundane jokes of something I’m halfway familiar with feel fresh and exciting.

You’d think with all that, that I’d be less bored of most of the shows in my recommendations feed. Somehow, none of them seem to land despite my incredibly low standards right now. Wish I knew why.

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