I have been watching anime/reading manga for close to seven years now. While the amount of anime I regularly watch or the duration for which I have watched it pales in comparison to some of you, 7 years is still a pretty significant portion of my life.
I have greatly enjoyed watching anime these past seven years, but sometimes I can’t help but ponder the uselessness of this hobby.
Say instead of watching anime, I spent my free time knitting instead.
I could knit some cool things and sell them for a small profit on Etsy. Even if I wasn’t good enough to do that, I could knit some things and hang them around the house as either decorations or little containers for stuff or something. If someone asked me my hobby, I would don my largest grin and gesture towards my collection of badly made (but hand made!) Little Big Planet plushies.
As a contrast, your figure/DVD/manga collection really just means that you are willing to spend money on stuff.
I could perhaps have taken up a sport. Even though earning money through a sport (as a hobby) is not terribly feasible, at the very least I’d be more fit, more energetic and perhaps even a better team player.
Or art. I could have taken up drawing/painting stuff and while it would have been exceptionally hard to earn any money with art (especially as a hobby), it would have still proved to be a more useful skill than anime.
Even video games, the traditional slacker hobby, has more benefits than anime.
I think there is some research that suggests playing games results in slight reflex/memory improvement. On top of that, if you become good enough at games, you can take part in tournaments/livestreams/other things and not only earn fame, but some money as well. (Granted most regular gamers will never reach that level, but the level exists and that’s an important difference.)
You can’t be ‘good’ at anime/manga. You either watch or read it or you don’t.
Since you can’t be good at anime, there is no sense of competition or pride for your hobby.
You can’t be an outstanding individual by watching anime. Watching anime will earn you no prizes in life, will do nothing for your resume and is the furthest possible thing from a life achievement.
At this point you might be thinking:
..but anime makes me more educated and cultured!
While it is true that you might pick up on small little facts and trivia from anime, I am pretty sure that spending one hour on Wikipedia will teach you just as much if not more than an entire season of anime.
I will admit that you might become a more “cultured” individual by watching anime. You might gain an appreciation for Japanese culture, maybe you will learn some life lessons and pick up a flirting tip or two from the latest harem. But, reading good books will have the same effect and on top of that, your comprehension skills, writing style and diction will all improve.
Another argument that could be made for anime’s usefulness is that it is a good auxiliary hobby. That is to say, it inspires artists to draw, writers to write and knitters to knit.
The first problem with that argument is that it is really only applicable to people who actually have other hobbies and more importantly, it is not something that only anime can provide. I could draw pictures of video games, novel characters or any other thing.
Heck, I could take up art and knitting as two linked hobbies. That way, I could draw pictures of my knitting and provide said images as bonuses or advertisements when selling the knitting.
And what of blogging anime you say? Sure, I gained some benefits from blogging (the biggest of which was meeting most of you) , but I could blog about anything and reap similar benefits. Sure, the anime blogosphere is rather well defined and not terribly difficult to get into, but with a bit of work, you could get into a blogosphere of pretty much any given hobby.
You could blog about knitting and use your nicely drawn pictures of knitting as blog headers/backgrounds.
So what if anime/manga/visual novels are a total waste of time? So, what if we chose to waste our time having fun and relaxing instead of trying to be all practical?
As rebellious (or lazy depending on your perspective) as that statement might be, it is a very valid line of thought.
We lead rather short lives, so as long we enjoy them, there really is no point in trying to be practical all the time. Who cares if your hobby is useless and doesn’t help you out? Who cares if you don’t actually achieve anything, if you are just going to end up dead in the ground anyway?
The only problem though is that as much as I want to adamantly agree with all of that, I do care.
I look at people who have achieved so much more and can’t help but feel envy.
For example: By the time he was 24, Michelangelo had made this (he started it two years before at 22):
Now, even if I spent every minute of the past seven years learning how to sculpt, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as talented as Michelangelo but my talent isn’t really relevant. I am not jealous of his talent (well I am a bit). I am jealous of the hard work and growth he got out of his sculpting.
Sculpting for roughly an hour everyday for the past seven years would likely not have resulted in any sculptures that I could make money of, but there would be a big difference between the sculptures I made seven years ago and the ones I made today.
I could look at my new sculptures and be proud of the fact that they bear a closer resemblance to humans than to Geodudes. I could be proud of the hard work I put in and the raise in skill that I experienced.
See, that is the biggest problem with having something like anime as a hobby.
Not only can you not be good at watching anime, but more importantly, you can’t get better at it.
You can’t look at yourself in the mirror one morning and tell yourself that you are better at anime than you were yesterday.
And that really sucks.
I do not believe in growing up and adopting adult values (adults are boring), but I do recognize the joy of growing alongside your hobby and watching it mature as you do. That joy is something you will never get with anime, manga, visual novels and most other forms of non-interactive entertainment.
I hope I haven’t given you a totally depressing impression of myself. I know that most of my time is wasted not on anime, but on sites like Reddit or Twitter and more importantly, the time wastage is solely my own fault. So, I am not really blaming anime for my shortcomings. I am just pointing out that it really isn’t a beneficial hobby.
For the time being though I am quite content to keep watching anime and reading manga (I love a good story and a good cast of characters way too much), but deep down, I hope I will find something else someday.
If I can find something, something I can be truly passionate about, something I can experience growth from, then I will be happy and at peace. If I can find that piece of joy, then I will say goodbye to this blog with no regrets and no mixed feelings.
Thanks for reading.
p.s. I wanted this post to be published on the 31st of January (my birthday) but I procrastinated a bit too much. Oh well. 🙂