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description: Objectively, anime/manga better than American alternatives. So why the need to justify?
...
> "How do you justify anime/manga as a hobby? I catch a lot of flak and because of that tend to hide my hobby from others."
One might wonder whether a hobby can be a 'better' hobby than another. Maybe genre preferences is something you just shouldn't argue about, like whether chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla. But it is sensible to think about.
There's no hard-and-fast distinction between a hobby and a job (knitting _[Katamari Damacy](!Wikipedia)_ hats), or a career^[Facebook wasn't incorporated from the get-go, and the 1990s and 2000s are littered with technological giants which started as a hobby such as Linux.], or mere consumption (is 'TV watching' a 'hobby'?), or charity (building houses with Habitat for Humanity), or morality ([learning modern theology](http://commonsenseatheism.com/), discussing issues in utilitarianism^[And speaking of utilitarianism, because hobbies and media consumption use up resources, they are a valid target of critique - 5 or 10 DVD box sets might cost [1 dead baby](http://www.raikoth.net/deadchild.html).]). 'Hobby' is not a [natural kind](!Wikipedia). No one would question whether you should try to compare jobs, careers, consumption^['You should buy [fair trade](!Wikipedia) chocolate instead of Hershey's!'], or charity^[The entire _raison d'être_ of [Givewell](!Wikipedia) or [Charity Navigator](!Wikipedia).].
Which of these issues is more important will depend on specifics, of course; the tea connoisseur is more affected by economic & social justice issues, while the job-hunter may worry more about corporate ethics, and the TV watcher may be interested in recommendation algorithms to optimize enjoyability per hour (since there is more to watch than one could [see in a life](Culture is not about Esthetics)), or [issues](http://33bits.org/2010/03/15/open-letter-to-netflix/) [of privacy](http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/technology/13netflix.html) ([PDF](http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/cs/pdf/0610/0610105v2.pdf)). But there *are* issues to think about.
# A real problem
The question is often posed by anime critics. How to defend watching anime? It's interesting that anime is this popular; you don't hear people asking how to defend their love of [Korean wave](!Wikipedia) movies and soap opera. It wasn't always this way - back in the 1970s, anime was so rare as to not be worth discussing, and even in the 1980s it was a phenomenon limited largely to college campuses where homemade VHS [fansubs](!Wikipedia) could be aired for select enthusiasts.^[I read in the archived text files of one BBS that sometimes when fansubs were unavailable and no one there spoke Japanese, anime clubs might watch an episode *anyway*.]
It seems to be a fact that anime *is* overrepresented in the American market compared to moving picture products of other countries. How many British productions does one see in America, despite England being one of the closest culture to America, despite all their productions being in English by default, despite 70 years of television excellence by the BBC, etc. etc.? Not very many. Or how about [Bollywood](!Wikipedia), one of the most prolific cinemas in the world, active since the 1930s? Or the aforementioned [Korean films](!Wikipedia "Cinema of Korea")? (That the American remake of the critically acclaimed & commercially successful _[Oldboy](!Wikipedia)_ fell through, and the DVD release obscure, only emphasizes the point.)
# Defense
## Endogenous, not exogenous
Perhaps the failure of all non-Japanese sources is due to some market defect. Hollywood is infamous for its accounting standards, less than transparent dealings, and backroom agreements; it is reasonable to suggest that the game has been rigged. Or maybe the market is oversaturated - too many would-be cooks. But why would either of these not have kept anime/manga at 1970/1980 levels? What exempts them? Or perhaps the Japanese are somehow _simpatico_ with Americans and can specially appeal to the American psyche; but then, why aren't British works cleaning up (surely the British are even closer culturally), and why are [French](!Wikipedia "Manga outside Japan#France") manga sales (with 1/6 the population of America) even stronger than American sales? I know of no explanation, so in the absence of convincing evidence, shouldn't the default argument be that anime/manga is simply a better quality product than the American competitors?
### Why is anime good?
*What* precisely is good about anime/manga is highly debatable, to say the least. Nor is it something that we need to discuss for the purpose of defending anime watching, as long as we have evidence that anime *is* worth watching. As the Buddha remarked on someone asking after the nature of heaven & hell rather than how to obtain enlightenment:
> "It is as if a man had been wounded by a poisoned arrow, and his friends & relatives procured him a surgeon. But the man says, 'I will not have this arrow out until I learn whether my injurer were Brahmin or Kshatriya; tall, short, or medium; black, dusky, or of yellow skin; from this or that city; whether it be an ordinary or claw-headed arrow...' The man would die without learning all this."
But let's discuss it anyway. I have heard people say that the edge comes from American media's abandonment of the serial format in favor of a static episodic format that would [syndicate](!Wikipedia "Broadcast syndication") profitably and which would draw no criticism by its anodyne content in which the good guys *always* win, or from maintaining a diversity of genres ranging from moralistic child tales to comedy to business wars to detective stories while American comics slowly degenerated into ever more involuted superhero comics and American TV retrod the same action-adventure formulas. What follows is my subjective take, gleaned from my own idiosyncratic [anime watching](http://myanimelist.net/animelist/gwern), [book reading](/docs/2002-notenki-memoirs), and SF reading habits. This seems plausible to me, anyway. Defending anime on esthetics grounds seems easy. American cartoons were, before the advent of anime, marked by an episodic format that destroyed any detailed overarching plot-line, and were not visually accomplished; further, they were highly stereotyped and commercial enterprises, in a bad way. Japanese productions were quite commercial too, but the devil is in the details - _Gundam_ was designed to sell toys, but has become so much more than a model advertisement. In America, it would never have become more. Japan hosts amazing fandoms like [Touhou Project](!Wikipedia) or [Vocaloids](!Wikipedia) which invite participation[^Touhou], but the most active fandom in America, _Star Wars_, is characterized by the copyright holders doing their best to limit fans to passive consumption^[For example, _[The Phantom Edit](!Wikipedia)_ was initially released anonymously, [Star Wars Fan Film Awards](!Wikipedia "The Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards") begun reluctantly & [with highly restrictive rules](http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/28/movies/film-star-wars-fan-films-come-tumbling-back-to-earth.html), and it is well-known that any fan production which is sold, lives under Damocles's sword, regardless of how much it costs to distribute.]:
> '"We've been very clear all along on where we draw the line," said Jim Ward, vice president of marketing for Lucasfilm. "We love our fans. We want them to have fun. But if in fact somebody is using our characters to create a story unto itself, that's not in the spirit of what we think fandom is about. Fandom is about celebrating the story the way it is."'
[^Touhou]: Even if the invitation could be best described as a kind of [trolling](!Wikipedia "Troll (Internet)"); from the talk ["Riding on Fans' Energy: Touhou, Fan Culture, and Grassroot Entertainment"](http://cardcaptor.moekaku.com/?p=112)
> "Touhou also motivates fans to create because it has serious flaws: [ZUN](!Wikipedia) knows how to create wonderful characters, yet his drawings leaves much to be desired. If Touhou were a commercial endeavor, none of his drawing would appear in it, but ZUN has kept the Touhou games as amateur works from the start. Fans are frustrated with the drawing style, so they take upon themselves to beautify ZUN's drawing. A large amount of fanarts that are 'better than the real thing' follows. Ironically, many fans (myself included) are attracted to Touhou because of these secondary artworks.
>
> I surmise that the same reasons explain why Touhou appeals to music listeners. ZUN's music are imperfect: while they contain many catchy motifs, they don't sound harmonious and can be arranged better. Again, because they can be improved and have many good parts, Touhou musics became popular among remixers. Some groups such as [dBu music](http://www.dobuusagi.com/) republish ZUN's compositions song by song, changing only the MIDI instruments. Other groups would arrange the musics into different styles (such as Jazz), recombine motifs them to make new musics, or add lyrics. These musical arrangements seem to be the most effective advertisement for the Touhou series nowadays. Many oversea fans discovered Touhou through a flash video clip used to promote 'Marisa ga Taihen na Mono wo Nusundeikimashita', an arrangement of Alice Margatroid's theme by IOSYS. Touhou musics are also widely used to make MAD movies in [Nico Nico Douga](!Wikipedia). Popular songs such as 'U.N. Owen ha Kanojo nanoka?' and 'Native Faith' would have hundreds of MAD videos under their belts.
>
> ...It is interesting to note that, in the case of _[The Matrix](!Wikipedia)_ or _[Planet of the Apes](!Wikipedia)_, the creators created deep and consistent worlds so that viewers can be absorbed in uncovering the details. [[16]](http://cardcaptor.moekaku.com/?p=112#convergence-culture-2) Gensoukyou, however, is a shallow and inconsistent composition. It situates in a mountain in Japan, yet there are European vampires living in it. 'I like to put western things in there because it's "Eastern", hehe,' said ZUN. [[17]](http://cardcaptor.moekaku.com/?p=112#meiji-university-lecture) Also, the culture of Gensoukyou is that of 19th century's Japan, but all Touhou games take place in the years they are released. For this, ZUN commented that 'Well, I live in modern times, so it makes it much easier. And I get to include things like rockets. If I had a setting in the past, I'd have to study a lot of history.' [[18]](http://cardcaptor.moekaku.com/?p=112#genyou-denshou-2) Moreover, the Hakurei Border that separates Gensoukyou from the outside world is porous, allowing people and objects from modern Japan to go in. In fact, the demon controlling the boundary even knows how to use iPod! It's clear that ZUN chooses to make a malleable world rather than a consistent world so that he can keep making new Touhou games easily. While this choice deters fans form deciphering the world, it encourages fans to create their own stories because nothing in Gensoukyou is sacred and a lot can still be added to it. The large amount of doujinshi accounting daily lives of Touhou characters is a proof of this tendency."
American animation was ham-stringed to be both a single medium *and* a single genre (children's). In comparison, Japanese animation was a single medium that covered every genre that TV covered[^anno]. One could grow up in Japanese animation, from _[Hamtaro](!Wikipedia)_ to challenging films like _[Mind Game](!Wikipedia "Mind Game (film)")_. One could not do this with American animation. (Director [Hideaki Anno](!Wikipedia) has [wondered](http://web.archive.org/web/20001215150600/www.acsys.com/~tallman/newtype_e.html) "if a person over the age of twenty who likes robot anime is really happy." The jury is still out for Japanese robot anime, but American animation has already pled guilty & been sentenced.)
[^anno]: To quote [Anno again](http://www.abcb.com/newspaper/1999-12-30_asahi_01.htm):
> "Japan is the only country in the world that actually has an anime industry, and can mass-produce animated works of a high quality for a large audience. It's only natural then, that this product would be in demand from the rest of the world. Japan is unrivaled in this sense. Disney is really no competition because Disney can only release one film at a time. They are not capable of handling the wide range of stories that we see in Japanese anime. Real anime exists only in Japan, and this is about the only original product Japan can offer to the world-anime, manga and computer games."
Further, anime excelled in genres that American TV confined to ghettos. There are many fine fantasy and SF anime from the 1990s, but I find it painful to try to watch American products from the '90s like _[Hercules](!Wikipedia "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys")_ or _[Babylon 5](!Wikipedia)_. The obvious counter-examples like _[The Matrix](!Wikipedia)_ almost prove the point, the Wachowski brothers having been quite explicit about their debt to anime and sponsoring _[The Animatrix](!Wikipedia)_
What competition does anime have in America? Disney, but as Anno says, their output is highly limited. [Pixar](!Wikipedia) comes to mind, but that's basically a Disney second-party. There's [Dreamworks](!Wikipedia), but you don't need to be a film critic to see that they chase Pixar's taillights, and like Disney & Pixar, they are focused on the occasional film release. There's a fair amount of TV kids animation, but they seem to be focused almost exclusively on either preteen stuff ([Disney Channel](!Wikipedia) and [Nickelodeon](!Wikipedia) and [Cartoon Network](!Wikipedia)), or on crappy low-budget adult comedy ([Adult Swim](!Wikipedia) - [Comedy Central](!Wikipedia) runs little animation nowadays). Further, they're all pretty episodic - the sustained dramatic plot arcs and development that is anime's signature is usually non-existent. (And this despite technological advantages and larger budgets than anime.[^budget])
[^budget]: Inoue 2003, being paraphrased/quoted/summarized by Eri Izawa:
> "There are two main reasons that full 3D rendering is not that common yet. Firstly, of the 80 episodes airing each week, only a few series will run for a full year. Many last only 13 episodes (a single cycle of episodes, or a "Cool"), so there is no economic incentive to invest in full 3D modeling and rendering. Secondly, the costs of Japanese TV animation are still about a quarter the cost of producing American TV animation. A third reason that Mr. Inoue later mentioned is that 2D art has certain strengths over 3D art...With Disney animation, recent movie scenes featuring many horses or other animals are made possible by computerized animation. However, too often in Japan, there is not the manpower nor resources to do these extensive scenes. Unfortunately, this results in such scenes being avoided completely. For the sake of story-telling and remaining true to a story, computer graphics are necessary for Japan's animation industry."
To get an example of what I mean, look at the 2 seasonal listings^[eg. [those charts](https://chartfag.wordpress.com/) posted for each season/] for anime. There's not always a lot of good stuff, but there are still usually 4 or 5 series a year worth watching. And that's not counting any movies or OVAs that may be releasing. (Can you imagine the _[Garden of Sinners](!Wikipedia)_ [movie series](http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/review/kara-no-kyoukai-the-garden-of-sinners) being done in America? Impossible!) Heck, the [Noitamina](!Wikipedia)^[I'm a big fan of the Noitamina series. What a selection - _[Tatami Galaxy](!Wikipedia)_, _[Wandering Son](!Wikipedia)_, _[AnoHana](!Wikipedia)_, _[Shiki](!Wikipedia)_, _[House of Five Leaves](!Wikipedia)_, _[Bunny Drop](!Wikipedia)_... Some of these series, I wonder whether American networks outside [HBO](!Wikipedia) would even dare run a live-action version. Could you imagine _Wandering Son_ on Fox TV? I can't.] block alone probably show more sophisticated, artistic, and adult-watchable anime every year than Disney or Pixar. Anime producer Hiroaki Inoue [estimated in 2003](http://www.mit.edu/people/rei/manga-inoue.html) that, despite the small anime industry in Japan (most work is outsourced)[^outsource], still "roughly 80 thirty-minute episodes of anime are produced for weekly viewing on Japanese TV, for a total of about 4000 episodes a year; on top of this, roughly 15 animated theater-bound movies are made per year, and about 100 thirty-minute OVAs". Inoue suggests that the crucial ingredient is not so much that anime adopts plot-intensive arcs, but simply that they sometimes are produced by people with an idiosyncratic vision, and there are enough tries that the occasional diamond is created[^auteur].
[^outsource]: Inoue 2003:
> "Mr. Inoue was asked how many people it takes to create a show. He explained that a typical 30 minute TV anime show takes roughly 120 people: perhaps 2-5 character, mechanical, and background designers; 4-6 scenario writers, 40 in the animation team, 30 people to do finishing/touch ups, background, and compositing/combining; and 20-30 people to do voice acting and sound tech. A film such as _Sen to Chihiro_ (_[Spirited Away](!Wikipedia)_) requires about 500 people. [Studio Ghibli](!Wikipedia) itself, although comprised mostly of animators, only has about 100 people; they rely on nearly 500 or so people outside the company for contracted work, sounds, and other support. In addition, 2/3 of the animation jobs are overseas, contracted out to animation companies in Korea, China, Taiwan, and the Philippines. These days, he noted, 80 episodes a week would require tens of thousands of animators, but Japan simply doesn't have the numbers of people required for that much work. Mr. Inoue later explained that currently in Japan, there are about 10 large animation houses, 30 medium sized ones, perhaps 2000 tiny companies (sometimes with as few as 3-4 people). In the larger company, of the 300 or so workers, only 20% are actual employees with benefits; the rest are basically contractors. Hence (he noted) there is no job security, and he "can't recommend the industry" unless a person is particularly good."
[^auteur]: One might call this the _auteur_ theory of anime:
> "Mr. Inoue also spoke with me privately at length about why it is that Japanese animation has been able to produce so many shows of good caliber (he believes 20% of most anime is actually good quality, as opposed to our usual saying that "99% of everything is crap"). Part of this is because, he suggests, once a director has established himself as a successful money maker, the studio become tolerant of his desires to make experimental or visionary productions. So, although Spielberg may have had to use the proceeds off the popular _Jurassic Park_ to fund his personal project _Schindler's List_, Japanese studios seem to be willing to make deals with their directors - allowing them to make small market or niche films so long as they do not exceed a certain budget (as examples, he said a dream film budget may be set to 2 hundred million yen, while a studio money-making film may have a full budget of five hundred million yen - which is fine as it may bring in three billion yen in revenue). Mamoru Oshii, who directed the popular anime _Patlabor_, took advantage of this allowance to make a live action film [_[The Red Spectacles](!Wikipedia)_]. Also, he noted, a successful director can often push the envelope - such as happened with _Gundam_, one of the earliest series to portray the death and destruction of war in such a realistic way. Aspects such as these, Mr. Inoue believes, has allowed the Japanese animation industry, despite being a commercial enterprise that must make a profit to survive, unusually blessed in its ability to create works of profoundness and insight.
>
> Mr. Inoue mentioned another factor in the diversity of anime. He said that "ever since _Evangelion_, there is no anime [series] that is watched by everyone." In other words, modern anime is no longer is tied to the mass market, and it may be freer to seek out niche markets and smaller audiences."
[Toshio Okada](!Wikipedia), anime producer turned academic, holds [a similar opinion](http://web.archive.org/web/20050213041430/http://home.comcast.net/~hasshin/okadacomm.html) (translated _Aera_ article):
> "America already had Disney animation and a tradition of comics, but they had a strong image as being strictly for kids. However, in Japan at some point, animation had headed off in a separate direction. Visual expressions never before seen. Beautiful pictures. Complex stories. Masterful performances. And the distinctive personalities of each member of the cast of characters. Animation was thought to be cheap, but it was an art which had risen to a level worthy of the appreciation of adults. To Americans, with their love of new things, it looked really cool. And so the people, things, and cities appearing in Japanese anime became their new image of Japan. This was spreading not the customary exoticism, but cyber and pop Japanese culture. "
The word 'complex' shows up again with ANN columnist [Brian Hanson](http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/answerman/2012-01-06):
> "Anime's "success" in those heady years of Toonami and _Dragon Ball Z_ being the highest-rated cartoon show on television and whatnot... it was totally a "right place, right time" situation. By that time anime had sort of found its "niche" in the Western market thanks to the groundwork laid out by Streamline and _Akira_ and _Ghost in the Shell_, in the sense that people had a sort of vague idea what anime "was" and that it was this *different*, *edgy* thing comprised of limited but kinetic animation and complex stories and other things they haven't seen before. And, thanks to some savvy marketing and slick presentation courtesy of Cartoon Network and Teletoon and others, anime was, for the first time, *readily and easily available*. You could flip on the TV and catch an episode of _Outlaw Star_ or _Inuyasha_ or _Cowboy Bebop_ and recognize that it was *anime*, but it was presented and marketed in such a way that made it seem *cool and alluring*. And as a plus, the shows were really good and they were made for a wider audience than Japanese Otaku. The audience for anime was ready for it, but they hadn't had it *presented* to them in a simple way thus far; now that it was literally *in their homes* and edited so it was "safe," anime was, by all accounts, a *cool thing*."
And this happens, year after year.
Critically-acclaimed series like _[Samurai Jack](!Wikipedia)_ were a *reaction to* the demonstrated consumer demand for long-form series. Truly episodic TV fictional shows seem to be ever rarer, and survivors from earlier eras, like _The Simpsons_, have grown more plot-oriented - in an earlier _Flintstones_ era, it would have been edgy to merely reference events from previous seasons and unthinkable to kill [Maude Flanders](!Wikipedia). It's interesting to speculate on why. I've heard many theories, from [DVR](!Wikipedia "Digital video recorder")s to premium cable channels like HBO to greater IQ^[See [Flynn effect](!Wikipedia) and _[Everything Bad Is Good for You](!Wikipedia)_.].
What's interesting about anime is that if you look at American print SF & fantasy and whatnot, it's wildly creative and fascinating, but anything in moving pictures is either a critically successful failure or dreck. In Japan, the literature isn't so impressive (with honorable exceptions like [Haruki Murakami](!Wikipedia)), but the manga and anime are really good. _[They Were Eleven](!Wikipedia)_ would be merely a mediocre short story if it were published in an American SF magazine, but instead, it's one of the better SF movies around (because all the American SF movies are so bad). Or consider _Star Trek_; while _Star Trek_ has been hugely popular in American SF circles almost to the point of synonymity, _Star Trek_ was merely fairly popular in syndication in Japan^[[Yasuhiro Takeda](!Wikipedia) (in _[The Notenki Memoirs](/docs/2002-notenki-memoirs)_) could only describe Japanese _Star Trek_ fans as 'a large percentage' of all Japanese fans; an American would probably have had to say 'nearly all fans', especially before _Star Wars_ offered an alternative.]. American TV series offer another case in point: one of the best received SF series of the 2000s was _[Firefly](!Wikipedia "Firefly (TV series)")_, which was almost surely influenced by the popular 1998 anime _[Cowboy Bebop](!Wikipedia)_.^[Consider [all the discussion](http://www.google.com/cse?cx=009114923999563836576%3A1eorkzz2gp4&q=Firefly+%22Cowboy+Bebop%22) of the two in my [CSE](http://www.google.com/cse/home?cx=009114923999563836576:1eorkzz2gp4). It's worth noting that [Joss Whedon](!Wikipedia)'s first hit, the 1997 [_Buffy_](!Wikipedia "Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series)") doesn't have any *obvious* connections to anime besides a vague resemblance to [mahou shoujo](!Wikipedia), but Whedon [has acknowledged](http://web.archive.org/web/20070930204043/http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1889839) the canceled [animated _Buffy_ series](!Wikipedia "Buffy the Animated Series")'s debt to _[Batman: The Animated Series](!Wikipedia)_ - whose co-creator [Bruce Timm](!Wikipedia) is a fan of anime like [_Neon Genesis Evangelion_](http://geekvariety.tumblr.com/post/3071806657/bruce-timm-rei-ayanami-and-asuka-langley).] None of the SF stories in either _Firefly_ or _Cowboy Bebop_ break new ground in SF, instead trading in classic SF stories and tropes; but they do so in a polished, stylish fashion.
From that perspective, it's not a surprise that if we look at the respective markets, we find that American print SF is very popular in Japan^[Hard-to-obtain sales figures aside, I believe this assertion because I see all sorts of American SF references in anime which one might not expect. Takeda's _[The Notenki Memoirs](/docs/2002-notenki-memoirs)_ mentions a number of Japanese SF authors who also translated English SF on the side, and [Gainax](!Wikipedia)'s work is littered with American references, from [Cordwainer Smith](!Wikipedia)'s [Instrumentality of Mankind](!Wikipedia) to _[Flowers for Algernon](!Wikipedia)_ to [Larry Niven](!Wikipedia)'s [Known Space](!Wikipedia) to [Harlan Ellison](!Wikipedia)'s ["The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World"](!Wikipedia "The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World (short story)"); most extremely, I ran into one rumor that a particular well-regarded author had hired a student to translate new stories from American SF magazines which he would then rewrite for domestic consumption!], and Japanese anime/manga is very popular over here. You might call this [comparative advantage](!Wikipedia) at work.
But what do I know? Maybe the real reason is that anime is so stereotyped & repetitive & poorly animated & over the top that [even mentally defective nerds](http://partialobjects.com/2011/05/why-do-so-many-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-like-japanese-anime/) can enjoy it, and so they do. Perhaps anime gained a toe-hold here and grew exponentially *because* it is bad:
> "_[Raiders of the Lost Ark](!Wikipedia)_ is a robust potboiler, tongue-in-cheek, very competently done. I think it's enjoyable, but even among those who don't, it's hard to see the film attracting actual derision. Boredom or irritation, probably, but nothing more. Star Wars, on the other hand.... From one perspective, it's an entertaining space opera, but from a slightly different perspective, an imperceptible twist of the glass, it's laughably awful. Utterly ridiculously bad. And it's this very badness that makes so many people take up arms in its defence... The quality of the work, in the face of such glaring shortcomings, becomes a matter of faith -- and faith is a much stronger bond than mere appreciation. It drives fans together, gives them strength against those who sneer. The sneers make their faith even stronger; the awfulness of the work reassures them of their belief. And so the fan groups of Tolkien, Star Trek, Spider-man, Japanese kiddie-cartoons etc. develop an almost cult-like character. I need to stress that I'm just talking about aspects of badness; the above works all have their many admirable qualities which attract people in the first place (though in the case of Anime I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what they were)."^[["objects of fandom"](http://plover.net/~bonds/objects.html), Stephen Bond]
I have no idea how to respond to such an argument, but will simply note that it seems like an awfully suspicious damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't line of thought.
## Bonus points
> "What the old school guys mourn isn't the loss of their [anime] community, their sense of propriety over an unappreciated art, or the thrill of hunting for strange and rare artifacts from a mysterious foreign culture. What's missing is the newness, that starry-eyed open-mouthed gape of a child at a world heretofore unimaginable, and the excitement of sharing that new experience with those around us. Today, we are not the children, we're the chaperons shouting, "slow down!" -- oblivious to the joy in the room."^[Justin Sevakis, ["Buried Treasure: In Praise of Nerdiness"](http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/buried-treasure/2007-11-15), _ANN_]
The critic of anime probably consumes American pop culture himself, and has some argument for its entertainment value (let's call its value _AV_). Anime is Japanese pop culture so let's call its entertainment value _JV_. If the Japanese pop culture is merely as entertaining as American pop culture (as we have license to believe based on its inroads into America), then it can win on other grounds. It carries educational value sheerly from its origin (call educational value _JEV_). One will learn little from an American production by virtue of being an American. Obviously, if $AV=JV$ and $JEV>0$ then $JV+JEV>AV$ (just as $x+1>x$).
To defeat this, one needs to argue one of the following:
1. deny the second premise, and say that $JEV=0$
This is saying that Japanese pop culture is not educational in any way. An obvious falsehood, since at the minimum one is learning about the Japanese way of life^[Anime naturally demonstrates a variety of [Japanese values](!Wikipedia) (although one might not draw [all the same lessons](http://lesswrong.com/lw/nb/something_to_protect/)), from literary allusions to ordinary parts of life like not wearing shoes indoors or students cleaning the schools or sillier examples like the [akanbe](!Wikipedia) gesture or the [kancho](!Wikipedia) prank.][^Lucas]
2. deny the first premise, and claim that $JV < AV$
Say that Japanese pop culture's entertainment value is worse than American pop culture, hence $JV+EV$ is not *necessarily* greater than _AV_; this position is difficult to defend, given anime's commercial and critical successes. If anime is less entertaining than American pop culture, then why is it so popular? Are the fans systematically irrational?
And if the critic reaches even further and tries to argue that anime is bad for you, they invite the obvious counter-question: 'And why do you think American pop culture is not equally or even more toxic for one's mind?'
3. Deny all premises and say that pop culture in general is valueless, that all values = 0
Obviously $0 > 0$ is a contradiction, and the argument collapses. But this position exposes the arguer to charges of hypocrisy, since why does he consume pop culture if all pop culture is worthless, and on what ground could he criticize anime at all? Most arguers are trying to establish a ranking in disfavor of anime, not simply say 'a pox on both your houses'.
We could re-run this argument with 'novel' rather than 'educational'. We have no prior reason to suppose Japanese pop culture any less innovative than American pop culture, but to an American, the Japanese media will be highly novel. Even a boring Hindu fable could be interesting if it's the first one you've ever seen. (This is a general purpose argument for preferring foreign media or literature. To some, this would be a _reductio_, but to others it will [make perfect sense](http://www.plausiblydeniable.com/opinion/anime.html). Why read about things you are *already* familiar with?)
[^Lucas]: [Walter Murch](!Wikipedia); quoted in Marcus Hearn's _The Cinema of [George Lucas](!Wikipedia)_, pg 37:
> "Japanese films are interesting to us because they were made by a culture for itself. The problem that George [Lucas] and I found with science fiction films that we saw is that they felt that they had to explain these strange rituals to you, whereas a Japanese film would just have the ritual and you'd have to figure it out for yourself."
# Pearls before swine
Most people wouldn't appreciate these 2 arguments, so I don't usually try to justify watching anime, and just say _[de gustibus non est disputandum](!Wikipedia)_ or _à chacun ses goûts_^[This is a cop-out on my part. Like many arguments from [revealed preference](!Wikipedia)s, that is a [fully general counterargument](http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Fully_general_counterargument) which can be used to justify any choice.]. (If someone wants to discuss philosophy, though, that's fine. "When you meet a swordsman, show him your sword / do not offer a poem to any but a poet.")