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Editorial: Fandom and Hardware
By Chris Beveridge
Welcome to another months editorial. I'm basically going to try and cover two topics this month.
Topic 1 is a perennial favorite of anime fans. Fandom itself. There's been a lot of discussion over at Anime Village about what a true anime fan is. While I didn't start the topic, I found myself quite involved in it.
So, what makes someone a true anime fan? Let's see if we can list some of the common concepts of a fan:
Watches unsubtitled, undubbed shows
Watches subtitled anime only. Very anti-dub
Watches dubbed shows only. Very anti-sub
Watches subs and dubs, enjoys both
Buys large import laserdisc box sets
Buys only laserdiscs
Buys only DVD
I'm sure there's several more, but I feel those are the basics. Which do you fit into? Do you consider "yours" to be a true fan, and the others not? It's easy to see why there's a lot of debate over it.
During the Anime Village discussions, there was a couple of common threads. A lot of people didn't consider people a true fan unless they had a laserdisc player and imported discs. I admit to seeing this thinking many times over the past 8 years on the newsgroups.
That was, actually, one of the main things I had been saying. This was something that a lot of people felt was true. Unless you did it like they did, import expensive LD's, get scripts or just watch it raw, you weren't being a true fan.
Another example that I'll be focusing more on here is the "starving college otaku".
That one cracks me up. Yes, I know that anime is big on campus. It's often where a lot of people get their first real exposure to anime, beyond maybe seeing a show on the Sci-Fi channel, or maybe picking up a tape once. Here is where they learn about the varieties of shows and everything else under the sun.
They're also broke most of the time. Or, at least, that's the impression that they seem almost eager to give off. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm a 3rd Generation Anime Fan. I'm part of the Robotech Generation. 1st Generation is the Speed Racer group, those in the 60's who saw those shows as well as Kimba and such. 2nd Generation fans were in the late 70's when Starblazers made it's way here. 3rd Generation is the Robotech one, and then it kind of fades until the late 80's early 90's, when the commercialized generation begins. Unfortunately, I haven't seen a breakdown of 90's fandom, though I'm sure it changes every 2 years or so instead of the 7-10 year range we used to see in the first three generations.
So, what does that mean? I've rambled out some stuff, but where is it all going? 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation fans are now, most likely, out of school. Are they starving working otaku? Some, to be sure. Are the now the average middle class citizen? The majority, most likely. And there are certainly several well off otaku from those generations as well.
And now, we also have a fairly large 90's generation of college students, though many from the early 90's are (hopefully) out of college now and out in the world.
That means that there's a "class" of anime fans who have money, and want to spend it. A lot of those, though certainly not all, are laserdisc and DVD owners. They know the value of the dollar (not that the college ones don't, far from it), but have other responsibilities as well. They're toys are also generally better. :)
The anime companies must get out of the mentality that all fans are the starving college crowd. There are a lot of us out there with money to spend, and we want it on a non-VHS format. A lot are building home theaters now, which are much cheaper than years past (a good midsize home theater can cost around 5K, and that's with a 36" set). And this growing crowd knows what they want. They know that laserdisc is moving out, so they want to get things on DVD.
And some companies are just thinking that we're still in the earlier generations. Anime Village, whether on purpose or not, has that fansubber feel. There's been a lot of clamoring for DVD's and LD over there. A lot of people over the 20 years of Gundam have had fansubs of the shows. They don't want to buy VHS. Heck, a lot have bought the LD box sets over the years. Why would they take a step back? And with DVD mainstreaming (as reported in such places as the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers in recent weeks), there's the emerging market that will, unless things change soon, that will spend their money elsewhere.
I'll be frank here. If I have the choice between a 30 dollar anime VHS tape and a 30 dollar DVD, I'll buy the DVD. Even if the anime tape was my sought after prize of Macross: Do You Remember Love. I simply can't bring myself to buy VHS anymore. And this is proven quite well over at the poll page we have here. People, most likely those that are out of the Starving College Otaku stage, want something of quality that will last.
So, who is the true fan? I don't think that's truly an answerable question anymore. The field has grown in different directions from when they only way to see shows were through fansub routes or direct imports. A true fan may simply have become a myth now.
Topic 2. Another dangerous topic. Hardware! We've seen in the forum during the past week, and by differing reviews of Iria, that things aren't as simple as "insert tape into VCR" anymore.
There's a heck of a lot of variety in how DVD performs compared to old VHS. Someone may be watching their discs through a PC-DVD drive outputted to either their monitor or TV. Someone may have a player hooked to their TV with sound from the set. Someone else has the player hooked to a receiver with 5.1 sound on a normal 27" TV. Someone else may be watching it through a 70" ISF calibrated set with cinema seating.
You know something? Iria will not look the same on any of them. And then you have to take into consideration the human eye and perception. Talk about a lot of factors!
This is why I'm quite glad to see the alternate angle reviews starting to come in a little more. I can review discs on my system, but I know that there's a chance that it won't look good on yours. But, how do I review it then? I can only say how it looks on my system, and that's it. I hope to start getting more reviews from people, especially the PC-DVD crowd. There's still some concern among people as to whether a PC-DVD drive can produce the same quality as a standalone video player. But, I'm not gonna touch that one at all. Talk about differences in hardware there....
So, when you read reviews here, keep in mind, your mileage may vary...