Finding your anime tastes is quite the journey for any fan. Last week, I discussed the very beginnings of an anime fan. I looked at how their tastes are shaped mostly by outside influences and only know one thing: that anime is different than other mediums, which they prefer over those mediums.
I gave this early anime fan the term “Level 0”, but what of the higher levels? How do anime fans evolve to those standards? Let’s keep on diving deeper into the evolution of an anime fan.
Level 1: “Oh boy do I love mecha (or magical girls, or slice of life, or etc.)!”
There may be a handful of people that stay at Level 0 throughout their anime fandom, but typically most fans progress after a second realization: that anime can be grouped rather easily into a set of specific genres and that they prefer a small subset of those genres. This is the first level of developing a taste in anime, which is why I deem it Level 1.
At Level 1, the anime fan has the knowledge that certain series fill specific niches and the anime fan actively seeks out those niches when looking for new series to watch. However, being at Level 1 means a fan’s “informed” selections are not so precise, nor will they have developed much insight as to why their new favorite genre exists. Their recommendations more than likely will come from the same places as a Level 0 fan, but they are now capable of determining whether to start watching, or to continue watching, a series recommended to them based on broad, sweeping judgments of the given genre.
Someone at Level 1 of their anime fandom might be less open to different types of anime than any other level, including Level 0. Level 0s haven’t recognized what genres they prefer yet, so they may be open to things that Level 1s may not. Higher levels may seek out works in other genres because they may be actively going for even further specifics that disregard genre altogether.
Pray and spray: An anime selection strategy.
Outside of making simplified decisions of what to watch based on recommendations of peers and social media tastemakers, Level 1s are even more inclined to the previously mentioned “shotgun method”, except for this time, they target those preferred genres instead of popular anime as a whole.
Level 1 might be the plateau for many anime fans. They have a metric of choice and can gauge interest in series, both new and old, on at least a macro level. This is not much different than how people might determine what movies to go see. Posters and trailers paint broad strokes as to what you can expect, and people make decisions based on that. There is no more research or time required to selecting works, and is perhaps the fastest method to get into a new series.
Level 2: “This studio makes the best anime!”
As the Level 1 anime fan continues gorging on specific genres, some begin noticing patterns and similarities between works in those preferred genres. Be it the story, the action, the characters, or the overall look and feel, a Level 1 might start developing a particular preference for an even smaller subset of series in a given genre.
For example, a fan who enjoys magical girl anime might skew towards series with a more somber tone and more mature characters. Another fan might have started out liking all mecha series, but as time has gone on, finds themselves enamored with mecha series that are over the top, filled with super powered world-ending robots. At this point, it is difficult to classify the fan as Level 1, but the next realization has yet to pass, so they might be Level 1.5, where their preferences are more refined, but still aren’t much different from a Level 1.
To reach Level 2, the fan must recognize that those preferred subsets are commonly associated with specific production companies and studios. The Level 2 fan starts paying attention to the creators responsible for their preferred subgenres, mainly out of necessity to seek out series they have not seen yet. Since choosing a series to watch by genre doesn’t cut it as much as it used to, they have to find yet another criteria to add to their selection process, and refining by anime studio is possibly the most accessible of all. As is true with movie studios in the United States, the most well-known studios carry a “reputation” for the kinds of works you are likely to see. The best and most approachable example of this in the United States currently is Marvel Studios – most people are aware of the kind of superhero film Marvel will produce.
Handcuffed by preference.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about a Level 2 anime fan is that choosing a preference for a studio or set of studios actually can expand their tastes instead of further constricting it. In fact, the Level 2 could be considered the lowest point on the level scale for branching out. They have become ingrained in their preferences that they may shut out any other opportunities for new tastes to develop. However, in the process of becoming a Level 2, the awareness of their favorite studios does give a fan the opportunity to branch out. No studio stays within one genre or subgenre too often, if only to not be considered a “one trick pony”. Thematically and production-wise, series from the same studio might be very similar but the core concepts will often differ.
For instance, Production IG usually focuses on mature, action-packed yet politically or philosophical-tinged works. However, a series like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is not anywhere near the same genre as Joker Game. However, when viewing both of these works together, it’s easy to see how these distinct series have similar vibes in terms of production, pacing and plot. A Level 2 fan in this case, who knows Production IG due to Stand Alone Complex and is a fan of similar series is actually more likely to try out Joker Game on the back of the recognized studio alone than with anything else.
Oh, the places you’ll go.
That’s it for part 2 of this 3 part series exploring the evolution of an anime fan and their tastes. I feel like I covered much more of the fandom this week. Do you think you fall into Level 1 or 2? Or perhaps you’re wondering what lies at the higher levels. Well, I’ll be covering the anime “veterans” next week. Be sure to check it out!