I love collecting things. Whether it’s video games, figures, books or whatever else, I have a passion for owning stuff that relates to my identity as a consumer of media.
But when it comes to Anime, arguably my biggest hobby alongside video games, the desire to own physical copies of the shows I like, or any shows in general, just isn’t really there any more.
I have a pretty sizeable Anime collection. I’ve got around 4 or 5 shelves worth of Anime DVD’s, and it’s really nice to see it all sitting there, alphabetised and looking awesome.
But the saddest part is, I haven’t added to it since 2015, nor have I had any real desire to since then. Even the stuff I do own, hasn’t been taken off the shelf or been watched for the longest time, with my most recent additions remaining unwatched and unopened since they were first put on the shelf.
But why is that the case? Didn’t I just say I like collecting things that relate to my hobbies? What changed over the years?
Well, in all honesty, a lot of it has to do with both how my access to Anime and the platforms for viewing the medium in general have changed. During my teenage years, online streaming was hardly the beast it is today, and on top of that I lived in a remote village at the foot of the mountains where my household had the modern day equivalent of dial-up internet. It was so bad that it would often take half a day for a simple YouTube video to buffer. As a result if I wanted to watch Anime I had no choice but to buy shows on DVD, regardless if I knew the show was something I would like or not.
It was actually a really fun experience that I kind of miss. Back then the internet was something I wasn’t able to use as an effective source of information, so getting a new Anime DVD was almost like a new adventure that I’d go into knowing absolutely nothing about. I had the opportunity to jump into each new show completely blind, armed with nothing but a front cover and a little blurb on the back informing me of the smallest details of what it was going to be about.
This made DVD’s not just something I wanted to collect but something I needed to collect so I could actually watch Anime. My internet never really got better either, even after we changed provider in 2011, at least not to the point where I was able to effectively use sites like Crunchyroll or Kissanime, both of which had begun to immensely rise in popularity.
On top of that, I was also a dub purist. Back then, I exclusively watched English dubs and I struggled to get into subtitled Anime, and the only way I was really ever able to find the dubs, was through DVD’s. Of course that’s hardly the case now, but it was incredibly difficult for me to find dubs online, and even then, I didn’t want to spend a day waiting for an episode to load.
But then, as the years went by, I overcame my aversion towards subtitled Anime. I’d just finished University for the Summer, my girlfriend was working, and I was alone in her house, with nothing to do. My girlfriends parents had freakishly good internet, and I wanted something to do, so I downloaded some Anime, subtitled, and gave it a watch. The show was Hunter x Hunter (2011), a show that would go on to become my all-time favourite, and it introduced me to the world of subbed Anime and digital viewing.
This was a pivotal moment for me as an Anime fan. I’d finally discovered the joys of watching Anime through the internet, in high definition, something I’d never done before.
Naturally, having just uncovered a trove of seemingly endless amounts of Anime series to watch, whenever the opportunity presented itself while staying at my girlfriends and having free time, I’d watch as much as possible.
Soon afterwards, I practically moved into my girlfriends parents house, because we never got to spend a lot of time together if I stayed with my parents, and it was easier to commute to University from there. As a result, I finally had the good internet needed to stream Anime like everyone else was doing.
From then on, consuming Anime digitally became my primary means of watching series. DVD’s no longer felt like a necessity, and over the years, the value of collecting series has more or less vanished as a result.
Because the mystery of not knowing what I’ll get is no longer a thing, and nowadays I have the means to watch all the series I want for a small fee, or for free if I dare, without the risk of spending £30 on something that I could wind up not even liking all that much.
Furthermore, I’ve gotten used to high definition. DVD’s aren’t in HD, and often look much worse when compared to their 1080p online alternatives on my laptop monitor. And yeah, Blu-Rays are a thing, but they’re obscenely expensive compared to DVD’s, which are also getting pricier and pricier with each passing year. And laptops basically never come with disc drives any more, never mind Blu-Ray drives, because computer companies are stupid and don’t view them as necessary any more, even though they are. And, you guessed it, I prefer watching stuff on my laptop because it’s how I’m most comfortable watching stuff.
And honestly, even for my all-time favourite shows, I just don’t see the need to own them any more. Sure, I’d love to have Hunter x Hunter (2011) on my shelf, but do I need it? No, I don’t, and at the end of the day, it’s just a really nice plastic box with a picture of the show on the front. At least, that’s how I see it now.
With video games I need the physical media to play the game, and barring PC gaming which I’m not a fan of, digital downloads tend to be far more expensive. With figures, the whole appeal of them is to display them on a shelf to admire from time to time. With Manga, reading the book is the only real way to do it for me because I hate reading it on a tablet or through a web browser.
But with Anime, owning the physical media just doesn’t have the appeal that it used to. It looks nice on my shelf, and I’m grateful to own what I own. I will cherish those box sets forever and they’re very precious to me.
But whenever I think about adding something new to the shelf, I hold it in my hands in the store and ask myself the question: “Do I really need this?”
And unfortunately, the answer is, more often than not, “No. I don’t need this.”
But perhaps I’m just weird and cynical.