It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, over 6 months ago in fact, but there’s something that’s been on my mind recently that I feel like ranting about for no particular reason other than that I keep seeing it literally everywhere and it’s making my Elitism PTSD kick in to overdrive.
So let’s talk about the term “casual”. More specifically, how it is being frequently used as a verbal weapon by elitists to degrade and belittle people in the Anime fandom, and how the term is constantly being used incorrectly by the majority of those who arm themselves with it.
A “casual fan” is defined as someone who, while a fan of a particular series or medium, isn’t all that engaged in it as the more “hardcore” fans. They engage with it every once in a while, or are relatively new to it, but they aren’t “into it” hardcore. Since we’re talking about Anime specifically, a “casual” Anime fan would be someone who watches the occasional Anime, but hasn’t seen a lot of shows, doesn’t buy the shows they watch, doesn’t buy the related merchandise, doesn’t go to conventions or events, doesn’t have any interest in the industry itself or people behind the medium… The list goes on and on.
To put it into simpler terms: They’re someone who, while a fan of Anime, isn’t “defined” by their love of it, and who doesn’t particularly identify themselves with the medium or its culture. It doesn’t take up a considerable chunk of their day to day activities and they can live without it in their lives.
Yet, whenever I see the term “casual” being thrown around, it’s often being used to ridicule a person’s taste or preferences.
“Naruto is your favourite Anime? You must be a casual!”
“Only a casual likes what’s popular!”
“This show is for the most tasteless of casuals!”
These phrases are not only completely ignorant and idiotic beyond belief, but they’re also using the term “casual” incorrectly, and that bothers me. A lot.
The common belief these days seems to be that a “casual fan” of Anime is someone who enjoys what is popular, someone who’s favourite show is one that many people agree is one of the “best” or someone who isn’t “critical” of the things they watch.
I find this to be extremely baffling.
So you mean to tell me that if someone has watched over 500 different Anime series, frequently attends conventions, has a truckload of Anime DVD’s and Blu-Rays in their possession and regularly writes about Anime on their Anime-centric blog, but their favourite Anime happens to be Bleach and they don’t analyse and nitpick every single show that they watch, then they’re a “casual” Anime fan?
I don’t understand how that even remotely makes sense. It doesn’t make sense.
And then, how does one define a “hardcore” Anime fan in this case? Is it someone who only watches shows that are unpopular or not considered highly rated by the consensus? It it someone who decides to look at every single show with an overly critical mindset to the point that they can’t simply enjoy something? Does it matter how much Anime they’ve seen? How long they’ve been engaged with the medium? How much media they purchase?
Oh. Wait. I actually know the answer, because I know precisely where this idea of the “casual” Anime fan being correlated to the taste and critical thinking of an individual stems from.
It all stems from elitism. I know this because I used to be one of these people. I would frequently belittle others for having opinions I didn’t agree with by calling them a “casual” and poking fun at their tastes, a fact that still embarrasses me to this day.
In the eyes of elitists, a “hardcore” Anime fan looks for the tiniest flaws in everything and only “enjoys” shows that have a “deep and thematic message” with “complex characters”. Shows like Shinsekai Yori and Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Shows that are “objectively good” and no one can ever dislike due to them not aligning with their own personal preferences. Because personal preferences are totally not a thing and have no weight in deciding whether or not someone finds a show good, right?
Wait, no. That’s wrong. They have everything to do with deciding if a person enjoys something or finds it good.
Whether or not someone is a “casual fan” of Anime, has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s taste or critical mindset. One’s taste and opinions have no bearing on whether or not someone is a “casual”.
If that were the case, I’d most definitely be considered a “casual fan” of Anime. Despite having a lot of opinions that many would consider to be “controversial” or “contrarian”, a lot of my favourites are shows and movies that are incredibly popular, highly regarded by the majority of Anime fans and fall into popular genres and demographics like Shounen, Ecchi and Isekai. And I’m also not the most critical of viewers out there and I consider “enjoyment” to be the most important thing when watching what is and should be, first and foremost, a form of entertainment.
Here’s some facts about my tastes:
My all-time favourite Anime is Hunter x Hunter (2011). All of it. Not just the one “subversive” story arc that people claim is “the only good one”.
I think My Hero Academia, a modern day Shounen Jump adaptation, is a modern masterpiece of Anime.
I think Sword Art Online, one of the most mainstream Anime titles in the West, is a good show, and have defended most of the criticisms directed towards it in a previous post.
I have a genuine love for just about everything that Shounen Jump puts out, despite being a man in my mid 20’s.
I watch Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, the sequel series to Naruto, on a weekly basis with my fiance. And enjoy it. Unironically.
I found Legend of the Galactic Heroes, a show considered by many elitists as the greatest Anime of all time, to be simply “good” and thought World Trigger, a Shounen Jump adaptation about superpowered teenagers, was a better show with better characters.
Yet despite all of those “casual” opinions:
I’ve been a passionate fan of this medium for over a decade.
I dedicate as much of my free time to watching Anime as I can.
I have at least five entire shelves of Anime DVD’s.
I frequently write about Anime on this blog, many times a week.
I’ve purchased far more Anime merchandise than I’d like to admit, which likely adds up to tens of thousands of pounds.
According to MyAnimeList, I’ve completed 495 Anime series, and have watched approximately 179 days worth of Anime. And that’s just the shows I’ve remembered/been bothered to add to my profile in the year that I’ve had the account. I reckon there’s roughly around 200 missing from that list.
But hey, I guess none of that matters because I like Naruto, right?
My point is, use the term “casual” correctly. It has nothing to do with someone’s tastes and preferences, and liking “deep” shows that aren’t considered “mainstream” while being overly critical does not make you a “better” or more “hardcore” Anime fan.
It’s all about your dedication to the medium or series you are a fan of and how it relates to your own personal identity.