Picking a Side: A Critique of Current Trends in Anime Fandom

If you were waiting for me to make a Type A/Type B anime post, here it is.  Although I’m not entirely sold on the theory of Type A and Type B anime fans, I think there is some relative validity in the hard line between anime fans of this day.  That being said, some anime doesn’t necessarily fit into this schema and some anime entirely exemplifies it.  I think the best way to start this out would be to give solid definitions to what a Type A and Type B anime fan looks like:

Type A Otaku

A Type A Otaku is the type of person who got into anime because of the ability of the medium to capture any situation brilliantly.  Commonly, Type A Otaku are very critical of anime, as a whole, and will be turned off from a show at first sign of plot inadequacy.  This type of otaku looks for a new story being told, intricate character involvement, beautiful artwork and spectacular voice acting.  But aesthetics alone don’t really set the Type A Otaku apart.  If there is something to analyze or interpret, or if the plot is just genuinely a thrilling adventure, the Type A Otaku is generally appeased.  Above pictured is Durarara!!, a decent example of Type A directed anime with an intricate plot with brilliant character interaction, storytelling, and voice acting.

Type B Otaku

Type B Otaku are definitely not plot-driven beasts.  Visual aesthetics mean almost everything to the Type B Otaku.  Generally, the Type B Otaku is happy if the characters are cute, the art is pretty, and the voice acting is cute.  Plot tends to get in the way for a Type B Otaku because it restricts the characters to roles, where they could, instead, have characters do just about anything that they please (without this random nature being the actual plot).  Without going into the larger point of this article, I really have a hard time saying that a Type B Otaku is a “moe fan,” entirely.  A large portion of moe anime falls into Type B Fandom, but truly, the Type B Otaku is just the anime otaku that sincerely just likes the “idea” of anime.  They may or may not enjoy intricate stories, but if there are pretty faces to dance, sing, or serve them dinner, they are legitimately happy.  Above pictured is K-ON!, which pretty much exemplifies what we expect a Type B Otaku to enjoy – a vague story direction with cute girls playing in a band.  K-ON! is no more than that, but it is what makes the Type B Otaku happy.

My Side of the Fence

Before we go any further, I think it’s important to pick my side here.  I will admit that I have been both types of otaku at different points in my life.  In my younger years, when I first began watching anime, I was definitely a Type B otaku.  The idea of anime itself is what got me motivated to watch more series.  Looking back on it all, Dragonball Z, Pokemon, Digimon and so many others were anime that appealed to me, but only because they were the only anime that I had access to, and I threw myself in the direction of any anime I could get my hands on.  I would often argue about how “cool” a character was, simply because I thought that anime characters were “cool.”  But it wasn’t because of what the characters were doing, obviously, because Gohan from Dragonball Z is really a pretty lame persona.  It was the look and the appeal that drove me.

When I made it into High School, my attitude toward anime had changed – likely because I got involved with Gundam and Evangelion.  Anime wasn’t as much about the characters, though a cool character was definitely an additive bonus, but instead it was about the ride to the end of the series.  Though Bleach won’t go down as the most intricate plot, and definitely not as the most developed anime, ever, it, along with Trigun, allowed me to make some progress into really watching anime for the plot, and not for the visual character designs.  At this point, I was well involved in what was definitely Type A fandom, but then came Haruhi.

Haruhi was a storm that took everything with it.  And for good reason.  If there was a moment in anime history that I remember most vividly it would be the shift of anime following the release of Haruhi.  Moe anime started to abound, and there was a time when my Type B fandom came back, if not only because there was so much Type B anime available.  That being said, Haruhi itself was definitely a moe anime, but, in my opinion, not a Type B anime.  There was far too much effort put into the design of Haruhi for it to be anything other than what it really was, a masterpiece that led to the moe revolution.

At some point, likely after having watched anime that hit closer to my roots, I began to really tire of the tendency of anime producers to create for an audience of Type B anime.  When that happened, I pretty much shut off a lot of anime that I would have initially watched.  In recent years, my appreciation of a lot of anime has been pretty limited, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve lost any kind of zeal for anime, in general.  Nothing makes me happier than finding the diamonds in the rough of the current anime trend.  And I’m not saying there’s anything particularly -bad- about Type B anime (more on some of the common misconceptions later), it’s just that it takes a creative director (*cough* Akiyuki Shinbo *cough*) to really impress me.  And sure, I still have some Type B tendencies.  I wouldn’t have near as many figures as I do if I didn’t, nor would I like the idea of the characters in Type B anime…but watching it just makes me tired.

The Point

The point I’m trying to make here is not that Type A or Type B anime fandom is superior.  The overarching misconception that I see from people is that they classify anime more into the categories of “moe” and “not moe.”  While sometimes these categories are relevant, it’s really hard to make that classification.  K-ON! is definitely a Type B anime, but is it moe?  Likely, but debatable.  Clannad is clearly a moe anime, but is it a Type B anime?  Not so much.  There’s a bit too much plot for it to classify as that.  Dragonball Z (and many shounen anime) are clearly not moe, but definitely not Type A anime either.  There’s just some fine line where both characters and plot are emphasized, Haruhi being a great example (though plot is a loose term to use for Haruhi).

There is a slight concern with the over-abundance of Type B fans.  The anime genre as a whole is getting dumbed down to compensate for Type B fan’s tendency to disregard complexity.  As good as some of the shows I’ve enjoyed in the past few years have been, there seems to be a trend that abstract thoughts should be either entirely abstract or entirely transparent.  As much as I enjoyed FMA: Brotherhood, the gap between the creation of the original series and the second series seems to have lost a bit of intrigue (though Brotherhood’s story was much better ).  I guess my real concern here is that it is going to get too costly to create anime that has both high production quality and a great story (see Angel Beats).  If the trend is for anime fans to like cute characters with no plot (Sora no wo to, K-ON) why waste resources on an intricate plot to appease the fringe viewers?

But this really brings up an important question.  Anime otakudom started off, in both America and Japan, as a major closet practice.  If mainstream anime fandom is somewhat widespread (the viewing totals of Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica prove this), and the main drive of anime fandom is Type B fandom, where do Type A anime fans fall insofar as the anime scene?  Are we to expect the same treatment as a S-F Otaku in the future, or will the anime industry continue to attempt to appease us?


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