[Note: This topic could apply to a wide variety of mediums. However, anime tends to be thought of on a smaller scale than other sources of entertainment. Please keep this in mind when reading further.]
I have had this blog for many, many years—far longer than I ever believed I would have it. Starting it gave me a public place to share my thoughts on the anime medium, which had taken a hold of my creative soul as the primary object of my attention and critique. If anyone has taken note of my anime reviews tab located on the front page of my blog, they can see that I’ve written hundreds of anime reviews up to this point. If that isn’t intimidating enough, the quantity of my anime reviews covers about 63% of the total number of anime I’ve seen in the last seven years (438 according to MyAnimeList). It’s probably an understatement to say that I’m experienced.
When I started this blog all the way back in 2013, I had (according to rough estimates based on MALGraph) 132 completed anime, which is still a decent amount, especially compared to the average person. At that point, though, I still considered myself an “expert” on the medium, having just a year of experience and over a hundred titles under my belt. The question for today’s post is somewhat of an attack on my past self: Should I have called myself an “expert” so early on? Let’s dive into the mindset behind my former self.
Over a hundred series completed is nothing to scoff at, that I won’t argue. For the general person, I think any average person would be impressed with a quantity past fifty… of course, the time it took to get to that point is also important, as binge-watching somewhat sullies the importance of an exact number. It took me about fourteen months, give or take, to get to 132 anime titles, which is an average of 11 to 12 anime per month, which averages even further to almost three anime a week. I think back to those days and my present self is in awe of my productivity, especially seeing as it’s April and I’ve completed… two anime. Wow, really gotta pick up the pace a little.
That sort of productivity, I think, is hard to argue against. If one claimed they were watching a movie everyday and did so for fourteen straight months—while I don’t think “expert” would be a given—I think it shows an appreciation for the medium and a commitment to become more familiar with its ins and outs. At that point, I felt comfortable in knowing the general formulas and archetypes attributed to romances and harems, specifically (I watched a lot of romances and harems back then), but anything more was still somewhat shaky. One could say that I was familiar with what made an anime stereotypical rather than what made it good, and perhaps that goes with the territory of expertise, though still incomplete.
Which brings me to the next point that somewhat covers what I alluded to in the previous two sentences. While a quantity of anime is nice to have, variety is also a valuable source of insight. I mentioned that I watched a lot of harem and romances back in the early days, perhaps out of blissful naivety or because it was harder to restrain myself from the carnal urges that lay within me. That said, does watching a lot of romance and harem anime make me an expert on anime as a whole? Would someone who watches every Godzilla film and every kaiju battle film in existence be considered an expert on film? Not likely. The great thing about anime is that it is not everything the stereotypes make it out to be. It is a varied and occasionally unpredictable medium full of strange, dark, emotional, and unforgettable experiences. One occasionally has to wade through garbage to get to them, but nevertheless.
Before moving to my last point, I’d like to discuss something that tends to be something that coincides with experience within the anime medium: negativity. When one think of an “elitist,” do they picture someone who hates on anime despite never seeing any? Perhaps, but I always saw elitists more as individuals who have seen so much anime that their opinion skews to only include series that they deem “worthy” of their time. I’ve dabbled in this sort of behavior before, as I’m prone to looking at a cover image for an anime I’ve never seen and searching for signs that I’ve picked up in my experience that typically translates it into a bad series. Highly subjective, though more right than wrong in my own experience.
Anyway, I just wanted to say that I don’t think that negativity necessarily translates to expertise. One can say that a particular thing is bad because “x” and “y,” but from what I’ve distinguished in my experience with the more snobby elitists, they tend to favor a very specific type of quality above all else. In turn, this hyper-intensive focus could betray their ability to properly analyze other types of storytelling or nuances within series because it doesn’t fit in with their specific qualifications. Almost like a machine, if “x” is not true, then “y” is bad. For me, the negativity bias tends to showcase a level of knowledge more than those who simply enjoy everything because it implies the ability to differentiate between good and bad. I think it’s a little more complex, in that if one is so caught up in a “true” fashion of quality, they’ll be less likely to experiment with other shows, hence the lack of overall variety.
That took way longer than I thought it would. Getting back on track, I think the title of “expert” also depends on something completely unrelated to anime or any other form of medium: inherent intelligence. One has to simply be able to pick up the little things within a collection of series and be able to translate why they’re there and what makes them good or bad (on a subjective scale). I’d be more willing to assert the title of “expert” to someone who comments on the historical significance of human psychology within anime that take place in the Shōwa era, for example, than someone who just assumes that people were strange back then. It may be a little harsh to say, but I don’t think everyone can be an expert on anime just from consumption alone. There needs to be some level of understanding with the qualities that make an anime an anime and the coherency to note the distinctions between individual series. What makes Renai Boukon different from Mayoi Neko Oveerun!? What makes One Punch Man different from Mob Psycho 100? These are things I expect experts of the medium to be able to answer.
As with all these pieces, a lot of this is simply from my point of view. The anime medium is something of a charming thing, despite my severe dip in interest in recent years. If I had to answer my own question, I think even back then, I had a pretty good idea of what anime was, but it was something of a shallow insight. I was a lot more of what I described before as an “elitist” in those days, focused on the “objective” measures of series and the true quality that all anime had to abide by. Even so, I was pretty confident in my ability to pick apart what made a series what it was and what it intended at its core. It’s a tricky thing to ascertain, but it’s fun to discuss. That’s what makes the whole thing worth writing about.
What do you think makes someone an expert on anime?
For more posts like this, feel free to browse the archive of anime/manga opinion pieces!
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.
6 thoughts on “How Much Anime Does It Take to Become an “Expert”?”
I don’t think it’s quantity or the speed at witch you watch. I don’t tend to remember or appreciate series I’ve watched in a single setting and I don’t have time to properly let them sink in if I jump right on to the next.
I guess I would liken expertise to experience. So what is anime experience if not watching a lot of series. I have a few shows under my belt – probably more than the average but I’m no expert. I know little about the community and social context of the medium. I’m not that interested in popularity of shows and I really approach anime as a hobby. From your posts you’re probably a greater expert than I am. Watching 3 animes a week – now that’s a job!
Personally, I’m an enthusiast!
This is a wonderful, wonderful read, and puts words to so much of the frustration I have with gatekeeping in the community. Ultimately, what’s more important than amount watched is a) breadth of stuff watched and, as you said, b) amount of critical insight applied to stuff watched.
Thanks for writing this! It’s v related to something I’m working on right now.
I don’t know if I can call myself an expert on anime ( and manga ) but I’ve been reading manga and watching animes since middle school ( in elementary, I thought they were just cartoons) . I ‘ve graduated from college and been working for 3 years now, and still reading mangas, and watching animes) https://2megaworthitwordpresscomblog.wordpress.com/ <——– That's my anime/manga/video games blogsite. Over there, I have a photo of my manga collection .( I also have an extensive anime collection ) . That's about 15 to 16 years. These days , I've become much more discriminating. I've seen Violet Evergarden 4 times. Attack on Titan, Full Metal Alchemist, HunterxHunter, BThe Beginning, Blame!, Mushishi, Moribito ( I totally love this !), Psycho Pass, and of course Studio Ghibli. I believe these animes with so much fanservice are giving the Japanese anime industry a bad name .
This is a good question. I suppose that two parts of being an expert are having experienced a lot of anime and being able to discern the good from the bad and mediocre. Then, one needs to be able to draw connections between other anime and understand their context in order to better understand what a particular anime is trying to do. From those premises, I would say that an expert watches a lot of anime, has watched those anime considered classic (i.e. anime still being picked up by new fans and talked about after seven years), knows about important figures in the anime industry past and present, and has some knowledge of Japanese language, history, and culture. I’d say that’s a good description of an anime expert or “maniac” as I’ve heard them called. 🙂