Painting Pictures of Great Anime (and Pop Culture) That Weren’t

I have a lot of anime DVDs sitting on my bookshelf (you can see some of them here, and at the same time enter our contest if you’d like, too!). Over the years I’ve culled it, selling dozens of series I once owned. One reason why is that I don’t want to be a collector (I’ll share more about that another day). The other is that a lot of series I once thought were incredible…just aren’t.

The series that I most remember divesting myself of was Rurouni Kenshin. I collected the DVDs volumes one by one, and I loved the series to no end. But when I tried to rewatch it several years ago, I realized that the series didn’t age well. The tone of the show was fun, but not as entertaining to me as it once was, and I realized that it most definitely did not rise to the heights of the manga. And so, I let it go. At the time, I regretted giving up that many DVDs, but when I rewatched much of it again last year with my wife, I realized I made the right decision.

I’m hating a lot on Kenshin, but I still hold it in high esteem…just not AS high

This goes with all sorts of things I once had much love for. I’ve tried to rewatch old cartoons I loved as a kid – Masters of the Universe, Ducktales, G.I. Joe, Thundercats – some were okay, and some were decidedly not. Hollywood is so driven these days by nostalgia for the old that we embrace (with our wallets at least) revivals and reimaginings of movies and series of old, often without revisiting or really thinking about how good those properties really were. I’m in love with nostalgia regarding the brands rather than the brands themselves.

It’s easy to get caught up in false recollection of old. I was reminded of such when I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Peter Quill, forever trapped in 80’s pop culture, is probably the same as I was, valuing old media that maybe isn’t as good as he remembers it being when he was a seven-year-old. In the film, he references Mary Poppins (good), He-Man (not as good), Cheers (good), Dynasty (nope), Pac-Man (yes), and Knight Rider (I haven’t watched this in 20 years, but I’ll say the talking car show is probably not nearly as good as I remember either).

The Hoff in all his glory

Peter Quill and I both paint pictures of a world that never was, a world that we pine for. But what Peter also shows me – and frankly, along with the principle theme of family, this may be at the heart of GoTG2 – is that living in the past can affect our living in the future. I see a past that is almost perfect, that I want to return to by memory and by how I live. It makes me judgmental, not just of media today (“It’s not what it used to be”), but of people and of life. My nostalgia for the good ol’ days makes me see them as better, quieter, nicer than current times, instead of being just as full of acrimony and hypocrisy as the world is today.

If I want to be a person of character (and it is a daily struggle), I need to take off the rose-colored glasses. Just like the Israelites clamoring to return to slavery in Egypt, I can’t look at the past as something that it wasn’t. I can enjoy nostalgia and remember some of it fondly, but I need to see it in truth too. No, Mr. Belvedere, Silver Spoons, and ALF were not good shows (and for you younger folks, Friends is really only an average series – yes, I said it!). And the present is full of mediocrity, complication, and sin as well. And when I start with eyes open, I can then begin to live with the truth as my guide.

featured image by duex (reprinted with permission)

6 thoughts on “Painting Pictures of Great Anime (and Pop Culture) That Weren’t

  1. I know what you mean. When I think of all the time I wasted watching TV …

    The only shows in my collection from the “good ole’ days” are a few 1960s’ Star Trek and Twilight Zone episodes.

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  2. There’s one show that actually manages to be about as good as I remember it being: Reboot. Reboot, as it turns out, had some really lousy episodes…But when Bob, Matrix, and Megabyte acted well, there was nothing else like it on the planet. It was glorious. Hunchback of Notre Dame (another one with Tony Jay) actually got better with time, the product of me realizing how incredibly Christian that movie really was. 😛 Same with Prince of Egypt’s songs, etc.

    Now…Sailor Moon was much worse than I remember it, and so was Thundercats, and so were quite a few others. And Kingdom Hearts, as much love as I have for it, is never going to be as good as it was when I was young. So your point here is well taken: There’s no sense in trying to return to an idyllic past that never actually existed.

    Still…Those things we loved? One of my closest friends once told me that sometimes we find a show, or a form of escapism, exactly when we need to find it. Kingdom Hearts is not ever going to be as good as it was when I was Sora’s age *because I was Sora’s age* when I first saw it, thinking about the things that were going through he and Riku’s heads back then. Many of the concepts there have become the bedrock on which I can stand, although they seem very simple now.

    Our past selves aren’t imperfect versions of the selves we are now, silly as their actions might seem. We take from them what most mattered, imperfections and all.

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  3. Nostalgia is a funny thing, isn’t it? It fools us into believing something that we already want to be true. Like you, I tend to remember the good old days as being better than they were, and have to constantly remind myself that they actually weren’t.

    A world before the internet was a lot less fun, for example, no matter how fondly I remember the Atari 2600.

    Of course, back then I didn’t have a way to share my sarcasm with the world, so maybe it did have something going for it.

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    1. Speaking of the Atari, I was THIS close to purchasing one of those Ataris they now have on sale, but resisted because it would have been almost entirely out of nostalgia. Though seeing these new systems (I did purchase the SNES one primarily for my wife and kids) did make me regret selling my 2600 all those years ago!

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