Newman’s Nook: Old Classics vs New Hotness

I like anime and manga. New anime. Old anime. New manga. Old manga. However, I find myself distracted from time to time by the new hotness, be it a new anime series that strikes my fancy or a fresh manga series of which I can’t seem to get enough. Something always finds a way to distract me from diving deep into the classics.

A while back, I began a journey through Fist of the North Star. I got about a quarter of the way through the series when I stalled out on my watch. I found myself distracted by Meow Meow Japanese History, Hi Score Girl, and My Roommate is a Cat. I am loving the series, but have a hard time powering through the older episodes. I started reading Battle Angel: Alita, inspired by TWWK’s walk through of the series. I made it through the manga series proper, but am starting to lose traction on the sequel series, Last Order. I find myself distracted by reading through the Haikyuu! manga series as well as keeping up on my other ongoing manga. I just got more excited about the newer manga series I was reading. But why?

Is it that the newer shows are inherently better? I, as others on this site have done in the past, would argue no. Fist of the North Star is a much more complex series that it appears at first glance. Some could argue that the depth and intensity of character development is far more intense/interesting than many modern anime series. It’s the same with Battle Angel: Alita. There is so much depth of thought about the meaning of being human in this series. It also addresses issues that some modern anime or manga have yet to even tackle. Both older and the newer series have value.

As I consider that value which classics have, I am reminded of biblical examples. King Hezekiah of Judah, for instance, heard the word of the Lord, which inspired him to destroy the high places and restore monotheism to Judah.

I am reminded of Ezra during the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple. The Israelites were inspired and wept as they heard the law read to them.

I am reminded of Moses, who told the people to never forget and to write on their doorposts the importance of God.

Throughout the Bible, old truths are important and it is stressed that they not be forgotten. Let us not forget the classics. Still, I get distracted. The world moves at a rapid pace and I find myself surrounded by new, new, new. How do I slow myself down and allow myself to enjoy that which is old?

To tell you truth, I don’t know.

No, really. I don’t have a good and perfect answer to this question. I know I will go back to Fist of the North Star, but I will continue to be distracted by other newer shows before I do. I know I’ll return to Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, but the new manga series I am reading and the joy of reading Haikyuu! continues to distract.

So, I’m going to throw this one to you: How do you get into classics as people recommend them to you? What encourages you? What keeps you going as new shows or manga keep you distracted?


9 thoughts on “Newman’s Nook: Old Classics vs New Hotness

  1. I just recently finishes Blue Submarine No.6, and I know where you are coming from. I am more the person to be watching classic anime than people around me. I actually do think that on the whole, new animes are better than old ones for a few reasons. One, the passing of time sifts and strains away all the bad anime that are made into forgotten history. Two, the expansion of the medium leads to a greater number of both good and bad anime in similar percentages. Three, as more money comes into the anime world, more people are going to hone their talents in artwork, storytelling, and design to tell more diverse and interesting stories to chase after viewership and dollars. What might have stopped a really good group of people from making a stellar anime in the old days is now possible because of improved technological capital structure and more overall expertise in other required areas.
    It’s sort of like a lot of people say that Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time. I believe he was the best for his era, but today I don’t think he could compete with the best in our day. The larger pool of players, the talent selection, and the capital structure of training on the whole make newer payers more competitive and that competition leads to better players.
    Likewise, more competition leads to better anime.

  2. I can relate do that. Things do get better over time such as animation abilities, etc. However, good storytelling is timeless. Good art is timeless. While I get what you mean about athletes, art is not athletics. And while, as you said, more people are having access who may not have before, that does not discount the people who crafted amazing stories in the past.

    Also, a medium that can produce more also produces more garbage. And it really does. There is so much bad anime every year, as much if not more than there ever has been. There is also some fantastic anime and manga released every year. It’s a double edged sword.

  3. I guess what I was trying to say is that old does not automatically equal better, same with new. There is good in the old, there is good in the new. But how do I encourage myself to take the time to invest in older, good anime when there’s so much shiny new stuff that I also want to see. Therein lies the question.

  4. “Is it that the newer shows are inherently better?”

    Obviously no. But the fact that newer shows aren’t “inherently” better doesn’t mean they aren’t, in fact, better. The fact that my contemporaries, or people who came before me, enjoyed a work doesn’t impose upon me any obligation to share their appreciation.

    Works can be “classic” because they stand the test of time, because over generations and even centuries people continue to appreciate them. Works can also be “classic” in the sense of being innovative and influential. I can appreciate a “classic” in the latter sense without actually enjoying the work at all myself. Anime is a young art form – according to Wikipedia, the first anime aired in 1958. I’m not sure any anime have actually been around long enough to deserve to be considered true classics in the sense of enduring over time. I can appreciate, say, Gone with the Wind (the film) or Super Mario Bros. (the NES game) for being important influential, without actually liking them at all.

    You mention the timeless themes of some “classics.” But the fact that a work has a “timeless” message doesn’t necessarily mean it has a timeless presentation. Having transcendent theme isn’t enough to make a work a classic — it also needs to present the theme in a way that stands the test of time. Style and accessibility matter.

    You also describe this need to “allow myself to enjoy that which is old.” Is “allow” really the correct word here? Either you enjoy an old work, or you don’t. That’s it. Unless some sort of guilt or shame is getting in the way of enjoying old anime, then I’m not sure the problem is that you need to “allow” yourself to enjoy it. The problem sounds like you just don’t enjoy it *enough* to stick with it. You may enjoy it a bit, but apparently it doesn’t draw you in and motivate you to stick with it. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

    If we consider all the stories, paintings, sculpture, books, essays, music, movies, TV shows, games, anime, etc., that humans have produced and which remain available today, it’s absolutely impossible to take it all in. Consume the media you enjoy in the time you have available and don’t worry about what is or isn’t classic. It can be good to check out works others consider “classic” because that might guide you to some great stories you’d otherwise have missed, but if they aren’t your cup of tea, move on to something else. There is no obligation to “get into classics.” There’s nothing wrong if your enjoyment and/or intellectual interest aren’t strong enough to keep you coming back.

  5. I tend to choose strongly recommended shows (here and in similar sites) and, among them, I’d say I tend to find the «new», post-2000 anime (Toradora, OreGairu, Sakamichi no Apollon, Bokurano, Nichijou, Boku no Hero, Haibane Renmei, Erased, Madoka, Haruhi) more appealing, but maybe it’s just because there is so much variety, the tropes are played with and I think there is a different approach to the characters. The drawing is one I’m more familiar with, too.

    Even so, I have tried or actually watched some with a more «classic» vibe. My motivation is the same: I want to find good, deep, imaginative, enganging stories. And I’m willing to give a chance to unfamiliar or difficult ones. That’s how I got into anime in the first place. There are some things you have to learn to enjoy, but you enjoy them a lot afterwards.

    I loved Now and then and Lain: they got me hooked, and became favorites of mine. I only needed a little push in the second season of Utena, and it was a rewarding experience. Other than that, when I want to watch a classic series and it’s being challenging, I push myself as if it were a 900-pages book. I look for free time and I watch several episodes at once, and I work my way throught it. Of course, if I don’t like in a consistent way, I drop it.

    I’m glad I watched the Giant Robo OVAs (to the end, the difficult «classic» I liked better, very funny, very different, epic, unexpectedly bittersweet all of a sudden), Kenshin (I watched the first arc, very good), Rose of Versailles (to the end, good, I had mixed feelings about it, but it helped me in understanding Utena short after), and, less so, LOGH (great in scope, but far too humanist, and I hated how it ended).

    And I also tried Maison Ikkoku (two episodes, too fanservicey for me), Crest of the Stars (I liked the first episode, but found the Abh boring and stopped soon), Yamato (dropped it, too humanis and just not my cup of tea), Escaflowne (to the end, I liked some aspects, but it didn’t make an impression), Gunbuster (I stopped because of the nudity), Princess Miyu (two episodes of the show, not the OVAs, and I didn’t like it).

    Fist of the North Star and Ashita no Joe are series I have yet to watch. And I have heard good things about Cross Game.

  6. Jeskai – You make some compelling arguments. The thing I find is less about not liking older anime enough, in that some (such as Fist of the North Star) are a lot. Like a lot of episodes. That feels daunting, even when I enjoy it, as that is a lot of time to invest in a show. Whereas newer shows that I watch tend to be shorts or single season runs, which makes it much easier for me to follow along. So, I get distracted and jump into the new hotness.

    I want to read Alita. I really like Alita. But, I also really like Haikyuu and, upon discovering I can read it all on Shonen Jump, I did a big, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH” and started reading that, putting Alita down in the meantime. I will go back to it, because it’s a fantastic series and I truly enjoy it, however, I found myself sucked into a vortex of volleyboys that I can’t seem to shake.

    I sometimes find this with video games too. I start a game and truly love the game, but then a new game I had been excited about comes out and I dive head first into that leaving the other game behind. I usually go back, but the new hotness distracted me from something I was already enjoying.

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