Streaming really changed the game in the Western anime fandom. Not only did it usher in a new era of availability for anime in the West, it changed the culture here in some pretty major ways.
Not all of them good.
Simulcast streaming (episodes becoming available subtitled online the same day they air in Japan) brought the Western anime fandom into a new age. As more people jumped on-board with Crunchyroll, they started engaging with aspects of the culture that, until then, had only been the domain of fansubbers and those who followed them.
People started paying attention to anime seasonally.
Until that point, anime was something that aired syndicated on Western TV and released on physical media, or perhaps got picked up by Netflix or Hulu years after its initial release in its home country. The only people concerned with anime as it aired in Japan were fansub groups and fans savvy enough to stay up-to-date on fansubs of brand-new anime.
When Crunchyroll started bringing anime out in simulcast format, “seasonal anime” entered the public consciousness, and would only grow into more pervasive a concept as time went on and more people joined the anime community.
Along with that came a fundamental shift in the culture surrounding anime over here.
In a way, everyone knew what the classics were back in the day. In part because they were curated, but also because those shows had had time to gestate, to tumble around in the anime community’s collective consciousness.
With the age of seasonal anime, however, came seasonal anime culture.
Open the season chart. Pick between five and fifteen shows to follow. Draw up a schedule for your anime watching so you don’t miss anything. Livetweet each show on Twitter as you watch it (with screenshots!) Continue for twelve to thirteen weeks, then repeat for next season.
No time to let the shows you just finished settle in your mind, we’ve got more anime to watch! Don’t want to fall behind everyone else! Just put everything else you might also want to watch on your backlog until you’re praying for a season with not a lot you want to watch, so you can maybe watch something that came out more than three months ago.
Not only can it get exhausting, it tends to cheapen a lot of the dialogue that happens around anime. People get tunnel vision, only able to see what’s airing in the current season, unable to look back at past anime.
And the companies in charge of putting out anime don’t help the situation much either. For all the marketing Crunchyroll was doing around Yuri!!! On Ice in the tail end of 2016, the hype was all about Sakura Quest leading into spring 2017, creating an environment where voracious consumption is the only way to keep up, while diminishing the value of being caught-up in the first place.
What’s the use being caught up if everyone’s already moving onto the next thing?
And those companies really have no incentive to fight against seasonal anime culture, nor should they. Their job is to bring anime to the West, and if they’re able to do that quickly and cleanly, we’ll be all the better for it. But that doesn’t mean we have to wrap our entire culture around it.
Give it a try. Let yourself lapse on the new stuff. Watch something from the 80s, the 90s, the 2000s next season. And talk about it. Let other people know about the greats of the past. We can pay tribute to the old classics and create new ones. It’ll be crucial to the fandom’s longevity and continuation.
And most importantly: You might just find something you love, that you otherwise would’ve missed out on.