Anime At 30 – What To Do When You Experience Anime Burn Out

Sailor Moon, 1992-1997

I’ve been a fan of anime for almost 20 years. It occurred to me recently that my fanniversary is around the same time as Sailor Moon’s 20th anniversary. And knowing that there are young women and men watching Sailor Moon for the first time with the new Crystal adaptation, I’m beginning to feel like an oldie.

I started watching anime when I was in middle school in the late ‘90s, with Americanized dubs of shows like Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, The Vision of Escaflowne, and Digimon, which is also celebrating an anniversary—its 15th—with Digimon Adventure tri. At the time, the animation style in anime was interesting to me, and the main female characters were great role models that other Western animated shows lacked. But for some reason, in high school, I stopped watching anime, with only the occasional Pokémon episode on in the background to console me as I did my homework after school. I think this happened because the anime shows that were available to me through non-cable television at that time were very limited. Besides Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh—no thanks—was one of the only shows I can remember that played on TV regularly while I was in high school.

Fortunately, my interest in anime started up again when new friends I made in college reintroduced me to it through [adult swim] and Toonami, and I discovered that anime could be for grownups too. Perfect Blue was one of the first anime movies I ever watched, and let me tell you, it definitely left me a little scarred, but also fairly intrigued. Next came Studio Ghibli, with Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, and eventually, I delved into Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Ghost in the Shell.

Howl's Moving Castle, 2004
Will I look into the mirror someday, and *BAM* suddenly be transformed into an old lady like Sophie? (Howl’s Moving Castle, 2004)

Sadly, anime has been falling flat for me lately, particularly over the last couple of years. I think I can attribute this partially to my increasing age. For the last decade or so, anime has become available for free or for a relatively low cost streaming on the internet, something that did not take off until after I finished college, so the choices I had to watch back then depended upon what I could catch on Cartoon Network and what my friends or the library had on DVD. There was a time in the past, when I was still new to anime and had attended some of my first conventions, when I would watch anything and everything I could get my hands on. I would stay up all night at anime conventions watching whatever I could in the video rooms. It was fun and exciting, and I really enjoyed it.

Now that anime is much easier to get a hold of, perhaps I’m just realizing that a lot of it is just plain awful. Like any form of media, not all of it is good, and in fact, much of it is bad, created on the fly for a quick buck. “It’s not you; it’s me,” is not entirely true in this instance. Yes, I am being picky about what I watch now, but also, a lot of what is out there is bad. The distaste I have for anime lately is clearly not entirely of my own making. It also has something to do with what anime producers in Japan believe fans want, with what they know they can make money from, and with what U.S. and U.K. distributors think will sell over here.

So, what can I do to combat awful anime and this feeling that I’m starting to turn into an old fuddy-duddy of a fan? What can I do when I really want to watch something good, something that is going to rip my heart out and tear it up into pieces and leave me feeling so many feelings? There are a few things I’ve done lately to make sure that I don’t find myself 25 episodes into a series and hitting myself over the head asking myself, “Why did I start watching this show in the first place? Why are these characters so awful? Why am I wasting my time?”

First things first: I always sample the first episode, perhaps the second and third episodes too, of a new anime before I commit myself to watching it, and if I’m not enjoying it by the third episode, I stop watching, even if everyone loves it—I’m looking at you, Kill la Kill. Life would be boring if we all liked the same things, and it’s okay if you don’t like what everyone else likes. Also, I’ve learned over the years that similar to a book, don’t judge an anime by its opening theme. Sometimes an anime can be really good even if its opening sequence is really terrible. But I suppose, like books and manga, the opening can help you to gauge what you’re in for, so while it’s important to be open-minded, I do tend to avoid certain anime if their opening is especially atrocious, because I just know that I’m not going to enjoy it.

Paradise Kiss, 2005
ParaKiss is so good! “You should be watching” it! (Paradise Kiss, 2005)

My next suggestion, if you’re feeling anime burn out and you think it’s due to your age, is to watch a josei anime. Seriously! Josei anime have been my saviors lately. Josei means “woman” and is geared toward women ages fifteen and up. If you’re like me and you’re sick and tired of the typical middle school/high school story about a regular, boring boy who gets superpowers, or encounters some beautiful girl with superpowers, and suddenly has to save the world with a bunch of infatuated girls surrounding him, then josei anime is for you. The characters are more likely to be closer to you in age—their problems are more likely to be similar to your problems, their daily lives like yours. I highly recommend Chihayafuru, Eden of the East, Honey and Clover, Kids on the Slope, Kuragehime, Monster (okay, so this one is actually seinen or young men’s anime, but it’s still really gripping), Nana, Nodame Cantabile, Paradise Kiss, and Usagi Drop.

K-On!, Episode 7, 2009
Underage drinking is a no-no, Yui! (K-On!, Episode 7, 2009)

Going back into the anime vault, so to speak, and watching a classic is also a good way to discover an oldie but goodie. Check out the late ‘80s, all of the ‘90s, and the early ‘00s. There are some great sci-fi shows and movies from those periods—like Nausicaä, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Megazone 23, and Cowboy Bebop, only to name a few—that are gritty and raw. They leave some of the shiny anime we get lately (I’m thinking of the clean lines and perfect coloring that can be seen in many show from this current decade that are definitely beautiful, but sometimes boring, in my opinion) in the dust.

FLCL, Episode 6, 2000-2001
“Eating ramen that tastes really bad can be kinda fun too.” (FLCL, Episode 6, 2000-2001)

For me, anime isn’t just about the act of watching the medium; it’s about enjoying something with other people, especially my friends. So, another way to make watching anime more enjoyable is to do it with other people. Go watch anime with your friends, your family, your partner, whoever! Also, if you’re of legal age, have a glass of wine, or whatever your poison might be, while watching. It’s a great way to unwind after a long week, and it helps you to relax and not take watching the show so seriously. A good anime is a great accompaniment to a fine glass of Malbec. And making a thing of it—having friends over and preparing some special dishes or drinks—can be a lot of fun.

In the end, anime should be about having fun! Not every activity has to be about cultural analysis and critique. And bad anime can be really good sometimes too. I mean, “Eating ramen that tastes really bad can be kinda fun too.” Still, don’t settle for less either. For me lately, quality is better than quantity, and I know that an anime that keeps me entertained and intellectually stimulated is my cup of tea.

Rine Karr

Rine Karr

Rine Karr is the former Chief Copy Editor and an occasional contributor at Women Write About Comics. She's a writer and aspiring novelist by moonlight and a copy editor by daylight. Rine loves good food, travel, and lots of fiction, especially novels, anime, manga, video games, and films. She's also an Anime Writer at Girls in Capes.

14 thoughts on “Anime At 30 – What To Do When You Experience Anime Burn Out

  1. Thanks so much for articulating this… I’ve also struggled to find anime that I enjoy as an adult. I wouldn’t say I ever stopped liking anime but I realized at a certain point I stopped watching it. Not having cable or friends with the same interests were barriers but Crunchy Roll came on the scene and I still wasn’t stumbling on anything I liked (nor was I actively looking).

    Of course, as you mentioned, many of us who grew up in the US first experienced anime on cable. It was a highly curated experience so we only experienced the best/most popular series because those were the ones cable channels were willing to take a risk on. When your first experiences with mature anime are some of the all time greats (GITS, Cowboy Bebop, etc… damn the Adult Swim line up was killer) I think that sets the expectation for quality pretty high. So when the floodgates were opened and we started getting access to anything anyone bothered to subtitle, I can understand now why leveling the playing field in quality was a disappointment to some of us. If your only experience with American TV was Breaking Bad, House of Cards, and Game of Thrones and you didn’t have access to [insert your least favorite TV dramas here], you might end up with a similarly inflated view of American TV as a “medium.”

    I think actually my biggest frustrations are anime series that start strong and end poorly (Ergo Proxy, Gankutsuo, Death Note). I know in many cases this can be due to production struggles but it’s frustrating to invest time into something that is amazing for the first 75% of it then devolves into a mess. Still, one or two seasons isn’t a huge commitment in the long run.

    I still find the best recommendations come from friends, writers whose work I enjoy, and word of mouth. Looking forward to checking out some of the titles mentioned here.

    1. I definitely agree that one of my biggest struggles with anime is watching an entire show only to be very confused or disappointing by the ending. As you said, this can sometimes be attributed to budget cuts and whatnot, but it’s still frustrating. I joke about bad endings in anime with some of my friends who watch anime, and we have all come to the same conclusion that it’s actually fairly common. I’ll never forget watching Noir, which I really enjoyed, and then watching Madlax with my friends (both shows are part of Bee Train’s “Girls With Guns” series) and being super disappointed with the ending. Everyone keeps recommending El Cazador de la Bruja (the third in that series) to me, but I admit, I keep avoiding it because of my experience with Madlax.

  2. I worked at cons for many, many years in my 20s. I amassed a huge collection of unwatched anime due to this (deep discounts, free stuff, etc). I spent about 2 yrs watching it all, and uh…I sold or donated about 75% of what I had. So yeah, I feel you on the whole “having so much anime means not all of it is good” thing.

    I also started reading manga instead of watching anime because #1 the stories are typically much tighter without anime filler eps #2 a single master creator usually does better on the quality of both story and art #3 cheaper #4 more easily portable….at least back in those days before cheap smartphones!

    I don’t feel that older anime is “better” than newer. First off, nostalgia and age are big factors there. Secondly, there was just as much terrible anime back then as there is now, we just didn’t see most of it because imports were more likely to be the big sellers in Japan. Now we get simultaneous broadcast, so there’s no vet or sales process.

    All that said, I still don’t watch new anime because I give all my money to manga, but I’d be open to watching a new show if there was no manga it was based on, and it was super amazing, a la Cowboy Bebop.

    1. What kind of manga do you read? I’m always open to new recommendations. I really should read more manga, because I usually enjoy it a lot when I do.

    2. If you want to sample bad old anime, check out the review show Anime Abandon. Or not, if you lack the stomach for some material. Some things, like Mad Bull 34, are too beyond absurd to ignore. Some things, like Eiken…were never meant to be, yet are.

  3. Love the choices for josei anime, and also second the One Punch Man in the comments as well as Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun which makes fun of what shoujo anime/manga is supposed to be all about!

    1. I wish there were more josei anime in the world! Also, I watched on episode of One-Punch Man a few weeks ago and laughed more than I had from an anime in a while. I need to watch it sometime soon. I haven’t really heard of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, but after Googling it, I may have to watch it too 🙂 Thanks for the recs.

  4. TOTALLY feel you! I love anime, I don’t know if I feel a burnout, but it’s definitely harder for me to find something I really like compared to, maybe, younger anime fans. Shounen isn’t my thing and although I love shoujo, I’m very particular about which ones I like. So my go to is josei, but there’s not enough josei anime for me, which is why I end up reading manga because I need that fix. I spent tons of time on MAL looking for suggestions.

    I agree about the bit with watching it with your friends. Anime is ridiculous at times (okay maybe a lot) and it’s fun to make fun of it with a friend sitting next to you. 🙂

    1. There definitely should be more josei in the world! That would make me very happy. It’s become one of my favorite genres lately 🙂 I guess it’s not really a genre, more of an age demographic, but it’s still one of my favorites.

  5. I’ve never understood why people get “burned out” on a given medium, when they find they have no taste for any new material, when there’s so much PAST material available even for the newest forms, e.g. video games and webcomics. I understand getting burned, but getting burned out? Spend five seconds looking up past stuff you’ve never seen or stuff that you haven’t seen in over a decade, and give that a shot.

    Though getting burned out on the new, I completely relate. It’s a wonder any old-school cinephiles still go to movies with the complete lack of ANY new material.

    1. Yes, as I mentioned in the article, going back and watching older anime shows and movies that I haven’t seen is something that I have been doing a lot lately. It can be a lot of fun rediscovering a show that I might have missed the first time around or even one that’s even older than I am! And many of my favorite anime shows and movies are from the past anyway, so I’m not usually too surprised when I find one from the 80s, 90s, or 00s that I can enjoy. I recently watched Monster (2004-2005) and really liked it, as well as Paradise Kiss (2005). Neither of them are that old, but 10 years is still a decent amount of time, especially when I’ve only been watching anime for 20 years.

  6. There’s still a lot of quality anime out there than the ones mentioned here. I don’t care much for magical girl/boy (Sailor Moon included; I actually think they’re anti-feminist, despite what most people think), harem/reverse harem (except maybe Fruits Basket, one of my guilty pleasures), and many of the ultra popular series like Bleach, Kill La Kill (totally agree with you there), Naruto, Death Note, One Piece, etc.

    I like my anime purposefully ridiculous (without being too nonsensical – Arakawa Under the Bridge, you can kiss my ass), ones that either poke fun at or bastardize tropes, mind-blowing action choreography, and/or ones that are semi-historical, terribly depressing, brutal or absolutely bizarre. If I can have 1 or 2 interesting female characters, I’m in Heaven.

    Some of my picks for the anime-fatigued (a long list indeed, but they’re guaranteed to break you out of your anime humdrum):

    One Punch Man
    Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto
    Technolyze
    Any Miyazaki, duh.
    Any Hosoda Mamoru (I defy anyone to not find any of his movies jaw droppingly gorgeous)
    Soul Eater
    Samurai Champloo
    Speedgrapher
    Samurai 7
    JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
    Afro Samurai
    Ghost Hound
    Another
    Beck
    Birdy the Mighty
    Princess Jellyfish
    Claymore
    Durarara!!
    Eden of the East
    FLCL (if this isn’t on EVERYONE’S list, you simply cannot be trusted)
    Any GTS (i even have the neck tatt to prove my undying love)
    House of Five Leaves
    Death Frenzy (Shigurui)
    Jin-Roh
    Parasyte
    Michiko to Hatchin
    My Love Story!!
    Nana
    Any Kon Satoshi
    Ride Back
    Moribito (books are also excellent)
    Say “I Love You”
    Space Dandy
    Tekkon Kinkreet
    The Big O
    The Twelve Kingdoms
    Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
    Usagi Drop
    Witchblade
    Recollections of a Certain Pilot
    No. 6
    Natsume Yuujinchou
    Natsuyuki Rendezvous
    Kino’s Journey
    Kiddy’s Grade
    Gun x Sword
    Gansta. (if they’d only finish it…)
    ERASED
    Elfen Lied
    Darker Than Black

    1. Yes, I definitely agree that there are still a lot of other quality anime out there other than the ones I mentioned. But since I wasn’t really writing a best of anime article, I didn’t want to just list them all out. Thank you for your list though. I must admit, I’ve seen a lot of those anime already, but perhaps when I have time I will go through the list and make note of the ones I haven’t seen yet. Currently, I’m actually trying to make my way through all of the shows that have played on noitaminA, since I’ve really enjoyed the one’s I’ve seen on that list so far. Also, I love Fruits Basket. It was one of the first shows I watched after getting back into anime in college. If you haven’t read the manga, I highly recommend it!

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