When we say we’re into a certain anime, in a lot of cases it doesn’t mean that we’re only into the anime; pretty much all anime series are in some form or other part of a media franchise. They’re an anime but also a manga, light novel, video game, trading card game, collection of toys, or any number of mediums. I wonder how many anime fans get into all the franchise branches of a particular series, or whether they’re content to just watch the anime and nothing more…
Saying you love “[insert name of anime] franchise” has a different meaning than saying you love “[insert name of anime] series.” To me, loving an anime franchise means you’re very much into more than just the anime part of it. In addition to watching the anime, if the series has a manga, light novel, visual novel, or whatever, you’ve also read/played a large portion of that, too. If there’s merchandise to be had for that series, chances are you’ve bought some of it. You follow news and discussion revolving around the many franchise aspects of that series, from what the voice actors are doing to what new products are on the market even if there’s no new anime material. And even within the anime itself, if there are multiple seasons, OVAs, and movies – as Scamp recently detailed – you’ve watched them all. That’s what I think being into an anime franchise is as opposed to just being into the anime series. You view it and appreciate it as the sum of all its franchise parts. Even if you prefer one of the parts over the others (for example, preferring the manga to the anime) or you don’t personally partake in all the parts yourself (for example, you collect the series’ merchandise but don’t play the video games), what’s important is enjoying that multi-universe feeling of a story and characters you love stretching themselves over many different mediums and being expressed in many forms from paper to video screens to game controllers and things to display in your room.
Loving just an anime series, however, gives the impression that you’re mainly interested in just the anime portion of the franchise, and perhaps the original manga or light novel, too. You don’t buy lots of merchandise for the series and you don’t care to follow all the latest news buzz about its multiple franchise mediums. How you relate to it comes down to watching the anime and maybe reading the original source material, then not caring much about it when its popularity as an anime series wears off. You might get into the series again only when new anime material comes out to temporarily rekindle your interest. Or, you might not even care to watch anything beyond the first anime season or any spin-off material that’s not part of the main story.
It’s fascinating to see how some fans try to relate to every anime they watch in terms of being a franchise and others only watch anime, rarely or never going beyond that unless they really end up liking that anime. For every anime they start watching and take a liking to, some fans will immediately start reading the manga too, or play the visual novel or any digital game the series may have. They’ll follow the latest news for the series and maybe even collect merchandise before the anime portion is even over. Then, once these series are no longer new and popular, they’ll indulge in the franchises of the next batch of good seasonal shows. On the other hand, we have fans like yours truly who 90% of the time only watch the anime version(s) of series. But every now and then a series comes along that they really like, and then they go all out with it in terms of its franchise; they’ll watch all anime renditions of it, indulge in the original source material, buy all manner of products for that series, and be wholly into it long after it was popular as an anime series.
To give personal examples, at one point I was really into Evangelion – I watched the anime and movies many times, read and bought all the manga volumes, bought other merchandise, and even played a fansubbed version of the visual novel, “Girlfriend of Steel.” With that, I would say I loved Evangelion as a franchise as opposed to just the anime series. On the other hand, Naruto is arguably a larger franchise than Evangelion, with tons of video games, trading cards, and an extremely long array of anime episodes, movies, specials, and of course, manga chapters. But I’ve always just been interested in the Naruto anime, never caring much to play any of the games, get caught up on the story through the manga, or take part in following news and online discussion about the series. So for Naruto, I would say I’m just a fan of the anime series and not the franchise.
To further illustrate, here’s a brief list of anime franchises I’m into as opposed to just series:
Franchises (currently into)
Pokemon (video games, anime, movies, merchandise, news)
Haruhi (anime, light novels, merchandise, news)
Angel Beats! (anime, light novel, merchandise, news)
Kannagi (anime, manga, news)
Franchises (not as into anymore)
Inuyasha (manga, anime, movies, video games, merchandise)
Tenchi Muyo! (manga, anime, movies, spin-off series)
Evangelion (anime, manga, movies, visual novel, merchandise)
Into anime series only
Shakugan no Shana
and many others…
I know I’ve said this before, but unlike most other fandoms such as Star Wars and Harry Potter that only deal with one franchise, anime fandom deals with thousands of them simultaneously, making it an extremely huge fandom that will naturally attract an extremely wide range of fans with a wide range of ways to relate to and express it. While I personally don’t have the time and motivation to get into the franchise mediums for any but my most beloved anime, I admire fans who try to do so for every anime they like. There are all kinds of anime franchises, from the massive international ones like Pokemon and Naruto, the massive domestic ones like K-ON and Evangelion, and the many moderate ones too numerous to name. Being anime fans, it’s no big shock to find an anime we like, but the real joy comes from discovering a series we love so much that we want to move beyond just watching the anime to indulging in it as a full on franchise. For me, such series are few and far between, but always worth the effort =)