How many Disney characters can you spot?
In past posts I’ve talked about forms of anime “burnout,” from personal anecdotes about people I’ve known who lost interest in anime over time, to discussing exactly how/why someone would burnout on anime. But today’s topic isn’t so much about losing interest in anime as it is simply taking a break from it, which can be a form of preventing loss of interest in the first place…
Froggykun on Fantastic Memes wrote a post dealing with just this: how taking a break from anime from time to time can actually help prevent anime burnout. When people who aren’t into anime themselves, or who are more casual about their interest than others, look at someone who’s really into anime, as in, it’s basically all they talk about online, all they spend their time and money on, and all they fill their room up with (like me? XD) they tend to build stereotypical images of that person, often thinking that anime is all that person cares about and deals in, and they probably don’t have a decent social life or even room for anything but anime in their life. While this may be true for some really obsessed otaku, it’s not so for the majority of anime fans I’ve encountered over the years, myself included. Actually, I would be a good example of this since anyone who looks in my room or sees my blog and Twitter would probably think I’m way too into anime and don’t do anything else. But just because someone is really passionate about a hobby (and isn’t afraid to make it known) doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy other things and aren’t ever willing to take a break from their “main” interest.
Although anime is obviously a very important thing in my life and something I spend most of my time, money, and energy on, I also know it’s not healthy to never branch out into anything else. As Froggykun suggests in his post, watching and dealing in nothing but anime is much more likely to make your interest in it stagnate because you have no other experiences to compare it to – you’ll just see the same tropes, genres, and cliches over and over until you eventually get burned out. This isn’t true for everyone of course, especially for people who don’t have that much free time for anime in the first place, but for people who do have time and use it solely for watching, discussing, and indulging in anime, seeing too much of the same thing continuously could lead to frustration and eventually burnout. Even though anime series can be vastly different from each other, like Attack on Titan compared to Lucky Star, they still have a multitude of subtle and not so subtle similarities due to hailing from the same country and culture, and obviously the more you continuously watch anime, the more likely you are to pick up on all these similarities and get tired of them. But if you find even one other thing you enjoy spending your time with away from anime, that would help.
Doing things like playing video games or reading manga probably aren’t the best breaks from anime, since manga and a lot of popular video games also come from Japan. The more unlike anime something is the better, since anime will be all the more refreshing and different in comparison. If you’re a fan of animation in general like me, watching animation that hails from a country other than Japan is a great way to see anime in a different light and appreciate your taste or lack thereof for culture differences. I’ve always been a fan of Disney/Pixar movies, and more recently, a fan of My Little Pony: FiM, and every now and then I want to watch them to satisfy something in my animation passion that anime lacks, be it the Western look and style of the animation or mannerisms of the characters. This isn’t anything unusual, to quote sdshamshel on one of his posts when comparing My Little Pony and Doremi, “My Little Pony is similar to Ojamajo Doremi in a number of respects, but MLP assumes an American audience first where Doremi assumes a Japanese one, and having the characters behave in ways more culturally familiar can have a significant impact on the connections people make with a show, even if it were basically the same work as the one that is less culturally close. This can even be as simple as information and access just being easier in your own language.” So despite my love and connection to anime and Japan, I live and grew up in America, and from time to time I enjoy the good animated works it puts out that are more culturally familiar to me. And then when I watch anime I better appreciate its Japanese-ness that Western animation lacks, so everything is nicely balanced in the end ;)
While watching American animation or playing video games could be good breaks from anime, it’s probably even better for your worldview and flexibility of interests to enjoy something that isn’t part of that same kind of “geek” culture. I don’t mean things you have to do, like go to work or school, but finding other things you want to spend time with that have nothing to do with anime. For me personally, I enjoy poetry and a lot of classic literature, and get the urge to read them every now and then. Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, D.H. Lawrence, and Edgar Allen Poe are among my favorite authors. I have many novels, poems, and short stories that I enjoy reading over and over. There’s also a lot of music I like to listen to besides anime and Disney songs =P My mom listens to oldies music and I grew to like them too, particularly the Beatles, Peter Paul & Mary, Elvis, Simon & Garfunkel, and Billy Joel. Bob Dylan is probably my favorite lyricist (though I prefer Joan Baez singing his songs). There’s various old TV shows and movies I like too, such as I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, and Alfred Hitchock films. I like musicals very much too and like to listen to songs from Wicked and others even though I haven’t actually seen the shows. I loved last year’s Les Miserables and enjoy other movie musicals like Hairspray and Sound of Music. And as they say, it is good to get outside sometimes even if you’re like me and prefer indoor activities. When I find time on my days off, I like to go to fun places with friends such as beaches, botanical gardens, or amusement parks. I also always try to get in 1-2 hours every week for volunteer work at my local animal shelter. Animal welfare in general is a big interest of mine too and I’m always reading books, news, and other things about it.
In the end, I’m certainly not saying you’re less of a person if you’re not interested in anything outside anime or similar so-called “nerd” hobbies. But I do think you can have a healthier relationship with anime, and the world even, if you can find other unrelated things you enjoy doing and take time away from anime to indulge in them. Anime with all its unique cultural aspects and exclusive tropes will become all the more novel and exciting when you take breaks from it with other things that move you in a different way. It’s an interesting phenomena of how spending time with something unrelated to your fandom can actually make you a bigger fan ;)