Over the past couple of months I’ve made a few comments on blog posts about what I consider to be the worst force in personal opinions: nostalgia. Nostalgia, coming from the greek words nostos -returning home and algia -longing) is something that is present in nearly everyone. There are many times where we remember something and think about the good emotions that are associated with that memory; that would be a classic case of nostalgia.
Nostalgia can be present both in the form and of the fan in anime. In shows it’s a common theme to begin a flashback for a character and provide an instance to begin character development by showing the past of a character. This can also be done for negative memories to play off of the motif such as K-On! does with the childhood friendship between Ritsu and Mio. When used properly, it can enhance a character’s standing, but if done improperly it can negatively impact the episode and thus the show as a whole by “wasting” an episode.
To me, the character that instantly comes to mind when I think of the word “nostalgic” is Mikuru (big). Not only does she mention that feeling in her first appearance, but the pure act of actually returning to ones past is actually accomplishing that feeling irregardless that she has to guide Kyon. Even though all we see of Mikuru at that time is struggles with Haruhi and embarrassment, Mikuru (big) gives a sense that it’s a time that she treasures. Whether or not that builds her inner strength is up to debate, but one cannot deny that Mikuru (big) actually enjoys those memories in her time.
The anime fandom itself is not outside the realm of nostalgic appeal. One common tactic in the R1 market to increase sales of a show is to re-release it later to appeal to people who would go “I remember that show.” In recent years both the Fullmetal Alchemist and Evangeleon series have been re-made due to outstanding success in the first incarnation. When an industry is facing difficult times, one of the easiest ways to get through the downturn is to return to something that will undoubtedly sell.
While it is human nature to look fondly on old shows, I think it also blinds us to flaws within a show. One common complaint in Blu-ray Boxes is that the animation looks poorly done. The Kara no Kyoukai box is a great example of people looking past the fact that some of the animation was made before higher quality techniques were commonplace. The animation itself is lacking, but people blamed the upscale process instead of looking that the first couple of films were made in 2007 (and aired a couple months later) when most shows weren’t aired in HD. I have to give credit to hissatsu and muhoot for helping point this out several times to people. (There’s also bad upscales like FLCL, but that’s a different case)
Is nostalgia completely bad? I would disagree with that statement simply on the fact that if it were not good for us, we would not have developed the tendency to do so. Looking back fondly allows us to remember times without associating negative emotions that allow us to block some memories. That feeling allows us to associate new ideas with old ones and helps predispose those ideas into categories in our minds, which may encourage us to try newer things (strangely enough). It also helps build loyalty with certain brands as well.
I can’t say that I’m not partial to nostalgia myself. I’m more of a Haruhi fan than a generic anime fan. The entire reason I’m in this fandom is that I felt like reviewing a new version of an old series and discovered something new that I wanted to be a part of. I know that I want to support Bandai and NISA because I have good opinions on the products they release (with only one exception).
So like most things in life, nostalgia is neither good nor bad. We just need to keep mind of it and be able to recognize that we think of past things better than they actually were. Judge things on their own merits and life advances as it tends to do.