Nostalgia… I remember that!

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.

6 thoughts on “Nostalgia… I remember that!

  1. Interesting post. I honestly never really understood nostalgia until a few years ago when I started playing old-school video games and watching old shows/movies I loved as a kid. I think you have to be a certain age (at least 20-something perhaps) in order to find something to be nostalgic about. It also helps if things are noticeably different than when you were a kid so you can compare the feeling things of the past evoked back then to how they are now.

    Overall, I think nostalgic is a fun, harmless activity as long as you don’t try and judge things of the past by the standards of today, i.e., saying a certain movie is bad because it’s not up to the intellectual and technological standards of today.

    • I suppose I’m just a sad person who became nostalgic about 7 years ago now. I do agree that either you or the situation around you has to be different for you to feel nostagic. Like you said, we apply the standards of today to yesterday and act surprised that things don’t live up to progress. Afterall, that’s what progress is for: to move on from yesterday into something better. As long as we remember when something was done/made, it’ll stay well-suited for that time.

    • I think you have made a very good point Yumeka. When I look at things I loved in the past, I judge it again on its own merits. I sometimes find that my change in taste has made it not as good as before, but it is a great way to reconnect with my past and just see how far I and the field have changed. It is an experience in and of itself. One that I think many people miss out on in today’s fast paced world.

      Nostalgia ( or at least a interest in the past) is part of why I have been watching a fair amount of older anime/ reading older manga. It is not always as pretty or technically sound, but there are a lot of gems to unearth and appreciate.

      • It also helps when we’ve got a couple series that focus on series’ history within the past couple of years to reconnect. It’s always interesting to see how entertainment has evolved just in our lifetime.

        While I may not enjoy the visual aspect of them, I look forward to hearing about what series you uncover.

  2. As an anime fan I find I’m nostalgic for the days when the fandom wasn’t always obsessed with keeping up with the latest season because fansubs weren’t digitally available. In a way that meant people spent a bit more time talking about series they liked at meetings (of anime clubs, for instance) rather than the newest fad, and it was more likely that we would have more series in common.

    That aside, I like your point about nostalgia fostering loyalty to a particular franchise, and for me that applies to Macross and Ghost in the Shell. The Macross franchise thrives on its fans fondly remembering the good ol’ days of the original to the extent that the producers of Macross F put in lots of key references to the original Macross. Ghost in the Shell works differently, as each new iteration of Public Security Section 9 explores a different aspect of the characters and universe. You can watch the latest shows of each franchise without knowing anything about the earlier ones, but for nostalgic fans like me part of the pleasure is basking in the awesomeness of how far the series and the characters have come since their first appearance.

    • As anime has become more available, you have new people who are only used to seeing the newer shows like myself and who haven’t seen “the classics”. I think there are a couple factors at play: the conventions would have the hard-core fans as conventions weren’t about cosplay then and only the “good” shows would be easily distributed, thus you could talk more about them compared to fluffy shows which weren’t as heavily passed around like they are now.

      I’m reminded of a couple points in your description of Macross and Ghost in the Shell. The recent Kamen Rider and Super Sentai series have focused on past shows (since they first aired in 1970s) which has brought back the older generation of fans to those shows. As for Ghost in the Shell, it reminds me of the Raildex universe where there are stories that focus on a variety of characters all around the world and how they all fit together. It sounds like shows have a lot of things in common now.

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