Postmodernism in Anime Fandom

Michael Pinto, generally calm, collected, and even erudite, speaks with the voice of rage.  His rage is directed at those who carry on in abject ignorance of the history of American fandom.


At first blush we are sympathetic to Mr. Pinto – without the pioneers, the American fandom would be very different or might not even exist.  However, without excusing this conduct in any way, I want to suggest that Mr. Pinto has missed something very important: the postmodernist streak of anime fandom.

In essence, postmodernism is the freeing of something from its context.  Nobody is required to watch Gundam, Macross, and Neon Genesis Evangelion before they watch Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.  Nobody is required to understand Maison Ikkoku, Urusei Yatsura, or Rama 1/2 before they look at Clannad and Love Hina. Anime is something that people jump into without knowing or caring what went before. The reams of disconnected anime reviews out there attest to this fact, and I am sure Mr. Pinto is aware of that.

What I don’t believe he has remembered is how much people take this postmodernist bent for granted.  Outrage generally incorporates some aspect of surprise, and while I think it’s unfortunate that American otaku have forgotten a pioneer, I can’t be surprised in the least.  It’s a self-indulgent, hedonistic fandom, no matter how much we try to be intellectuals about it.

A look at the copyright debates, probably the hottest current issue, serves to affirm this.   Half the fandom have no grasp of economics, insisting that everything should be free on the internet, forever.  The other half have no grasp of law, confusing intellectual property violations with theft. Perhaps the dark heart of postmodernism is the simple declaration, “I don’t care.”  That which does not force the fan to acknowledge it is simply conveniently ignored.

Is it reasonable to expect a people who cannot get basic facts of daily relevance straight to honor their forebears?  Can we expect this environment, wholly lacking in rigor, to produce the sort of dedication to the truth that would see people like Kaposztas honored?

In entertainment, history is overlooked and relevance is mutable.  The paradigm of entertainment asks: does Jim Kaposztas deserve more?  If so, where is his PR campaign?

That context is something that the non-postmodernist should understand all too well.


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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Fair enough, but is there no room for education of fandom?

  2. If by “education” you mean “indoctrination” then yes. Fans are constantly “educated.” Some aspects of fandom come about through it.

    The debate is more about, should they be? I don’t know.

  3. Thank you for the post! I don’t think I was so much angry but saddened. The reason is that there are other genres of fandom which seem to honor their past a bit more. For example you can’t look at any documentary on punk rock without the cast of usuals like Legs McNeil being put in front of the camera. Also there’s the assumption that without these hardcore fans from the 70s/80s/90s that anime would have become popular in the United States anyway — I would say that’s not the case: Many of those fans formed those companies that brought anime over, it didn’t just happen by mistake. Lastly I think in the case of Jim he invented a genre which deserves some note today. So should anyone care that Steve Harrison did an amazing fanzine in the 80s? No because it didn’t ripple in time — but with Jim he created something then which is a core part of fandom (much like cosplay).

    • Thank you for replying. I see a small but important difference: punk is usually appreciated in its sociopolitical and musical context. With anime this is not the case; in the US it is usually appreciated devoid of context. (WAH has an ongoing feud with some other bloggers over just how much knowledge of Japanese culture plays into proper understanding of anime.)

      I don’t think your claims are invalid, just that the reality of the situation is that very few people who create and enjoy anime music videos have even heard of Jim Kaposztas. They see the AMV on YouTube and don’t question where it comes from.

  4. So, what con didn’t want Jim? In my experience, most cons are easy as Paris Hilton on a four-Zima-bender when it comes to staffing. Of course, I usually do Registration, and nobody wants to do the boring crap. Was he trying to get the job running the music video contest? Because that’s one of the “fun” conrunning jobs, and people will kill for that slot.

    Jim once accused me of plagiarizing one of his music videos. Since it was pretty much the first time I’d ever heard of him, I had no idea what he was going on about. Especially since it was a typical case of “steam engine time”.

    I still think my version was more interesting, if not particularly well-put-together. I had made it only to knock off a box on the fanboy checklist: made music video, done. It came right after “make a fansub” and before “found a convention”.

    • An interesting perspective. I imagine that is precisely what he asked for.

  5. […] of my reaction to a Michael Pinto, I wrote, I’d say what made Lester Bangs was not uniqueness but authority, […]

  6. […] Michael Pinto – Well known for his different takes on events that often cast light on issues that threatened to slip into obscurity, the proprietor of maintained a […]

  7. The authoritative message :), is tempting…

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