In Anime World Order’s look back at the previous decade of anime, guest Matt Alt talks about how the true successor to giant robot anime isn’t current giant robot anime, instead bestowing that title to those shows which spawn trading cards and games revolving around collecting. Essentially, the true spirit of super robots lies not in the continuation of the aesthetics of giant robot anime, but rather in their ability to push merchandise.
Considering this point, I can only think about how much more today’s anime for boys fosters a sense of competition, with trading card games and the like being at the center of children’s entertainment. The kids don’t have to be competitive “high-level” players, and they don’t even have to necessarily know the rules, and I still think these games, even if their shows talk about friendship and honor, still push the theme of competition more than anything else. Just the fact that there are specific rules and stats and points means that, in a given activity, there will be winners and losers, even if it’s just cheap plastic being spun in an enclosed space. In contrast, that’s not really possible when you just have toy robots and the like. You can perhaps beat your friends by collecting more toys than them, or even create arbitrary rules of competition or even create fake competitions between your toys as Cobra Commander attacks with his vicious horde of My Little Ponies, but at the end of the day there’s no definitive way to become King of Make-Believe.
Well, almost no way.
This in turn got me thinking about the anime fandom and how we have figured out ways to compete via anime. The act of watching cartoons is not really an area in which you can determine winners and losers (unless you say that we’re all losers), so the community instead focuses their competitive spirits towards anime-related activities such as making music videos and cosplaying. These competitions are far more subjective in their criteria and human judgment is paramount in determining winners, but all the same we have taken a relatively passive activity and found ways to test our abilities against others.
I don’t really have a grand point I’m trying to reach, as I’m just laying down some thoughts. But be it through subjective judging or concrete goals, I don’t think an increase in competitive spirit is really a bad thing. That said, it can be taken too far.