In a previous post, I discussed what I believed to be one of the properties of moe as an industry to garner a fanbase: constant output of purchasable material to reinforce those feelings of devotion obsession. In this sense, moe can be thought of as a kind of “fandom of plenty,” a fandom whose existence is actively supported by an abundance of material easily obtained. Anime fandom in the United States over the past ten years has been characterized as such, where it’s so incredibly easy to watch a show and to move on to the next one without looking back that it becomes somewhat difficult to find something not to watch.
In contrast to the “fandom of plenty,” then, might be the “fandom of scarcity.” The image of the anime fandom of yesteryear, from the tape-trading era and back, is one where each episode, each scrap of merchandise was so precious that being a fan was not only about watching as much as you can, but also about the lengths you’d go to in order to obtain that material, as well as the degree to which those small bits of treasure could be explored and scrutinized.
When I compare my experiences in both the former and the latter, I have to wonder to what extent it changes my own experiences as a fan. I am both the person who found Spring 2012 season to have so many worthwhile shows that I had to place some on the backburner in the hopes that I could reach them later, as well as the person who watched his VHS tape of some episodes of the middle of Nadesico over and over again just because there was nothing else quite like it for me. Are these ideas of abundance and rarity simply in the mind of the beholder? Certain the level of access I had in that Nadesico era was much greater than many, but it still felt like every tape was precious.
I also have to wonder to what extent these environments shape fandom itself. Just how much does scarcity shape an unofficial canonical list of works among fans? Is it possible for another Voltron, that is to say a show which was largely unremarkable in Japan which is considered seminal abroad, to exist? What shows would’ve been more popular and beloved had they not been shoved by the torrential downpour of a season of anime? How do these different environments influence what we value and why?