In high school, I sat next to an anime fan in class. We started talking about our favorite shows, and when I mentioned I like Naruto, he then said “Oh, so you’re not a true anime fan then.”
When he said that, I genuinely thought I needed to change my anime preferences. That maybe liking mainstream shows meant that I was too basic. That I needed to like niche shows to be cool.
In a similar vein, I always wished I had a cool hobby, because then during icebreakers when asked “What’s something interesting about yourself?” I would have an answer ready.
Instead, I’m just a college student who likes to procrastinate and watch dramas.
But as I watched more dramas and anime, I realized that mainstream shows are not necessarily awful. (And niche shows aren’t necessarily good either. Really.)
There’s a reason a show becomes mainstream – by definition, it must be popular. If it’s popular, that means many people watch and continue to watch each airing episode. The show’s ability to garner an audience each week is a testament to the strength of its plot or characters — or maybe not even that. Perhaps it makes the viewer feel.
I think we like to disassociate ourselves from mainstream shows (Naruto, One Piece, Bleach) because we long to be different. Differing from the crowd is a sign of being interesting, or so we think.
But if we’re too caught up in that philosophy, I think it’s easy to forget why we watch shows in the first place — because they are meaningful in some way, that they edify our own lives, or make us feel emotions.
That’s why I loved Naruto, because I admired the imaginary world the scriptwriter had set up, the relentless optimism of the cast, and the way the characters engaged in discourse with each other in such a heart-tugging manner. These people were memorable.