What We Buy When We Declare a Show a Favorite: An Image to Sell or, How Anime Fans Create Themselves As Brands in a Social Market; a Theoretical Speculation by ghostlightning; Told in the First of Possibly More than One Blog-Post

macross vf-1j max x millya revoltech

[This is not a post about merchandise].

It’s easy to understand why we try out new shows. New season, new shows, we check out the ones we think we’ll like and those we feel will be fun to discuss. In a recent comment I made trying to arrive at the dynamics of K-ON!‘s popularity, I mentioned a bit of meta-influence going on [->]. Popularity generates more popularity (including un-popularity, but attention is the key element here), and obscurity generates more of the same.

I wonder though, how many of these immediately popular shows become favorites of their respective viewers (assuming they deliver what was expected of them).

I don’t entirely trust a MyAnimeList profile [->] to indicate a viewer’s real favorites, but I will go as far as to say that the anime that went into this list has been considered and placed there to achieve a certain effect: to tell others about the profiled, to distinguish the profiled from others. The list of favorite shows is constructed to tell a story about the profiled. It exists to ‘brand’ that person.

The Diderot Effect

To ethnographers [->], the entire process in building a coherent, commercialized self — a brand, by assembling brands in a collection has a name: The Diderot Effect. The late-seventeenth-century French essayist explored this would-be modern condition in his “Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown,” presenting the discussion on how we choose the ‘artistic  experiences and sensations’ [->] that we do. In this post, ‘artistic experiences and sensations are related media from modern Japanese audiovisual culture.

Here is Diderot’s argument on how things fit together, how things predict and complement one another. As he looks up from his desk and glances around his study, Diderot notices that it has been transformed by mysterious forces. It was once crowded, humble, chaotic, and happy. Now it is elegant, organized, and a little grim. What happened? Diderot suspects that the cause of the transformation is right before his eyes. It is his new dressing gown. A week after he began to wear the gown, it occurred to him that his shabby desk was not quite up to the standard of his robe. So he got a shiny new one. Then the tapestry on the wall seemed a little threadbare and new curtains had to be found. Gradually, the entire contents of the study were replaced. Why? Not because he wanted a new study but because he needed a sense of coherence, a sense that nothing was out of place, a sense of center, what today would be known as brand coherence. He wanted the stories to fit.

From James B. Twitchell, Branded Nation, (2004) p.25

This is easily enough seen in the purchase of anime|manga-related merchandise. I started out making an impulse buy for a Gundam Exia model kit [->], but since I am a Macross fanboy and that’s the story I present to the otakusphere I cannot not have Macross merch. And so I bought one [->], and then others [->] [->], and then some more [->] [->] [->], et-FUCKING-cetera [->] [->] [->] [->] [->] (there’s more, but you get the picture).

The consumption of merchandise, aside from feeding a need to possess also feeds a compulsion to create identity. In the case of anime consumption, the anime list is an effective form of distinction. It communicates one’s tastes quite comprehensively (if not completely accurate, given limitations of the subjective rating system). However, we can perceive the internal logic of the owner of the list, on how such a person may rate slice of life/comedy shows higher compared to mecha shows, etc.

The quickest way to do this is to look at the top-5 favorites list on the person’s profile. Here are four anime fans who I’ve met as bloggers, alongside my own list.  This ranking is fluid — I know mine is; but is accurate up to 30 April 2009.

Rank ghostlightning usagijen IcyStorm Lbrevis cuchlann
1 Macross Honey and Clover Aria the Origination Cowboy Bebop Cowboy Bebop
2 Cowboy Bebop Full Metal Panic! Furi Kuri Space Pirate Captain Harlock Genshiken
3 Neon Genesis Evangelion Cardcaptor Sakura Honey and Clover Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
4 Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Ouran High School Host Club Maria-sama ga Miteru ~Haru~ Macross: Do You Remember Love? Slayers
5 Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam Toshokan Sensou Shigofumi Top wo Nerae! 2 The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

What I’m saying is that beyond the particular enjoyment these people get from the direct consumption (i.e. watching the show in real time), we also enjoy the idea of being able to enjoy these shows as much as we have, and in the way that we did, and what that says about us. I’m not speaking for the group — I didn’t survey these people or anything. It is a supposition based on my understanding of how brands work.

Looking at my own list I see a whole lot of mecha anime, with Cowboy Bebop being the only exception. It serves to communicate how despite my open-mindedness in consumption and varied taste in shows, I’m by and large a robot anime fan; there’s a core in my being anime fan, and in that core you see awesome robots. The practical use of this list is that it gives me some credibility in my running an anime blog that publishes many mecha anime posts. It would be a little more difficult to establish such if I had put Honey and Clover, or Aria, in my favorites list despite my very high regard for these shows.

ghostlightning = robot (Macross) fanboy

What ‘brand’ of anime fan can be read from the lists of the other four? There’s more to it than merely ‘shoujo’ or ‘mecha.’ I purposely made the reading of my own list simple (the nuances of which I can elaborate somewhere else). I do notice that the #1 picks (luckily I have seen all of them) are all capable of engaging the viewer on a strong emotional level. This tells me that while the people on the list may value cool, edginess, and timelessness, but perhaps above all they value shows that make them feel strong things. But what about the rest of their choices? I’ll let them present it themselves if they’re so inclined.

But what do you think? These profiles are displayed publicly. They are meant to communicate something to the reader. What do these lists tell you about these people? Feel free to share it here. It will show how effective the composition of the list is in accomplishing our/their overt or unconscious goals.

If you’re so inclined, what are your favorite five shows? What is your list telling us about you?

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, fanboy, meta and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

63 Responses to What We Buy When We Declare a Show a Favorite: An Image to Sell or, How Anime Fans Create Themselves As Brands in a Social Market; a Theoretical Speculation by ghostlightning; Told in the First of Possibly More than One Blog-Post

  1. You’ve totally pegged it, very nice post. I 100% judge people by their favorite anime. That, to me, tells me how much we have in common. If we like all the same shows (see: Funeral and I) we are likely to be similar people (and we are). If you like totally different shows or shows I can’t stand, I can’t see us understanding each other all that well. This especially comes in more from DISlikes. You could almost say that anime you don’t like tells more than shows you do. Lets say your top 5 is:

    12 Kingdoms
    Honey and Clover
    Legend of the Galactic Heroes
    Mononoke
    Mushishi

    (/generic pretentious top 5)

    and mine is

    ef a tale of memories
    tengen toppa gurren lagann
    honey and clover
    eureka seven
    gakuen utopia manabi straight

    (okay, so it’s overly similar to my own :p)

    now, we share honey and clover in our favorites. However, what really matters is how the other person will respond to the other shows in my list. I liked Honey and Clover for it’s upliftingness and it’s powerful message of moving forward – something present in all of my other shows. If you didn’t like any of those other shows, it means that you liked Honey and Clover for totally different reasons.

    Seeing the favorites is important, but more importantly is why they are the favorites. Even if I like all 5 of the first guy’s shows, it doesn’t mean we’ll agree on things if he dislikes my favorites.

    I feel like using No Name or The Big N as a control group here. The two of them simply like everything, both having almost no dislike list. As such, both of them agree with almost everyone on things when it comes to liking a show, but they may not agree with people on why they dislike a show (Bign in particular is always seeking reasoning for dislikings).

    All of this is why I take care to offer not only my insanely comprehensive favorites list, but exact reasons that everything is on there. I don’t want people to mistakenly think I like a show for the reason they do when I may like it for a totally different one. Just as guy A above probably likes shows for their well-rounded characters, I like them for their message, so while we both like honey and clover, the rest of our lists almost contradict each other.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Thanks man!

      I 100% judge people by their favorite anime.

      Ahhh, it’s obvious that you do actively judge people — perhaps for purposes of social engagement ‘we will get along/understand each other.’ This is the very basis of a social network: finding people who share things in common. The blogosphere as it exists is also a social network — we tend to blogroll blogs that have staff that who we like, despite other considerations.

      You also are quite precise in the construction of your favorites list. Anime is pretty serious business for you and you probably have little patience for people who don’t get you (given your effort to make it clear from that list what you’re about and where you’re coming from).

      I ask you now, is the list you’ve maintained so painstakingly serving you well? Do you feel that people ‘get you’ more because of it? How effective do you think your insanely comprehensive favorites list in establishing you as a brand?

  2. TheBigN says:

    “Seeing the favorites is important, but more importantly is why they are the favorites. Even if I like all 5 of the first guy’s shows, it doesn’t mean we’ll agree on things if he dislikes my favorites.”

    Or, even if you have the same favorites, you might like them for different reasons, as you’ve said. Comparing lists might be a good starting point to find out the brand of the person, but is it alright just knowing that?

    “I don’t entirely trust a MyAnimeList profile to indicate a viewer’s real favorites”

    Why not? I mean, while I can’t necessarily prove to you that what I list on my favorites are actually my favorites, it makes me a little disgruntled to think that some people don’t believe that what I actually have up there is actually the truth. :P

    • ghostlightning says:

      It’s the structure, being fluid, and the idea presented here that the public nature of it lends to image|brand building that may lead to periodic inconsistency with what’s being presented and what is actual.

      It’s not meant to cast people as liars or anything like that, so don’t feel like I’m distrusting you. I just acknowledge potential systemic inconsistencies ^_^

  3. OGT says:

    I have not updated my MAL favorites in aeons, and it’s a headache-inducing process for me because of the branding problem. If I list a series as a favorite in any sort of official manner, it says something about me, who I am, and what I like most. Consider the following permutations of “favorite anime” using only the series I have arbitrarily ranked as 10:

    1) Toki o Kakeru Shoujo
    2) Honey & Clover
    3) Rose of Versailles
    4) true tears
    5) Kamichu!

    vs.

    1) Monster
    2) Gunbuster
    3) Turn-A Gundam
    4) Crest of the Stars
    5) Terra e…

    It’s a different image for each, and the problem for me is that I rarely feel I conform to one or the other at any given point in time, so the answer lies somewhere in between. It’s quite easy for me to simply say a series is “a favorite” but “the favorite” seems so…exact, defining, limiting, doubly so when it involves a ranked list. Declaring “favorites” is even more of a mind-melter than trying to figure out why I have a four-point scale on MAL’s 10-point scale, and that causes me no end of potential angst

    And yet I’ve met people elsewhere with really long favorite music, favorite books, favorite whatever lists, unlimited by numbers, and sometimes they feel as if they don’t have any standards, or even taste, and just mindlessly consume. I sometimes joke that I am “tasteless” and encourage the other party to define what they think that means (as there are scores of interpretations).

    There are a few series that I will probably never stop loving (or remembering loving) but even then assigning any kind of concrete “favorite” value to them seems limiting, and reduces a complex interaction of multiple moods, genres and media (which is part of what I thrive on as a partaker of any medium) into 5-10 titles that I am unhappy about selecting as “favorite” the very next day. Sometimes I want an apple, sometimes an orange, sometimes a banana, sometimes a fruit salad, sometimes Brussels sprouts.

    • Emperor J says:

      I’d have to agree with this for the most part. I do update my MAL list often, but I’ve probably gone through about 20-30 different “Top 5″ series, and I’m not even sure my current lot can really be my “true” favorites. I have a hard enough time giving something a 10 on a 10 point scale, mainly because that seems so committal in a way. That probably means my favorites say everything about me as a person.

      • OGT says:

        I have zero qualms about 10s, although I reserve them for special things.

        The problem I get with the ratings sometimes is: what is “average”? Is it “average” as judged by its own internal merits with no reference to any outside sources? Is is “average” of the series I’ve watched? Is it the “average” of its particular genre? Is it “average” of anime as a whole? Is it “average” because I personally feel apathetic towards the series (which might be a more damning feeling than sheer, blind, utter hatred)? Is it “average” over the whole of literature across media? Is it average because I rolled a 1d10 and it came up 5? And even if I decide upon a criteria, will that criteria make sense to anyone who’s not me no matter how much I explain it?

        Add to that the mode score being 7 on most anime ranking sites like MAL and ANN’s encyclopedia and my mind becomes a statistical blur and I stop caring. A bad solution, but no worse than any other in this matter.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I feel you man. There are days that I really want to blow up my entire list and re-evaluate ALL my ratings, not just my list of favorites. However, I’ve invested mightily in this blog that screams Macross fanboy to the high heavens (not that it’s not true) that I give up the right to expect people to imagine me as an open-minded yet critical appreciator of anime (which is actually the case).

      I also considered that I rely on avatars to underscore not only my Macross loyalty, but the distinction of being a holistic Macross fan: I like Macross 7.

      On the other extreme I wonder why my top five favorite doesn’t look like this:

      1. Macross
      2. Macross 7
      3. Macross Plus
      4. Macross 0
      5. Macross Frontier

      (and still, how the hell do I explain to myself the omission of Do You Remember Love?)

      After all, since this is about subjective favorites it’s perfectly okay not to put the other shows I mentioned especially since I rated them very highly anyway.

      I share all this to say how much I sympathize with your ‘mind-melting’ experience.

  4. animekritik says:

    I just ordered my favorites in MAL:

    1. Galaxy Express 999 (TV)
    2. Neon Genesis Evangelion (TV)
    3. Serial Experiments Lain
    4. Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
    5. Marmalade Boy (TV)

    I was forced to lie here. First off, I’ve actually only watched 20 out of 117 Galaxy Express TV episodes (darn crunchyroll). But I’ve watched all the Galaxy Express movies, plus related work… It’s the entire Leijiverse, the accumulation of shows, that I love, and so I put up GE 999 as a generic brand name for that.

    • ghostlightning says:

      This. It’s precisely this dynamic that makes the favorites system unreliable — in addition to OGT’s eloquent share above.

      I put Macross as my number 1, but it’s also a representation of the franchise since I don’t want to put 5 Macross shows on the list. And it’s my number 1 prior to my completion of the franchise.

  5. Ryan A says:

    Saaa~.. melative’s relative ratings (which can be translated as a list) can fit this branding perhaps even more thoroughly, because an individual’s “brand” does not end with anime or manga…

    http://melative.com/RyanA/r/anime

    http://melative.com/RyanA/r/music

    I’m writing a response post atm, and I believe the list is generally a good brand, but there are issues with branding via lists alone. That will be addressed, this is mah abstract (loljk, too much proper paper writing in CS recently).

    • ghostlightning says:

      I’ve read your response post and you make an interesting pitch for melative. I will try it out before I comment further, save for…

      Lists alone is not the best way to brand: the blog is branding device, avatars as well. What I wanted to say here is that the list cannot but communicate something about us, and what is communicated becomes part of the brand ‘conversation.’

  6. schneider says:

    Ugh, MAL favorites. Maybe I should revise mine. Or maybe not. I remembered leaving out GitS:SAC in mine because I simply can’t choose between the two Gigs. H&C1 I put in there, because I felt that bike trip > train confession. And there were still anime that I wanted to add, but couldn’t due to the limit. My favorites list still stands, because it generally reflects me the most. H&C, Turn A and Eureka Seven are anime that are quite “me”, while Giant Robo and Legend of Galactic Heroes are stories that I aspire to.

    • ghostlightning says:

      My favorites list still stands, because it generally reflects me the most. H&C, Turn A and Eureka Seven are anime that are quite “me”, while Giant Robo and Legend of Galactic Heroes are stories that I aspire to.

      You have achieved in your list what I and others have trouble nailing down. Being easy to figure out is also being easy to remember. ‘Remembering love’ for schneider becomes an easy exercise, which is good for any brand.

  7. Baka-Raptor says:

    Claymore
    Higurashi
    Death Note
    Detroit Metal City
    ef – a tale of memories

    That’s one action, two mysteries, one comedy, and a drama. What does this say about me? I’ll like anything, as long as it’s good.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Everything that I’ve read of yours is consistent with your brand. What can be said about it is that you have a particular style that is concise, humorous without being nonsensical, and fair.

      Your standards of what is ‘good,’ is another discussion altogether (i.e. subjective to your own tastes), but as far as your brand is concerned it’s probably as successful as it gets here in this sphere.

  8. Pingback: Branding via Lists - aloe, dream

  9. Pontifus says:

    I often have a hard time figuring out what my “brand” is going to be, as shows I’m overly enthusiastic about for whatever personal reasons I may have tend not to overlap with shows I decide are “good.” My MAL favorites list consists of the latter:

    1. Princess Mononoke
    2. FLCL
    3. Aria
    4. Manabi Straight

    These are simply the shows I’ve rated 10, those whose structure, characters, and thought-provoking qualities I consider superior, as applied to myself. Princess Mononoke might be the only exception; I haven’t seen it in a very long time, and I mostly rate it so high because of how much I liked it seven or eight years ago. If I were to base my list on raw enthusiasm, though, there’d be some overlap, but some considerable variation as well. It might look something like this:

    1. Princess Mononoke
    2. Aria
    3. Rozen Maiden
    4. Macross
    5. Last Exile

    That list has everything to do with franchise love and personal experience, and little to do with structural scrutiny and whatnot. It’s a manifestation of pure fanboyism.

    So, for me, it comes down to this: do I want to appear as a balanced, distant, somewhat aloof analyst, or a fanboy right in the emotional thick of things? After all, I am, for all intents and purposes, both. I’m more comfortable with the former as a public brand/image, for whatever reasons, so that’s what I usually go with. Sometimes I wonder what the latter list would do for first impressions, but I’m so far down this path now that I can’t just throw away my pseudo-academic douchebaggery. Perhaps I should make a favorites list consisting of only those shows that would appear on both lists above — but then, that’d be a short list. At what point, I wonder, do we become “stuck” with the brand we’ve chosen?

    • relentlessflame says:

      “So, for me, it comes down to this: do I want to appear as a balanced, distant, somewhat aloof analyst, or a fanboy right in the emotional thick of things? After all, I am, for all intents and purposes, both.”

      One thing I would say on this point in general (not directed at you in particular): I personally think that a lot of people (bloggers and forumites in particular) overestimate their ability to manipulate their own brand in this way. In other words, if you want to form a successful brand, you really have to *be* the brand. You can find countless bloggers/forumites who are obviously trying *really hard* to appear balanced and analytical, but when you observe the patterns and look a little more closely, they’re just fanboys trying to act smart. That “pseudo-academic douchebaggery” (as you so elegantly put it) gets old *real* quick *if it’s not truly genuine*, and it really isn’t that hard to tell if someone’s just faking it.

      So rather than “pick a brand, be the brand”, I think most people would ultimately be better off finding a way to pitch themselves. In other words, “You are the brand; be yourself”. That takes a bit more faith though, because you have to a) believe that some people will want to listen to the “real you”, and b) accept that some people will dislike you for being the “real you” and that those people really don’t matter. From what I’ve seen, in any case, that seems to be the secret to being a successful “brand” as a blogger (or, I suppose, in life in general).

      Like I said, that isn’t some sort of directed criticism or anything, just what came to mind in general when I read that quote.

      • ghostlightning says:

        I think I get what you’re saying. The approach I took is to present myself as a fanboy first, then present other considerations from there. See my response to Pontifus.

      • Pontifus says:

        I don’t think it’s at all prudent to try to throw away some aspect of yourself entirely in pursuit of a brand, if time allows you to elaborate. For example, on my blog, I’ve made a post about phenomenology and semiotics, and a post about how Genshiken reminds me of my ex-girlfriend. Even my “academic” posts often include little references that only other fans would get. Both sides are ultimately represented; I am the brand, as you said. But on MAL, there isn’t much room to work with, so sacrifices must be made.

        I call it pseudo-academic douchebaggery in a jocular, self-deprecating way, but I really believe that the vast majority of anime bloggers who take that angle do so because they have fun doing so. I can agree with you insofar as people who don’t have fun doing it shouldn’t do it just to appear intelligent. I’d rather read whatever kind of writing each writer enjoys writing most.

    • ghostlightning says:

      So, for me, it comes down to this: do I want to appear as a balanced, distant, somewhat aloof analyst, or a fanboy right in the emotional thick of things? After all, I am, for all intents and purposes, both. I’m more comfortable with the former as a public brand/image, for whatever reasons, so that’s what I usually go with. Sometimes I wonder what the latter list would do for first impressions, but I’m so far down this path now that I can’t just throw away my pseudo-academic douchebaggery. Perhaps I should make a favorites list consisting of only those shows that would appear on both lists above — but then, that’d be a short list. At what point, I wonder, do we become “stuck” with the brand we’ve chosen?

      Forgive the copypasta response, but I really feel what I told OGT above is very relevant:

      I feel you man. There are days that I really want to blow up my entire list and re-evaluate ALL my ratings, not just my list of favorites. However, I’ve invested mightily in this blog that screams Macross fanboy to the high heavens (not that it’s not true) that I give up the right to expect people to imagine me as an open-minded yet critical appreciator of anime (which is actually the case).

      I also considered that I rely on avatars to underscore not only my Macross loyalty, but the distinction of being a holistic Macross fan: I like Macross 7.

      On the other extreme I wonder why my top five favorite doesn’t look like this:

      1. Macross
      2. Macross 7
      3. Macross Plus
      4. Macross 0
      5. Macross Frontier

      (and still, how the hell do I explain to myself the omission of Do You Remember Love?)

      After all, since this is about subjective favorites it’s perfectly okay not to put the other shows I mentioned especially since I rated them very highly anyway.

      Can we have both? Yes, but not in the same degrees. In my case I placed my bet on being a Macross die-hard that’s ‘capable of other things too,’ and hedge the bet by writing about other subjects and in other formats. My writing in Superfani serves this hedging purpose directly.

      • Pontifus says:

        Yeah, I get you. I wonder how spreading one’s oeuvre across multiple blogs affects the brand, though, given that some readers will only see certain kinds of your work, depending on which blogs they read.

        • ghostlightning says:

          The readers who see only certain kinds of your work will associate you with that particular kind they see. Almost always it will be your primary work (the one that either a) bears your name i.e. pontif.us or, b) the one that has more traffic.

          But in your case, the writing is so similar that you’re still the ‘academic douchebag’ (lulz, if this sticks it’s totally not my fault)who writes about anime (D.A. = Douchebaggus Academicus, Ph.D. = Philosophist Douchbaggus|Pontifus, hobo, douchebag).

          In my case the disparity in volume between this site and how much I write for the other sites is telling (I imagine), compared to let’s say lelangir whose brand is a complex one. Astute readers will just recognize that he is the internet or something.

          • Pontifus says:

            I like the latter take on Ph.D., though I must admit I look much less like a hobo since I got my hair cut short again, which might be a shame. Or perhaps “hobo” is such an integral part of my brand that I will never be rid of it!

  10. hayase says:

    Hmm, I give some shows a 10 even though they’re not really a big favorite of mine–it means I just think they deserve it.

    >>What is your list telling us about you?

    Currently, the list I publicly advertise isn’t updated, but it does give a general view of what I like. If I were to revert the list to my consumption more than five years ago, it would be completely different. I was mainly into mecha and shounen back then, but now my taste is very varied. I have had some comments about my tastes being ‘weird’. Now that was not what I wanted to project. LOL

    • ghostlightning says:

      I have had some comments about my tastes being ‘weird’. Now that was not what I wanted to project. LOL

      Conversing with my good buddy mechafetish today, he made an astute observation that one may give up some utility (particularly that of having a perfect 1:1 correspondence between shows in the list and your respective tastes) in order to project a particular image and create a desired impression.

      It’s the gap between the list that one makes to communicate an identity (your brand, as it were) and the list of shows you really favor.

      It’s important that I’m not saying that this practice is dishonest or inauthentic. It’s not that people will actually put shows that they don’t like just to be cool or whatever image they want to portray. I think it’s safe to assume that the shows on the favorites list are shows the profiled person truly likes.

  11. Just in a response to everyone who has a hard time making a top 5, I’m throwing out there that for me it’s insanely easy. I have a very direct, fatalist favorites list in which each item has it’s exact spot, period. That’s why instead of putting Evangelion in my top 5, I only have End of Evangelion so that it’s clear exactly what parts I like most. But still, I have my entire 30+ series favorites list in my profile, so it should be easy to get a larger view of my taste anyway.

  12. coburn says:

    I like the Diderot dressing gown as a reference in this piece because of the gap between “He wanted the stories to fit.” and the issue of displaying one’s personality. From a brief glance at the comments here, the focus seems to be on personal relationships to our MAL top 5’s, to explaining the movement between ‘I make this image, and make it coherent, for myself’ and this random website which assigns the number 5 for favourites.

    So, “social market” is right, because there’s clearly a tension between the way the idea in my head that I have A Favourite connects to actually presenting that in a restricted form. Our personal brands relate to our awareness of social ones; everyone gets their own angst. Personally I decided early on to have a top 5 made up of 3 or 4 things so that I could have a ‘free slot’. Then, when I found something which I felt had to fill that slot, I junked the whole list, and now don’t have a Top 5 so that I can keep thinking of my collecting favourites as a work-in-progress.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Thanks. I think you really nailed what I’m exploring here, and your observation of the trend in the comments is spot on.

      I remember your post on how you evaluate ‘masterpieces’ and what you say here is quite consistent with what you wrote then [->]. For those interested like myself, is there a way to view your ‘living’ list as it were? As I imagine the work will never be done, as a list of favorites isn’t really supposed to stay still as long as new material is being made.

      This is how I imagine my own list: the entries will change, though I have a very strong feeling that Macross is going to stay on top of it.

      • coburn says:

        Actually I think digitalboy might be the one person with the most fully realised ‘living list’, simply because between a MAL profile and the various extras on his blog he has several different frameworks displayed which capture different sorts of ‘favourite’. Personally I’m not sure I’m suited to fully representing my relationship to various favourites.

        I suppose I still think of the good old x/10 as my primary medium for communicating ‘brand identity’, even if it doesn’t really reflect my love for, say, Soul Eater. Like a firm who only advertise in glossy magazines or something. In my head I know which 8/10s matter more than the 9s, and I wouldn’t exactly hide it, it just isn’t something I’d want to tie down in a published order.

        • ghostlightning says:

          Gotcha. It’ll take some effort ‘figuring you out,’ but then again you’re not exactly making an aggressive push for your personal brand these days, if ever at all.

  13. gloval says:

    Nowadays I don’t play favorites or at least ranking favorites anymore.

    Part of the reason, I think, comes with age (oh lol but I’m actually younger than you) that there would be a realization that there are really a lot of stuff out there, stuff that I’ve consumed, and even more stuff that I haven’t consumed. Also, history really does repeat itself (because there are young ones who are yet to learn and there are old ones who haven’t learned).

    Another reason, at least for me, is that I always find something to like about things anyway.

    Now if I do give out particular titles as my favorite EVAR, it’s mainly because it got to me first especially at a time that I was impressionable (and that time is usually my childhood). I could rationalize that the title started something and has a legacy. Otherwise, I’d reason that its approach is “better” than the “original” (here, actually it’s more of an exercise of comparing two things).

    Now for my saying that Macross is my favorite anime EVAR, it goes well with my being a jack of all trades. Also, it so happens that most elements in Macross are the things I’m interested in.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I think that people can like all sorts of shows, but the world will be a better place if they all have Macross as their favorite.

  14. sadakups says:

    I don’t have a MAL account, but here are my top 5:

    Gundam (applies to all titles that I’ve seen)
    Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
    Lovely Complex
    Azumanga Daioh
    Full Metal Panic!

    Higurashi is a mixed genre (mystery/horror/slice-of-life or whatever you call it), Lovely Complex is shoujo/rom-com and Azumanga Daioh is a slice-of-life/comedy. And then there’s FMP which is half-mecha and of course, Gundam.

    I used to believe that I was a mecha fan, but as years go by, my favorites tend to vary. I’ve never thought that I’ll watch shoujo titles, but heck, I ended up liking it (though it doesn’t look my age or my face).

    Suffice to say, what I like is what I like. I don’t really give a damn about what’s popular or what’s underrated.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Suffice to say, what I like is what I like. I don’t really give a damn about what’s popular or what’s underrated.

      This is what you’re projecting, whether you like it or not.

  15. Roy Mustang says:

    1. Clannad AS
    2. Air
    3. Kanon
    4. Clannad
    5. Fumoffu
    6. Haruhi
    7. K-ON

    • ghostlightning says:

      You like shows by Kyoto Animation, and are not afraid of being labeled a KyoAni fanboy. GJ.

  16. DonKangolJones says:

    There’s a lot to read, so I’ll post first & then read the other comments.

    1. Neon Genesis Evangelion (TV)
    2. Fullmetal Alchemist (TV)
    3. Azumanga Daioh
    4. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
    5. Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

    I don’t know much about what my list says about me, but I’m sure when they see Azumanga Daioh they go, “What the hell?” Toradora just barely hangs off the top 5 list though. Unlike my top 5, I haven’t watched it to the point of memorizing the script.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Well, superficially your list tells me you like shounen, particularly mecha anime a lot, but not to the point that you can’t appreciate other things.

      Based on what you said after your list, you like shows so much that you re-watch them a lot, and that’s what you mean when you say it’s a favorite of yours. Quite a devoted|dedicated anime fan ^_^

  17. Cuchlann says:

    …And… How did I miss this post? Oh well, better enormously late than never, I guess?

    I don’t feel like I have much of anything of substance to add to what you said. Basically, I agree, I suppose.

    I haven’t felt comfortable judging people wholly on their favorite [whatever] for a long time, especially when it’s a public list. Among its many problems is this strip right here. Though I do tend to avoid anyone on facebook who lists the Bible as their only favorite book.

    I have to ask, though the answer might be terrible: what would you say my “brand” is? I actually struggled with what to say about myself, and if you look at the “about” pages I’ve written across the otaku-rhombus and its edges (twitter, blogs, MAL, &c) they’re pretty scanty, because I’ve never figured out exactly what I should say. You even used my top five as one of your examples. I stand by those five, I can’t think of anything else, right now, that would trump them, but as soon as something comes along I’ll probably change it. Haruhi would probably get the ax first.

    So, uh, yeah… If Pontifus is the resident “pseudo-academic douchebag” and you (ghostlightning) are the resident “fanboy,” what am I again? Semester’s over, I guess it is about time for an existential crisis…

    • ghostlightning says:

      There’s a brand one projects (the attempted signal), and the brand that lives in the consciousness of ‘buyers’ (insert reader-response/subjectivity/the kitchen sink here).

      So let’s pretend I’m a brand consultant/publiscist/advertising media guy and you asked me those questions.

      I would say that your brand is not ‘strong’ as there is substantial overlap with Pontifus’ to the point that a reader would say that he sounds like you (while I speculate that to some lurkers you are indistinguishable from him). It would take a close reading of your profiles to get the sense that I have: creative writer who happens to enjoy 2D almost as much as I/most anime fans do. Going to your favorites list, the appearance of Genshiken to me indicates that you care about social dynamics and how you are perceived via what you enjoy.

      I aggressively market We Remember Love. There is a surplus of reading material in the internet and a limited amount of eyeballs and attention for them. This is why branding is important. A brand is but a story that distinguishes you from other alternatives.

      So I suggest you create a narrative that concisely delivers an authentic part of you (we can never reduce the totality of us in a brand symbol or device) that is easy to comprehend and very easy to remember. This is so that people/readers will find it easy to ‘remember love’ for cuchlann after reading you and about you at least once or twice in their life.

      • Cuchlann says:

        Sigh. It hurts because it’s true. : D I have been considering a new “mission statement” post to inaugurate [redacted], so maybe that could be a good way to do it. While I don’t actually fit the mold of the creative writer who completely misses the importance of real-world dynamics in, for lack of a better term, marketing, I do have a few foibles from the stereotype. The skills I’ve learned in selling myself to editors haven’t carried over, in any sense really, to my academic life.

        It’s also interesting you identify me primarily as a creative writer, since, to me, all my otaku-rhombus work has fallen under the head of academic and scholarly work. More attached to the coming world of the Ph.D. in literature rather than the now-passed MFA in creative writing. Hrm.

        Maybe there’s something in my haphazard series title: “Adventures in Criticism.” I could post some of the pictures of me in all my pith helmet glory and stake a claim as the nerd hacking his way through the forest of academe with figurative machete in hand.

        Or whatever. I’m open to suggestions, you of the branding might and power. ; D

        • ghostlightning says:

          Danny Choo perhaps is the model of success, though I like using Baka-Raptor as a model because he is good for sub-niche, long-tail, hair-splitters like me, and perhaps you.

          I put effort and thought in it though, and am glad to share what I got in more private channels ^_^

  18. DonKangolJones says:

    “Quite a devoted|dedicated anime fan ^_^”

    I think I like that. I never really liked the idea of branding myself. But I have always strived for diversity and to be a person (or at least anime fan) that couldn’t be figured out in a glance. I took it quite hard when my wife (at time girlfriend) told me I only watched shows with violence. I looked through my DVD collection and was shocked that she was right. That’s why I took extra pride in the fact that I loved a show like Azumanga Daioh. Though you could probably debate whether it actually is non-violent, if you want to be picky.

    When it comes to the whole subject of favorites and advertising them, I have to be honest that what is on my favorites on MAL and what really are my favs is slightly different. Eventhough Toradora isn’t a top 5, it is one of the 5 I have listed on MAL. So I am branding myself in that way. I thought that having 3 mecha anime up there were brand me too much as a mecha fan and not a diverse anime fan. Even if I think most mecha fans will understand that Eva, Gurren Lagann and Zeta Gundam are about as different and diverse as the genre can be, I still want people viewing my page to realize I like a lot of differnt things.

    *Spoler alert for those who haven’t seen the previously mentioned 3 series. I consider Eva “pseudo-mecha” because the robots aren’t really robots and in a way the whole plot of the show is a sucker punch to the viewer’s ideas of what is really going on. I consider Gurren Lagan a member of the “super robot” genre. Because we should be honest and realize that hopping on galaxies you puts in that area easily. And I have to consider Zeta a member of the “real-robot” family. Although you could probably say Gundam is a hybrid of “real” and “super” genres or is its own genre.

    I also may have a different definition of a favorite from other people. A favorite for me is a show I will “carry the flag for”. It is something I will buy, recite and defend at a moment’s notice. It doesn’t have to perfect, I don’t have to give it a 10. I just have to LOVE it. That’s a favorite, that’s what puts it in my top 10. Wow, I’ve gotten a bit serious with this subject. I need a break.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I think you don’t like the idea of aggressively branding yourself. Branding is inescapable in the sense that it happens in the minds of people who ‘buy’ it. Readers, other anime fans in our social networks, etc. They make up their minds about you and make decisions based on that.

      Nobody really can be figured out in a glance, but I suppose that I care about what’s communicated in that glance, that it at least it authentically represents part of what I’m about.

      I also may have a different definition of a favorite from other people. A favorite for me is a show I will “carry the flag for”. It is something I will buy, recite and defend at a moment’s notice. It doesn’t have to perfect, I don’t have to give it a 10. I just have to LOVE it. That’s a favorite, that’s what puts it in my top 10.

      Well, there are different ways to represent your being a fan of something. I’ve no interest in engaging the detractors of say, Macross — because I’m too busy finding ways to share how awesome it is.

      • TheBigN says:

        “Nobody really can be figured out in a glance, but I suppose that I care about what’s communicated in that glance, that it at least it authentically represents part of what I’m about.”

        First impressions and all that. With that, is a complete re-branding possible in the mind of someone who’s already seen the initial brand presented by an individual?

        • ghostlightning says:

          Yes. It is quite possible. This can also mean that you ‘lose’ that customer/reader/fan/good impression you initially earned without a guaranteed outcome of new good impressions for different people.

          Mitsubishi went from makers of Zero fighters to manufacturers of automobiles, escalators, elevators, etc. (from things to kill people with to things entrust their own lives with). The game for them is to have their brand be about manufacturing excellence rather than focus on a particular product.

          Madonna as a popstar is very successful with changing brand image to the point that her brand became about being an image innovator.

          Metallica on the other hand, failed. By orienting themselves to cater to a broader, popular market, they’ve lost many of their old fans and never really took hold of new ones.

          There are many other failures, just look at all the ‘artists’ trying to become ‘triple threats’ (pop-star, actors, presenters/etc.).

          In my case, I didn’t go for a complete re-branding. Being perceived as a Macross fanboy is just fine and quite a deliberate thing for me. Rather I fanboy about many other things (other anime, other manga, other bloggers) and in a variety of ways (experimenting with blog-post formats), so as to create distinctions, and nuance to the brand.

          One thing you and I share is friendliness in discussions/comments. We’re both cast as ‘live and let live’ kind of people, sometimes negatively so. I don’t mind this so much, given the nearly troll-free environment here in WRL despite the healthy comment count despite the low average page-views count (relative to other blogs). I was concerned that engaging Sean in an argument in a previous meta post would open the floodgates and make some readers think that it can be fun to get a rise out of me. But somehow I think I can use this event to counter the branding/typecasting when it’s working against me.

  19. Kiri says:

    Damnit, you beat me to it. I’ve been meaning to write a post about favorites for a while. Currently, my MAL states:

    Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
    Code Geass
    Gundam SEED
    Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

    There used to be a fifth one, Paranoia Agent, which I took off after realizing it wasn’t really a “favorite.” The list hasn’t changed much since I joined MAL, but there are a lot of series vying for that fifth slot at the moment and I can’t quite decide…

    • ghostlightning says:

      Wow, your list looks even more robotic than mine, distinguished perhaps by the relative recentness of the shows selected (post-millennial).

      Go and write about favorites, perhaps you’re talking about a different idea compared to ‘making the stories fit’ and branding.

      • Kiri says:

        Yeah, it will be a different kind of topic pertaining to favorites, it’s just a matter of me getting off my ass to write it and the dozen other ideas I have on sticky notes around my desk.

        Branding is a thing that can’t be avoided though and one the reasons I never feel like my favorites list is “correct.” There are a lot of classics that are dear to me, but that I don’t include because I haven’t seen them recently and am not sure how much nostalgia holds up to what I’ve seen more recently and know to be good, etc.

  20. usagijen says:

    Ack! that favorites list of mine is so, ugh, ‘juvenile’. Time for some henshin! :x

    That list was done on a whim, and well, a lot has changed throughout the years, my taste, my standards, ability to discern what makes a “great series” (kinda elitist, but heh), and I want my list reflect that.

    Consciously or unconsciously, we take into consideration the “image” we want to project to other people as we make these lists, as we also come into terms with what “favorite” really mean to us, and the standards we’ve set before a series can earn a spot in that “Hall of Favorites”.

    And before I know it, I guess I have embarked on some sort of (epic) journey in search of my all-time faves, and I still am in that ‘journey’ :3

    • That’s the problem really ü We do want our favorites to project ‘good taste’ — perhaps at the expense of what we might truly love.

      If we think the list is too important to our brand image, then we may elect to withhold it and project a work-in-progress. It does seem more discerning.

      In my case, I want to love now. There’s just so little space for the shows I’m mad about.

  21. omisyth says:

    I haven’t been customising my MAL nearly as much as I should – I don’t even have a favourites list, However, a quick scan of my ratings and my own personal opinion leaves me with the following:

    Baccano!
    Full Metal Alchemist
    Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
    Natsume Yuujinchou
    School Rumble

    Not really sure what that says about me. I’ve got fairly broad tastes and like what I like I guess.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Yeah, you were supposed to be in ver. 1.5 of this post (the first ver. was PURE CIRCLE JERK) but you didn’t have a list.

      Similar to Baka-Raptor, only that instead of insisting the shows you like are ‘good’ — I sense a fierce insistence that you like them because you can and do. This is an integrity that I can appreciate.

  22. vendredi says:

    Wow – as digitalboy said, you nailed it. There is definitely a sense of “conspicuous consumption” inherent in anime, especially considering how varied the medium is. Do write more on this if you can; heck, I might try something on the theme. Although you noted the post is not about merchandise, you could easily extend this sort of reasoning to anime-related products as well – the types of mecha models, as you mention. I am more a Gundam fan than a Macross one, but I do not own a single Gundam model – rather, I tend to pick up all the “Char-clone” mechs – (Zaku from UC, CGUE from SeeD, Tallgeese from Wing, Flag Custom from 00, etc.)

    As for five “favourites”, in no particular order:

    Witch Hunter Robin
    Escaflowne (film and/or TV version)
    Read or Die (OVA)
    Sayanora Zetsubou Sensei (any season)
    Macross Plus/Macross Zero

    I define favourite pretty loosely, mostly as “shows I will rewatch over and over without getting tired of them”, so the list probably could go a lot bigger. But those five were the ones at the very top of my head when I thought of a “favourite show”, so I figure that counts for something.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I’ll be very much interested in what you’d write about it. The purchase of merchandise is quite interesting to me, though I hardly have any data on it, save for my own IRL friends who have or still do purchase toys and models.

      The purchase of toys and models are very much related (although to what degree I am quite uncertain) to the selection of avatars (Gravatar, IM, WP, forums, etc.). In my case I purchase toys and take photographs of them to serve as my various avatars. It’s part of how I drive home the branding of ‘Macross Fanboy,’ as I seem to believe that ownership of tokens and merch is a further or deeper relationship with the subject anime. It is also quite interesting to note that the capitalists behind the shows get a higher return over a longer period of time out of the licensing and sale of merchandise.

      I rather like how you define your favorites, we don’t have a 1:1 alignment, but I’m very much in agreement in terms of favorites could be the most rewatchable things I like.

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