One of the most interesting and most terrifying concepts in philosophy, for me, is Jean Paul Sartre’s idea of Anguish. Sartre described Anguish as the knowing the dangerous side of oneself as a free agent, compelled to make decisions and live with their consequence. One of his most visceral examples of this is walking on the edge of a cliff, knowing that, at any moment, you could chose to jump. A version of this that’s striking to me is standing on the subway platform, waiting for a train. When I was very depressed in high school, every day while waiting I would think about the possibility of suddenly being compelled to jump in front of it, even though I didn’t want to die. This was made worse by the fact that I knew there was some part of me that might want to do it, and could take control for the split second it would take.
But another form of this Agony is knowing that, as a free being, you could change. And that, now, is what’s really terrifying to me. The idea that I could, any day, “grow out” of anime.
Thankfully, unlike some bloggers and professional critics, my wellbeing doesn’t depend on how enthusiastic I can be about anime. But any time you become a massive fan of something, you take a risk, and the longer you’re a fan the more heavily invested you are in it.
My anime collection is fucking beautiful, to any otaku with taste. And I’ve run out of selves to keep my manga. My collection has cost a couple grand over the years, and someday it could be worthless to me. And that’s just the beginning.
According to My Anime List, I’ve watched ninety-four days of anime. That’s not including most rewatching, things I forget to list, and copious amounts of hentai. I’ve read over twenty-two days of manga, and that’s probably about right. On top of that, I spend most of my free time watching anime critiques, reading anime blogs, or in some way or another studying anime. To lose interest in anime is to lose interest in nearly a year of my own life.
So engaging in this hobby as deeply as I have is terrifying. But I haven’t lost interest yet, and it’s already been rewarding.
One of the first anime I ever watched was Neon Genesis Evangelion, which I heard critics describe as “existential”. Back then, I didn’t know the first thing about philosophy or existentialism. Now, I have a fancy piece of paper to tell people just how much know about them. Before anime, I had no interest in writing. Now, it’s the only thing I see myself doing, and if you read anything I’ve written you’d see the massive amount of inspiration I take from anime. Without anime, my creative style would be wildly different. My worldview would be different. I would be different.
And that’s why, despite how scary loving an art form can be, like standing the edge of a cliff or on a subway platform, it was been so much more rewarding. I’m scared of changing because of anime, but anime has already changed me. I’d say I wouldn’t want things to be any different, but I’m still looking forward to what anime will do to me next. That is why it is worth engaging with the art you love.
Don’t Lose Your Way