What is Obscure Anime? It’s About Reference Frames

Once again, I am writing thoughts from something that influenced some of my reactions to Sakura-Con. You know, like the 1970’s anime post I posted about last year. Except this is a more negative post. Maybe not completely negative, but there is some sense of reality and “oh god, I am getting old” thoughts from being around younger fans. The usual sort of me as an older person kind of being lost by what youth culture is. I say this as a person who does keep up with a lot of newer anime series and sees what is popular and what isn’t. I’ve been alive when some fans weren’t around so I know more things, that is true. But there is a hurt, even if it’s completely understandable, of seeing newer things who don’t look at older things. 

What Is Defined as Obscure Changes

So back on the attempted topic of this post, Especially since what is regarded as obscure changes almost every second. For instance, what is well known for me as someone who has been consuming anime more than a decade is not going to be the same for someone who jumped onto the ever growing anime train two years ago. Newer fans aren’t going to instantly be in touch with the culture I know. The culture of shows like Durarara and Haruhi Suzumiya for instance. Shows that were a part of my first steps of becoming a more than casual fan of anime in general. That requires other people researching anime that came out even five years back to see what is around. Something which most people are not going to do without prompting. 

Especially since people have that reference frame of when they started watching and then moving forward from that point. With every new season, there are new fans who are discovering anime for the first time who won’t know how anime got to that point. Something which is just a natural thing because of that “in the now” sort of thinking when joining at that point. Even then, there are now 30+ shows airing next season and not many people have all the time to check everything out. That means some shows are slipping through the fingers of knowledge from that season. As well as the memorable shows from a season standing out why those not as popular shows might get banged down by a hammer unless they get popular later. Who’s to say.

What Is Obscure and Retro? 

Then we can move onto what people consider retro titles. Franchises are easy to remember, right? So when I say something about a mecha title from the 1970’s and/or 1980’s, what is a person going to quickly think of? I do not know what most people are going to think but I can make some assumptions. Some really general ones possibly linked to Evangelion because that’s a huge thing that hit in 1995 and has been memed to death since then right? That could lead people to Ideon because of how often it is compared to Ideon. I should also mention Gundam obviously because that is a franchise that has been around for forever too. 

Then I think similar things could be said for retro shoujo anime as well as retro shonen battle anime and other genres and demographics along the way. Basically everything that has come out and hasn’t been popular in the region/country/city/thing you have been around. I know that a lot of shows which are popular in Latin America and Europe are not popular here. Then there is a connecting point of If something is attached to a franchise or a famous director or person being behind it, the possibility that it will be known is much higher than other ways. People are going to at least have a larger chance of hearing about titles like Mazinger Z and Macross compared to Six Combination God Mars and Dino Mech Gaiking. It feels like a universal truth even if this is, once again, an absolute assumption. I’m using mecha examples, but it gets my point across. 

What is Obscure to Me and Conclusions

I have always been in a weird slot when it comes to my anime watching. Mainly because I had three or four major changes in how I started watching anime and/or ramped up my washing of anime. It’s like this: 1) Toonami 2) High Speed internet 3) Seasonal Watching. 2 and 3 are still where I am because I started retro anime at 2.. What I consider obscure is so much different then other people because I have watched over 1000 anime. I know some things about anime and I am continually trying to find things I don’t know much about yet. Since I have been a part of multiple generations, what is obscure to me is so different from others.

I only recently learned about the Braves mecha series from the 90’s and have indulged in three titles now and there are still many more of them. Same with the J9 mecha trilogy from the 80’s that I didn’t know existed until the discotek blu-rays quickly went out of print after a time period of months. There are so many people who know more about specific things than I do because I am honestly much more general than you would expect. For instance, for all the talk of mecha I have brought up, on anilist is that it’s not even in my top five of genres. So once again, it’s about reference points and those are always up to the individual. 


  1. Personally I think the newer stuff feels more obscure to me because I’m not knee-deep in all the brand new shows (let alone being on hiatus), but you already knew that. Haha! All joking aside, there are times where I do wonder if the anime I watch is objectively obscure. Sure, I doubt many anime fans have heard of Yugo the Negotiator, Shinesman, or even realize that Hunter X Hunter is older than they think, but you do bring up some fascinating points about this issue.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is how obscurity works too. If you aren’t searching for something to watch in different spaces, then you really aren’t going to know at all. I don’t many people would know about those shows or their age ranges either honestly.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Definitely. It can be tough and it does take effort for the person to want to see that obscure series or movie. Yeah, I get what you mean about the latter points of your comment, too.


  2. I totally agree that obscurity is all about frame of reference. Even living in Japan, I like a lot of “obscure” anime/manga just simply because it was popular enough to be licensed in English (Whistle! being my example), but did not generate a long-standing fanbase in either country. I’ve never run into a fellow Whistle! fan in the wild, even with my ita-bag of the characters and going to various ‘nerd’ shops in Japan. I’ve never met someone in real life whose read the manga in English either. Life is weird.

    I feel like in the West, a lot of younger fans tend to mis-label series since they don’t look at the definitions too well. Things like “obscure”, “unknown”, “retro”, etc. That might be me nit-picking on English speakers though. The fact that I actually heard someone call Naruto of all things Retro damn near gave me a heart attack. I mean granted I forget how old the show and manga is but I guess I’m getting old too…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fun fact: Whistle volume 1 was the first manga I bought with my own money when I was a teenager and I’ve read the whole original series.

      Wait, someone called Naruto retro? What the heck?!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That is quite upsetting and it makes people like us feel really old. I understand time can make things retro, but not this long afterwards. Then again, I felt felt old yesterday when I saw that Anberlin and Mae’s first albums came out 20 years ago.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow!! I’ve finally stumbled upon someone who knows and read Whistle!! That a time to be alive!!

        And yeah… Had actual kids in Japan refer to Naruto as “Oh yeah, Boruto’s dad”. Made me feel real old real quick lol

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Pretty soon we’re gonna get to a point when Naruto is considered a *retro* anime, haha 😅

    For the retro part, I tend to agree a bit with the frame of reference part, the way I see it, it’s a mix of that and the age of the show – “the older it is, the finer it tastes” adage on one hand but also there’s that whole experience bit – obviously if you’ve seen it, you’ll hold it more in higher regard.

    If you want an example of what I consider obscure, there’s one anime I saw back home in Indonesia called “Dragon League” which chronicles a kid’s soccer adventure in a medieval anthropomorphic world. If you’ve never heard of it, I don’t blame you – it never got a release outside of East Asia and Latin America where soccer was king. Even though I saw it, the fact that it’s virtually unknown and NO SUBBED version of the anime exists (I searched high and low, trust me), I consider it obscure enough to fit the category.

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