Today's theme is "lagging behind the trends."
I'm the kind of otaku who's incredibly slow to hop on the trend train.
I'm that person who misses blockbuster movies, but will go see them at revival screenings. This year's anime? I'll probably dive into them a couple of years from now. That's just how I roll—I'm inherently slow to take action.
Even when something comes highly recommended, it takes me ages to finally check it out. When I do, my initial reaction might be a tepid "Hmm... Was that it?" Yet, give it three years, and I might suddenly realize it is exactly my kind of thing and revisit it. It's not the greatest stretch to say that I'm navigating the otaku world on immortal elf time.
By the time I come around, the friend who recommended the thing to me has often moved on to new obsessions, and the buzz around it has quieted. As you can guess, there are no real upsides to lagging behind.
Even I sometimes want to ask myself, "Why don't you just get into it at the start of the popularity wave then, just like everyone else?" But I'm sure I'm not alone in experiencing this because of how I consume media.
As a mangaka who creates content, I do wish for readers to follow the manga as it's being serialized, to watch the anime as it airs, and to get the chance to join in on events. Hearing someone express regret years later that they had gotten into my work earlier makes me wish they had too.
Over time, the initial excitement for any content inevitably diminishes as it fades into the background. Those community stories and moments that once sparked collective joy, like a voice actor's offhand comment turning into an in-joke, once lost, simply vanish.
It's not easy to be a slow-starter otaku
Despite all this, why am I always the last one to get on board with trends? I think it's just a natural side effect of being a slow-starter type of otaku.
You see, there are some of us who either need ages to thoroughly enjoy and understand each piece of content or just prefer to savor things at their own pace. Unfortunately, the reality is that those of us in this boat often end up playing catch-up with the trends.
Trending niches are a whirlwind of new stuff coming out every week, month, or even day—merch, episodes, you name it, it's like an all-you-can-eat buffet of supply. With how fast things come and go these days, it feels like there's this push to get it all out there while it's hot.
I guess it also depends on what kind of work first turned you into an otaku, but for those of us who can happily obsess over a single line from a character for eternity, facing this flood of content can feel overwhelming and exhausting. Those who are used to a diet of rice gruel can't suddenly be expected to handle a full-course banquet.
On a personal note, I get this itch to consume everything I can about the things I like all at once. That's probably why I find it way more satisfying to dive into content that's already been given a concrete conclusion. Something about knowing exactly how much there is to catch up on, rather than trying to keep up with something that's continuously unfolding, works better for me. My brain simply doesn't have the bandwidth to follow an ongoing series while also keeping track of what has happened previously in the story.
But this going-all-in approach, akin to a student's last-minute study spree and consisting of buying all the manga volumes on day one, the Blu-rays the next, and related merchandise shortly after, can seriously put a strain on your wallet. And then you hit the wall of "the anime's no longer available" or "the manga's out of print," and every time it's like, "This is why being late to the party sucks—why can't you just take my money?!" It's a risky game, that's for sure.
The future is unknown, so just go with the flow
And yet, I continue to be the kind of otaku who's always a step behind. But why, despite experiencing the bitterness of falling out of step? Well, it's probably because this pace just feels right for me.
I like taking my time with the things I love, slowly chewing and digesting stuff whenever it clicks for me, no matter what's trending.
Roaming in search of fan works, finding joy even if I'm the only one currently active in a niche, and discovering others who have loved and cherished the same works—it's like being an explorer discovering ancient sites. Or, if the hype has just cooled down, it's like visiting a tourist spot right after peak season.
Not everyone needs to dance through the bustling city streets of trending niches from dawn till dusk. Taking your time, walking your own path, and occasionally exchanging nods with someone else doing the same—that's a pretty good way to be an otaku too.
Those of us who don't always catch the wave of trends tend to meander from one comfortably settled niche to another or put down our roots in one place for a serene life. But when we do get swept up in something big, oh boy, it's quite the whirlwind. Suddenly, our usual laid-back otaku life is caught in the rapids, and navigating back to calm waters is an adventure in its own right.
So, instead of stressing about not always being on top of the latest thing or worrying about being a contrarian otaku, I recommend just enjoying the journey as a laid-back traveler and taking the time to smell the roses.