You know that thing: the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon? It’s basically when you’ve never even thought of something but suddenly it occurs to you then you start seeing it everywhere? I think it might be my superpower… With blog posts at least… As some of you know, I schedule everything and on average will write a post 2 weeks to a month before it actually publishes. (With the exception of episode reviews which I still write at least a day ahead of time). I have always been that way and the thought of publishing directly (i.e. live publishing) fills me with anxiety… no, really. I need to gets me some real problems.
And yet, I very frequently find that other bloggers will coincidentally review the same 3 year old anime, or discuss the same essay subject just days from when my post is scheduled to go public. This weird phenomenon came to a head when Arthifis, Chizurue and I all published our own personal takes on more or less the same subject on the exact same day. (By the way – the fact that I could come up with anything remotely similar to what these two amazing bloggers publish is a source of great pride. Yup, I’m bragging here!)
None of this is surprising. We all have similar interests and up to a certain point, share a communal experience. So the fact that similar ideas will pop into our heads is a given. I also understand that just because one blogger publishes a post that’s basically the same idea as another, a week later, probably doesn’t have anything to do with the first post at all. Pretty much every variation of review structure and anime editorial has been done at some point and those were probably based on and inspired by works that came before.
Putting your own spin on something is what makes it special. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel everytime.
And yet, we seem to put such an imperative on novelty that we occasionally blind ourselves to the merits of a piece and hobble our own enjoyment of it. I’ve often seen those comments that say “actually I wrote about this before…” “or this other blogger already covered this here”… Those comments are great because when you write or read about a subject, odds are you’re interested in it and getting more information is a great boon. But when you just leave it at that, it’s tough to tell whether you read this new post at all or just skimmed the first lines and assumed it was the same. And worst, once in a while you get those condescending comments of so and so said it BETTER.. you’re not bringing anything new, this person did it first….
We get the same thing when discussing anime. Too often the relative merits of a show are brushed aside with a so and so did it first. But my question is, so what?
In my line of work, the concepts of novelty, obviousness and inventive step have a real tangible, legal impact. I spent a whole lot of time trying to prove an idea is new and would not have been obvious in the light of…well the entirety of human knowledge. It sounds a lot fancier than it is. But let me tell you, it has given me a whole new appreciation for originality.
There are no grand innovations. All those paradigm changing breakthroughs we hear about are built on the backs of hundreds of small inventions and modifications. Generations of baby steps coming together to form a leap.
And when that once in a lifetime truly original invention comes along, it’s usually not that great… there’s a reason no one’s been searching for that particular answer. I understand the thrill you get when YOU see a particular narrative for the first time or when you get blown away because YOU’ve never thought of that twist before, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done before. And should it matter?
There’s no real reason to constantly be striving for novelty. Sitting down and perfecting an art, trying to come up with the best possible form of a classic narrative, writing an answer to someone else’s brilliant post or even rewriting your own can yield great results. I’m not saying you should avoid trying new things but for a species that tends to be suspicious and resistant to change and upheaval, we sure like to pretend it’s important when it comes to entertainment.
Well, I’m here to rebel against it. I want more shows that improve on classic formulae like My Hero Academia and more posts that show different points of view of the same thesis. It’s interesting and enriching.
So next time you find yourself thinking oh I’ve seen, read, heard something like this before, ask yourself, is that a bad thing? I’m betting it’s not!