Animax: No Regrets

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Technological developments in the last few decades brought new things into Indian lives. Television, which was a rare privilege among the general masses as late as the ’90s spread to every household and became the essential medium of information and entertainment. With nearly every home having a TV, the demand for more content grew. As time went by, TV didn’t have three channels anymore. Cable TV evolved to present hundreds of channels to attract diverse audiences.

There was a time, if certain middle-aged men are to be believed, when children had little to watch on TV other than the news, and maybe Malgudi Days or Ramayana. Cable TV began to cater to younger audiences with cartoons and child-friendly content. More time passed. There was Cartoon Network, and the Disney Channel, and Jetix, and Pogo. And, on a fateful afternoon, many years ago, we were given Animax. 

Fast forward to 2017, after days of watching and waiting for the inevitable, Animax was gone. It’s crazy to think how long it’s been here. Animax existed for a relatively small audience, but for that small group, it was a window to a world that we not only grew to love, but which we made a part of us. Think back to how young you were when Animax came on TV. The author of this article, now nearing the end of his graduate course, was not older than ten when the ‘Chinese cartoons’ (as the popular joke goes) started airing. Animax began as a confusing alternative to the content we were used to on cartoon channels, and many of us didn’t make the stylistic connection with Pokémon or Beyblade right away. The channel changed its theme slightly as time passed, but never too much from the classic blue and white colour and the ‘ta-la-la, la-la’ jingle that we’ll never forget.

It’s hard to describe just how much this one channel influenced our tastes and thoughts; and on an even bigger scheme, the very outlook on life for an entire generation of youth. Animax would never compromise – or, if it did, we weren’t old enough to know it – and every anime on it would be worth watching. It’s hard to sum up these years in a few sentences, but maybe these names will bring back a few memories: Harlock Saga, Ultra Maniac, Cyborg 009, Journey to the West, Black Jack, Fate/stay night, Glass Fleet, Jigoku Shoujo, Le Chevalier D’Eon, Blood+, Ghost Slayers Ayashi, Ghost in the Shell, Wolf’s Rain, .hack//Sign, Ranma 1/2, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, and the list goes on and on. It’s not that difficult to see why people are having trouble letting go. It’s like Butterfree leaving all over again.

But as cruel as it might seem, I must say, I’m glad to see Animax go. The fact is that many, if not most anime lovers in India have long since stopped watching anime on TV. Many people shamelessly pirate anime, while ‘men of culture’, as the meme goes, prefer watching anime online. There are several advantages to this, which can be summed up in the word ‘choice‘.

Becoming an avid follower of any medium is no easy feat. Those who walk this path must train hard. Jokes aside, to really enjoy anime after a certain period of time, which is to say, after going through the entry level shows, you have to broaden your horizons and start digging deep. Animax was without a doubt a good place, if not the best place at that time, to begin. But, just like with reading books, after a point, you shouldn’t wait for people to give you something to watch; you have to go out there and choose to see and read things for yourself, develop your own distinct tastes.

When you watch anime online, there are several things influencing your choice: popular opinion, reviews (like here in Nihonden), and personal preferences.  What you won’t be watching, though, is a scheduled show promoted by the channel you watch it on, which might be unoriginal and boring. On the one hand, you’ll pick and choose things to watch when you want to watch them, and on the other hand, you get a huge collection to choose from. But if you still want to watch Naruto, then, hey, that’s your call.

Watching anime online has the added advantage of never forcing yourself to sit in front of a TV at a particular time. For those of us who once rushed through dinner to be on the couch by ten-thirty (that was one of the good slots on Animax), getting excited for a show to start is surely a fond memory. But that’s where it stays. This is the twenty-first century, and we have flying cars, robot assistants, and anime on our phones. No more arguments with friends and family about getting to look at the 2D girls you have strange feelings for. Now you can watch your favorite shonen (who are you kidding) from the comfort of your bed.

Apart from this, there’s another possible consequence of Animax going off the air. I don’t want to stress this too much since I find it unlikely that it’ll really take off, or at least just due to this one thing, but some people have pointed out that the Indian animation industry could get a strong boost. However, this is as likely as not, and the fact that Indian cartoons cater entirely to children means that we could be decades away from substantial works. For anime enthusiasts, though, this means nothing either way, so it’s good that anime is easily accessible online. Although, there’s a big question mark here; for how long? Recently Nyaa Torrents, among the largest sites for East Asian media was permanently taken down, and shortly following that, BakaBT, another similar public site made their tracker private. Those are two huge blows since shows that are older than a couple of decades and also not that popular are as good as unavailable to the general audience now. But all we can do is hope that alternatives will spring up and we won’t run out of good content.

Also, another side to this story of events is that in all likelihood, there won’t ever be another generation in this country growing up watching anime again. We were the first, and as regrettable as it is, the only; since Animax was literally the single existing source to Japanese pop culture to our audience. No kid ever again will watch the first episode of Cardcaptor Sakura and have a magical portal to a better, kinder world open up in front of their very eyes, no-one will watch a girl clad in white performing ballet week after week and realise how you could tell entire stories through facial expressions alone. Heck! No-one will know that if you didn’t find beef in your favorite Bell peppers and beefyou started an intergalactic chase until you got it. And I could go on for pages if I wanted to. So, in conclusion, of course it’s sad Animax is going away, then again, all good things do. We have to accept it as it is. And we sincerely hope you find your favorite anime online and continue to explore new horizons of this wonderful medium. For a few hints on where to start, consider browsing our roster of reviews.

And Animax, I can’t end this without a formal thank you. Thank you for all these years. Thank you for letting me watch the first Gurren Lagann episode and the Paradise Kiss episode where George and Caroline go to their friend’s place on the same day that a hurricane passed by my city. Thank you for giving us quality television when other channels were barely trying. Thank you for giving us Japanese dubs of FMA: Brotherhood a week within broadcast in Japan. Thanks for the fanservice, and thanks for the tears all the same. See you space cowboy.

Sucheto Nath

Sucheto is a literature student with a great writing ability and a love for original (salty) content creation on Facebook. His work is literary and in-depth, and will make anyone totally absorbed in the topic he's discussing. He blogs at The Whisperer in Kolkata, and loves writing in general.