Every now and then, we tend to ask ourselves why we do certain things with our lives. We, as individuals, exist collectively with other people, and input from others can sometimes make a difference in what our goals and desires turn out to be. This reasoning, of course, can apply to our interests, and I will prove it with a scenario that may be familiar to some of you.
Imagine, for a moment, that Jeff is a 20-something man who is new to the anime community. As a child, he recalls playing Pokémon on his Game Boy and watching Yu-Gi-Oh! on 4K!DS (Haha, RIP in pieces, 4K!DS…) every Saturday morning.
He took a break from Japanese pop culture after losing interest in those two things, but then came back to it when he discovered that his favorite YouTubers were anime fans. Curious, he does some research and finds video compilations of animated eye candy filled with beautiful scenery, colorful characters, and action scenes seemingly found nowhere else. Sooner or later, our friend Jeff is absolutely in love with it all.
After all of the research he has done, he wants to start off by watching “the classics.” He pulls up The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya on Funimation’s website (support official releases, pl0x!) and begins to binge-watch it.
Suddenly, Jeff’s university roommate walks by Jeff’s laptop during the scene where Haruhi grabs Mikuru’s breasts in front of Kyon, saying how big Mikuru’s are compared to hers.
Y’know…this scene. (You could probably imagine what else I came across while I was trying to find this.)
“W-what’cha watchin’ there, Jeff?” he asks. “Uh…it’s this anime I’m trying to get into; people say it’s really good,” Jeff replies. “Okay, then…” his roommate replies, walking awkwardly away.
After this situation, Jeff feels embarrassed. He’s not necessarily the type that feels insecure about what he likes and dislikes, but he does worry that his new interest may give off the vibe of him being a creep due to it ruining his well-kept reputation.
Has this type of situation ever happened to you? If not, have you thought about what would happen if it did? Regardless of your answer, let’s dig in on how to handle it!
The point I’m trying to make is that it can sometimes be difficult to defend what we like, even if we stand by it without a doubt. This case in particular deals with how to explain things like fan service, unique quirks, and general weirdness within the world of anime and manga.
To start out, we have to make one thing clear: anime is a medium rather than a genre. An analogical example would be how a book is a medium of storytelling, but within it lies many genres. Understood? Awesome, because now we can move on to my first point: because anime encompasses so many types of stories, we have to expect some “weird stuff.”
Many of us are already familiar with the more sexualized versions of anime: hentai, harem, ecchi, and sometimes popular shows that include lots of fan service. Maybe you really like those types of anime; if you feel alone in that, many others do too, it’s just that they don’t like to admit it. Personally, though, I try to avoid those types of anime due to studies I’ve read about the harmful effects that pornographic content can have on the brain. We’re getting off topic, here, though.
If you’ve ever traveled to a foreign land for the first time, you probably remember what it was like to experience all of the new aspects of a nation other than your own; media is not all that different. Anime is Japanese, so there are going to be some cultural differences.
Other cultures exist because they have a mindset of approaching certain topics that are unlike other cultures: take nudity as an example. Some people in the US with more old-fashioned morals may see nudity as something taboo or associated with sexual activity. In Japan, however, they view nudity as something that is simply another part of you without clothes, regardless of what it reveals. That means that whenever you see a nude body in anime, it may be there for aesthetics, logical sense, and symbolism rather than for fan service (or maybe all four).
In the first episode of Armored Trooper Votoms, our main character, Chirico Cuvie, is ordered into a bizarre mission to capture an unknown nude body from his own army; the odd twists and complex plot devices continue to thicken from there. Was this nude body there for fan service, and/or for logical sense, aesthetics and symbolism?
Alright, we get it, there’s lots of weird stuff in anime, but is that the ONLY medium of entertainment that’s “weird?” Pfft, hayuhll naw! Compared to Western media, and perhaps media from other cultures, there are many types of entertainment that could qualify as “weird.”
I think that we are all familiar with the fact that Japan’s media is generally regarded as very odd on many Internet communities most commonly used by Westerners. This generalization, though I feel it has been decreasing, is one that I think is false.
To use Western media as a comparison, think of the music video for Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” A person from almost any nation who is unfamiliar with the video would probably find it eerie as they watch the seemingly lifeless schoolchildren march in the factory and later burn down their school.
Entering the world of TV shows, South Park is arguably the most famous show in the West for making fun of almost every possible topic that could be considered “sensitive.” It has no scruples in combining foul language, sexual humor, political satire, criticism of religion, violence, humiliation of celebrities, and toilet humor all into one episode. Regardless of what you think of the show, it exists, it has one hell of an impact, and it’s fucking bizarre.
Weirdness is not exactly a bad thing, either. When you look at advertising, for example, look to Old Spice as the king of this point: they are masters of advertising because the oddness of their commercials is exactly what people love about them.
Just for the hell of it, the Cave Story theme remixed from the Terry Crews Old Spice commercials. (The more I watch it, the more I love it! Not to mention, this video is actually how I discovered Cave Story.)
Finally, the point that virtually everyone knows: sex sells. Countless Hollywood movies with scantily-clad, attractive actors and actresses, along with many ads with attractive people are proof of this truth. Megan Fox in Michael Bay’s Transformers movies and the sexy girls in bikinis from the Carl’s Jr. commercials are well-known examples, and I’m sure y’all can think of many more.
Japan’s animation and graphic novels, although great mediums of enjoyment for many, can be difficult to defend when the shit hits the fan. The many genres that lie within them are noted for containing lots of perverted moments which many refer to as fan service, and various topics dealt with from a Japanese point of view may shock some foreign audiences. We must remember, though, that weirdness can be a strength as much as it can be a detriment, and that non-Japanese media has arguably just as much lewd and odd material compared to Japanese media. (The sentence you are reading right now has no purpose, I just fucking love using parentheses as a writer.)