Yes, anime definitely has some flaws that many point out and that fans have to defend. That was what the last article in this series was about; there are some other aspects of this artistic medium, however, that you can celebrate rather than defend, and if you’ve been in this beautiful (adjective used loosely :P) community for a while, maybe you know the examples that I am about to give. People who choose anime and manga as their go-to form of entertainment, after all, likely have reasons.
Unique, Yet Familiar Characterics
Every form of entertainment borrows, remixes, and improves upon its predecessors. The world of TV shows and movies is no different, and when we look at anime, we can definitely see this development.
For those who don’t how it all started out, Japanese animators popularized their form of animation in the 1960s when they drew heavy inspiration from Walt Disney films. If we take a look at 1963’s Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu) and compare it to 1942’s Bambi, for example, we can notice an artistic similarity in the large eyes and an overall feeling of cuteness in the characters, two traits that would soon become very essential in Japanese anime.
As anime developed more in the 1970s, the unique genres that the medium gained a reputation for today began, and took less inspiration from other sources. Cutie Honey paved the way towards magical girl series, Mazinger Z was one of the first mecha shows, and “fun-for-the-whole-family” characters like Doraemon took Japan by storm.
From the 1980s and beyond, the rest, as they say, is history. Slice of life comedies like Lucky Star, romance stories like Clannad, psychological thrillers like Psycho-Pass, battling/dueling anime such as Yu-Gi-Oh!, and horror anime such as Death Note. Some of these genres are no strangers to entertainment forms outside of anime and manga, but nevertheless have their own flavor when they are in the form of anime and manga.
Zeroing in on Lucky Star as an example, many people have considered it to be the anime version of Seinfeld, as both are comedic shows that don’t really have a coherent plot. Although both shows are definitely worthwhile, I feel as though Lucky Star is different. Why? It is common to find comedies without a plot, but very few places will you find one about hyperactive high school girls with various personalities complaining about daily occurrences all thrown in with a bunch of music, dancing, and references to many aspects of Japanese culture all thrown into one place. All while being very representative of all of anime’s well-known characteristics and making everything enjoyable. Weird? Absolutely, but remember, weirdness can be a strength, too.
The Masterpieces for Many Audiences
When you think about anime, what are some of the best works you can recall? Stuff like Cowboy Bebop, Attack on Titan, and Miyazaki movies, right? Works such as these are excellent not only because of the quality and effort put into them by the creators, but also because anime really does have something for everybody.
As a child, you may have remembered watching My Neighbor Totoro on the family VCR, awed and inspired by the fantastic art and a mature story suitable for all ages. As a teenager, you probably started Attack on Titan from all the rave reviews it was received, attracted to the darkness of the plot, the action sequences, and the impressionable characters. In your 20s, you likely watched Cowboy Bebop, noticing how the genres of sci-fi, Western, and drama can get along so well, and learning valuable lessons from the plot and developing a new taste for jazz music.
“Whatever happens, happens…”
As you continue to explore your taste in anime and manga, you’ll find new things that you like and notice how there’s a category out there for everybody: racing fans watch Initial D, Western fans watch Trigun, and you may decide to take up cooking after watching Toriko.
The Foreign Experience
Anime and manga are Japanese, a culture that may be different to most of the people reading this article. Thus, it is a genre that is for people who like to explore their interests, taking them to more unfamiliar regions of the universe of fictional works.
If you grew up in the West, you’re probably familiar with the art of your country being influenced by their ideas, history, people, along with the ideological influence of the Enlightenment, ancient Greek philosophy, and Judeo-Christian thought. In Japan, however, even though they definitely have their own ideas, history, and people, like anyplace else, they gained most of their ideological influence from Shintoism, Buddhism, and Chinese philosophy.
Our world, full of various perspectives, is one that should celebrate its diversity of people and ideas. Thus, go ahead and enjoy familiar stories from your own culture as well as unexplored stories of others. I hope that, along the way, regardless of your culture, you make Japanese anime and manga a part of that exploration of stories.
Japanese animation and graphic novels undoubtedly have art styles that have influenced many artists to the point where anime-inspired art feels universal. Everyone knows and loves all of the unique designs: the crazy facial expressions, the colorful backgrounds and characters, and the seizure-inducing transformation sequences. there’s no doubt that it all somehow works, whether it’s all separate or together.
Zeroing in on the anime Madoka Magica, it has a noticeable juxtaposition with cute girls, kawaii fashion, psychedelic realms outside of the world as we know it, and dark background character thingies or whatever the hell is in the GIF below. But yeah, this type of craziness is part of what makes anime so special.
Maybe you’d like to scale it back a little bit and prefer to watch something more artsy and laid-back. Well, that’s fine, too! Leiji Matsumoto works such as Galaxy Express 999 and Monkey Punch’s Lupin III are perfect for that preference. Although works like these are definitely not “laid-back” all of the time, they are different from other anime that can be sensory overload with zany situations. Nevertheless, they are further proof of anime’s diversity.