Monday, September 16, 2013

Why Love Anime?

As I was was "mingling" during freshman orientation, I was asked what the appeal of anime was to me. That was a surprisingly difficult question. I can tell you some of the things that drew me into the fandom: the novelty of it, for example. But why have I stayed? What's so great about anime compared to other mediums? What makes it different? I wasn't able to put my thoughts together very well at the time. After a bit of thinking, here are seven reasons that I came up with:

1. Many anime tell their story over at least a dozen episodes. This provides an opportunity for character and plot development at a level that is rarely seen in American TV.

2. Anime studios can cover adventure, action, sci-fi, and fantasy without the kind of technological and financial barriers encountered in live action. They don't need to use green screens for their special effects, and they don't have to fly their cast and crew to the locations they want on screen.

3. The animation in anime TV shows is often far beyond what I see in American cartoons. It can be beautiful. Sure, America has produced some great animated movies. However, animated television doesn't get the same attention. Kids' cartoons are, well, for kids, and adult cartoons don't take themselves very seriously. In Japan, anime is booming business, not an afterthought. Studios can afford to create titles that aren't just entertaining, but beautiful. I've often heard people say things like, "Yeah, I don't like the story or characters much. But the animation is beautiful, so I'll keep watching." How often do you hear that said about Phineas and Ferb or Family Guy?

4. While many anime are masterfully done, and some have elaborate and serious stories, not all take themselves so seriously. As with animation from any country, anime can entertain the kind of ridiculous situations that just don't survive well in live action, especially not in the West. Just think of The Wallflower, Working!!, Skip Beat, or The World God Only Knows. Sure, that last one is fantasy anyway, but I just can't imagine anything like it showing up on American television.

5. On a similar note, since I usually watch anime in Japanese (with subtitles, of course), my cheesiness radar isn't as overactive as it is with English shows. I'm not as likely to notice if the voice acting is sub-par. If dialogue seems poorly written or otherwise mediocre, I can assume something was lost in translation and move on. Of course, the more attuned I become to the language and culture in anime, the harder it is to turn my cheesiness radar off.

6. I enjoy more genres of anime than of live action. I used to think that anything in the comedy genre was either too embarrassing or too crude. Drama didn't appeal to me, either; it was too realistic or too boring. If I wanted to hear about real life problems, I'd read the news or go talk to my friends and family. However, anime has opened new doors to me. I can watch comedy without feeling embarrassed for the characters, and potty jokes are the exception, not the norm. I've even expanded to a few romance and drama anime.

7. I have found a great community among anime fans, especially online.
Sure, this has less to do with the actual shows than with the people who watch. I know I could find community among sci-fi fans, Whovians, Tolkien fans, or tech geeks. It matters little. Anime fandom is where I found my online home, and while I may explore other corners of the internet, I always find my way back.

The overarching theme is this: anime has the ability to exceed limits like no other medium I've seen.

I'll leave it at that. So, what about ya'll? Is it easy to explain your hobbies and fandom? Or do you have to think for a moment to put your love into words?

New to this blog? Still a little uncertain of what anime is? Wonder if a "good Christian girl" can really like this strange animation? I invite you to check out my Anime 101 posts from a couple years ago. They're old, but still true. The second installment covers anime and common misconceptions about it. 


  1. I agree.

    As fun as it would be the leave it at that, I should probably add something to the discussion.

    The big difference i've noticed between Western cartoons/live action and Anime is that the former are often event-based (that is, the focus is on what exactly is going on, with the characters there merely to facilitate events), while Anime takes a step back and examines the characters and their reactions to events in greater detail. That's not true for every series, but I feel it plays a much bigger part in Anime, allowing you to form stronger attachments to your favorite characters because they are more developed and deeper than their Western counterparts.

    The tech aspect is probably the other big one for me. Anime studios can explore incredibly far-out ideas and concepts from the comfort of their office. Sure, animation costs and so does digital work, but far less that the special effects seen in live action. It means that we can experience stories that wouldn't be touched by Western producers because of the effort and cash that would be required to fully realize their potential.

    Talking about Anime not taking themselves seriously; there are a huge number of tropes and common jokes that show up across countless Anime that fans will recognize and enjoy, whereas Western productions would be criticized for similar commonalities.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      That's so true on the characters. As you said, there are exceptions, but anime does tend to spend more time on cultivating characters. Even shows known for their action manage to integrate great character development. I'd say it's part of the reason there's such a huge following for shows like Naruto, with fans far outside the intended demographic.


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