Okay, so, I have something that I want to talk about because I think that the bad rap that it gets is rather hypocritical. I am, of course, talking about the Japanese animation, or just anime genre. It is an industry that gets a rather bad rap among the American crowd in a lot of circles. Those who are into it, like myself, are viewed as immature, dumb, or childish. People say that they are just cartoons. The statements like that are glorious hypocrisy.
I find it interesting that the same people who call it just a cartoon are often people who find a lot to admire in Pixar films like WALL-E and Ratatouille. I have heard a lot of intellectual types giving great praise to several animated American films, while the anime genre is severly disrespected in many circles. Let me ask you something- what exactly does a story have to have to be good? What form must it take to be respected?
I have this question with a lot of genres that I am interested in. I view several videos games as having some really great stories. The backstory of Bioshock is a work or art, and you are slowly told it through a series of audio logs. You find out the story of a city that started out as a grand underwater utopia, and fell apart. Finding out how it all happened, and the conspiracies of those responsible is intriguing to both the eye and the mind.
It never ceases to amaze me how close-minded people are. Just because a story takes a different form, it is not worthy of people’s respect. Like we’ve never seen any animated characters with intellectual depth before. Oh wait, we have! It’s all over the respected American cinema and television. But when it comes from another country, then it’s a problem.
Look, I’m sorry, but people who don’t like anime for the reason that it’s a cartoon are just small-minded in my eyes. It isn’t all made for kids. In fact, my favorite series, Cowboy Bebop is a show that is not something I would let any kid I know watch. It is a show about a group of bounty hunters, who more often than not end up killing the targets that they are chasing after. It also has a backstory of violence and death which the main character, Spike Spiegel, is trying to run from. The series is filled with characters who are trying to escape the past they have, but end up reveling in it, and often have it come back to them in horribly violent ways.
Then there is the series, Neon Genesis Evangelion. This show is regarded as one of the greatest anime series’ of all time. It tells the story of a young man, Shinji Ikari, who hates life, and hates living. He has been charged with saving what remains of the human race, after a cataclysmic disaster called Second Impact wiped out half of the entire human race, and ravaged our entire planet. Shinji is hopelessly alone, battling his own insecurities and his own hatred of living in order to save the few people that he cares about. It is a story of love, loss, depression, and humanities final stand as a species. Is that story bad just because it is animated?
Then there is the story of a new show that I have just discovered- Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. It tells the story of a young man named Lelouch vi Britannia. He is the son of an emperor that he hates, who he blames for killing his mother. Lelouch begins a campaign to destroy his father’s empire, and to take revenge. He ends up becoming a much colder person, sacrificing his own conscience for the greater objective. A character who is willing to do whatever it takes, and the cost of his own sense of integrity, is always part of a good story. But of course, it isn’t respect, because it is animated.
Then there is the series- Fullmetal Alchemist. It tells the story of two brothers who are working to reclaim all that they lost. They end up becoming involved in a conspiracy which is too big for them, but they can’t afford to stop because they have nothing left to lose, and everything to gain. It is a tragic tale of brotherly love, loss, and the will to keep going even after you have lost everything. The entire series (the first one, anyway) is a tragedy that leaves both brothers losing by the end.
There are a lot of great stories in the anime genre, but there are people who choose to dislike or disregard it for the sole purpose that it is animated. Look, if you want to expand your horizons, you can’t afford to discredit an entire genre based on the sole fact that it doesn’t use real people. The stories are no less compelling because it doesn’t have real people. The tragedies are just as powerful.
I am one of those people who doesn’t discredit a story just because of the form that it takes. But I don’t have a double-standard. I am just as critical of the anime genre as I am of any of the other ones. I am a very critical viewer, and if the story isn’t interesting, I tend not to stay interested for very long. Granted, I am not particularly fond of the Western and Romance genre of anything, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t view them from time to time.
I get that people are naturally inclined to something things rather than others, but sometimes, to experience life in a full way, you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. This is actually a metaphor to how all things in life are. Just because something doesn’t sound interesting doesn’t mean that it isn’t. I hate country music, but I have a lot of respect for Johnny Cash. Sometimes, to get all that life has to offer, you have to be willing to live a little.
The anime genre is pretty freakin’ cool, and has a lot of great stories. I implore you not to just judge it because it is animated. If the success of studios like Pixar has proven anything, it is that animated characters can have intellectual depth. It is possible, and it happens all the time. And I hate to break it to you, but the Japanese have this really bad habit of pushing the envelope on what kinds of stories and ideas are acceptable. You ever notice that some kinds of themes and ideas are just not talked about much in American film and television. The Japanese are more fearless with their stories, the ideals that are raised in their stories, and they have a lot of questioning about the merits of religion rather often, or a different take on it, which American studios avoid like the plague. Just a thought.
Until next time, a quote,
“I’m not going there to die, Faye. I’m going to see if I’m still alive.” -Spike Spiegel, Cowboy Bebop