I never thought that I would be writing a column about anime; however, as the art form consistently gets rejected and belittled despite the growing number of beautiful pieces, I can’t help but try to reach out to people to give it a chance. Usually, when I tell people that I watch anime—unless I’m speaking to a fellow anime lover—I get a shocked reaction with a hint of disdain (although most do try to limit it). People seem to accept the stereotype that people who watch anime are loners and losers who are obsessed with sexual anthropomorphic animals. While some fans fall into that category, I would say that they form just a small portion of the global community.
Merriam-Webster describes anime as “a style of animation originating in Japan that is characterized by stark colorful graphics depicting vibrant characters in action-filled plots, often with fantastic or futuristic themes.” Some would simply call it Japanese cartoons. However, while Western cartoons are usually targeted for young children, anime is made for all ages and walks of life.
I first started seriously watching anime a few years back in 2014. I use ‘seriously’ because I had watched a good amount of Dragon Ball Z, Lupin III, and Yu-Gi-Oh when I was kid but never got into the whole subculture.
Death Note was the first series I watched, and I was hooked. I finished all 37 episodes within three school days. I didn’t have the time, but I somehow made it. For anyone who wants to give anime a shot but doesn’t know where to start, I’d highly recommend Death Note. To give a shallow description, it’s about a high school teenager who gets the ability to kill people simply by writing their name in a notebook. It’s a good mix of universal dilemmas, dynamic worlds, and masterful storytelling often found in anime; however, it doesn’t go deep into other aspects like fan service that may scare away people. While Netflix and Warner Bros. have teamed up to release an American film version, there is no way it will be able to develop the characters and create the world at the same level found in the anime. The form, in itself, gives the producers, writers, directors, and artists so much freedom not usually found in other TV media outlets.
After, I fell down the rabbit’s hole and watched other series like Code Geass, Hunter X Hunter, and Sword Art Online. Eventually, I started watching anime movies as well. Studio Ghibli’s movies are well-known for a good reason, but there are also some other good ones produced outside the renowned company; Tokyo Godfathers and Wolf Children are some of my personal favorites.
I have outlined four reasons behind my love for anime and I hope that after, you give it a chance.
The first thing I’d like to highlight is the variety you can find in anime. While there are no agreed upon groupings, Crunchyroll, one of the main anime streaming sites, lists fifteen different genres. Some of the popular themes are action, slice-of-life, sports, horror, supernatural, military, and romance. So, there is definitely an anime for everyone. You can go from fighting mysterious humanoid giants in Attack on Titan to following the lives of aspiring middle-school musicians in Your Lie in April to understanding time travel in Stein’s Gate.
The next thing I’d want to point out is the varying art styles found in anime. While there is a general notion of big-eyed and sharped-face people as the typical anime style, there are many different nuances and techniques used in anime. Art styles are typically highlighted in anime movies; however, they can also be observed in series. Studio Ghibli is famous for creating whimsical settings and light color palettes for its pieces. They also utilize simpler designs for its characters. On the other hand, some shows such as Hellsing Ultimate go with a darker art style to match its storyline and depict an entirely different mood. One Punch Man has a distinct drawing and animation style that highlights the humorous aspect of the series.
These art styles help create the different worlds found in anime. As someone who enjoys the different dimensions created in fantasy novels like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and The Lord of the Rings, the multitudes of alternate universes found across and within anime shows and movies are astounding. Imagine a world slowly being taken over by alien parasites (Parasyte) or maybe one where authorities control and monitor people’s mental states (Psycho-Pass) or a school where you train as either as a meister or weapon to defeat evil humans and witches (Soul Eater).
Lastly, the stories found in anime is main reason why I love the form so much. Sometimes, they tackle moral issues like in Death Note. Others tackle pain and consequences (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood). Personal insecurities about one’s skills and abilities have also been touched (The Pet Girl of Sakurasou). Not all are so heavy, such as the series called Saint Young Men that follow the lives of roommates Jesus and Buddha in modern-day Japan.
While it seems that anime is gaining more acceptance, largely thanks to movies like Your Name, I hope that people venture into the media form more. It is a treasure chest of beautiful art, intricate stories, and relatable characters that leave you questioning not only yourself, but the world around you.