“Oh yeah, I watch a lot of anime! I watch Bleach, One Piece, Zatch Bell and Inuyasha!”
Let’s be realistic here. I watch way too much anime. When it’s gone to the point where I judge OPs, EDs, animation quality, character development, plot holes, as well as comparing them to the original manga/visual novel/light novel/eroge, I think that’s a sign. However, I always feel somehow a bit insulted when people say above statement. I’m far from being a hipster, but these “anime watchers” are missing out badly.
What I feel like ranting about here, is the lack of anime culture that many watchers have. Having been part of an anime club for 2 years now, it’s sad how many people have watched under 10 shows, and it’s even sadder how many people actually watch anime at home at the time they join. As much as I can understand that Sailor Moon and Yu-Gi-Oh are technically anime, in my head they will always remain mainstream kid shows, in the same category as american cartoons will ever be. Fortunately for everyone here, I’m not trying to destroy old childhood memories, I only intend to state facts and show my biased opinion on what anime culture really is about.
“Anime: 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.”
To begin with, it’s important to define what anime actually is. What makes it so special and different from american TV? Why is it that simple cartoons are so appealing that we’ll be willing to watch it so much more than regular, more realistic shows? Entertainment comes in many ways, and when it comes to anime, I believe the reason we love it so much is exactly the same reason as we watched cartoons when we were kids: They give us an “awesome” feeling.
You know, that feeling when you looked at your favourite superhero saving the world when you were still an innocent 8 year-old kid? Anime does that magnificently, with one major difference: It targets all audiences. These aren’t just things making us dream; anime have plot, character development, many different genres, giving us everything we’d have in a regular TV series, with the addition of that “fangirl/fanboy” feeling that we all love.
So then, is anime really only Japanese cartoon? Although the animation quality and art style is much greater than other animations, what made it so popular is definitely its wide range of audiences, compared to regular cartoons. When people say: “I’ve watched Zatch Bell, Inuyasha and Digimon when I was a kid!” these people are only talking about the direct definition of anime. In cultural terms, these can’t even be considered anime. They could be any other american cartoon, and it wouldn’t matter at all.
Next comes the big 3, who’ve pretty much become the big 4 nowadays: One Piece, Naruto, Bleach and Fairy Tail. The “battle” branch of the shounen category, and what probably brings everyone to start watching anime in the first place. Longer shows allow for more storylines, more character development, more plot twists, and this causes everyone to fawn over them like crazy, thinking they are the best thing on Earth. “Anime’s awesome!” Not denying the fact that these are actual anime, what is to be noted here is this: It’s not even a full genre. It is safe to admit that battle animes are cool, but when compared to the rest of anime culture, they are such a small branch, and barely encompass anything in terms of anime culture. In comparison, saying one likes anime after watching these would be like buying a cat and saying all animals on the planet are awesome.
My last point is one which would probably bring up a lot of controversy, and that is comparing old shows to more recent ones. As much as I’d like to fangirl over the most recent episode of Kokoro Connect with everyone, I’m aware that many people don’t want to risk watching new shows, and would rather watch things that actually have a reputation of being good. What I want to bring up here, is how much people aren’t aware of the anime world at all. If over 40 anime come out a season, then how come they don’t even hear of the sensation of the season? I’m not even talking about last season content, I’m talking about shows like Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika or Fate/Zero, which I can barely talk about over at the club because no one’s watched it.As much as lasting old shows may be good, it’s important not to forget that there are so many amazing new shows that come out and make a huge sensation over the Internet. Not hearing about a single one of them is, in itself, a huge gap in one’s anime culture.
In the end, my lasting opinion on this is that I’m clearly disappointed in what I see nowadays. Anime deeply interests me, I’m a huge fan of it, and it just seems to me like I find more and more people who just tend to fail completely when it comes to having any kind of anime culture. I think of this subject pretty much the same as anyone might rant about the lack of one’s own movie culture: there should at least be a strict minimum of things to know about anime if you want to call yourself a fan of it.
Now, unfortunately I have no solution for it and just feel like ranting, but maybe if I hope enough, people will slowly watch more and more, making anime grow and become more than just cartoons made in Japan. It’s safe to say that this definitely doesn’t define all of it, and the bigger picture is so much more interesting that I only hope that people will dig deeper into it, becoming just as much a fan of it as I am (Although that’s hard to beat, I’ll admit).