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Japanese animation

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The importance of anime, and why non fans should give it a shot.

  • Mar 14, 2013
Anime is a genre that gets a lot of flak from mainstream audiences, most of who've have either never seen an anime all the way through or have been exposed to only a certain kind, namely the more children oriented Dragon Ball Z/Nurito type (no disrespect to fans intended) or the pervert Hienti/tentacle rape variety. Stereotypes for anime and the main stream misconception of what it offers TV and movie lovers are probably the biggest obstacle of fans of the genre towards being seen as anything but perverts who like cartoon porn or simple minded children who like cartoon violence. What these archetypes fail to take into account is the immense importance anime plays in filling in the medium of visual art that would otherwise be left unfilled, allowing stories to air that would otherwise be untold or nerfed considerably for the sake appeal towards mass audiences or because of budget restraints.

See, I don't consider myself an anime fan persay, anymore then I would consider myself a fan of books or movies in general. I am a fan of a good story, I am a fan of good characters, and so to me it matters little if a good story is told through the written word or through visual arts such as a movie, a TV show, a game or graphic novel. At the end of the day it matters little what medium a story is told in so long as the story and characters are good. The problem with Hollywood films is that they are severely limited by running time and budget concerns, severely hampering the length of a story that can be filmed. There are obviously exceptions to this rule such as The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter which were both adapted to the big screen quite well despite their huge length. But for the most part a longer story stands little chance of becoming a series of movies without already being a success in another medium such as LOTR and Harry Potter were. Such longer stories are better told through the big screen, and some very notable long running plot stories have been adapted in recent years, notably Game of Thrones on HBO and The Walking Dead on AMC. Both of these shows tell a long running story, and are mostly void of the pointless filler that plagues most TV. But again the huge budget required to create shows like these means that TV executives are very selective about the kind of story they are willing to film, and are not often willing to take such huge risks. HBO's venture into G.R.R Martins A Song of Ice and Fire series was a huge risk that managed to pay off in a huge way, thankfully, but for every success there are many failures. Prominent shows cancelled way before their time are many, running from the obscure Jeremiah, to the cult classics like Firefly and Kings.

It's these risks that prevent many a great story from being told in the world of live action adaptions. The risks involved in telling a longer story, the huge budget necessary to do so, and having to deal with real life actors, are severe limitations on this type of medium. Likewise animation in America isn't taken seriously enough for people to be willing to create deeper, and more mature stories. There are only a handful of American animated shows out there that I can think of that strive out of the realm of kiddy cartoon into something more appealing to adults. Avatar: The Last Air Bender and Batman the Animated Series are two such examples, but even these, though enjoyable to adults, are aimed mostly at children.

So what does any of this have to do with anime? Animation in Japan has the good virtue to be taken seriously enough by its viewers to make deep, mature, thought provoking stories, while simultaneously being relatively cheap enough to create unproven intellectual property (or IP) without running the risk of losing millions upon millions of dollars if it doesn't work out. Can you imagine an American producer looking at the plot for Neon Geneses Evangelion, or Gunslinger Girl, or Serial Experiment Lain and giving it the green light for a live action miniseries? These are stories too long to be told in full by a simple movie, and far too risky to be created for TV audiences. In America these stories would be far too deep and adult oriented to be made into animated series, and as a result they would never be made. This is where anime steps in. Shows like these are perfect for the realm of animation where creative minds are not limited by the physical limitations of real world special effects, fickle actors, and picky executives.

Let me be clear that I'm not speaking about the more immature versions of anime as an example of why anime is so important, and I mean that with no disrespect towards most such anime. But shows like Dragon Ball Z and Nurato can easily be made on American cartoon networks. I'm speaking of the more mature, deep, thought provoking anime such as the above mentioned, about Kino's Journey, Cowboy Bebop, Haibane-Renmei, or Now and Then Here and There, shows that just could not exist if not for the anime genre to tell them. Stories that would otherwise have to be told in book or graphic novel format, severely reducing its accessibility to American audiences.

Let's face it people, with a few exceptions TV today is amass with pointless, unfunny sitcoms (Two and a Half Men), repetitive cop/doctor dramas (CSI, NCIS, Greys Anatomy), and flat, unconvincing dramas (Revolution). Sure there are gems like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones which provide us with great entertainment, but people need to understand that though anime is littered with idiotic titles, kiddy cartoons, and just plain out strangeness, there is a lot of gold to be found in the genre despite dealing with its own unique kind of flaws. It's a genre that should be taken more seriously by people who truly enjoy a good story, so long as they know what to look for.

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April 13, 2013
I'll be honest here and say that despit there being brilliant titles in the anime genre, I don't think I can give the anime genre itself anymore than a +3. This is so because for every one great anime you find, there's at least 2-3 dozen titles that are abhorrent fecal matter in animated format. As a whole, other than checking out some older titles, I've given up on the anime genre because the majority of titles coming to America in the last 4-5 years have drastically sunk in quality.
April 14, 2013
You said it perfectly, man.
April 14, 2013
That's really disheartening to hear. Maybe I've just had a difference experience because I've been very selective of the anime I've decided to watch, as a bad anime can waste a lot of your time and I don't watch nearly as much as I used to anymore. I don't watch a lot of new stuff either, just classics, and I don't think I've ever gone out of my way to see an anime comedy. Normally I won't watch an anime unless its either suggested to me by people I know, the reviews are steller (and I read the reviews to make sure they praise it for the right reasons, and aren't Elfen Lied fans), or the plot interests me enough. Using this method I've managed to avoid too many terrible anime and only a handful of bad ones.
April 19, 2013
To JonathanLane:

I'm picky with anime titles as well, but even with my much stronger precautions on certain titles, there's been times that I've been flat-out swindled by the idiots running rampant in anime fandom. Fine examples of this would be all the glowing reviews on Amazon for Claymore and Witchblade, in which none of the reviews there stated any of the glaring flaws that anyone with a quarter of a brain could point out. 

Also, after seeing how you can't find many recent anime titles that even maintain serious tones, let alone ones that blow your mind like Serial Experiments Lain, I don't see how the anime genre can get any better. Now don't get me wrong, I still want to check out older titles that I initially missed out on, but as far as looking into newer stuff, I'm not really holding out hope for much of them.
April 01, 2013
Hmm. I think you raise some good points, but, to a certain extent, can't someone say some of these same things about anime -- that many tend to fall into a creative rut with the same themes? Don't get me wrong -- I think I totally dig your message, but I'm not much of a anime guy to begin with. I've watched a few shows, but there have been fewer that I've liked than I've disliked. Most I find to be a bit 'bloated' thematically. I totally dig GUNSLINGER GIRL, and most of WITCHBLADE kept my interest, but, beyond those, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with another one I've seen that stuck with me for the long haul.
April 04, 2013
Well it depends. Anime does tend to ramble on in such cases, taking too long to tell a story that should have been shorter, but in most cases I've found anime that are story driven tend to have one, maybe two filler episodes with the rest either driving the story forward, or fleshing out characters within it. Now and Then Here and There, Beck, Serial Experiments Lain, etc. Then there are the show's that are mainly episodic but have the overreaching character arks that hold them together, ala Cowboy Bebop or Kino's Journey. I don't really know your tastes, so I don't think recommending shows for you would be all that helpful, but if its anime filler that you dislike then there are a few that I can recommend besides the ones I've named already. Granted I'm no Otaku (I think I spelled that right) and haven't seen a million shows, but I've seen enough to know I love the genera myself.
April 01, 2013
agreed on all points. The thing I have observed lately though, is that anime quality had gone down (maybe I am just picking the wrong titles) significantly these past few years. There are some good ones (new) such as ANOTHER and I enjoyed the BROKEN BLADE OVA's and Mardock Scramble. I am just becoming a little more picky.... Nice review.
April 01, 2013
Have any recommendations? I've been out of the anime world for a while now, and have only recently gotten back in. Any idea of what I need to see?
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About the reviewer
Jonathan J.D. Lane ()
Ranked #118
I am a member of the US Air Force and presently serve overseas at RAF Mildenhall about three hours north of London. I grew up in Pappilion Nebraska and Crestview Florida, but since joining the Air Force … more
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"Anime" in English usually refers to a style of animation originating in Japan, heavily influenced by the manga (Japanese comics/graphic novels) style and typically featuring characters with large eyes, big hair, elongated limbs, exaggerated facial expressions, brush-stroked outlines, limited motion, and other distinctive features. The term may also be used for other animation connected to Japan.

While the earliest-known Japanese animation dates from 1917, and many original Japanese cartoons were produced in the ensuing decades, the characteristic anime style developed in the 1960's - notably with the work of Osamu Tezuka  and became known outside of Japan in the 1980's.

Anime, like manga, has a large audience in Japan and is highly recognized throughout the world. Distributors can release anime via television broadcasts, directly to video, or theatrically, as well as online.

Both hand-drawn and computer-animated anime exist. It is used in television series, films, video games, commercials, and Internet-based releases, and represents most, if not all, genres of fiction. Anime gained early popularity in East and Southeast Asia and has garnered more recent popularity in the Western world.
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