By Hristo Simeonov, EEB4, S6 ENA
Regards to my friends David and Maciej from ESF for the help!
With the state of events today, I think it is important to stay positive and find something fun to do. As such, with the growing popularity of online services such as Netflix and Hulu, I find it important to also introduce or entertain those doing something else – those watching Anime. By analysing its different aspects, such as its history and what makes it unique, my aim is to answer many peoples’ critiques, which argue that anime is unrealistic, childish, or plainly stupid. I also wish to provide the necessary information to those uninformed about the topic, which in return can allow them to try out a new long-lasting hobby.
For those that are unsure about what this article’s main focus is, I will give a short rundown. Anime, as it is known in Japan, is any sort of animation, or cartoon. The name isn’t even really an abbreviation of the English word “animation”, but instead is the way that the Japanese would say “animated cartoon”. Even so, its massive growth throughout the world jumpstarted the recognition that anime, simply said, is just Japanese animations.
Its history, interestingly enough, predates events such as the 1930s Depression, with the earliest ever animations being created around the beginning of last century. Following the Second World War, a culturally rich Japan would find itself under heavy influence of the United States. American brands such as Disney became leading motivations for Japanese cartoonists to open up in order to compete. This led to a 50s boom in entertainment, with studios for anime and manga blowing up across the nation – a good example is TōeiDōga in 1948, or Toei Animations as it is known now. Consequently, a depression in the 70s along with several new trends caused an explosion in the 80s, in accordance with the rising economy, as famous anime, including Dragonball and Fist of the North Star were born. The 80s epoque was key for the development of anime – for example, thanks to Dragonball, anime in the 90s such as Naruto and OnePiece, now regarded as classics, were created. Of course, this is without mentioning the growing popularity of anime outside of Japan, as the subject has received increasing international support ever since the 70s. Cartoons such as Sailor Moon depict this aspect well. The 21st century brought forward new innovative anime as well as continuing classic series. Implementation of new technology helped improve the quality of following shows, such as the amazing Code Geass and Death Note. In the 2010s, modern anime such as My Hero Academia, Hunter X Hunter, Demon Slayer and Attack on Titan appear on the scene to amaze the world.
Anime is unique thanks to its focus on both storytelling and artistic animation – creativity is at the forefront of all good anime. Varying tempos in different anime pave the way great plot development, which bring forward the author’s imagination. Things often get turned upside-down in order to expose completely new and unexpected viewpoints, allowing you to dive deep into this alternate universe. Figuring out plot twists is also truly exciting.
When discussing anime, one also has to mention the artistic aspects. Its most distinctive features include the eyes, which are purposefully made larger and more colorful, the haircut, which often has an abstract shape and color, as well as physical traits, such as whiskers in Naruto’s case. Outfits also play a distinctive role in anime personalities – an iconic example is Luffy’s straw hat. In fact, many animators have stated their discontent with the rising pressures around drawing characters:
“The talk is that just drawing the eyes for a modern anime girl takes as much effort as it used to take to draw the entire bridge of the Space Battleship Yamato.”
Nevertheless, it is thanks to such ‘burdening’ effort that Japanese animators manage to blow the minds of billions of viewers throughout the world. This focus on the art and style of the production is what manages to set apart anime from normal cartoons such as Tom and Jerry. Each movie or series has a specific style which it respects. Asking 3 different artists to draw each other’s work would leave you with 3 different drawings for each work – nothing is the same. The variety in anime is also complemented not just by unique stories but also by the unique art.
As such, calling anime immature is a rather vague critique. Those who watch anime know that apart from the ‘notable Shounen’, which are oriented towards teenage boys, there are other shows which excellently depict the grit and weight of their universes. Much like movies, anime covers a wide range of age groups, as specific shows are not as appropriate for children. A child watching Dragonball Z would be able to understand the ‘superhero’ plot. However, if you show the same child Terror in Resonance, an anime about the motives behind terrorism, they won’t understand.
In all honesty, I myself thought anime was stupid. That is at least until my good friend introduced me to Tokyo Ghoul, after which I had a complete change of heart. As such, my message to anime critics is to watch the first 4 episodes of any popular anime within their preferred genre – afterwards, if you want, you can leave your impressions below.
This doesn’t mean that there is no reason to critique anime. There are several social viewpoints against it with which I agree. One of them is the over sexualization of women and the unrealistic expectations that it can set for both men and women about their bodies. This is of course within some limits, meaning that it doesn’t apply to all anime. Specific examples can be found in many Shonen anime, such as the 17-year-old Joseph Joestar in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and the 18-year-old Nami in One Piece. Much like Disney movies from the U.S, these exaggerated appearances and features can deceive people’s perception of beauty. On the other hand, I would say that an exaggerated character can be a complementary part of a show – wouldn’t it make sense for an exaggerated character to be part of an exaggerated story? There is also the fact that many of the artists behind the anime might simply be aiming to humor their viewers through imaginative exaggeration. This means that anime with weaker plots might be trying to impress or make people laugh through artistry, rather than making them feel attached, through storytelling. Such series often leave behind a bad reputation for those who are uninformed (e.g., ‘Food Wars’). Not to say that good-looking anime contains bad plot, of course – this is a generalisation. Still, there are lots and lots of anime which try to rectify their mediocre storytelling with flashy animation and jokes.
So, to conclude this article about anime, what I have covered is just a small part of the big picture. If there is one more thing I would want to add is that you should try it! Personally, I would say that it has granted me joy that I would never have otherwise discovered. It is good fun, it can be enjoyed with friends over plenty of online streaming platforms such as Netflix or Hulu, and it is most definitely a viable, interesting source of entertainment for all!
Information about featured image: Heroes from Shounen Jump – the most famous company behind Japanese youth entertainment. It is responsible for both manga and anime.
Sources: Featured image: https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/aHEz5Ga9vHzFQ7C0JHO6e2pb3EA=/0x0:1600×1036/1200×800/filters:focal(672×390:928×646)/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/60665975/1_xeIOEO_TieWgOOiBUHuvnQ.0.png
Picture 1: https://media1.tenor.com/images/7933cb3f138e014abc5e0201452fb3e4/tenor.gif?itemid=16837335 https://img3.hulu.com/user/v3/artwork/9c91ffa3-dc20-48bf-8bc5-692e37c76d88?base_image_bucket_name=image_manager&base_image=747157b1-4581-414a-959f-c4956ebc3349®ion=US&format=jpeg&size=952×536 https://static1.cbrimages.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Featured-Kid-Goku-Versus-Present-Goku.jpg