Japanese Animation

Japanese Animation

Anime. Do you know it? Have you heard of it? Of course you have, you most probably have! Remember Pokemon, Digimon, Dragon Ball? How about Astro Boy? These are all Japanese Animation, called Anime.   Is Anime popular? I do believe it is. Anime was [when I was a child, and still is] what played on late nights on Adult Swim [otherwise known as cartoon network]!

Anyways what brought this post was the idea of Anime and why it’s so engaging in other cultures outside its own…Here’s my brief take on it.

Anime has been so successful because it is so engaging. Japanese animation has so much more depth put into their story-lines. I don’t always agree with the artwork for animated series, but some are drawn quite well. Animated features in Japan are usually really well done, with a lot of depth into the story, and back stories. And the music is spectacular. Check out Akira, Evangelion, or Cowboy Bebop – not to mention Ghibli films for those who don’t have time to watch a whole series.

Perhaps another allure to anime is that it is Japanese. It has become an understanding for some people that if it is anime it might have more psychological thought put into it than what we could watch here in the United States. Take for instance a simple animated cartoon, Bugs, for example, is widely popular. But he is more a symbol/idol for more people in the United States than for anyone else outside. He’s made for us with the cultural references that strongly relate to us.

We could probably take that idea and expand a little bit more. For Japanese animation, they usually doesn’t have a strong play with nationality nor religion, two of the main factors that would be somewhere within a animation here – for example Family Guy, or The Simpsons, that usually makes fun of our current national ideas.

Also for anime, there is quite a large range of genres from small children to the older generations to appreciate. Anime may have started to something similar to Disney, but they grew to something more. They searched for something that would provide for more feeling, and they didn’t limit animation to only children. There are genres for men and women, they actually do separate it – and even more for different types of love stories and action.

As Luca Raffaelli put it in ‘Disney, Waner Bros. and Japanese Animation’ the removal of the religious theme in Heidi was to make the story comprehensible to the Japanese audience, but the moral changed. Instead of putting your faith in god, you would put it on yourself and strive to improve yourself for the better. I think that in this sense, for other anime that were created, the removal of the religious theme was one reason why a lot more people could understand and enjoy the stories.

American animation started and was influenced by comic strips, and Japanese animation was strongly influenced by Manga – which is also, probably, another reason anime is so much more well liked. The reason being that comic strips were short and appealed for a short moment, usually comical, and manga was created with more depth of plot and character.

With deeper plot and character development comes a deeper understanding and connection with the story and character’s being shown. While watching, for example, Kiki’s Delivery Service we learn the comfortable sheltered life she has to leave behind to become an independent human being. We connect to the cheerful little girl and feel sympathy for her when she hits her low, because we understand how that would feel, or it must feel. And when she finds herself again we feel that warm pleased feeling of knowing she’s alright, yes feeling relieved that things worked themselves out in the end, even though she’s only an imaginary person.

The answer to why anime would be popular to western countries, even though anime is japanese, is probably because the character’s can be easily relatable. If we take a look at Akira, we could easily place the characters in a different city and give them different names, the story and characters would still work. The character Tetsuo would be easily identifiable with the child who couldn’t stand up for himself, who seems to believe that he could, but doesn’t really have the physical strength to – this type of person does exist all over the world. The righteous leader who protects what he thinks is right, the guy who takes things for granted, the misunderstood teenagers…we have that in America, so of course we can connect. If deeper development of plot, character and drawing style doesn’t pull you in maybe the attraction of having your emotions pulled around would make you watch anime.

Raffaelli mentions that “man has always loved the sensation of fear when he knows there is no real danger, but in certain anime this sensation would seem to have become a genuine need.” The idea of a future like Akira’s where there would be a society with deeper corruption, greed, and the fear of such a worlds destruction by forces unknown to us for pure science – even though it is an anime the idea is a possibility for us to ponder upon for our future. But not only fear can be felt from anime, other emotions could be triggered just by watching those drawn images interacting on screen – some of those happy, some of those sad, but in the end something to think and talk about.

In addition, some anime have worlds that some of us might have liked to fall into, example from a non-anime would be Harry Potter, example from an anime would be Naruto, or Bleach. Their world is so well developed with rules and specific locations that we could not only imagine, but we know how to live in such a world. And those that connect well with the theme, ninjas, wizards or death gods…would enjoy pretending to be a character from that world and share their experiences with people who have that common interest. And of the things I’ve mentioned here is just a brief mention of how people outside of Japan would like anime. I’ve heard from certain people that they don’t understand, thinking that all anime is something along the lines of Pokemon, and, of course, make for children – they’ve obviously never watched Battle Royal.

So, why is anime popular outside of Japan? It would probably be different for every fan, but the different array of plots, taboos, art styles, music and worlds come into play for anime – also helps that there is a genre for all ages, all genders, and can break taboos. The ideas within anime is also quite universal, for example of most encouraging shonen, for males, anime would go along the lines of ‘do your best and you will succeed’, ‘with training and perseverance you can achieve your dreams!’, something along those lines of keep fighting and one day you’ll achieve it – but most of the time it would be if you’re on the side of good. For shojo, female, aimed anime the theme would go along the lines of romance. Basically, if you can think of a theme/genre that you enjoy there is an anime that you can watch geared towards your enjoyment – isn’t that one of the reasons we watch, live-action, movies to begin with?

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