Why do people do anything that they don’t need to do? Because it makes them happy and I suppose anime makes me happy. Different anime make me feel different things but I suppose that what I am seeking for through all of them (even through sadness) is pleasure. All of this is self-evident but I wrote it down just to be thorough. That said how does anime make me happy? Through:
Sexual titillation. Sometimes there can be too much of it, but then I stop noticing it when I see too much nudity I stop noticing it (like in Kill La Kill) but some things like the occasional boob-bounce never get old. Some people say they find panty-shots in action-scenes distracting, I barely notice them until they are pointed out to me and I am not displeased in any manner to the sexy and cute female characters in anime. Of course, I prefer it when there is something more but the reason that I find some of Hayao Miyazaki’s works like ‘Spirited Away’ to be snore-fests is the lack of sexualization (and the lack of tension, you know you are going to get a happy ending, the good characters are always right). Fan service for the win!
Humour. Anime is often chastised for being edgy and full of gore and violence and so on, but another characteristic is that most anime series have some comedy in them, true a lot of this humour is repetitive and after I had seen the same jokes for the first hundred times or so it got a bit boring (like the guys getting beat up by tsundere in Rumiko Takahashi’s comedies) and sometimes the humour can be misplaced right like in ‘Full-metal Alchemist: Brotherhood’ or in ‘Hellsing Ultimate’ breaking the immersion but occasionally you do get shows like Konosuba, Zetsubou no Sensei and even ecchi shows like MM! appeal to me. I like dark humour but the cheerful humour that you find in anime is a nice counterbalance to the violence IMO when used correctly.
Aesthetic Appreciation/Beauty, this is much harder to define, okay I like the large anime eyes, the silly high pitched voices of some characters even when they are annoying especially when they are annoying(Tututuru from Steins; Gate), it’s hard to describe but there are certain scenes like the battle scene of Asuka vs. the Eva series in the ‘The End of Evangelion’ and the last thirty minutes of that film that just look beautiful.
Plot – I mean storytelling. Modern anime especially light-novel adaptations are notorious for screwing up good creative premises by forgetting that execution is what matters the most, still when they get the latter right that’s when you get masterpieces.
Anime Characters – ‘Inspirational’ is a word that is being thrown around so much that it doesn’t mean anything much and in the cynic’s mind it sounds like a euphemism for its antonym, ‘let me show you this very very rare phenomenon which proves that the general rule will be suspended in your case’, well let me tell you a word that is also overused but hasn’t lost its meaning, that word is ‘cool’. Many anime characters (excluding almost all self-insert harem protagonists with broken powers) are cool. Characters like Yang-Wenli from Legend Of Galactic Heroes, Ueki Tylor from The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Hikigaya Hachiman from My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected are cool. And you may have a different opinion from mine but of course you would be wrong.
But why anime and not some other form of storytelling/art? As a matter of fact, I do sink in enough time in other forms of entertainment not from Japanese otaku culture but I admit that I find it easier to enjoy anime even when the quality of the storytelling isn’t that high whereas I am more strict when it comes to other forms of entertainment. I think that the reason for this is two-fold, on the one hand, I have been habituated to watching anime from a very long time but if I am allowed to speculate and be pretentious I would say that for me it reaches the nadir between distancing itself from the real world but also not being completely unrecognizable and alienating as I found most stuff from Hollywood and all the crime fiction on TV to be. I don’t know a lot of the stuff on TV felt too self-aware that there were people watching it(like the Simpsons) and the lines they spoke and the way they acted made the whole thing seem fake. Another thing that undoubtedly first got me into anime was that I didn’t feel I was being condescended to as most TV programming for children seems to do. If anime were made in South America or in England I would still watch it if it would still be the same it is today which it wouldn’t but that’s not the point.
My feelings towards anime have not remained constant over the years that have passed and over the hundreds of hours I have spent(or wasted, your pick) on this hobby, at first I was overwhelmed by the sheer diversity of stories in this medium but at the same time felt very attracted to the stereotypical bashful, stoic and honest characters which were set in stark contrast to the reserved manner in which people act in real life. I have never been a ‘weeaboo’, I have never wanted to go and live in Japan and so on and for a long time ‘Japan’ and ‘Anime’ had nothing to do with each other in my mind, that is until I started reading the manga series ‘Detective Conan’ which was firmly set in Japan, as opposed to some fantasy world, in some historical period in Europe(as many anime series for kids on Italian TV like ‘Heidi’ were set), in some urban setting that may have as well being in Europe and even though I watched ‘Ranma’ somehow the slapstick humour and the colourful characters made me unable to concentrate too much on the setting as I was focused on what other shenanigans the characters would get themselves into. The colourful hairstyles and large-eys didn’t really help me to identify it with Japan but that too is a matter of no importance. Anyway, my focus shifted strictly from the characters to the themes and the ideas and so I watched many of the classics and retro anime, Evangelion et al. And right now my focus is on the storytelling and the artwork, composition, script and to a small extent the directing.
Recently I have been watching almost exclusively old anime because the new stuff feels a bit samey – you know there’s the Sword Art Online clone, the Fujoshi bait show, the yandere/loli show every season and so on, there are a lot of shit-shows from the past too but it’s easier to pick up the good ones when the hypes surrounding the old series has mostly subsided. Watching anime has sort of become a group experience when it comes to ongoing anime, you know watching anime and then commenting and reading blogs and watching youtube vids about it, on the one hand this is good as I get to see what others think but it doesn’t feel as much a ‘special’ hobby anymore and to be honest I have started to have less respect as to what others think of my anime whereas in the past I was very eager to talk to people to share views about anime and see if they matched. That said that communal feeling has certainly helped me keep up with the new anime whether I want to or not and it makes everything easier as far as accessibility to anime is concerned, there is so much info about anime online, sometimes sharing my views seems like a drop in the ocean. Sometimes I wonder how it must have been in the early anime community when there weren’t so many sites about anime and the few people interested visited the same times to talk with the same people to discuss anime. There are plenty of anime blogs with regular content but seemingly no readers taking into account the few comments they get (like on this one).
Having said all this it is impossible to avoid the subject of escapism. Well, I could say that anime is one way I try to enhance reality rather than detract myself from it but that would be sophistry or at best pedantry, the criticism levied against anime, and more specifically those otaku who watch anime is an unambiguous one that we have disconnected ourselves from the obligations and pleasures to be gained by actively engaging with others by instead spending our time and money on fiction. I don’t have a counter-argument to this point. IT IS SPOT ON.