12; 12022 H.E.
I love watching anime. It hasn’t always been like this. I think the first time I got introduced to it was when I was around six or seven. I was living in Bulgaria at that time, I don’t think we even had Cartoon Network. A small TV somewhere on our backyard porch would run Pokémon: Indigo League on some unnamed channel, which I think is as far as you can go in terms of animated pokemon. I was waiting patiently for every "new" episode after coming back home from school. Then there was a long break.
I briefly came back to watching anime when my best friend in high school recommended I watch Steins;Gate. I liked the genre a lot. It was of course the time when I was super young and many concepts might have flown right past me. Right after, my second serious watch was Mirai Nikki. You are probably more familiar with it through this picture of a girl seductively looking at you.
As a 15-year-old high school boy, I loved the show. The things that happened in the show and scenes presented, I’ve never seen anything like it in movies or books. It was brash, suggestive, violent, and uncompromising. My friend from before scolded me a little bit, saying it’s a low-tier show that is just about a yandere girl running around and killing everyone. Finally, I finished that small high school era of anime with Kill la Kill. I was just obsessed with it, especially with Ryūko Matoi. I bored my other friend so much that she drew me Ryūko dressed in her transformed Kamui. Thank you, Meruel.
Now we’re here. Almost five years later, I re-sparked my love for the genre once again and oh boy, it came in blazing big time. Right around the last days of 2020, I started watching Darling in the Franxx. Flew back home and finished it thereby staying up till 3 am and grinding the episodes. It was something about the timing when the show came into my life and my state. It clicked so perfectly, I got hooked like an addict. Fell in love with Zero Two ❤️. Since then, watched the hits of Gainax, all of the Trigger, and more. Now we are done with this exhaustive history. Let’s talk about anime.
There is so much that anime can do, which almost every single other genre is practically incapable of doing. A simple example would be the fight scenes and their dynamics. Think of books as media. The heat and action of it are almost entirely dependent on the author’s way of words and your imagination. Live-action films with real actors and no matter what amount of CGI you throw at it can never reach the heat an anime can, simply because they are still bound by how real-life looks. You can’t enlarge someone 10x and make it as intimidating as Ira Gamagōri looking down on students. It would just look goofy and unnatural.
Continuing comparing the genres, you might ask, but what about cartoons? Isn’t anime just a cartoon genre? Well, in a very very trivial sense, yes. However, "cartoons" usually refer to the Western animation style, while "anime" refers to hand-drawn and computer animation originating from Japan. Anime excels because it is cinematically shot as if by a camera, including panning, zooming, and more complex angle shots, which are hard in practice. Western cartoons are very much standardized in animation style, plot building, and their impact. They feel bland. Anime can overcome that by tackling topics and themes no regular cartoon would even come close to, while also employing a large array of over-the-top action and scenes.
Okay, okay, so what’s the actual appeal of anime to me? That is it. The absolute freedom in plots and characters. Want to see a half-naked girl fighting clothes with half a scissors? Kill la Kill. Want to see robots as big as the Observable Universe smash each other? Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Is a man able to kill anyone with a single punch, even cosmos overlords? One Punch Man. Conductors using their batons to fight aliens with the power of Classical Music? Takt /Op. Destiny/. This list is pretty tame, just the first ones that came to my mind. In many ways, it’s so unrealistic and many times so much far and beyond our reality that it can make some viewers dizzy or brush off the entire genre as too phantasmagorical. I want to make a case that we need this too.
Let me give a little background into my experience with fine arts and media. I major in Classic Literature. The number of greatest and most "realist" works I’ve read and the amount of pages and analysis I wrote on them is something I’m still recovering from. It doesn’t get more real than Russian Literature from the 17-18th centuries, with the greats like Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. I loved the books so much that I decided to major in them. I adore realism and works that just crush your heart and shatter your soul. There is some painful blood-ridden personal and emotional growth in there. However, no matter how much I love it, it would be impossible and dangerous to the psyche to constantly immerse yourself in the greatest and hardest books ever written.
With this little background, I want to assure you that my point of view and love for Japanese animation is not driven just because I know nothing else or am stuck in it, as many people went to point that out. I am intimately acquainted with all different genres, this leads me to believe that what we need is the balance between them. We need the over-the-top-crazy-impossible-phantasmagorical world that anime brings and Russian-style-sad-real-dead-on realism. Only with understanding and appreciating both ends of the spectrum, can we refine our tastes and build more critical points of view on what we consume.
Anime gives a better breathing room, allowing you to abstract yourself from all the small swamp-like details and worries of life, project them onto a world, where giant robots fight aliens in dashingly choreographed ways. To the fullest sense, it inspires me. I drive out the energy and stimulation from those shows to find a new perspective to many situations in life and freshen up a bit, to dream. Anime is on the crazy side of the spectrum, hard literature is on the opposite side of crushing realism, we don’t need anything in between. Our day-to-day lives and routine already suffice for that.
Anime music is also incredible. Here is my playlist with the ones I like a lot
Thank you for reading! Take care ◼︎