The phrase ‘Japanese culture’ will stir vastly different ideas depending on whom you choose to talk to. To some, the first thing that springs to mind is undoubtedly Shinto temples or giant Buddha statues while to others it might be the iconic tea ceremony.
For an increasing number though the initial thought is of the country’s thriving ‘youth culture’, most notably: anime. Western countries led by the US have, in recent years, seen a spike in people becoming increasingly engaged with the medium with the number of anime titles available on popular and specialised streaming sites.
It is then the perfect time to be writing about why now is the time to open up the tab on Netflix you’ve yet to open and watch your first anime since the original Pokémon.
Okay – you know what I’m here to talk about, so let’s try and point out some stereotypes that you might be familiar with and then, when necessary, break them down for everyone’s sake.
I’m going to get the awkward one out of the way first: ‘Anime is for perverted teenage boys’. Now, I’m not going to try to defend that meme you saw on the internet or for that matter a whole lot of anime that is less than tasteful. However, ‘fanservice’ is a thing in anime and for the most part it comes and goes in an episode without you really noticing – don’t make a big thing of it and you’ll forget it was ever a problem.
Next up might be the one that has really stopped you considering anime as an alternative to your live action favourites: ‘Anime is clichéd and overly melodramatic’. I can’t speak for every anime that’s ever come out of Japan, nor can I can pretend that some anime doesn’t lay extravagant dramatic tropes on a little too heavily. It should though go without saying though that not every anime is like this with many shows/films offering well balanced and thought provoking stories.
Finally: ‘I’m too old for anime’. In Japan, anime is meant to be for everyone. At one extreme we have films for young children Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro while at the other we have gore filled action-horrors such as the massively popular Tokyo Ghoul. Anime is genre based in the same way as western TV and film is, if you don’t want to watch childish shows you don’t have to.
With any luck you’re now thinking of dropping this article and going to find something animated and Japanese to watch. Before you do that though, maybe just stay a little longer, I have some suggestions.
Depending on your experience of anime or how closely you look at the posters in HMV will effect how easy you might find it to choose an anime to watch. If you’ve only heard of one anime it’s likely that it’s Attack on Titan. A well-constructed plot, excellent animation and numerous tear jerking moments justify this show’s popularity but you might want to avoid it if gore isn’t really your thing.
If you have an interest in Sci-Fi or just like the idea of time travel the only thing you should really be watching is Steins;Gate, one of most highly acclaimed anime in Japan and abroad, it has a highly believable plot-line with well fleshed out characters as well as the winning concept of time travel using a microwave. My final recommendation would be for those of you more interested in something more romantic and down to earth: Your Lie in April is the story of several musicians and the expression of themselves through music, yet another way to get the waterworks going though, I’m afraid!
Anime isn’t for everyone, but as with any form of visual entertainment, you won’t know unless you try.
If this post has sparked your interest in anime, check out Sam’s blog here!