I’ve read several posts lately by some of my favorite blogger friends that talk about their opinions on anime, manga, and the general saturation of Japanese culture into the rest of the world. Their views were different than mine, which I respect completely. I thought I’d take a few words to respond from my own viewpoint.
First off, I’d like to acknowledge that several of the accusations against anime are true. There’s gory stuff, there’s oversexualized stuff, there’s stuff that could only be written and produced while the entire staff was high on drugs. The key here, though, is there is. Isn’t any other form of entertainment the same way? Go to the movie theater and you’ll find posters for horrifying or raunchy movies that you have no intention of seeing, because it’s not appropriate. That doesn’t mean all the movies are bad, does it? The ones that you should avoid are clearly marked and easy to steer clear of.
(On that note, before I watch any show I go and read the Wikipedia page, plus the reviews of a few anime blogs, before I start. If anything seems objectionable, well, there’s a million and one better shows to be watching.)
As for the complaints about clothing (especially skirts) being too short/revealing… Have you looked outside lately? At my school, immorality is integrated into the social culture. For girls, very square inch of fabric on your body takes off about ten popularity points. For guys, it’s a contest of “How Low Can I Sag My Pants While Still Technically Wearing Them?”.
Also, as with my first statement, there are plenty of anime shows that don’t have that kind of overexposure. It’s all about finding the right ones. (Take Fullmetal Alchemist, for example, or Howl’s Moving Castle.)
Sometimes it’s the Japanese art style that annoys people (and still lets them claim a love of American cartoons), and there’s not really much you can do about that. I guess it’s an aquired taste? I’ve always loved the detail and whimsy of the anime art style, but I realize there are people who don’t.
For some, it might be the cultural barriers–most slice-of-life anime takes place in Japanese schools, which are vastly different from anything we’re used to here. From “bento boxed” lunches, to the impersonal school designs, to how a lot more people use public transit, it’s almost a different world.
You can think of that as a turn-off, making it difficult to relate to the characters, or it can become a challenge. Learn the culture, understand the language, appreciate the customs. Japan has a rich history.
And to comment on the crazed fandom of hyperactive adolescent girls that is Hetalia, I’d like to make a few disclaimers. 1) Not every anime fan is a Hetalia fan (I’m not.) 2) Yeah, it’s confusing regardless of your country of origin, and 3) I don’t get the “PASTA” jokes either.
I could correct some of the misconceptions of Vocaloid, too (“It’s robot anime incest!”), but I won’t reiterate this post.
Why do I enjoy anime so much? For one thing, it’s been hugely enjoyable to learn the ins and outs of another culture. “Hajimemashite, watashi wa Aloha des! Yoroshiku onigaishimas!” is something I’d never have been able to say a year ago.
Second, good anime has a component rarely found in entertainment today: substance. Aside from the usual romance and action, they tend to be written in such a way that the characters develop and flourish, coming to realizations about life that are profound and change the way you think. Fullmetal Alchemist taught me the power of family and the importance of perserverance. Fruits Basket taught me to be kind to everyone. Death Note taught me to examine your intentions, because the ends never justify the means. Toradora! shows how true love isn’t necessarily for beautiful, perfect people. I could go on and on.
I guess my main point is that anime is what you make of it. Use caution when choosing what to watch, like all TV. Start off with things less Japanese culture-based, watch dubs first, and try to go with Funimation–they tend to make the most sense in English.
You might try getting your toes wet with Avatar: The Last Airbender, an American animated series that has components of anime. From there, Howl’s Moving Castle is a solid mixture of the two styles, and then you can dive into more Japanese stuff (Fullmetal Alchemist, Fairy Tale, or Fruits Basket might be good places to start. Or Death Note, if you’re looking for something darker.)
I realize that not every person will feel this way–and you are 100% entitled to your opinion. There are two opinions on every subject, and anime is no exception.
You may not like this shirt (or you might just be in love with KAITO instead), and you may think that the drawing sucks. That’s okay– if you were to show me the heavy metal dance mix you made from scratch, or the fashion designs you draw in your spare time, I wouldn’t appreciate them very much. Art is objective. That’s what makes it art.