The Non-Otaku Guide to Anime

This semester is very busy; I haven’t blogged for a while. Put two and two together, and you’ll simply see me blogging about anime, rather than something more “important”. But why not? My goal hopefully is to explain to people who are not into anime, the beauty and complexity of this Japanese “art”. Are they nothing more than just “cartoons” you ask? Well, these cartoons contributed to many of my English essays back in high school (and I scored really good marks with them) so they are of some intellectual value at the least.

 

Anime is a difficult to understand art form because people generally put it down to the same level as children’s cartoons. However, I think a more reasonable way to understand anime is that it is a combination of children’s cartoons (with its imaginative design) and regular TV series (with its complexity in story elements). So essentially, many (not all) anime can be compared to everything else you see on TV, except it’s translated into cartoon animations and may have imaginative themes and elements – or fantasy, more like.

 

Anyway I’ll try to keep this short so that it won’t bore those who have a weak (or null) interest in anime. There are certain elements that each anime has which determine its appeal to the public; but at the same time these elements are probably apparent in anything else you see on TV. It is these ones which will be common to most anime:

 

Characters

Well obviously the characters are important.

Personality – For personality, it is not just about a single character’s personality but rather all the characters in the anime juxtaposed with each other. Yes I know, it sounds like English again, but this is what makes certain characters likeable. Commonly, pairing up a nice, quiet and shy character alongside one with exactly the opposite traits (loud, hot-headed, outspoken) makes for an interesting cast of characters. Obviously, it makes no sense to have multiple characters who are just like one another, it’d be like seeing the same character over and over again. But anime does well by having a wide cast of characters, all of whom have a wide variety of characteristics which complement well with other characters. Can’t think of a prime example but this one would count:

Edward & Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist

Character Development – This is by far the most important aspect for characters; that is, watching them grow as the story develops. In movies and in most TV series, characters maintain their traits throughout; most of the time there are the same character at the end, as they were at the beginning. But a series of anime can go on long enough for characters to open up a side of themselves that nobody has seen; or they can just change completely as well. Some characters change for the better, and others for worse. But part of the enjoyment in watching anime is seeing the characters “grow”. Not the best example again, but this one definitely stands out:

 

Uchiha Sasuke from Naruto

Voice Casting – The Japanese term for this is “seiyuu" which refers to the voice actor of characters. Obviously, animated characters need a voice behind them; and just like Disney carefully picks their voices actors for their movies, so it is also for the many series of anime that have aired. A character’s attitude and personality is definitely influenced by whoever is playing them and so it’s important to pick the right person for the right job. You can’t just put any voice behind any character. America is a good example of someone who does it completely wrong; just take a look at ANY English-dubbed anime and you’ll see voices that don’t match the character (just from appearance alone), ; it needs to be done right. One recent actor who’s added a lot of depth to the characters she’s played is:

 

Ayana Taketatsu (Notable roles: K-ON! and OreImo)

 

Story

Plot – Again, quite an obvious one. All anime need a plot in their story, otherwise there is no sort of “progress” in the anime; and the characters won’t really be doing or achieving anything. It makes sense that any story is easier to follow if the events follow a sequence of some sort. There are some anime that don’t have a plot but can be good, but that really depends on the audience’s taste – do they want a story, or do they just want to see characters do random stuff? In either case, a plot gives the audience something to focus on. And as for anime that don’t have a plot, their strengths must lie elsewhere:

 

No plot whatsoever:  To Aru Majutsu no Index
(A Certain Magical Index)

439px-Toaru_Kagaku_no_Railgun_Vol_1_LE_DVD

Ironically, the side story does: To Aru Kagaku no Railgun – same link
(A Certain Scientific Railgun)

Ah, better get back to work. Will update later.

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2 thoughts on “The Non-Otaku Guide to Anime

  1. I had intentions to write up a post similar to this – why anime is a brilliant form of media. Perhaps later, after 3002.

    Anyway, the one thing that sets anime aside from all the other types of media (okay, not necessarily novels) is its level of creativity and the consistency at which fresh ideas are thrown out. Sure, Western animation, proper Hollywood films and television series are engaging, but few ever have a feeling of freshness. And even if they do feel fresh (looking at you Inception), how many films/movies/series give off that vibe?

    While anime isn’t innocent of recycling ideas/plots/settings (hey, animation’s a risky business), studios seem to be willing to take much larger risks. SHAFT for one, is constantly chucking out shows that can’t be classified under anything else other than strange. If it’s not the premise, it’s the direction (lol Shinbou). And the result of that is proper entertainment. There’s always a show that feels new, different. And when directed properly, those shows can turn into masterpieces. Perhaps anime has success in conveying this creativity because of its nature – everything’s drawn. There’s no need for expensive post-processing like with live action films/series. And perhaps anime draws in older audiences because the themes they deal with aren’t necessarily aimed towards children.

    anyway, this comment’s losing coherence, and I really need to study… ;_;

  2. Pingback: Japanese Anime Stories » Blog Archive » The Non-Otaku Guide to Anime « ..::Divine Iniquity::..::Tier 6 …

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