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Anime: A Different Way Stories Are Told And How They Move The Heart
It's funny how fictional stories can be just as moving to the heart as biographies and accounts of real-life events. But that's just how it was for me. To me, movies, television, and cartoons are just another way to tell a story, not that much different from books. Sure books are important. Reading is an essential thing that would be a travesty to see decline. However, there is no denying for me how even some cartoons carry important messages on morals, beliefs, and the human condition. This is especially true of Japanese anime.
One reason I think that there are cartoons, and television shows in general, that are like this, is because of the effort of their creators and those involved. For Japanese animations, including voice actors (the original Japanese ones, not the English ones, although the English version of some shows have great voice acting), this is especially true.
I will not deny that I'm an otaku, the nerd for all things Japanese cartoons such as comics and animated shows. Well, I'm probably more a nerd in general, since I also take interest in DC and Marvel stuff, fantasy like Dungeons and Dragons, and Sci-fi (Star Wars and Doctor Who forever!). Though I am more keenly attached to Japanese media.
This hub will introduce some cartoons that can move the heart and reflect on important themes of morals, beliefs, and the human condition. These cartoons all come from Japan. Their main purpose is simply to serve as examples of the point I have made in this introduction. I do not endorse them and will neither encourage or discourage checking them out.
And this is not a debate about if cartoons are bad or not. This is simply about another way stories are told and the kind of effect these stories have.
Based on a video game by the same name, this animated show's themes covers the inner demons and negative aspects that humans possess and must internally struggle and deal with (such as attitudes, likes, and dislikes that contrast with the outer appearance; dark thoughts stemming from envy toward a friend; gender inequality, identity crisis from multiple roles; having origins that a person fears would make him or her shunned by others).
The story is a blend of supernatural, horror action, murder mystery, slice-of-life comedy, and drama. And while the show can be classified as a comedy, there is a decent amount of drama to convey the themes of the story. It follows a young man moving to the boonies to live with relatives for a year, who suddenly find himself with the ability to go into the television. Beyond the TV screen, there is a world that reflects the hearts of human kind, and someone's throwing people in there where they are confronted by the darkness, suppressed parts of their hearts. If they fail to accept and overcome their weaknesses, they will die. The young man ventures into the television world with his friends to save these people, help them accept what makes them human, form new, meaningful bonds of friendship and find the culprit responsible.
There are actually two shows. One is called Persona 4 the Animation, and the second is called Persona 4 the Golden Animation. For the kinds of human inner conflicts I have mentioned earlier, go for Persona 4 the Animation. While Persona 4 the Golden Animation does cover on human conditions, it doesn't explore as much as in the first one.
Trailer for the show
Angel Beats is another Japanese animated show with a story that moves the heart. The main theme of this show is youth, regrets and unfulfilled lives. These themes are portrayed through the setting and characters. The setting of the story is in a sort of after-life limbo taking the form of a normal Japanese high school. This is where the souls of dead teenagers go to. The main character is the same. As he gets involved with a group of teenagers rebelling against the system, he learns that all the souls trapped in this limbo have in common tragic ends that prevented from reaching their goals or dreams and filled them with regret so they are unable to move on.
The story follows the protagonist as he learns about the tragic ends of the people he encounters, and how they manage to overcome those tragedies to move on to the next life, sometimes by his intervention. It's divided into different story arcs, beginning as a really funny comedy that leads to tear-filled drama with bittersweet endings.
Trailer for the show
This animated show came from the same creators of Angel Beats. Like Angel Beats, the story is divided into different arcs that begin with hilarious, sometimes ridiculous comedy, but leads to drama. The main themes of this show is youth and adolescence, at least according to Wikipedia. However, based on my own experiences with this show and its story, another theme of this show is bravery and overcoming hardships (such as trauma from the sudden loss of a loved one, dealing with abusive relatives, having hate and other negative emotions from being in the shadow of someone close and the outward consequences of being in that shadow, and loneliness due to differences). The main protagonist encounters characters with these problems and work to help these characters overcome these hardships.
Although the show is based on a game with suggestive elements that makes it more appropriate for a mature audience, much of those elements are absent from the show except where significant to the story. If I were to rate it by American standards, it'd probably be above TV 14.
Trailer for the show
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Now this show is rather old, but one that greatly centers around real-life human conditions in Japan. Based on a novel by the same name, this show follows the life of a hikikomori, the Japanese version of a shut-in. The subcultures and psychological conditions covered in this show can be identified as part of and unique to Japanese culture and society, however with the spread of the otaku (nerd or fan of anime cartoons and manga comics) and other Asian cultures overseas, I cannot tell how much can be generalized to other countries. These human conditions, reflected through the characters the main hero and heroine encounter throughout their journey in the story to cure the hero of his shut-in condition, and in addition to the hero's condition, include the otaku culture, suicide, victim of abuse, psychological dependency to another person, online gaming and victimization to multilevel marketing pyramid schemes, among others.
This show clearly captures the possible negative consequences of the shut-in condition, depending on the level of seriousness of the condition, as well as negative aspects of some other subcultures that can be found in, but not necessarily exclusive to, Japanese society. However, it also covers recovery from those same conditions that lead to negative consequences. The show itself is categorized as a black comedy and comedy-drama. For me personally, there were scenes that were considerably disturbing, and I have seen characters commit acts after being psychologically pushed over the edge that categorizes their shows under the Horror genre. As such, it is deserving of a rather Mature rating, up to a point, I am uncomfortable about adding a trailer video to go along with this section. So I won't.
Now, this one's probably the most obvious example in all the industry. Naruto, as so many, many, many people know, is about a boy in a world of ninja who has faced severe hardship and loneliness as a child, scorned by almost everyone in his village because he was different. But overtime, thanks to hard work and dedication, he eventually earns everyone's respect and becomes hailed as a hero.
This franchise of comic book, animated show, animated movies, video games, and soon, a live stage play, covers a whole variety of themes, the biggest being following one's dreams, and working hard towards those dreams, never giving up. It also sends a message about discrimination based on things that a person doesn't have control over. In the case of Naruto, the main character, having a demonic monster sealed in him in order to prevent the destruction of the village. This theme of discrimination comes up again and again, not just through the main character, but also through other characters as well, some of whom met tragic ends. Working to overcome discrimination is one of the central themes of the story, the other being about following dreams and never giving up.
Stories have a way of swaying the heart in people, even if they are fiction. It doesn't matter how the story is told (books, comics, cartoons, television) as long as there is passion and a lot of hard work. And they can hold life lessons and statements about the human condition. Japanese animated shows can serve as example of this as the examples I provided will prove.
I should point out that, to me, art can take on any form, no matter how childish a form might be to some people. Art isn't a fixed thing. It is constantly evolving to include new things. And it doesn't necessarily have to be something so stifling and serious, or very old. These days Japanese anime and manga (comics) have their own awards. Many modern manga are even starting to be viewed as art.
The Japanese anime shows used in this hub are only a few of many, many, many different shows. Plenty have important messages about life and humanity, though there are a lot out there just for entertainment.