Why Anime Is Becoming Popular
What IS Anime Anyway?
So, this is your first time on the internet. First real time on the internet. You’re sitting at your desk, sleep isn’t coming, and you’re following links aimlessly. Facing rage comic after rage comic. You’re wondering why your friend just sent you a pointless video of a poptart cat pooping rainbows for ten hours. But you oddly like it.
As you scan with a blank stare, you stumble upon a picture of a cuddly little girl’s face, likely barely above six years of age. She’s a cartoon; her eyes are inhumanly large and sparkly and her pink tutu is much too small. Her hair is just a little… too pink. Her smile is just a little… too peppy. You want to give her a big huggle and a lollipop. You dig deeper, and discover that this charming little tot is actually a character in an actual show from Japan! …And that she’s actually sixteen. But we’ll get to that in a second.
What you see there? Yeah, that’s anime. Well sort of.
Anime is hard to pin down exactly, because of its countless different genres. The art and story depth can range from incredibly dark, brooding works of intense emotion and moral to bubblegum magical happy-happy time (like the one I mentioned above). Someone’s first experience with anime may differ depending on what’s seen, therefore my opinion on these things should be taken with a grain of salt. Was that a disclaimer? I guess it was!
Main topic. Main topic. What was that? Ah right, the title. Why anime is popular (and why it isn’t, which is found on a different article. The link to said article is at the bottom of the page).
Confusing title, isn’t it? Contradictory, right?
More likely than not, the latter is the case. Anime is often viewed by outsiders as a “don't ask, don't tell” sort of deal. You like anime? Yeah, don't spread that around. (of course, this only applies to my experiences, and those of people I've talked to) Or, more commonly seen, something for freaks and outcasts that should be avoided at all costs. And I’ll explain why that is. But first, I’ll clarify as to why anime has garnered a sort of cult fanbase here in the States and around the world.
1. It's smarter
There is a distinct difference between Japanese anime and American animation (even if the names are identical) And that is the audience.
Typically, cartoons are geared toward children. Because they’re for children, writers don’t have to try so hard for well-written plot and dynamic characters. Who cares? Throw in a moral and a happy ending and maybe a quirky sidekick, and BAM, you have the formula for a typical American cartoon. It’s all about what sells nowadays, and what they can fit into a 15-minute time slot on a weekly basis.
While some anime is directed toward a younger audience, Shugo Chara being a prime example (my little bubblegum magical happy-happy girl example was heavily based off of Amulet Heart ^^;), a lot of the most popular anime are actually extremely dark.
Death Note, the most notable anime title I could think of, is about a boy genius who goes mad with power after finding a notebook with the power to kill anyone whose name is written inside. Full of mad plot twists and a constant cops-and-robbers routine, gods of death, and an internal message that makes you think about the line between “good vs evil”, its more complicated than half of the things on actual television.
Could Jimmy Neutron do that?
Even Shugo Chara has a more meaningful message for children than shows like “Disney’s Shake It Up” (I watched an episode with my little sister. It was… eh… interesting) I love Shugo Chara. Amu is such a typical tween. She doesn’t know who she is, and the whole show is based around the idea that you can be whoever you want to be and how Amu struggles with that lesson. Now isn’t that a great message for pre-teens who relate to Amu? And it’s believable.
How they ever managed to make a show about a magical teenager with hot pink hair believable is beyond me. But you have to give the Japanese mad props for that.
People love anime because it’s more intelligent than their average dramas, but is as entertaining and fun to look at as a cartoon. It looks young but acts mature, which is why I believe a lot of people like it.
Anime is sort of… fascinatingly unexpected.
Some "mature" anime recommendations: Darker Than Black, Kino's Journey, Kaiji
2. It's different
I don’t know about you, but television has gotten a little stale for me lately. There are a few shows that I’ll turn on occasionally out of obligation, just to make sure I’m not behind in the series; overall, I guess I’m just not excited about a lot of the things on T.V.
Is that just me?
Even if you can find something halfway decent on television nowadays, you may find yourself wanting to branch out from the ordinary.
The nice thing about anime is that it comes in such a wide variety. And if there’s one thing people love, it’s variety.
Another thing I’ve noticed: the plots are batshit. Not all of them, but a good portion.
Batshit in a good way, y’know? Most of the scenarios are insanely strange and quirky, yet it doesn’t take away from the actual content. If anything, it adds to my willingness to watch the show; I’ll know for sure that it’s not just the “same old”.
You just have to dive into anime knowing that it’s going to be a little strange. You’re not going to get it all at first (Japan’s humor takes some getting used to) but if people didn’t like those kinds of things, we wouldn’t have Nyan Cat. I think Nyan Cat speaks for itself.
Some "wtf" anime recommendations: Hetalia, Mawaru Penguindrum, My Ordinary Life
3. Art Style
I’ll be honest, ever since a kid I’ve been unknowingly obsessed with this stuff. Way back when Sailor Moon was still on Saturday morning television and Pokémon was the coolest thing in the world. Remember that? I recall, way back in my preschool days, getting a Sailor Moon makeup case for by birthday (or something similar) shaped like a mold of Sailor Moon’s face that you opened up. And I remember staring at that face, one eye closed in a perpetual wink, trying to imitate her expression exactly.
I probably looked like Popeye with my eye squinted like that, and the other parents may have given my mother an “is she alright in the head?” sort of look on more than one occasion, but… Well, at the time I thought I was freaking Sailor Moon incarnate.
My point is, the art style of anime is what draws a lot of fans in at an early age. (This goes back to the “It’s something different” point that was made earlier.) I don’t think I would have liked Pokémon quite as much if I hadn’t seen the anime first, to be completely honest. It also wouldn’t have made such an impact if it had been drawn like any other cartoon.
What I really love most about anime style its uniqueness, as well as the realism.
I have some art-enthusiast friends who have been blown away by the anime-style art commonly found on DeviantART. Though I don't know much about the human anatomy, I've heard that the structure of a typical anime character closely resembles that of an actual person. The realistic art style makes anime differ from other animated works. And the best part? Just like the different genres of anime, there are countless styles of Japanese anime art. You don't have to like them all!
Manga, which is like a comic book version of anime (for folks new to the internet/ Japanese culture), is critiqued as much for its artwork as it is for the storyline. Really. It’s that important.
Who knows? Maybe that's why the genre has gained such a massive fandom?
Some anime recommendations with great art (personal opinion): Angel Beats, Ao No Exorcist, Princess Tutu
Anime Is A Household Term
There's no escaping the word "anime" these days- it's everywhere.
Children have been watching it since... well... since I've been a kid, at least. Studio Ghibli films are more popular than ever. It's a rising culture.
The smart, humorous writing (despite often being in a different language) has captured the attention of bored internet lurkers worldwide. Its variety gives the genre staying power.
What do I think? I think anime is here to stay. Maybe someday, anime enthusiasts will consist of a broader range of people. Maybe it will leak into the public spotlight. Maybe it will be something the "cool kids" watch.
I think the world is ready for anime to go mainstream. But that's just one otaku's humble opinion, after all.