You might think that this is a funny or, at best, a silly question, but I want to thoroughly explore it because this entire community is dedicated anything and everything anime related. It’s important that we, as anime watchers, understand why we love anime so much that it creates an impact on society. If we didn’t like certain facets of anime, why would be watching it in the first place? In this post, I list the key aspects of anime that to me make anime so unique and addictive with an explanation for each:
Anime is so varied that it never gets boring. So many genres are depicted by anime that it can reach out into every audience and grab their attention. Hence, we get the rise of the categories like shoujo for young girls, shonen for young guys, josei for adult women, seinen for adult men, ecchi, yuri, yaoi, so on and so forth. We get anime that is centered on cooking, family life, school life, action, mecha, samurai, sci-fi, romance, to fantasy series, and more with various combinations. Truly, anime can cater to everyone in world and then some, and I haven’t even delved into hentai for those with an active libido.
The Japanese play a whole new ball game when it comes to complexity (or lack thereof). Part of it has to do with Japanese work ethic that strives for perfection and in the process, is particular about the details (my personal observation of the Japanese). Anime series tend to develop plot and character development very well and leave little to spare. We also see various combinations of genres such as mecha, action, and romance with the Gundam series and samurai, sci-fi, action, and comedy with Gintama. Anime tends to integrate many elements together into something more than the sum of its parts. Anime can also isolate a particular genre, e.g. slice-of-life, and employ a great storyline that doesn’t lose the audience. People can watch anime and get completely sucked into its intricacies or simplicity. I know that when I started out watching anime, it took one good anime series to make me join the Dark Side. (I like to refer to my conversion to a die-hard anime fan as, “Joining the Dark Side.”) Incidentally, my first real anime was Elemental Gelade, and check it out here: Elemental Gelade
Anime ends, like WHOA?! But in all seriousness, the majority of all anime is finite and end around 13 or 26 episodes (one cour or two cour respectively). Then you have anime series that go on longer for 50-52 episodes or twice that amount for 100 episodes. Any more than that represent the outliers and should be considered out of the norm. (Doraemon, Sazae-san, Detective Conan, the shonen trio, Pokemon to name the best known examples of long-running series.) Regardless, this was an important factor that got me hooked on anime rather than American cartoons or TV drama shows. Western shows tend to go on season after season, year after year with absolutely no end in sight while rehashing or throwing in more mindless drivel episode after episode. I don’t know about others, but I LIKE having a plot in my cartoon and know that some sort of conclusion will be reached in the end. A series without closure is bound to lose audience interest, which in this day and age, we lose interest fast. I know mine does. (As I type this, I’m also watching Youtube. Go me.)
4. Character persona:
Another feature that people like about anime is how easily identifiable characters are through characterizations, exaggerations, and mannerisms. Many characters in modern anime borrow characteristics from several archetypes such as the righteous hero, the old wise woman, the pissed-off angsty guy, the lesbian chick, the magical teenager, the pervert, and so on. Of course, many guys here are familiar with the archetype of a male lead with a spine of a wet cardboard or the tsundere female lead that slaps the male character around but secretly harbors feelings for the male lead and can’t admit to them. However, not all anime characters follow standard archetypes as some are much more developed and fleshed out. Anime series with those kinds of characters are hard to find and are worth viewing. Also, anime characters also get to do things that we can’t do in real life, and I think many people take great satisfaction through escapism. Wish your power level was over 9000 like Goku? Going out in a bang, Kamina-style? Hell yea.
This element alone makes anime unique in comparison to other cartoons around the world (non-Japanese people use the term “anime” to describe Japanese animated cartoons). Take a look at Gundam designs and Miyazaki’s beautiful scenery and wonderful creatures. Take a look at the way characters express their expressions through their eyes and animated gestures with their distinctly exaggerated body features. Take a look at the setting design that graces the everyday Japanese rural town to the sprawling metropolis. That’s what I mean. I simply fell in love with the way anime animates its characters and the amount of detail put into the setting. To get a better sense of the diversity and beauty of Japanese animation, I highly recommend watching this 18 minute compilation film from 15 animators: Ani-kuri 15
Anime is characterized by the art/animation styles, characters, and plots right? I think the one factor that people might gloss over is the music. The OSTs (Orginial SoundTrack) from various animes are incredibly ingenious. Just to name a few famous composers, you have Joe Hisaishi (Miyazaki films), Taku Iwasaki (Witch Hunter Robin, Kekkaishi), and Kajiura Yuki (Mai-Hime, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles). On top of the OSTs, the opening songs and the ending songs catch the viewer, ranging from J-Rock, J-Pop, to orchestra music. The opening and ending scenes are then carefully presented with the right music to catch the viewer hook, line, and sinker. Truly, the music in anime is a boon, and BakaBT hosts a large selection of OSTs for its users to browse through and torrent from.
Seiyu, the Japanese term for voice-actor, is one of the most prolific (and hardest to break into) service industries in Japan. The reason I point Japanese voice-acting out is that it is nothing short of amazing. The voice talents of many people make the anime come alive. With the right emotions, the suspended reality becomes so real, whether it be someone crying in guilt or someone screaming his or her death throes, it gets at you. It’s also the main reason why I watch subs instead of dubs. Now don’t get me wrong, but frankly I find the majority of English dubs to sound fake, though that is probably due to the cultural barrier rather than a lack of conviction. Many seiyus in Japan enjoy stardom or idol status, which goes to show the extent of seiyu success and how it has influenced anime. One of my favorite seiyus is Wakamoto Norio (Narration from Hayate no Gotoku, Charles Zi Britannia from Code Geass). Known for his astringency and sharpness when he talks, this guy is not only a living legend in the seiyu industry, but listening to him is like having an eargasm every minute. Without seiyus, watching an anime would be like trying to have sex without foreplay – it just doesn’t work.
Oh, would you look at that, 7 perfect reasons to like anime. By exploring the elements that make anime so awesome, we get a better sense of what makes anime “anime” for the purposes of self-interest or self-esteem. Now, you can proudly exclaim in front of your peers why you watch anime for such and such reason. When they start nodding their heads and their eyes have a glassy look, you’ve driven the point home. And hopefully, you’ve won them over to the Dark Side where wonderful, wonderful things exist in an animated form.