If you grew up in a small town, in a 3rd world country with no internet during the early 2000s, you already know anime wasn’t a thing beyond being ‘Japanese cartoons’. Sure, the anime on tv were targeted at children, but even in those shows, they wouldn’t shy away from serious topics such as death or loss. They encompass every genre you can imagine and I’m not saying watching those anime made me smarter, but it certainly enriched my mind growing up.
As an old weeb growing up in a conservative environment, I’d get the same taunts from most of my peers that didn’t watch anime. You know, about how I’m being childish by watching cartoons or how I don’t have a mature taste. This, in hindsight, made no sense because there are smarter anime out there that go harder than any Western show I had watched.
The first key thing to remember here is that anime isn’t a monolith. There is no genre of anime that instantly makes you an ‘intellectual’. (Though, there are going to be some annoying fans out there who will be pressed if you say that.) Anime is just another way of storytelling, first and foremost. How it tells that story is entirely up to the artist who helped to create it.
But does that mean watching anime instantly makes you smarter? No, that’s just an absurd thought process to have. But what I will say is that anime has broadened my horizons in a way traditional media never did. And it’s why today, we’ll be discussing how anime definitely is not just for children, and how the medium has gone beyond its restrictions to become the giant phenomenon it is today.
The Humble Beginnings Of Anime
How do you even define anime in the first place? According to Wikipedia, anime is just an animation style that comes from Japan and can be hand-drawn or computer-generated. The earliest Japanese animation can be dated back to as early as 1917, but anime only got stylized in the 1960s. The signature look for anime can be attributed to artist Osamu Tezuka, with his aesthetic becoming a trademark for the medium.
Anime itself is just the animation. The plot often pulls from pre-existing sources such as manga, light novels, and even video games. Even though there is variety amongst anime, from both studio to studio and artists alike, they remain consistent in how they are made. Unlike traditional animation, anime focuses more on detailing and creating an environment for the watcher. It focuses on how the camera moves, almost mimicking how a live-action show is shot.
Anime And Ambiguity: Morality And Philosophy Animated.
One of the main reasons anime called to me as an adult was thanks to the internet. When I finally got online, I discovered there was more to them than just your usual Pokemon, Digimon, and the like. And I think my foray from typical ‘Shonen’ into more developed storytelling came when I started Death Note.
I know this isn’t an exclusive experience. Death Note was revolutionary for its time. The way it blended crime with fantasy and had a protagonist that was ‘technically’ the villain, it was the first anime of its kind to blow up the way it did. It was a brutal anime. And once you got down that rabbit hole of more serious shows, a host of similar anime started coming up. (safe-t-plus.com)
You had Monster, that broke down the psychology of a murderer. You had Code Geass, which went above and beyond to blend politics with mechs, which were previously just a toy-selling tactic. And then there was Cowboy Bebop, way before either of these shows aired. And to this day, it’s considered a cinematic masterpiece.
Anime has been diverse for a while now. And people were starting to pay attention.
How The Anime Landscape Has Changed Over Time
Anime isn’t a niche little pastime for basement dwellers with no life anymore. The topics anime cover and the stories have become so universal that even people who didn’t like anime previously? They are fans now.
There are anime that moves you, that teach you lessons you never thought you’d learn. About how you can still love, still live after losing your soul mate, like with Given. Or how passion can strike you at any moment and you should pursue it, even if it means you won’t be immediately great at it like in Blue Period. Or maybe you can watch Puella Magi Madoka Magica and feel despair but realize that there is always a way to break a hopeless cycle.
You have big-budget companies like Netflix investing in them, taking away the censors and restrictions that were placed on them in the first place. And clearly, they did something right because Castlevania exists.
Anime doesn’t make you smarter. But it did make me experience some beautiful stories and helped me grow as a person and I’ll always be thankful for that.