I’ve talked about my ‘anime hiatus’ before. I used to be a huge weeb back in the day, growing up on a steady diet of Toonami on Cartoon Network as a kid, to choppy anime episodes uploaded on YouTube when I was a teen. And I loved it; anime became a huge part of my identity, even when people considered it bad. But then university started, and I didn’t have time. So, I really only got back into it last year, and since then, it seems anime has matured with me.
The whole ‘Anime is bad’ is such a weirdly obnoxious take to have. Because most of the time, it’s being said by people who never bothered watching anime outside of Dragon Ball Z. Like, no shade to Goku stans, of course, but anime isn’t just a children-specific medium. It has some amazing, complex stories that can rival the best live-action fiction you’ve watched before.
Anime is far more than the shows we watched as children, and it always was. But the audience was such a niche for it back then, so all the good titles stayed fairly underground. Until the internet age hit, and that’s when we really saw anime just spread everywhere. With titles such as Death Note, Code Geass, and Cowboy Bebop, there was no question that anime was quality entertainment and not targeted at one specific audience.
I mean, this isn’t an unpopular opinion. A lot of big-name celebrities and artists have used anime as an influence in their works. One of the biggest examples of this is Kanye West’s video for his 2008 hit single Stronger, which is heavily inspired by Akira. Though things have gotten better from bad with anime becoming more mainstream and having ratings to specify audiences, there are still some misconceptions. Let’s get into it.
Anime: Not For Kids Anymore
Anime started out very humble, where it genuinely did cater mostly to children. In the end, it was just a Japanese version of cartoons made to sell toys. But somewhere around the 70s and 80s, things started to happen.
Storytellers were creating manga that was much more serious in nature, with subjects such as violence and death that were being targeted at a more adult audience. And it was working. Manga, such as Fist Of The North Star and Banana Fish were selling out fast, despite their sometimes disturbing and depressing themes.
There’s a lot to pick up here. Anime was being recognized as a legitimate story form without it needing to justify its plot points. In fact, it was creating its own genres that places like Hollywood had not conceived yet. Mecha Sci-fi and Shonen with big action scenes were popping, and it wasn’t the kids that were invested in them.
How Good Anime Pulls From Real Life:
Anime now is a work of art. I mean, pick up any Makoto Shinkai movie and put it in front of someone who has had 0 experience with anime. The beautiful cinematography and heart-achingly sincere story alone will have them captivated.
Anime has transcended its own limitations. Where once it was hardly more than shallow storylines, it’s taken on so much more of the human experience. There is anime out there that cover loss and love in the most poetic ways. There is anime that take a look at the aftermath of war and how healing can happen after it. You have anime about wholesome queer relationships and painful ones too.
There is a place here for everyone. And anime is being created to cater to all of them.
Anime’s Influence On Pop Culture:
These relatable stories are precisely why anime has become so global. Some of the plots for a lot of anime coming out right now are so humane and so poignant that they have gone on to inspire more works outside of the medium.
There is an entire movement inspired by the coziness of a Studio Ghibli movie, a push for normalizing more softer dynamics due to fluffy anime. Anime has even gone on to influence fashion and lifestyle, leading to an entire subculture devoted to being an Otaku.
Maybe there was a time that anime was niche, bad enough to only be meant for nerds. That it was just bad Isekai and terrible misogynistic jokes all around. But anime, like most things, has evolved since then. And it’s only going up from here.