Perhaps you have seen it before while channel surfing, the dude with the spikey hair who pilots a giant robot, the babe who has magical powers and over-stated physical features, guys in karate uniforms fighting aliens while screaming at the tops of their lungs, and the cute middle school girl with eyes as big as dinner plates. Yes, this is anime or what most people perceive to be anime. Perhaps you’re a perplexed parent thinking, “Why do my kids like this crap?” “After all, shouldn’t my son be looking for a nice Lutheran girl to settle down with, instead of watching cartoons all day in my basement—now that he’s 40?” Well, hopefully, I can be of some assistance and explain the allure of this magical thing called ANIME.
So what is anime? Anime is simply Japanese animation. It’s just a way to tell a story using a medium that people find entertaining and aesthetically pleasing. Maybe, the stereotypes keep people from admitting that they like anime? Maybe they’re afraid their friends will think they’re childish? This is why people must be educated on what anime really is. Animation, like live action video, is just a medium to convey a story. Before cartoons and live-action video were around, narrative and drama were conveyed through art, literature, plays, and music. Christians, in particular, should realize this as God’s story is told in the Scriptures; which the Church for centuries has in turn conveyed through holy art, music, and even theatre. The only difference between Japanese and American animation is content. Americans are simply not use to the idea of a dramatic cartoon. However, the Japanese saw animation as the perfect medium to tell more “adult oriented” stories.
It seems almost unnatural for Americans to watch cartoons that deal with adult themes, use adult language, contain varying amounts graphic violence, and to boot are not always comedic. Cartoons in America have almost always been made for children. These days however, Americans seem to have no problem with adult themes in cartoons, just as long as the show is comedic. Since the advent of Matt Groening’s (who was raised a Lutheran) animated television series, the Simpsons in 1989, Americans have come to embrace the idea that cartoons are not just for children. That aside, anime is still a niche’ fandom in America primarily for two reasons: The cultural references in anime are not easily understood and American animated drama and action series/movies usually end up being flops anyways. Of course, there is anime for children as well.
Anime is separated according to demographics based on age and gender. Kodomomuke anime is for children of both genders. Shōnen anime is directed towards teenage boys in adolescence through young adulthood. Shōjo anime is directed towards teenage girls in the same age demographic. Most anime is marketed towards these two demographics. Seinen (lit. young men’s) anime is directed towards men 18 and up and is likely to contain more adult themes and inappropriate content, as well as, gratuitous amounts of violence. Josei anime is direct towards girls in their late teens, as well as, young adult women and women up into their 40’s. All of these different demographics contain different genres of anime. There are action, adventure, sci-fi, drama, historical, comedy, fantasy, mecha, romance, and even sports themed anime! As my co-host Matthew Pancake says, “There is an anime for everyone.” Because of the general stereotypes which have come to be associated with anime, some people find it repugnant and perhaps even think that watching it is morally reprehensible. Many people will watch popular live action series such as The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Grim, Person of Interest, Seinfeld, Agents of Shield, etc., but would not watch an anime of the same genre. As I said earlier, they may even see such anime as being morally objectionable; as anime are cartoons, cartoons are for children, and children go to bed before mommy and daddy have their TV time.
Not all anime are about giant robots, spikey haired guys, girls with big eyes, and atomic karate. For instance, the latest Hayao Miziyaki film the Wind Rises is a historical drama based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, a man with a passion for planes who was the mastermind behind the Mitsubuishi A5M—the predecessor to the planes used to attack Pearl Habor. The Wind Rises may be my favorite anime of 2014. It broke the stereotypical anime mold. It was entertaining, informative, and family friendly. So, break out of your comfort zone and watch an anime. Do a little research to find an anime that fits your taste, is appropriate for Christian viewing (because there are some that are not, just like regular movies and TV) and is of a reasonable length to finish. You probably don’t want to commit to a 52 episode series your first time. If you would like help picking out a good anime, feel free to contact Matthew Pancake or myself at firstname.lastname@example.org.