Beginner’s Guide to Anime

by Zoe Heredia

As a fellow Weeb, a.k.a Anime lover, I have always openly expressed my love for anime to anyone that was patient and bold enough to ask why and could spend hours listening to me talk about my favorite anime shows/movies. As I mention shows ranging from Inuyasha, My Hero Academia, and Fairy Tail to anime movies like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, somewhere in the conversation I am asked, “why do you like anime so much? What is the big deal about anime?” I took a step back, asked myself that same question, and then I realized there are many reasons why I prefer anime over American cartoons.

Looking back at the classic American cartoons I grew up watching, such as Spongbob Squarepants, Ed, Ed, and Eddy, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, or The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, I remember them being funny and enjoyable when I was seven or eight years old. Now, I have not watched them in years and if I watch clips or scenes, it seems so childish and uninteresting to me. That was the key difference I noticed between American and Japanese cartoons: Anime has a variety of themes that deal with drama, comedy, horror, violence and sex that American animation does not discuss. Generally speaking, for both children and adult audiences, American animation keeps to the same general plot line, with a “good” and “bad” side, and with every episode having a moral in the end. American animation keeps its plotline simple, with no complex character development or complicated story arc. Anime can aim at both children and adults, and tends to dive deeper into more explicit and mature content, all while filled with various character and story developments that continues into the next episode.

A unique difference between Anime and American cartoons is their animation styles. American cartoons generally exaggerate their characters features and less detail is added in their looks and emphasizes their actions, which is a way to communicate to the audience more expression. American cartoons use more realistic features in a more subtle fashion. In Anime, distinctive exaggerated features such as large eyes and unrealistic facial structure, along with a sharp color palette, that sets it apart from American cartoons. There are also differences in the way American cartoons and Anime distinguish their storytelling. Both have a medium in which they are trying to communicate a situation or plotline to the audience and, in this case, Anime uses narration to explicitly express what the character is feeling, thinking, and tells what their next move will be (even though it could be distinguished through their actions). American cartoons rarely use narration as much, using their actions more to communicate their thoughts or next moves.

One reason why anime does not appeal to certain people is because of its more progressive content such as implied homosexual relations or sexual innuendos. Most American cartoons tend to be rooted in more Judeo-Christian values that stay in a more conservative lane, whereas anime is rooted by the religion Shinto. Shinto is the idea that there is no organized way of believing or thinking, just that there are many possible deities to worship and surrounds on the moral code of cleanliness. That is why anime has been more progressive in its content and explores topics that most Americans would see as “taboo”. For example, the topic of death in anime is not shunned so much as in American cartoons, but rather, it is shown as an honorable thing. Americans try to avoid the topic of death in their cartoons as much as possible or they censor and try to clean it in a way that its implied. In anime, death is seen as an honorable and noble cause for a character, which is why most Japanese people are not shocked when their favorite character is killed off in the show.

One of the biggest reasons for anime’s popularity is its widespread story elements. There are many anime based off of space fantasy adventures, the feudal era of Japan, romantic and slapstick comedy, and even supernatural stories. That is why anime keeps its audience so interested, because there is always some odd plot point that drives the story and keeps it interesting for the characters. An example of this is the superhero anime, My Hero Academia. The setting of the story takes place in a futuristic Tokyo, where about eighty percent of the population are born with powers known as “quirks”. The story follows Izuku Midoriya, a teenager who was born in the twenty percentiles of being “quirkless” and without powers. After a rare encounter with the famous Superhero All-Might, Izuku develops his own quirk and after getting into the superhero high school U.A. High, he sets out to become the number one superhero of all time. This important plot point helps drive the plot and keeps the story and its arcs interesting. This transitions to another reason anime are so popular, because anime continues the storyline, has many character developments and many plot twists that keeps its audience on the edge of their seat.

 I was exposed to anime when I was eleven years old by a friend who showed me my first anime and I did not take to it at first because to me, it just looked weird. The way it was animated, the way the characters were drawn, and the type of content that it exposed was all a bit too much. Flash forward a few years later, I am trying to find a show to watch with my friend and we come across the anime show, Inuyasha. We read its summary description and figured we had nothing else to watch, so why not? Next thing we know, we ended up binging the whole first season that night. I would say that was the time in my life when I officially got hooked on anime. I realized that it was such a unique artform and I just fell in love with it. There were many topics and characters that I loved that I never saw in American cartoons. There was always an ongoing storyline or story arc that introduced new characters or plot twists that had you rooting for one side or the other, and even sympathizing with some of the antagonists.  

Anime is an acquired taste that may not be for everyone. It is culturally different and exposes Americans to Japanese culture and their social norms; but I would encourage people to try to watch anime before they write it off as weird and think negatively of it. My point, you cannot be one to start trash talking anime when our culture has deemed Rick and Morty as the peak of cartoon comedy. I say just give anime a try, some might find themselves enjoying anime more than they realize.

Zoe Heredia is a Cinematic Arts Major at HBU. In her free time she enjoys watching movies and geeking out over anime with her friends.

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