Why I (probably) Like Anime

The topic kind of came up in a conversation I was having in IRC, and I’ve been meaning to write up a little spiel about why I prefer anime to other kinds of filmed entertainments.

I was introduced to anime in 2002 (just before I started college, which I still haven’t graduated from) via a friend who really liked Cowboy Bebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion. I had always been kind of curious about anime–I had visited my high school’s anime club a couple times with my friends, who all liked anime, and I ended up attending one of the meetings in which they showed nth generation Mahoujin Guru Guru VHS fansubs. I distinctly remember being the only person who wanted to watch more of it instead of watching Escaflowne, so this should tell you something about me.

Anyway, for about 4-5 months I’d been groupthinking about anime and thinking it was all REALLY STUPID and DUMB and CUTESY and all kinds of things. I kept chatlogs of my conversations back then, they still exist, and they’re hilarious. My 17 year old self would kill me if he saw what he turned into. Anyway, somehow, through an act of God, I managed to be convinced to watch Cowboy Bebop.

I think I watched the entire show in one day. Summer break, okay?

Needless to say, for some reason (looking back at Cowboy Bebop now, I wonder what the hell I saw in it that was SO AWESOME) I really enjoyed it, and promptly logged into ADTRW over on SA (this was back when ADTRW was actually intelligent) and downloaded just about every series that was on the first page. This included Azumanga Daioh, which totally threw my I DON’T LIKE CUTESY STUFF argument completely out the window.

I honestly don’t know what kept me around during those early years. I watched anything and everything someone said was good, even in passing (except the series I never got around to) and I watched a wide variety of series really early on. I think, if I have to chalk up my lasting interest in anime to any one show, it would have to be Kokoro Library. Sure, by any objective scale, it’s not exactly a groundbreakingly original show, even for when it aired in 2001. But I watched it at a critical juncture in my life, when I was totally depressed like I’ve never been before or since, and the show, simple as it was, taught me what catharsis meant. I absolutely bawled like a baby at episodes 11 and 12, and (although I don’t have clear memories of what happened during 2003, when this was happening) I remember I felt much, much better about things after a good ol’ cry, even a cry of happiness. I had cried before while watching anime (when Ed and Ein left) but I don’t think anything before or since Kokoro Library had actually had an impact on me. And this is why Kokoro Library is my favorite anime ever.

I think, unconciously at first, that a bond was formed then and there, between me and anime–it was a medium that actually could get me worked up into tears, and grandually I found that I liked that it could do that. As I grew older and more mature (and went back to school) I found myself exploring more and more anime, and consuming more and more series. I don’t know whether it’s just that I have broad taste, or if I’m just a harsh discriminator, but I rarely watch anime I end up not liking in some form or another. So I ended up watching a lot of things I really liked. I remember watching Hajime no Ippo and Revolutionary Girl Utena in my first semester back at school in 2004, and also keeping up to date with what was coming out. I’ve kept up to date on anime pretty well since then, and the older I got, the broader range of series I ended up liking. I thought I’d hate Monster; I ended up watching and loving it. I thought I’d be too creeped out by Mushishi; I ended up watching and loving it. I thought I’d hate Bokurano; I ended up reading and loving it. I still watch a relatively large selection of genres; my motto is, if it’s good, I’ll watch it (someday)

There’s a certain kind of power I find in anime that is lacking in non-anime mediums. SDS once suggested to me that anime and manga shoot more frequently for complex emotions, and I think he’s right, that that’s why I like anime over everything else. I can state with confidence that I’m in anime for the long term, that it’s not something that will fade with time. I can say this because complex emotions has long been a hallmark of anime and manga–I’m still powerfully moved by Rose of Versailles, and that’s from the 70s. I don’t think the complexity of emotions will change in anime and manga; it might take on different forms, but I’ll probably still like them.

You could say I’m this creature they call an “otaku”. I wouldn’t argue with you.

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NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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