Japanese Animation (Anime)

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Okay, I suppose you are wondering what deep end I have fallen off of, with my posting of articles on Anime. Well, I am tired of politics, to be honest, and this is an art form I absolutely enjoy. Unlike the old US styles of animation of the early 20th century from Warner Brothers, Disney, and MGM, Japanese Animation has its own distinct look and is very different in story telling style than the contemporary counterparts found here in the USA.

Japanese Animation, called “Anime” can be anything from family oriented (G rated) to the perverse (XXX rated called Hentai). They each have their own category and category names. I won’t go over those genres, just keep in mind that Anime has no Bugs Bunny, nor Mickey Mouse counterparts. This is what makes anime so unique. Where American or “western” style animation tends to follow a set pattern of silly (Warner Brothers or MGM) or fantasy (Disney), anime can be anything. Although it usually follows Japanese cultural beliefs and story lines.

Nuns with Guns
Nuns with Guns

Japanese mythology usually consists of demons, multiple Gods, etc. When they attempt to use western cultural aspects, they infuse it with Japanese misunderstanding of our culture. Which gives it an even more fascinating charm (in my opinion). Christianity usually involves demon fighting Nuns or Vampire defeating Priests, etc. I don’t find any of it offensive or blasphemous when viewing it from an entertainment point of view, as the Japanese, as a culture, tend to not want to offend. This also means you cannot associate their definitions of Demons or Heaven with your western thinking of Heaven and Hell. It is vastly different.

Anime Demon Girl
A Beautiful Looking “Demon”

However, when delving into the world of Anime, one must tread carefully, lest they accidentally trip into the Hentai cesspool. Hentai is basically porn. Yes, cartoon porn, and it’s as gross as it sounds. Every aspect and perversion you can think of (and much more you never thought of) is allowed in Hentai.

The mild forms of this are the non-hentai, but “fan service” (or eroge) shows which have guys “accidentally” falling face first into women’s panty-clad crotches or “accidentally” falling and grabbing the nearest thing to stop themselves, which is usually the woman’s breasts; or women falling crotch first on men’s faces. These types of anime are called “fan service” for just one reason. They are only viewed for that, in my opinion.


This vast variety of genres in anime confuse those in the west, and many without knowledge of what anime is, mistake hentai (porn) as the entirety of anime. This is completely wrong and ignorant. There are G rated anime even distributed by Disney released here in the West. One of the most famous is “Spirited Away”.

However, like I mentioned earlier, anime comes in ALL types, including the good. I tend to enjoy the G-rated to the PG13-rated style of anime. Action, comedy, love stories, adventures and even fighting giant robots (it is Japanese) are some of the shows I watch.

Girl With Crutches
Anime Characters are Not Perfect – A Physically Handicapped Girl

A good anime almost always has a full story, a beginning and an end. Shows like “Dragonball Z” and “One Piece” have been too Americanized, and have lost their “Anime-ishness” by turning into a cheap Saturday morning cartoon for kids. They are just a bunch of screaming characters with 10 minutes of “Super Power Transformation” scenes that are duplicate time fillers for a crappy story.

One of my favorite love story Anime shows (and there are many) is “ToraDora“. It has a female character typical of the “Tsundre” title (girl with an attitude, but with a soft heart on the inside). It has 25 episodes before the final episode of a happy, but unexpected ending. Note, you MUST watch through the credits of final episodes, else you will miss important aspects to end the story. I’m a softy, and I did tear up watching this high quality show.

Another thing you will find out is everyone can have “natural” hair and eye color that runs the full color wheel. Red, blue, green, violet, etc. are completely normal for anime characters. Also, you may find it hard to understand why some males have almost feminine qualities. Believe me, they aren’t feminine. This is a cultural difference. Men with grace and dignity will tend to be depicted with long hair and beautiful features. Gruff and brawny men will be large and muscular, with gruff voices. The easiest way to figure out the sexes of characters in anime is to look at the size of the eyes. Females will have large “cute” eyes. While the men, even the graceful or dignified ones, will have more typically sized (smaller) eyes.  However, some shows may have “traps”, or males that look intentionally like girls.  Although they almost always say it is a guy, if you pay attention.  This is rare, but you have been warned.

You can find many shows that are dubbed in English, but I have found the English dubbing to be lacking in quality. Frankly, the actors suck. I prefer to watch anime with subtitles. You get the high quality original Japanese acting the big budget paid for, AND you get a taste of how women and men behave in that culture, not a watered down and poorly translated version. Sure, reading subtitles can be difficult to get used to, but in my opinion, it is worth it.  There is the occasional exception of good English acting (like “Toradora”, “Kill La Kill”, “Girls und Panzer”, and any anime by Studio Gibli), but it is rare.

I also enjoy the vast imagination used to create story lines. Seriously, nothing is considered stupid or silly. In fact, sometimes “silly” is exploited for entertainment factor. I’ve seen shows about high-school aged girls piloting tanks, or learning to captain warships, or training to fight with giant robot style armor. Some have incredible strength and powers. Some stories are science fiction, some fantasy, some both. Some princess (or prince) in distress stories. There are even stories just involving comedy in your average high school with far better quality than any American sit-com.

Relationships

One frequent theme you will find is the clueless guy. A girl or girls will become enamored with the protagonist male, and try everything to get his attention, but he remains clueless or thick headed. It is usually a situation that forces his hand either involving friends, or danger, or anything else, that gets him to see what is obviously in front of him. Japanese culture has unique courtship customs. It usually involves “confession of love” before dating. This process alone can make for some funny comedy.


One thing I do like, is how Japanese uses honorifics for everyone and everything. If someone is senior to you, they are “senpai”. If they are a teacher or role model, then they are “sensei”. There’s “san”, “chan” and much more to distinguish different siblings and friends. You will also notice that telling someone your first name and more importantly, allowing someone to call you by your first name is a VERY big deal in Japanese culture. I find this fascinating and so indicative of the respect they are taught to show others. You typically go through life being called by your last name when being introduced to strangers and and such. To allow someone to call you by your first name, signifies being very close to that person. A best friend, family member, or lover are usually the only ones privileged to use first names. Although it is purely up to the individual to decide what you are allowed to call them.

This last name only aspect can be a source of confusion to those in the west.  It is also a fascination to the Japanese that us in the west use first names.  I think that is why the American made anime called RWBY is a big hit in Japan.

Then there’s the ultra respect they have for people. They give large meaning to apologies, and you lose your honor if you do not apologize. Apologies can be in degrees, usually representative of the wrongs done. A simple bow with an apology is typical. However, a 90 degree bow is a most sincere and humble apology, that is usually drawn out to show the humility of the apologizer’s desire for forgiveness. The final form is the kneeling and prostrate apology. This is basically begging for forgiveness for a serious wrong. Apologies are all verbal, and always involve confessing the wrong and asking for forgiveness. If only we had that in our culture.

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There are many themes for anima shows. Some below are G, PG, and PG13. While many themes involve both boys and girls, many are exclusive to girls or women:

Girls Are Technology Theme

The theme that girls are the humanization of actual technology is a common theme in Anime.

  • Some girls are actual “ships” with WWII ship names (Kentai Collection).
  • Some girls are actual guns and rifles (Upotte).
  • Some girls are actual aircraft (Strike Witches).
  • Some girls are avatars for submarines with artificial intelligence (Arpeggio of Blue Steel).

Girls In High School Controlling War Machines

The theme that girls control powerful war machines, but through a quirk of “special technology” do not get hurt in their war games actually make for fun and silly entertainment.

  • “Girls und Panzer” is a fun and silly show about girls in high school on the “tank team” (yep, tank team) where they fight other tank teams in real tournament battles.
  • Girls are the crew of war ships (Haifuri). Another high school, but with battleships.

Monster Girls

This fantasy genre is unique. It has characters out of fantasy living as ordinary people among ordinary humans. So-called “demi-humans” live as normal. Some shows have them as recent discoveries with special rules to govern them. Some shows have them living just like everyone else. Some shows have them living in disguise in a similar fashion to “Men In Black”. Some are slice of life shows, and others are romance shows.

  • “Interviews With Monster Girls” is a very cute show where demi-humans that once lived in secret are now living in the open with special laws governing their behavior and human behavior.
  • “Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid” has a character that lives alone, is a computer programmer, and keeps to herself, and one night gets plastered drunk and meets a full sized dragon that is mortally wounded with a magic sword. The drunk Kobayashi pulls the sword out and makes friends with the dragon. She is a magic dragon and can transform herself into human form, and comes to be a maid for Kobayashi to show her gratitude. A cute show.
  • “Monster Musume: Everyday Life With Monster Girls. This PG13 show is the form of recently discovered monster society and there are strict rules. The government uses this one guy to help some monster girls assimilate into society. The guy is mild and conservative, and the girls are a handful and become enamored with the guy, and comedy ensues.


Half Human, Half Animal Characters

Anime can have characters, both male and female, be part animal. Instead of a talking mouse or rabbit, they are humanlike. A bit different from the monster girl theme, but similar, as monster girls are based on fantasy themes and hybrids are just normal combinations of human and animal. Characters can be part dog, cat, rabbit, horse, etc. The most common is part cat, where they are mostly human but have cat ears, a tail, and a cat like personality and behavior. NOTE: It is never ever said that these characters are a result of bestiality, but instead are humans with animal traits that always existed, that can reproduce with other humans. It is racial, not cross-species.


Slice Of Life


In this theme, you just follow through the life of a day in the life of a few characters. These can be fun and cute.

  • The peculiar boy or girl in school with a friend or classmate that finds them fun (Figuro Kun).
  • A group of friends that go through silly every day things, and many are comically over the top. (Nichijou)
  • “Teasing Master Takagi-san”. Is a wonderful family oriented show about a boy and girl in middle school. The girl is smart as a whip and the boy always falls for her teasing. Obviously she likes him, but he’s too involved in “getting back at her” to notice and makes up schemes to do so, but always backfire in her favor. A very cute show.

Some Comedy and Silliness

Some shows have over-the-top high school student councils. Apparently the student council in Japan contains far more authority and demands far more respect than western counterparts. This authority factor make for some really fun shows, the video below shows over-the-top satire on this authority to the extreme in “Kill la Kill”. I quite literally laughed so hard I could barely breath more often than not. However, this is a PG13 show intended for adults, not children. On a ridiculous scale of 1-10, it is a 538, seriously.

(A warning, the following video is PG13)

Never Take Anime Seriously

Anime is for entertainment only. It is absolutely intended to be taken as fiction, not matter the genre you are viewing. No more seriously than Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam. Just watch and be entertained.


Go here to investigate what the heck I am talking about:

Crunchyroll Anime

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