Thought Balloon: I Have An Anime Problem

Posted: September 27, 2010 by silvertomatoproductions in Animation, Animation Editorials, Authors, Notaku Diaries, Site News, Tomato Surprise
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Good afternoon, Scratchi-verse!

I have a confession to make. There’s a secret that I’ve shamefully kept from all of you for years on end. As an animation fan, it’s plagued me for years.  As a person, it eats at me every day, causing a deep void to endlessly widen in my soul. But, you know what? I’m tired of remaining silent.  I’m tired of living in fear, and I’m REALLY tired of letting it control me. So, today, in hopes of fixing the problem and finally being free, I’m going to just come out and say it, finally seeking the help and guidance of you, one of our many excellent The ScratchPad readers:

My name is Tomato Surprise, and I hate anime.

It didn’t always used to be this way. For most of my life, even as recent as a year ago, I loved anime. I’d be lying if I proclaimed myself to be super-involved in the nexus of anime back then, like fellow ‘Padders Don East and Sketch. That being said, I regularly watched and wholly enjoyed anime such as Death Note, Dragon Ball, Bobobo-Bobobobo, Fullmetal Alchemist, and YuYu Hakusho. I have fond memories of all of these shows, and their influence on my writing is both unquestionable and unmeasurable.  That said, in the past few years, every anime I’ve tried has turned itself into a kind of supernova, burning brightly in initial episodes, only to eventually collapse into a dusty black hole that does absolutely nothing, short of boring me to tears. (Every image in this post, by the way, comes from an anime I’ve tried in the last three to four years that has followed this pattern.)

But, rather than just swear off anime altogether, as I’ve been tempted to do on more than one occasion, I’m writing this post, a last desperate plea to get me onto the anime bandwagon. To that end,  I’ve decided to pinpoint where exactly my hatred of anime stems, in hopes of being healed of this unfortunate habit. I’ve managed to boil it down into five key points, so let’s take a look at those below.

1. Anime Is Derivative

To me, most of the anime I’ve seen is eerily similar to its competition. From my cursory knowledge of the medium, the genre that most frequently makes it to the United States is one called shonen. Shonen anime, like Naruto, Dragonball, One Piece, and Soul Eater, usually focuses on a mostly-male cast, with one or two female protagonists, having to battle some grand force of evil after being granted a fantastic power, which will gradually increase over the course of the show. To expect much more than that, beyond a few well-written filler arcs, and, if you’re lucky, some crude character development, is to be let down. Some shonen, like Death Note, manage some pretty intricate character development, but they’re more of an exception to the rule, in my experience. Even the much-touted One Piece is little more than an accumulative spree to gain members for Luffy’s pirate crew. The characters in most shonen can be boiled down to simple archetypes, and any attempt to add depth to them in the form of backstory usually is a case of “too little, too late”. I like my characters to be rich and nuanced, and in the anime I’ve sampled, precious little of that quality can be found.

So, with that said, you might believe that anime moves generally quicker than Western animation. However….

2. Anime Is Slow-Paced

This complaint is perhaps best described by a favorite joke of mine, which I’ll share with you now:

Q: How many Dragonball Z characters does it take to change a light-bulb?

A: Just one, but it’ll take about six episodes.

While that’s a very funny joke, it also exemplifies a huge problem with anime. It’s slow. Immaculately, unapologetically, and invariably  slow. Even the tiniest of plot advancements, such as the fight with Buggy or Captain Kuro, can take anywhere from two to six episodes. And it’s not just One Piece either. This is the one complaint on this list common to every anime I’ve ever seen. Things take way, way, way too long. Not only does this bore me as a viewer, but the prolonged busywork of the story saps saps any emotional impact the story has. Plus, this means that…

3. Anime is Long

This complaint is partially due to the last one. Since anime is super-decompressed in storytelling, it’s also LONG. Some series, like One Piece, Death Note, Soul Eater, and even my favorite anime YuYu Hakusho, easily crack and even surpass fifty episodes. With a schedule like I have, it’s hard to find the time to delve into a series for the long term, especially when it has already finished its run  and isn’t in syndication. Even when this isn’t the case, and it is rerunning, the run-time of an anime is simply too vast for me to think about it week-to-week, and to gain any desire to come back to it once the credits role. Of course, this is only one reason why…

4. Anime Is Inacessable

Recently, with series like Evangelion 1.0, Gundam 00, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood ruling the roost of popular anime titles, a significant trend has arisen in anime: the reverberation of past stories under a new continuity, universe, or other reboot. While these new spins on old nostalgic treats may please a hardcore otaku, they leave newcomers like me with a tailspin and a mad headache. If I, for example, wanted to watch a Gundam series, where am I expected to begin? There are at least fifty Gundam OVAs, series, movies, and other miscellaneous media bits, and looking at them as an outsider makes me feel like a two-year-old looking at my brother’s Trigonometry homework. If anime wants to expand beyond a niche market, it needs a clear and well defined jumping-on point. Why, you ask? Well, to put it bluntly…

5. Anime is HUGE

Out of all the points I’ve listed so far, this one is probably the most inescapable. Anime, while not necessary popular, is huge. Numerous. Plentiful. Whatever word you want to use, there’s no escaping that there’s a LOT of anime out there in the world. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. Some of it is Ikki Tousen. As such, it’s entire possible, even very probable, that I’m totally wrong on most counts. But, y’know what? Proving me wrong, that’s not my job. That’s yours. Here’s the deal: over the next year, I’m going to be attempting to regret every word of this post. I’m attempting an experiment of sorts, and this post is nothing less than the entire jumping off point for a good part of next year’s The ScratchPad post. That’s right. I’m going into the world of anime, whether I come out alive or not. But, before I do that, I need your help. All week, here on The ScratchPad, my fellow contributors will try to break me in to the weird and whimsical world of anime. Then, on January 3rd of 2011, after our holiday hiatus, I intend to announce a pretty big project.

To help that big project, however, I’m going to need you to do a couple of things. First, spread this post around on Twitter, Facebook, ToonZone, and WordPress. The more people that leave comments, the better this will work. Secondly, leave a comment detailing what YOU think of this post, some anime you’d want me to try, and why you’d want me to try it.

Until then, though, I’m Tomato, and I’ll see you next week.

Response posts: Sketch, RacattackForce, ToonFaithful, and Don East

 

 

 

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Comments
  1. Sparticus says:

    *waves from Toonzone* Hiiiii! 😀

    I agree, anime is all of these things. It’s also a lot of other things. You’ve pointed out many of the flaws of, well, entertainment in general. From Soap Operas to procedural crime dramas, these are the plagues of serialization. But, remember, there has to be a mold for something to break it. I recommend…

    Gintama
    This is the series for those who tire of the usual shounen formula. It’s an alternate history parody of epic proportions (and lulz) that isn’t afraid to get serious from time to time. And when it does, it blows most other shounen (and a lot of seinin) out of the water. It’s largely episodic, with short and to the point arcs and a surprisingly detailed continuity that sneaks up on you at the darndest times. It’s 201 episodes, but trust me, when you reach that last episode you’ll be begging for more. You can watch it for free on http://www.crunchyroll.com

    The Tatami Galaxy
    This… is weird. Delightfully, wonderfully weird. It follows the misadventures of an unnamed college student as he continuously relives his freshman year of college. While it’s repetitive, it doesn’t overdo it, and the variations become extremely fascinating as time goes on. It’s also short at 11 episodes, but the small episode count works in its favor. You can watch it at http://www.funimation.com

    Ouran High School Host Club:
    Shoujo wut wut? Just watch it, it defies explanation. 26 episodes of crack and win. http://www.funimation.com

  2. Durarara!! and Baccano! They are both short, easy to get into, and defy regular genres. The latter’s at FUNI’s website, while the former might still be on Crunchyroll.

    Also, Summer Wars is just bloody brilliant.

  3. iletaitunefois says:

    I think one thing to keep in mind when going on this anime venture is that anime isn’t a genre–it’s a medium. In Japan you can find anime and manga for basically, well, everything. Anything you want in an anime you can find somewhere. Painting it all with the same brush is really just doing yourself a disservice. You’re missing out on a lot.

    Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the anime scene, but I do still have some recs for you. (I’ll add that I always recommend that you see things subtitled instead of dubbed, but that’s my own predilection for accuracy in creative vision there. Do whatever you like.)

    First of all, I’d say that a lot of anime is actually pretty short. A lot of what you just described is shounen, which seems to go on FOREVER, but most anime that I’ve seen have gone for only a season or two, a season being about 26 episodes. More or less, anyway. If you want something REALLY short, there are some anime movies that are really good. I’d recommend just about anything by Miyazaki, first of all. (Except Howl’s Moving Castle, but that’s just because it’s based on my favorite book and he CHANGED it. D:) My favorite of his is Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) but I also like Kiki’s Delivery Service and Ponyo a lot. His movies tend to star strong young women, which I can appreciate. 😛

    As for a couple series recs, I want to second Ouran because I love the way it plays with and mocks shoujo cliches only to reveal characters that are actually thoughtful individuals. Plus it’s hilarious. There’s a plus.

    For a good parody of shounen anime in general, I adore Yakitate!! Japan. It’s a shounen series about baking bread. Yes. Bread. It goes through all of the tournament arcs and training sequences and everything else you’d expect from a shounen series, but it’s…about bread. Part of this is that I adore baking, but I also love the way it lovingly mocks shounen staples. It’s so over the top that it’s hilarious.

    For some more serious shows that are anything BUT derivative, I’m gonna rec Princess Tutu and Le Chevalier D’Eon.

    Before you give me disparaging looks about Princess Tutu, I’m gonna come right out and say it’s a LOT better than it sounds. At first the series seems like pointless, fluffy shoujo–and WEIRD pointless, fluffy shoujo to boot. As the series continues, though, a much deeper meaning to the plot is revealed and it becomes one of the more inventive and self-aware series I’ve ever seen. Very postmodern. (Knowledge of some of the more famous ballets is helpful for that series, but not necessary. It mostly adds a few layers of meaning and is awesome for foreshadowing.)

    Le Chevalier D’Eon is one of my favorite series, period. It’s an adventure story about a young man named d’Eon de Beaumont. He’s a member of King Louis XV’s court, but leaves Versailles when his sister, Lia, is murdered. He sets off to find her killer and finds secrets, intrigue, cults, and uh. Zombies. It’s a series that’s got incredibly strong female characters (I love Lia so, so much. This series loves playing with gender roles and identification.) and a really interesting plot with strong elements of history and the paranormal. Knowledge of the French Revolution really helps out here, and lends a feeling of growing dread–because you know what’s coming. It’s slow at times, but that’s because it’s a story of investigation first and foremost, and the art goes a bit wonky at times, but I think it’s absolutely worth it.

    I could give you a bunch more recs, but this post is now officially WAY too long. 😄 Hit me up if you need anything else. You know where to find me.

    • Jeff Harris says:

      “I think one thing to keep in mind when going on this anime venture is that anime isn’t a genre–it’s a medium.”

      Good quote. Great quote actually. But you have to understand that anime is animation and manga are comics. It’s over here where they’re nearly deified and put on a pedestal by the most rabid of fans. It’s THOSE individuals that made me all bitter about Japanese animation.

      I think I’ll write about that one day.

      • iletaitunefois says:

        I would say that I’d mark a few differences between anime and manga and traditional western animation and comics, but mostly just from a cultural standpoint. (Different roles in their respective societies, different tropes that are often utilized, different expectations, etc.) At the heart of things, anime and manga really ARE just animation and comics that come from Japan. Doesn’t make them better or worse than western animation or comics. Different, I might say, but not better or worse.

  4. jennytablina says:

    The really “popular” anime like Pokemon, Naruto and One Piece are the ones that suffer from most of the issues you outline here

    I do wish to note though, most standard anime has about the same runtime as a standard american show (52ish episodes). Plus some anime blessed with extended time do try to use the time well.

    Examples of short and sweet anime (13 eps):

    Kino’s Journey – an anime about a traveller who comes across strange countries, each episode leaves you pondering.

    AiR – Based on a game but very well done. Follows the story of a guy looking for a winged girl and an odd girl whom he befriends.

    Manabi Straight! – Cute anime about a bunch of girls who set up a student council then fight for the right to hold one last school fair before the school merges with a boys school

    Regular Sized Anime (52 eps or around this number)

    Clannad – Another anime about school life, quite deep in spots. Does have some pace issues but the second half of this touching anime has made grown men cry with its emotional punches ;P

    Cardcaptor Sakura – It’s a little long, clocking in at 70 episodes, but CCS is a very snappy series. Theres character development, lots of laughs and general fun.

    Astro Boy (1980’s) – this one is more episodic so you don’t really have to watch em all, but it has the classic Tezuka storytelling style in it’s blood.

    Long Haul Anime (that’s worth the ride)

    Urusei Yatsura – Old anime from the same lass that would later bring the world Ranma 1/2 and Innuyasha, though here she lets her crazy side go wild. Tis the story of a perverted young man who by his own idiocy becomes engaged to an alien with levitation and electrical powers and a shocking temper. Hilarity ensues

    Sailor Moon – Sailor Moon goes on FOREVER but a larger majority of its episodes actually move the plot forward in some manner. The last 2 seasons before Stars are a bit eh depending but the first season and R are good.

    Astro Boy (all) – All 3 versions of this anime are worth a watch if just for the curious retellings of Tezukas tales. 1960’s is the most true to the manga, the 80’s goes in a different direction and 2003 is completely different. Yet all of them are great to watch : )

  5. I agree with pretty much everything you said. Death Note is the only anime whose full run I’ve watched, and while I love One Piece, there are just too many episodes. I have to pay through the nose to get tiny collections of the japanese subs, or watch the crappy dubs. I just don’t have time. I have the same problem with Marvel and DC comics and Star Wars expanded universe. It’s impossible to get into, there’s so much and you have no idea where to start.
    Shows like Pokemon and One Piece have thousands of episodes. It takes me a while to watch 13 and I’ve barely even started and then I have to pay 40 bucks for more or watch it streaming. It just doesn’t work.

  6. GWOtaku says:

    All right. First I’ll offer a critique of this, and then offer suggestions.

    It seems to me that your “anime problem” is really that you’ve focused too much on shonen action shows. On your derivative point you focus on titles from that genre, and it is not even remotely true that they dominate the selection of titles that are out there. Naruto, One Piece and so on are certainly **popular** and get plenty of hype and exposure, but for every such series it would not be difficult to name five other cartoons that are good quality. Yep, I can back that up if necessary.

    On length and pacing, this is definitely an issue with the big shonen series. One Piece has developed and expanded its narrative dramatically over time, but the size is absolutely daunting. DBZ? I’d never sit through the full thing again. It’s all good if you get really attached to what’s happening in Naruto or One Piece, and video streaming is free. But due to length, I casually follow Naruto and One Piece as time allows and nothing else. If I spent all my attention on shonen, I’d have very little time for anything else…and I’d probably end up with feelings like yours! If you ever continue either, I’d have to suggest their manga. The comics take less time to get through and can be cheap to collect.

    Again though, shonen action aside, many anime run much faster than this. Shoot, some feel that many are too short with 26 or even 13 episodes these days. A strong series with a few dozen episodes like Fullmetal Alchemist is a great thing when it comes along.

    On inaccessibility: I honestly don’t see the problem here. First of all, is this issue even unique to anime? What of the many renditions of Spider-Man, Superman, Batman and the Justice League? But finding a “jumping on point” is not at all challenging. Evangelion 1.0 can be understood without EVER seeing the original TV series. Ditto for FMA Brotherhood and Gundam 00, which is a totally independent story that happens to carry the Gundam name. For Gundam, continuity isn’t even an issue unless a viewer is delving into the original Universal Century saga that the original Mobile Suit Gundam started in 1979. Gundam Wing was successfully introduced in the U.S. with nearly all viewers, myself included, ignorant about the franchise.

    This brings us to the final point, anime is huge. To which I say heck, for that matter, *cartoons* at large are huge. There’s a lot out there involving multiple genres, many different moods, different sorts of characters, and so on and so forth. Some of it is great, some of it is…..well, yeah, Ikki Tousen. Since you have no stated preferences about what type of show you tend to be most interested in, I’ll do my best to suggest a diverse selection of Japanese cartoons in my next comment.

  7. GWOtaku says:

    Okay, recommendations. I’ll be suggesting ideas that largely avert your complaints of length, pacing, and inaccessibility.

    First of all, movies. They don’t require the time commitment that a series does, and some of the best anime out there is on film. You may be familiar with Miyazaki’s films already. If not I would single out Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke in no particular order if you want to get started. It’s tough to go wrong with any film out of that studio though. There’s also Satoshi Kon’s filmography; I’ve seen Paprika and Millennium Actress and heartily recommend both. These are all films that are exceptional in terms of imagination, aesthetics and narrative.

    For personal favorites of mine, I STRONGLY advise you to seek out The Last Unicorn and The Flight of Dragons. Both are Rankin-Bass copros from the 80s and all-too-rare examples of excellent animated fantasy. Unicorn in particular manages some truly great moments that are just marvelously sublime, and the Peter Beagle story it adapts is good fantasy but hardly derivative. If you like either of those I’d also suggest the Rankin-Bass take on The Hobbit, which is satisfying though no substitute since there are details omitted or changed.

    Elsewhere, the Rebuild of Evangelion series (1.0, etc) is a perfectly good jumping-on point. No prior knowledge is necessary. I prefer it to the TV series (I am a rare breed: a fan who never finished it). Word is that the retelling heads in interesting, dramatically different directions starting with the 2nd of the four films. That is due for a 2011 release, as are Summer Wars and Redline–the buzz for these two has been nothing short of **fantastic** everywhere I look. Keep an eye out for them.

    Ghost in the Shell is some of the best sci-fi one can find in animation anywhere. It is cyberpunk at its best. The original film is considered a classic and is on my list of things to see. The recent TV series, Stand Alone Complex, is what I adore though. However while well produced and not without action GiTS does have considerable dialogue, and it requires considerable attention. This is a story that deals with characterization, political situations, and questions of the mind and soul…..popcorn material this isn’t. But it’s a rewarding experience.

    Interested in something completely different? Interstella 5555 is basically a Daft Punk album put to music that tells a coherent (and absurd) story. Not exactly anime Fantasia, but interesting and (to me) fun so long as you don’t hate techno.

    For lighter entertainment that still has a serious story backing up everything, there are few series that do better than space Western Trigun. I’m amazed no one has suggested it yet. The first handful of episodes may make the viewer think it’s a comedy, but this is a show that does it all. Levity, action, and some damn serious drama.

    You have seen BeBop, right? If not, you must. Everything good you might have ever heard about it is pretty much true.

    If gushing blood isn’t too much violence for you to handle, two samurai anime stand out above all others: the movie Sword of the Stranger and Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal. I swear by both. Stranger’s animation and choreography has no rivals, and there’s enough story and focus on the two leads for the film to be satisfying beyond its battle scenes. See my Toonzone review for more on this. Samurai X is simply spectacular, but very dark and violent. It is the bloody backstory of Himura Kenshin, a man who became a top assassin during the Meiji Restoration and later seeks atonement in the main Rurouni Kenshin story. It’s not a pleasant affair, it’s a tragedy…but damn, does it ever draw you in. If you see it and like it, the Rurouni Kenshin manga is highly recommended–not the anime, as it suffers from the issues you complain about.

    I can get deeper into TV series and maybe some other OVAs later if you’re interested. But this is already a lot, so I’ll end here for now.

  8. […] project, he told me to check out the newest article he was writing. This article is the Anime Problem post from earlier this week. I was shocked when I first read that he hated anime, and demanded that […]

  9. […] crew with giving him and other new anime viewers a selection of Japanese animated series that might help him appreciate the medium. It’s my day so I’m up first. Ladies and gentleman let me introduce you to the bizarre […]

  10. Armando says:

    I agree with you: most anime has been played out. If you want to try and get back into the anime world, I would recommend Angel Beats. It’s a few episodes long, so it’s good if you don’t have too much time on your hands. Despite the length, it is easy to feel for the characters and get into the story. You won’t be disappointed.

    (P.S: There is a crazy funny “Want to push a monkey” joke.)

  11. […] if you’re reading this, you know about the now infamous and divisive post I made on this blog last week. In it, I detailed my long and deep-seated disgust at many modern anime shows, a disgust which […]

  12. Cyborger says:

    These are just some of the problems I have with anime. The main one is the similarity between just about all of them. Anime is so boring because it’s predictable and you can see the same thing from 100 other shows.

  13. Git says:

    And what’s with the “too many episodes” complaint? While I admit the length of One Piece is intimidating, nobody is forcing you to watch it all at once. It’s like following a long running television series or televised sports. Just take your time and stop watching the series if you don’t like it.

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