A Classic Anime Rant, I Guess

Someone on Earth had a sudden thought: “Blogs should be updated.”

Ignoring the dumb Parasyte reference, I’m sending a hello and happy fall to my dear readers. It’s been a long time since I posted anything. The plans I had for summer blogs fell apart as I became somewhat obsessive about other pastimes. I can’t promise to be super regular again, but I will put in more effort to post things more often.

And that brings us to today’s post. I didn’t just want to write a lame explanation of my internet absence; I wanted to include some actual Anime Rants content. So today we have a hodgepodge of random rambles about anime things and maybe a little bit of personal stuff too. There’s no real topic; I guess it’s more like stream of consciousness. So let’s Rant!

(I have the mental capacity of Yui)

When I was a kid, my parents didn’t approve of anime, or basically anything similar to it from Japan, such as Pokemon. My family could never afford TV with a lot of cool channels, but one day, an old station started playing content from 4Kids. Do you know about 4Kids? It was like a channel with grossly edited and altered anime series with English Dubs. For example, they had shows like One Piece, the original Shaman King, and Sonic X. Even though 4Kids was absolutely horrendous, it did have one positive effect on my family: it got some of us more accustomed to and interested in anime. This trend would continue for a few years as one of my sisters became interested in older shoujo and drama anime.

Despite this, I didn’t get “into” anime until I was in college a few years after all that. Why? Basically, I was a prick for a while. I thought I was more sophisticated and a better follower of my family’s cult than my siblings who liked anime. Once I started to become curious about anime, it was a little difficult to drop the hoity toity act without getting (well-deserved) grief or teasing from others. To avoid clashes with my siblings, I sought out an anime that would be “mine”– something I could bring onto the scene myself, as well as something that would hold my attention better than a repetitive shounen or a sappy shoujo.

(Full Moon wo Sagashite, an old shoujo anime)

And I found the perfect thing: Princess Mononoke, the classic 1999 Ghibli film created and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. I first watched this movie 11 years ago in 2010. Ever since then, and continuing to now, it has been my favorite film. It’s not just my favorite anime flick, but my favorite among all movies. Princess Mononoke was everything I wanted and hoped for in a story and more. It was inspiring, moving, exciting, thought-provoking, and powerful to my personal journey in life. Naturally the stunning animation and music are just as much treasures as the well-written story and characters.

After the introduction of Princess Mononoke to my life, I sometimes watched anime series that sounded interesting to me. It was a pretty rare thing, still. The first two I watched were Wolf’s Rain and Death Note. Within the next year or two, I enjoyed Steins;Gate, Psycho-Pass, Higurashi, Mirai Nikki, and other thriller-type series. Two or three years after that, I dated a “weeb” and was introduced to many more anime in a very short timeframe. After that breakup, I stayed interested in anime and started watching more and more like a thirsty anime-holic. Some of the best from those times were Madoka Magica, Parasyte The Maxim, Attack on Titan, and Monster. And that’s my story. Here I am, still addicted to anime!

(It’s a curse)

Throughout my time so far as an anime fan, I went through many stages of interest where I focused on different types of series. However, my favorites were and still are the dark psychological thrillers or the weird psychological anime that are more atmospheric. (Examples of the latter category include Serial Experiments Lain, Mushi-Shi, Ergo Proxy, Haibane Renmei, Boogiepop Phantom, and Kino’s Journey (2003)). Another favorite anime of mine I discovered in 2015: Shinsekai Yori (From The New World). It’s a combination of psychological, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi and drama. Shows like the ones mentioned in this paragraph speak to me and my highly introspective, imaginative, and emotional nature. They also highlight the darkness of humans and the world, which is important to do in a serious story.

I’ll now proceed to name a few titles from different genres that stand out to me, just to show what sort of stuff I’m into and include a few thoughts on it. Let’s start with funny stuff. Anime series with a focus on comedy are hit-or-miss because a) everyone has types of humor they like more or less than others, and b) anime comedy contains a disproportionate amount of sexual comedy that is sometimes problematic. But my favorite types of humor are surreal/absurd, witty/dry, and situational/reactional. My top two favorite funny anime series are Nichijou (My Ordinary Life) and Arakawa Under The Bridge. These are rich in most of those forms of hilarity. If you like weird stuff that will leave you laughing while wondering “What the Fuck?!” then check those ones out.

Occasionally, I enjoy anime comedies with other main types of humor. For dark and somewhat irreverent humor, there’s Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei (Good Bye, Mr. Despair). For sexual humor that’s actually mostly alright, there’s Shimoneta. For parody, try Humanity Has Declined. Gintama contains many types of humor from slapstick to potty humor to repeated (and really funny) character gags. I think everyone should find out what kinds of humor they like most and try watching anime reflecting those interests. It can be very rewarding. I struggle with a pervasive depressive disorder, but the occasional comedic anime can lift my spirit.

Next we have slice-of-life, which I will be combining with a few other genres, as SOL is quite diverse. At my core, I am bored by uneventful shows. However, interesting characters or some other hook in story or setting can keep me interested. For example, take Natsume Yuujinchou (Natsume’s Book of Friends). It’s sort of SOL-like, but features a rich fantasy world and a main character with a deep personal journey. There have also been times when I enjoyed a “boring” anime because I had nothing better to do and needed to cleanse my mind with something bland but endearing. The best example of something like that is K-on! It’s a classic case of cute characters doing cute and “derpy” things with no sense of plot but a lot of sweetness.

(Natsume Yuujinchou)

For many viewers– mostly the younger ones or new fans– anime is all about the shounen series. Personally, I am rarely captivated by this genre. My respect for classics like Dragon Ball and One Piece is considerable, but I don’t actually go watch them. Shounen shows are a little too predictable and formulaic for me, and I often have trouble connecting to the central characters. The most notable exception to this tendency is Hunter x Hunter (2011). This show stole my attention from the first episode, with excellent story and character writing, a rich world lore, vibrant art style, and unique soundtrack. Speaking of shounen, let me note that I think a lot of anime is unnecessarily tagged with the shounen label. “Shounen” should not be the default, as it seems to be on sites like MyAnimeList. Let’s move on.

One might suppose that an anime fan like me would prefer shoujo, and to some extent this is true. There are some shoujo shows I truly enjoyed, but they are not the most classic ones. I love ones like Snow White with Red Hair, Fruits Basket, and Yona of the Dawn. Traditional cookie-cutter shoujo shows can be quite cringeworthy. On a related note, what I think of as good shoujo generally overlaps with drama/romance stories. ToraDora and The Pet Girl of Sakurasou are school dramas/romances, but they have the same vibe in my mind as shows that are excellent and far removed from anything shounen.

(School romances, by the way, are frequently formulaic, poorly written, and rife with other problems like over-sexualization. I still have a few that I enjoy, however. It’s certainly a bit strange to be able to emotionally identify with teenagers at my age, but I don’t see any harm in it so long as I’m not there for the “ecchi” aspects.)

(Pet Girl of Sakurasou– I relate to this)

What’s next? Romance, including GL and BL? Mysteries? Horror? Magical Girls? Isekai? There are so many genres and great anime to mention that writing about all of them would take a week and probably read as boring. So now we’re going to switch gears, but please feel free to ask me for anime recommendations if desired. There were originally like three other topics I planned to go over, including anime’s main appeals to me personally, and issues with the anime industry, and thoughts on Summer 2021 anime. But I think this rant is getting a bit lengthy, and I can save those topics for later. So I’m only going to address one of those several mentioned items: issues with anime. And trust me, it’s not an exhaustive discussion.

One other note: we won’t be discussing issues with shoujo/shounen Ai or LGBT+ representation in this post. Please see my article on that topic by clicking the link. To sum it up in an overly simple way, there are many problems in this area, and there are many bad anime featuring sexual assault in shoujen ai and sexualization of young children in shoujo ai. That being said, don’t give up. Things are improving slowly, and good LGBT+ romances do exist in anime.

(Bloom Into You– a great girls’ love anime)

So, I remained fascinated by anime after finishing college, right? In fact, that’s when I really delved into the anime world. I treasure this world, but it’s a world full of problems that equal or outnumber the pluses. Sometimes, I’m surprised I still love anime so much. When things are at their worst, it seems like the industry is largely a bog of stinking mud, with a few small gold nuggets hidden somewhere within. Even when my mood is good and optimistic, I can’t deny that there are a lot more crappy and/or mediocre anime shows than there are good ones. But let’s get into a few examples. What are these problems that bug me?

There are rather a lot of potential issues, including concerns of pedophilia pandering with loli anime, poor writing or shallow stories, the underlying culture that shows a lot of casual sexism, too much fanservice, and many toxic fanbases. Need more? There are distribution and licensing issues, the debate over “stealing” anime online, controversial censoring or lack thereof, and production staff that shifts an anime away from its source material. Naturally, I don’t have the time or energy to write about even half of these dilemmas in detail. Ignoring the poor LGBT+ representation, I believe the most problematic ones are the pedophilia concerns and the sexism. So I’ll say just a tiny bit about those.

The controversy of lolicon content is very complicated, but here are my simplified thoughts. Please note that I’m not talking about hentai, but things that occur in standard anime of many genres. It’s cases of direct or indirect sexualization of young girls. Watching loli stuff does not make a person a pedophile. However, the existence of this content, which is overwhelmingly common, reflects a problem in Japanese culture (and anime otaku culture in other countries). Young children and teens are being viewed in a way that is unhealthy for them. In the worst case, sexualized loli content could encourage a real pedophile to act on their urges. Even in the best case, we can see that this content is being directed at a target audience which has flippant or inappropriate attitudes toward sexual ethics.

Now, I am keenly aware of the argument that since these are just animated characters, sexualizing them is not wrong. To be perfectly honest, I am not yet decided on the extent to which I agree with this, if at all. There is more for me to learn on this topic before a clear conclusion is settled in my mind. Similarly, there are those who hold that lolicon anime is actually a good outlet for pedophiles who do not act on their urges or attraction. Again, I am not yet informed enough on the science to give an opinion. But I do know that even if these arguments are quite sound, the anime industry is still failing to take these issues seriously, instead pandering to attract more and more “lolicon” viewers.

To sum it up, this isn’t a simple issue, or one that can be solved by being aggressive or accusatory. But it’s an issue all the same, and it should not be treated lightly. As for the discussion of sexist influences in anime, that will have to be held back for another day. This topic was heavy and this post is pretty lengthy now. So I’m going to leave it there. If you wish to discuss any of the problems I pointed out in the anime industry, leave a comment to get things rolling. Please be aware that rude or aggressive comments may be deleted at my discretion.

Wow! If you’ve made it this far, you’ve successfully waded through another one of 7mono’s anime rants. Thanks for reading! I hope it was somewhat interesting to learn about my history with anime and to read my simple presentation of problems in anime. I’m sleep-deprived at the moment and ready to be done with this unstructured post, but one thing at least is clear in my mind. Even with its flaws and issues, anime is something I dearly love and cherish. Thanks again for reading, and I’ll see you next time!

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