Anime: A New Art Form, Not a Childish Hobby

Anime lovers are called Otaku, which is western for ‘freak’ or Japanese for ‘fan.’ Those that enjoy anime are shoved into that category for no reason aside from the fact that they like cartoon stories. They are seen as childish, immature, and having no real life. This simply isn’t true. There are many reasons that anime is a legitimate art form and “otaku” should be viewed as no different from people who love action movies or love stories..

Many heroes in anime are not typical Western heroes. Our heroes are Rambo, Dirty Harry, and Indiana Jones – somebody with a gun, an attitude, and a way with women. Sometimes the hero is a woman, but these cases are few and far between- women are usually just romantic interests for the hero. You don’t get swordsmen, space-age heroes (since Buck Rogers, anyway) or children in our movies-until you go to movies based on history, 80’s kids shows, and kid’s movies. In anime, the heroes tend to be younger and less capable. Their shows focus on the growth of characters instead of how many explosions movie makers can stuff in. (though there are still lots of explosions).

Anime is Eastern-style cartoons, not Western.. Most American adults see cartoons as kid stuff. They ‘grew out of it’ by the time they were eleven, or so they’ll claim. Why do so many people love anime, despite their ‘cartoon’ roots? The simple, wrong answer is that they don’t have the mental capacity to deal with seventy-three seasons of “Friends” or “Everybody Loves Raymond.” The more complex answer is that they like stories in a different medium, and that they look past the artwork to see a tale being told – often with scantily-clad, impossibly-endowed cartoon women.

But then there are the Otaku costume parties. For the uninitiated, these are parties where the fanatical fans dress like their favorite characters – regardless of sex. Let’s face it-a four-hundred pound man in a Japanese schoolgirl outfit is not something anyone sane should consider. Especially if he gives gratuitous panty flashes. Many people regard dress-up as another childish thing-even though Otaku do it just for fun and possibly prizes, there is something to be said for that. Just remember that many don’t dress up, and watch anime for fun.

Despite its childish reputation, the truth is that anime is more sophisticated than a majority of western TV.

Anime is more like cartoon soap operas than any other Western visual art form. Segments of a series must be viewed in a specific order to understand what happens, and even then then you must pay attention to the show to understand the characters, story, or even the cute little bunny sidekick. Anime requires that you look, listen, and remember, instead of just waiting for the next joke and seven-second laugh track. There are a few silly animes-but they are the equivalent of sitcoms, encouraging you to watch and laugh with them. (Though there are fewer cheesy laugh tracks.)

In essence, anime can be surprisingly serious for a genre with its reputation for immaturity. But the people doing the criticizing often have never seen any anime at all.. Instead of looking at a legitimate genre critically, they are robbing themselves of the pleasure of a new way of enjoying stories.. If you still think anime is childish -go and watch some. Try Read or Die, or Fullmetal Alchemist. Or the amazingly spiritual Evangelion. Or if you’re in the mood for something a little longer, look for movies by Miyamoto Miyazaki, or an OVA of animes-they often release full-length movies rather than a pilot episode, and some of them are excellent. Look at the Gundam series and the points they have to make about war. Try any of these and several more anime series, and you’ll be convinced quickly – there’s more to anime than bad costumes and pimply geeks. Like comic books, anime will come into its own during our lifetimes, and we will have the privilege of watching it grow.

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