Confessions of an Anime Junkie: Part 1

Viarca Dresden (Contributing Writer) — May 4th,2009
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Anime is not the sort of hobby a person tends to just stumble upon. There is usually a catalyst involving video games or an individual or show that sparks the interest of an impressionable mind. The average person would probably describe anime as Japanese cartoons, and not really appreciate any distinction other than the foreign origin between it and the typical Saturday morning offerings. But what is the real difference anyway? A lot of the more mainstream fare like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! seem just like your average cartoon, albeit with clever marketing designed to get you to spend hundreds of dollars on cards kids just have to have. And while many fans of anime might take offense at grouping those kinds of shows together with their beloved favorites, it’s easy to forget just how much tastes and conceit evolve, as it is those kinds of shows that indoctrinated many of us (Dragon Ball Z comes to mind).

The real distinction in my mind between anime and the typical Western cartoon is not so much in what it is, but in what it can be. Cartoons have traditionally been targeted at young children, and while today we do have shows like the Simpsons and South Park that appeal to a different demographic, I think a lot of that had to do with the increasing popularity of anime. And that's the best thing about the format; it can encompass anything and presumably could appeal to anyone by telling stories without the limitations or expense of live action shows. And while a lot of anime is still marketed to younger audiences, it also tends to attract or continue to hold the interest of people Western culture might expect to have outgrown it.

Unfortunately, it is that very expectation that seems to keep a lot of people away from anime. Rather than enjoy something that appeals to them, many people seem ashamed to admit interest in anime, and even ostracize those that do. Perhaps my opinion is clouded by personal experience, but most people regard the discovery of my anime collection with patronizing derision or amused surprise, often expecting that I cosplay and regularly attend conventions rather than treat it as a casual hobby.

Anyway, whether you like giant robots, ninjas, or voluptuous, vacuous High School girls inexplicably fighting over some average boy (just to name a few of the more commonplace themes), anime is likely to have a whole genre of shows built around your interest. In the hands of artists like Hayao Miyazaki or Makoto Shinkai, it is also capable of producing cinematic masterpieces that resonate with audiences as powerfully as any lauded Hollywood film.

And though the quality and style can vary from the absurd to the truly stunning, its appearance also tends set it apart from an ordinary cartoon. There's just something about the elegance of the models that is aesthetically pleasing to its fans. The style and character designs of a studio like CLAMP, for instance, is easily recognized by those familiar with it, and it's not uncommon to find people who are fans of particular artists due to their style alone.

Many of you can probably claim a far more educated understanding of the subject matter than I can, but with the impending debut of our editorial section, I thought this might be a good topic to get the ball rolling for my contribution. Please let me know (via our contact form or forums) if there's some other topic you’d like me to tackle, if you'd rather hear something less analytical and more anecdotal, or if my rambling is just too painful to read. Otherwise, you will have only yourself to blame when I'm forced to get creative and come up with something on my own.