When I was rummaging through my DVD collection to make the collage you see above, I wanted it to be a good representation of what makes up my interests as well as showcase what content has shaped me into the writer I am today. You may have noticed that some of my selections were a certain type of animated content from Japan. Without going into too much detail, I regard anime to be of great cultural importance to the world of film and television. It’s a medium that’s been a major influence on western animation and is capable of vividly telling stories through its unique visuals that can’t be conveyed through the likes of live action footage and CGI.
However, there are a multitude people who I’ve interacted with, many of which have never seen a full episode, who view anime negatively. The amount of times I received strange looks and demeaning comments whenever I mention I watch anime has reached ridiculous numbers. So today, I’d like to talk about this negative stigma, why it exists, and hopefully alleviate some of that stigma.
Anime Is Too Childish
The majority of popular anime in the U.S. are those aimed towards children. Shows like Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Digimon, and Sailor Moon are more commonly household names because they’ve done so well with the younger demographic. Naturally though, because the most well known anime are for children, then older audiences are going to think, “Anime is just for young kids, not for adults!”
I find this to be very confusing because we have a ton of animated programs designed for an older audience like The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park, and Rick and Morty. After scratching my head for a bit on this, I’ve come to a theory that may answer why this is: animation isn’t taken seriously. Because the majority of western animation is focused on either younger audiences or for comedic purposes, then people aren’t going to be interested in a more dramatic animation. This is a shame, because animation is a surreal style of storytelling. If you were telling a serious story with a more fantastic nature, then using animation could be a method to further the setting’s aesthetic as well as making the world seem unique to ours.
Anime Is Too Inappropriate
Highschool of the Dead is a zombie apocalypse anime told from the perspective of a group of high school students. The teenage characters are forced to immediately grow up as they’re thrust into a world where surviving is the only goal of each day. Sounds like a cool concept, right? Too bad it’s squandered by the fact that every five minutes the teenage girl’s…tracks of land…keep shaking unrealistically.
Unfortunately, there are some anime like Highschool of the Dead that utilize an excessive amount of fan service. Fan service is a term for creating a character aesthetic specifically designed to “please” the audience. As a side note, I want to stress this point: I do not condone fan service. I find it to be unnecessary, distracting from the story, and in some cases a little creepy. Today I’m not going to discuss the problems of fan service in depth (mental note: it could make for a future blog down the line), but rather the conclusions people jump to because of it. Unfortunately, if someone were to Google “anime”, some of the things that pop up would make any parent concerned and the average individual a little freaked out. Because of this, anime is generalized as being inappropriate content, and in some cases people view it as something that’s teetering on the line of pornography.
Now, I’m not going to defend fan service. Anime that uses it should be aware of the risks involved and deal with the consequences accordingly. HOWEVER! Like most television shows, not all anime is the same. There are plenty of anime that utilize no fan service, such as some of the children ones I listed before, and plenty that are made for an older audience. We also need to bring up the adult animated shows again. All of which I’ve previously mentioned have used risqué content before. Granted it was used for humor, but it’s usually done in WAY more inappropriate ways then in most anime. Yet for some reason, anime is looked down upon more.
Anime Turns You Into A Creepy Fan
“Otaku” is a Japanese phrase for a person interested in anime or the graphic novel version, manga. Nowadays it’s similar to calling someone an anime “geek” or “nerd”. The phrase gained attention on a national level in 1989 during the trial of Japanese man Tsutomu Miyazaki, known as “The Otaku Murderer”. To call this man a monster would be an understatement. I won’t go into specifics, but he was a crazed serial killer. During the trial, the court made note that he owned thousands of videotapes, some of which contained slasher/horror content, while others contained anime. Because they were angling towards using this as a reason for murdering, he was dubbed “The Otaku Murderer” and thus began a moral panic towards all fans of anime. What didn’t make this any better is the fact that the Stephen Spielberg of anime shares a similar name to the killer: Hayao Miyazaki.
Let’s not forget the otaku stereotype! Most anime fans are viewed as people who obsess over the content, buying clothes, posters, statues, and other sorts of merchandise, and have a desire to marry their body pillows with their favorite character’s face on it. With the exception of the last part (cause that is just creepy), isn’t that like any fandom? Sports fans obsess over teams as they buy jerseys, posters, models and cards of their favorite players, and other merchandise all the time.
No matter what sort of entertainment, there are bound to be a couple of nut job fans that demonstrate the worst in humanity. They cause the world to associate their interests with their craziness. It’s similar to people saying how video games encourage violence.
Which leads me to the biggest reason as to why there is a negative stigma:
Here’s a big secret about anime. You ready? It’s incredibly shocking and surprising, so hold on to your seats!
Anime…is not a genre! It is a style of animation. Yet people judge it as if it’s a genre. In some cases, the unfamiliar person says, “I don’t like anime”, as if they’re saying “I don’t like horror”. They throw it all under the same umbrella and think nothing of it! It’s the equivalent of me saying “I don’t like mushrooms on my pizza, so I don’t like pizza!” Genre refers to defining mediums like films and television through its narrative elements. Anime is an aesthetic. It may help to better convey a story, but it’s not the major narrative component! That’s the writer’s job.
Yes, there are plenty of anime for kids. But not ALL anime is made solely for kids. Cowboy Bebop is a drama that’s pretty close to being the equivalent of a film noir and it’s animated.
Yes, you will find some inappropriate anime featuring fan service a plenty. But there’s just as much anime without fan service. Kids on the Slope is one of those “pesky” high school anime that tells the touching story of two outcasts coming together through their love of music that features no fan service whatsoever.
Yes, there are some VERY creepy fans within the anime community. But the number of normal fans VASTLY outweighs them. I’m also pretty sure that if you name one of your interests, I can find a fan online who’s just as creepy.
So next week, I am going to recommend some wonderful anime for newcomers and fans alike. There is something for everyone in the world of anime, and I hope that people can look past the stigma in order to experience some different, yet visually engaging content it has to offer.
But hey, what do I know? I’m just some guy on the Internet.
So, what do you all think? Are there other reasons anime has a stigma? Any anime suggestions that can help ward off this stigma? Leave a comment below, and let’s get this conversation rolling. Until next time, this is Xander, signing off.