As much as I am loath to admit it, anime isn’t an objectively superior form of entertainment. It just happens to be MY entertainment of choice (along with video games) and pretty much the only thing I watch unless somebody else makes me watch live action.
There have been many tags and general essay posts going around the community since way before I was around that delve into topics such as Why I Like Anime or What Has Anime Brought to Me ect, which try to figure out why we’re all drawn to this very peculiar medium. At the end of the day, most of us just like it…because we like it. At least, that’s the case for me. But if I have to pad that reason just a little bit more: I like anime because I have an easier time identifying with it.
As a medium, I just find it easier to relate to than a lot of other forms of entertainment (except perhaps video games, but that’s not fair as they force you to take an active part in the story and therefore more or less force you to engage with the narrative). But just saying I relate to anime is still a pretty flimsy answer if I can’t actually tell you how I relate!
I have a sinking feeling this may reveal way more about me than I’m comfortable with. I guess it way too late to worry about TMFI at this point! This blog is going to get me in trouble some day…
Please see, the op 5 Reasons I Relate to Anime
5 – Non verbal storytelling
I like clues, mysteries, hints. And I am a pure disaster when it comes to reading between the lines. No seriously, if you want me to know something, you have to spell it out like I’m a 4-year-old, or a robot. In fact, play it safe and pretend I’m a 4-year-old robot. Also, I stray from the point a lot when I write.
This particular element applies to animation in general. Animated works allow for a much higher degree of control and decision making. Everything from color to light to the sound and pitch of character’s voices is an active decision and independent of the constraints of using an existing actor or having to deal with set construction or design. A fantastic alien landscape costs the same to put on screen as a simple bedroom.
As such, everything becomes a viable way to convey information to your audience. And for a pattern seeking and loving person like me, that’s a real treat. If I like an anime, I can delve into layers upon layers of potential narrative or even meta narrative that just wouldn’t be available in a more conventional format. So even though I may not pick up on hints in my real life, I love a medium that lets me read into things at my own convenience to the ridiculous degree I want!
4 – Unobstructive background morality
How am I going to explain this? Every society tends to imbue its own values into the fiction it creates. I’m not talking about actual morality tales where the narrative itself imposes a “right” or a “wrong”. I’m talking about the more abstract associations we make with certain traits or behavior that become an almost subliminal message due to repetition.
For instance, heroes (good people) don’t lie. In western media, this is almost a blanket rule. Whenever a character does have to resort to bending the truth, no matter the motivations, it generally means they where either in a desperate situation, they have some type of compromised morality, intellectual/mental issues or they are just plain villains. This is why the Golden Compass fascinated me so much. The heroine’s propensity for straying from reality as not only presented as a neutral trait but often used to her advantage. I thought it was amazing.
Well, in anime I have not seen quite as many of those general morality calls. Heroes can be greedy or selfish. Villains can be magnanimous or caring and still not get redeemed. Maybe it’s because my own upbringing and social background is blinding me to the judgement calls that are being made since I don’t have the proper subconscious associations in place, but to me this is refreshing. It’s also a bit empowering. It means that I get to decide what makes good or bad for myself. I like to respect the art I take in, and I appreciate when it respects me back!
3- Small stakes
Anime is unafraid to tell small stories. Tiny little stories that shouldn’t matter. And to take those little stories very seriously. Because when it happens to you, those things do matter… I’m not sure if it’s because of the cheaper production or of the sheer amount of anime that gets made every year, but I have always found that anime has a greater tendency to tell more personal stories with limited stakes.
Sure, Seinfeld was a hugely popular show about nothing, but that was the hook. It was the tagline. It was unique and unusual for a series to follow generally mundane events in the lives of characters that weren’t particularly special. And it was still outrageous and exaggerated half the time.
In anime I can see stories I realistically could have lived. Characters I recognize because I know people just like them. Small lives with nothing special that don’t make a huge impact but whose stories still deserve to be told. Small people like me, we like the small stories.
2- Value of Effort
I love passion! LOVE it. I have so little patience for apathy. The whole shoulder shrug, it is what it is mentality, drives me insane. I’m not sure who decided it wasn’t cool to care but they set us back so much! Caring is awesome. Trying is admirable. I’ve seen so many shows and movies where the main characters are special, chosen, unique!!! They can simply show up and the story unfolds by virtue of them being themselves.
Well pooh to that. I am and will always be considerably more impressed by the guy who puts in the work, who pays their dues. Even if they fail. I find effort inspiring and even comforting. That means we don’t need to rely on the unpredictable nature of luck. It’s going to be alright, we’ll work though it one step at the time.
More than any other medium I’ve encountered, anime consistently insists on and glorifies effort. There’s nothing shameful about having to study really hard or practice at a sport you’re not as naturally gifted in. There’s nothing shameful about failing and learning from your mistakes. I find this message is more readily available in anime, and I like it!
1- Self -depreciation
As much as the internet is a scary and mean place, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything make fun of anime fans as much as anime does. There’s a bit of a gentle heart self-depreciation that echoes through the medium and I like that. It’s almost as if anime itself takes on the persona of that slightly ostracized nerd everybody makes fun. I love that nerd. Thems are my people!
Not only do I enjoy a good self-deprecating joke. I work with lawyers all day people, keeping egos in check (mine first and foremost) is very important in my life. But I also really like when people and art does not take itself too seriously. There’s much more opportunity for improvement and flexibility if we don’t already assume we’re the best there ever was and will be.
I guess I like anime because I think we could be friends…
Well that didn’t clear up anything at all! But it was fun to write 😊 Do you guys also relate to anime as a medium and if so, how?
37 thoughts on “Top 5 Reasons I Relate to Anime”
In the begging when I was just a small lad watched anime for the epic fights. Then I hit puberty and watch anime for the “plot”. Now I watch anime for actual plot and well written characters that I can really relate to.
In addition to all of that I feel as if I am in another world with my laptop, the anime, root a, season 20.
sounds like a great time!
I find that anime is much easier to understand than actual people. The social cues are clearer. I’m not tasked with trying to figure out all the subtle hints and signals and subtext that real people use to miscommunicate their meaning to me. There is no expectation that I’ve picked up expectations and implications and standards and informal rules everyone else absorbed by osmosis. Even the deepest and most complex anime is easier to figure than a typical IRL conversation.
OTOH, anime dispenses with many of the tropes and rules that constrain live action. The characters are allowed to act larger, behave louder, hold contradictory positions. Facial expressions and movements are exaggerated to get the point across clearly. Even a brief retreat to chibi style for emphasis of silliness is impossible for live action. A completely fantastic environment is easily created while the same would cost several million for a live action show and still not be as fantastic.
The lower cost allows programming for niche markets and taking risks. That encourages creativity. Because of costs, live action has to appeal to the largest population possible. That eliminates vast numbers of possible plots and themes and characters that really could be interesting. Even anime that get the big screen live-action adaptation usually lose a lot of the juice that made them great to begin with. It just isn’t the same.
I actually wrote an entire post last year saying essentially the same thing – great minds
Anime helps fuel creativity, life just be so boring without it. It honestly paints so many new perspectives on situations. I just finished Karakai Jouzo no Takagi an each episode is something you won’t find in a movie, but than we come across intense battle scenes or comedy’s that people just don’t understand the beauty of it all.
For us blokes the real answer is boobs! 😉 😛
You relate to boobs? I guess I do as well.
To men, boobs are everything! 😛 ;-D 😉 (jk)
I really dig this post.
If I had anything to add, it is that I feel that Anime has nothing to prove to any of its viewers, which is a wonderful strength. It isn’t trying to justify its own existence and choices every few minutes like many shows in the west do.
True.Because of he saturation, market pressure just isn’t as important which is awesome!
Pressure, or just a culture that doesn’t tie itself in knots over women showing their tits or ass, and that what someone is wearing doesn’t prevent them from being an awesome character.
Oh I’m not sure. Japanese culture still has a much sterner view of what women should wear and how they should act. I was once asked to put a jacket over my thank top in blazing summer heat.
This is true, and I’m not one of those people who believe Japan is this “great politically incorrect paradise” far from it, but there is still far more creative freedom in their media on what can anc cannot be shown then back on this side of the planet.
Most of this applies to me, too, in one way or another. You’d have to re-order things a little, and set different accents, but the general drive is there.
For example, one of my favourite genre is slice-of-life, and it’s the only thing I’d argue that anime does better than any other medium I’ve known. There are examples outside of anime (James Joyce’s Dubliners does that for me in written form; or most of Jim Jarmush’s films, especially Night on Earth or Coffee and Cigarettes), but as a trend it’s clear. In a sense, I think that boils down to a combination of small stakes and visual storytelling. When life’s just a string of unexceptional experience, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Make it a good moment, make it a sharded memory. It’s just so relaxing. It’s the old food-tastes-better-when-you-eat-with-everyone trope, And it’s all tinged with that special transcience filter: enjoy it while it lasts, because when you miss it it’s too late.
Anime is incredibly good at modulating mood this way: there’s often a melancholy subtext even in happy scenes, and there’s always a sense of hope when things are bleak. There’s something deeply comforting in the admission that life can and will suck, and it’s okay to curse life when it happens, but don’t waste your time like that when life doesn’t suck yet. And if it does, well it won’t forever.
In a sense, this also often amounts to the moral subtext of anime: you accept both the good and bad; you shoulder the pain. Villains often have some noble goal, but fail to bear the pain.
Because of this subtext, it’s not always easy to tell when slice of life slips into adventure or drama: it’s often just a sense of perspective. Something like Flying Witch doesn’t have low stakes; it has no stakes (or very low stakes, but saying it like this isn’t as snappy). Something like Tamayura gives you character development that oculd be outpaced by a snail; a bit like Kimi ni Todoke (which is a romance). Something like Usagi Drop or Hourou Musuko has clearly defined stakes, but is mundane. The amount of story increases in increments, and at some points you end up with a drama, but you’ll never notice when it happens. But the general through line remains: that you live your life in the here and now, and if you ever forget about that that’s a moment you’ve lost.
I’m less convinced about the “value of effort”. It’s not that effort’s not worth it, but for one low-effort greatness isn’t exactly rare in anime, and when it occurs it doesn’t necessarily make for a bad show (think something like No Game No Life). But also effort is often framed with competition, and I’m not sure how I feel like that. The core concept here is the publishing of exam results in schools to motivate people to do better. The class E system in Assassination Classroom really is just a caricature of a system that’s actually in place. There’s always going to be a last place, even in a school full of geniuses. This a system that’s designed to create winners and losers. There’s a sliding scale from try to best to hang in there, and in the worst case scenario we get stuff like Your Lie in April, where apparently pushing you head first into a very severe trauma is good for you, or My Hero Academia, where a dream you have blinds you to your own strengths, and the solution is to acquire someone else’s strength instead. There are sever downsides here, and when anime rubs me the wrong way, it’s usually along those lines.
On the other hand, though, I do like that the trope when it comes to what I think of as the Naruto approach: as you try hard to achieve you grow as a person, and your dream grows alongside with you. That’s also, I think, why Haikyuu works so well; it’s the most condensed sports anime ever – if it’s not about volleyball it’s not in the show, but volleyball is it’s own microcosm and you get the full score of development here. When it complements the characters, the ganbatte ethic is great, but when it doesn’t anime fails spectacularly (at least that’s how I feel about it).
One of the things I love about anime is how seriously it can take visual metaphors. They range from mere jokes (I think I’ve seen “trauma” [tora-uma] depicted as a tigerhorse more than once, though I can only remember School Rumble off the top of my head), to a coceit that carries the entire show:
A good example is Midori Days. The highschool deliquent has been turned time once again. All the girls are afraid of him. It seems to him, his only lover is his own right hand. Well, you should be careful what you say if you live in an anime. As it so happens, there’s exactly one girl who’s been watching him from a far, and when he wakes up the next day she’s… his right hand. When I heard of this concept, I thought it would either be genius or hilaribad. It was neither: it was a regular, adorable rom-com. Within a single episode they normalised this outragous concept and just ran with it. Instead of heightening the absurdity of the situation (as most western show’s would probably have done), they just ran with the practical problems. You can’t really punch people anymore, can you? And what do you do in the toilet? As such, you end up with a regular rom-com; but the practical problems you face are rather unusual, and end up giving you mostly adorable visuals. But the show also faces the emotional fallout: you see, Midori’s real body is in a coma, and her parents are desperate and heartbroken, but Midori doesn’t want to return to her body and uses the absurdity of the situation as an excuse: they can’t do anything about this, can they? This sort of meticulous and earnest exploration of utterly absurd situations is also a major strength of anime, IMO. It’s like telling a joke with a straight face for so long that stops being a joke and turns into its own tailor made conceit. It’s exactly my kind of thing. It’s like SF, but weirder.
There is an earnestness to the medium that can be very endearing when it’s not creepy
Ah, yes, it tends to enhance what’s there, and when it’s creepy…
I think I love the sheer variety of stories anime creates. I was finding a tendency for live action TV and movies to start feeling all very much the same and while some anime does lean towards generic tropes within its genre, there’s so many genres being explored and so many different kinds of stories I can usually find something that feels fun or fresh and even those shows that are generic usually manage a surprise or two along the way.
I found very much the same thing although this may have changed
Very relatable post, Irina. I absolutely feel the same way about anime.
Awesome! Sometimes I think I pay way too much attention to stuff no one cares about
I always look forward to what details you pick up that I don’t.
That was a great post!! I like anime for some of these reasons, too.
Personally, I also think anime is awesome because it’s an extremely one creative and variable medium of storytelling. There are so many small studios or little-known anime that most people think are weird, but weird people like me love them. That’s in addition to the well-known series which are equally amazing in their own right. I can never get enough of Hunter x Hunter and its creative, detailed Nen system, for example. Anyway, compared to movies, and (until recently) compared to the western animation industry, anime has more room to tell more stories in new and different ways.
I think so as well
And imagine that, five relatable answers 🙂
Glad to hear it – I’m always worried that I’m a weirdo…
A four-year old robot would probably be quite advanced, assuming it had some sort of ability to learn and adapt from its experiences a baseline level of competence at things like moving around and communicating.
Ahem. Err… Yeah, I get what you’re saying here. Most of what you’ve described here can also be extended out to visual novels, which are particularly good at the whole “mundane stories” thing by virtue of not having to worry about incorporating “fun” gameplay. Although that said, there are quite a few anime-style RPGs out there that do incorporate both gameplay and a pleasant sense of mundane everydayness about their experiences.
Anime’s absolutely a medium rather than a style. You can do literally anything in anime. You can arguably do more with anime than you can with film, in fact, and that’s where some of the most interesting things come from — attempts to push boundaries, limited only by the imagination. However, as you say, at the other end of the spectrum, there are just as many great anime that aren’t really “about” anything other than the characters involved. I think it’s wonderful that both sides of the medium can coexist… if, uh, perhaps not the fandoms of those respective sides in some cases. 🙂
I restructured that first sentence halfway through writing this and forgot a word. Can you find it??
I can’t…maybe I’m not as advanced a robot as I thought. This is going to drive me crazy – why you do this to me Pete?
Just testing your programming, 1R1N-4.
Couldn’t find it, but then I’m not a robot
I was saying I’m a very advanced robot… A girl can brag…
Those are all awesome reasons to enjoy anime. I especially agree with the notion of the small scale stories being great. Some of favorite anime are ones where they simply are living their lives and going through daily struggles. I also agree with idea you presented about the morals not being clear cut in many anime. I think the notion of an anti-hero is something that anime does really well- characters that are not inherently bad but just make bad choices. Besides that for me I really like the fact that the characters are the centerpiece of many anime. The characters all play a critical role in the narrative and are more than a means to move a plot along. Many Hollywood shows/movies could replace it’s characters and it wouldn’t change much. I also am drawn to idea that you get such intriguing premises and writing with many series. In many cases boundaries are pushed in the case of settings and what you will do to the characters. Awesome post!
I agree, there does seem to be something unique in how anime approaches storytelling.
I like anime because its writing and storytelling tend to be more interesting and less obsessed with primetime numbers. They are willing to tell stories for niche audiences. Before all the Hollywood writers strikes in the 1990’s, there used to be better writing on TV, but due to the strikes, many of those writers went to non-union networks (like CMT or Fox) or started writing novels or video games like Mass Effect. The pay was better and there was less cocaine and hookers to ruin their day. There used to be good shows on TV. Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, Northern Exposure all shared the same writer, who also wrote some of the Lois and Clark episodes, and a fair amount of Deep Space 9 (the only star trek with a real plot). That one guy created some of the best TV for two decades, but I think he’s retired now. With nothing like that to watch today, and not interested in slaughterfests like Game of Thrones, you kinda have to look at anime to find more meaningful and interesting TV stories. Yes, that means reading subtitles, and yes Japan has tropes too, but they don’t use the same ones in every single story like much of the TV in the US and Canada and UK use today.
I,m pretty out of touch with live TV. I did enjoy the first episode of Umbrella Academy – I want to see the rest some day…
Considering the shows I just referred to are all over 20 years old, and can be streamed online if you are curious about them…