Why do I Watch Anime?

I think I’ve written at least half a dozen variations on why I started to blog about anime but I’ve never really tackled the question of why I watch anime in the first place. Not really. I’ve spoken about certain elements I like about the medium but never in great detail. There’s a reason for that. I don’t actually know…

One of the most common questions I get from people who find out I watch this much anime and who don’t share my hobby is “why”. Not in the condescending why would you ever waste time on something like that… I mean I do get that from time to tie but it’s very rare and usually from more…let’s say, mature folks. No the very nice people I talk to are asking an earnest question because they are in fact interested in the answer. Why would I watch anime instead of doing something else as a hobby? And I don’t have an answer.

I say stuff like I like colours (I do) and I enjoy animation in general and find it more interesting to look at than live performances (I also do) but well, that’s about it and it’s not a very satisfying answer. Most visual mediums include colours. Heck, I could paint. I like painting… But I don’t. I was looking for an image and fell on this youtube clip instead and I just really liked it. It’s just fun to watch.

I know what some of you are going to say, I’m comparing an active hobby, one that takes time, effort, mental, physical and usually monetary investment with a passive hobby, one that can be done while doing something else and really only demands a bit of time. You can fail at an active hobby, not produce the results you were hoping to. It’s sort of difficult to fail at a passive hobby. You didn’t hear the song properly? You watched right?

Ok, fine but my active hobbies are, well video games like everyone else, music (I know!), cooking (I think I’m great at it till I compare with my friends and realize I am not, but I still enjoy it) and I feel like I’m forgetting something. Oh yeah… generating an unreasonable amount of words about the anime I watch. I looked it up and so far roughly 1,750,000 words… No one wants me to write about anime this much.

Point is that for me, I enjoy anime to the point that I have turned it into an active hobby. I can fail at watching anime. Finishing a show without taking the proper notes, missing important themes or not having established any sort of thesis on it, is for me (and only me) not watching it right. Also, my drinking games don’t always turn out great. I feel like I cop out on prompts once in a while. What can I say, I got my priorities straight.

assassinaton classroom

So we come around full circle. Why anime? Why not cinema or contemporary television, or even YouTube channels if I want to stick to audiovisual. I would certainly get a bigger audience by focusing my blog on that. Heck if I did YouTube videos instead that would probably double my reach.

Why not watch western cartoons. There are more and more well written, complex and mature offerings in a variety of genres to pick from and they finally decided to take voice acting seriously. And once again the answer is, I don’t know.

I like anime. A very long time ago I blindly decided I would like anime based on nothing at all. I’m not kidding. As an actual kid, when I first became aware of the concept of anime, I thought to myself “that’s so cool, I wish I knew about anime” and I sort of never looked back. But at the time, I hadn’t really watched any anime, at least not knowing what they were. I watched Rose of Versailles as a really young kid and 90% of it went right over my head, and I may have caught a few episodes of classic shows here and there but I didn’t really follow any series and I couldn’t have even named one.

yamada-kun-and-the-seven-witches

now I can name a bunch!

To be honest I was pretty shocked when a few years after that I realized Rose of Versaille was not a French cartoon. I watched it in France and it took place in France, and for me, it was in French… I’m still not entirely sure it’s not a French cartoon. The French do some pretty interesting things with animation…

Sorry I wandered away for a second there. Conspiracy theory! Like I was saying, I had no reason to want to watch anime, I didn’t know anyone else who watched it and if there was some type of anime fandom at large I certainly wasn’t aware of it. I decided it was cool entirely based on a few weird titles and maybe a screencap or two and that was it. An entire medium summed up by a completely inconsequential bit of it.

Somehow it stuck. And I’ve watched other stuff and had other hobbies. It’s not like I live in a bubble…yet… But I always go back to and really focus on anime. Yet to this day, I can’t answer the question of why I like anime. I’m sure there’s a reason. Something about the tropes. The power dynamics. The way characters are depicted or women are presented. The fetishism and innocence of it. Somewhere in all the things that anime is, there is something that speaks to me quite strongly but despite years of watching, analyzing and writing about it, I don’t know what that thing is.

So today I want you to tell me why you watch anime so I can steal your answer and stop feeling like a dumb dumb when people ask!

Thank you!

Rini 3 (2)

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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60 Responses

  1. emibeebooks says:

    Great post! I kind of gravitated towards anime myself when the “live action” shows on TV networks stopped being interesting. Anime storylines are typically predictable, too, but the concepts and the characters are much more abstract an creative than your typical cop shows and sitcoms about families.

    • Irina says:

      I watch such a variety of anime that I don’t really have a notion of a typical one but I guess there are genre archetypes. In many ways it’s much more filled with tropes than most media I have watched.

  2. Stephan Grey says:

    I fully agree with your reasons as to why you watch so much anime. They are some of the exact same reasons that I do as well. The art and stories are just so unique and I love to just immerse myself into their worlds.

  3. Jerome says:

    Simply anime is not only interesting and has a world you can get lost in, much like games, but the chracter development is in my opinion better than normal shows. Moreover, they do a lot better when tackling issues such as racism in One Piece, Sexism in Avatar, mental health in School live. I could go on

  4. oliveunicorn says:

    I like the variety of shows , genres and cool animation styles. I started watching anime when I was 12 and have since progressed to so many different shows. I think anime is a great storytelling medium and would like to see more hand drawn animation in western media too . I mean theres shows like Korra , Avatar, Spawn ( even though its definitely based on a comic ) and old Ralph Bakshi cartoons that show case animation for story telling. I do wish there were more to show other people that animation is more than just for kids fare . Although I like alot of the new cartoons aimed at kids too ( MLP , Steven Universe , Adventure Time ) .

  5. LitaKino says:

    I would like to do my own post on this question !! Looks like another idea to add to my neverending list LOL

  6. I watch anime cause I think it’s better then American stuff. Apt he animation, the stories, the style. It’s just better in my opinion.

    Also Anime is better on morality and mental support.

  7. I watch anime because its a great way to learn Japanese and understand Japanese culture.

  8. ManInBlack says:

    Why watch anime? Why not? 😛

  9. “The fetishism and innocence of it.”

    You just wrote a novel or a dissertation in 5 words. I’m not sure which.

    *****

    Well, for me there’s the subject matter. Anime Is much more willing to delve into the world of people with nonstandard neurotypes and nonstandard gender preferences and people with emotional trauma.

    Anime can get away with stuff that could never be put into any movie. Even if you had an unlimited CGI budget, it would never happen. Much of anime is niche market. You couldn’t make the kind of money even a moderately successful live-action movie intended for general release would get with the same plot. This wouldn’t work because we can’t have the audience feel sad and that wouldn’t go because we’d have to add a love interest to screw the plot up and that can’t happen because only kids would want to watch this stuff and we’d lose our PG-13 ratings and our target audience along with it. At the same time, we’ll ramp up the non-sexy fan service until it is 80% of the show with bits of dialog and maybe a catsuit on the hot chick and exactly one standardized “emotionally intense scene” to segue between action sequences all the while we make sure everything is politically correct.

    And HELL NO on that “loli” shit! And the middle school/high school shit too! We’d be in prison for child porn if we tried this in live-action. You’d have to advance all the characters in the Monogatari franchise to college level and STILL castrate the plot to make it acceptable for the live-action crowd.

    And there is the ease of understanding the characters. I meet a person in real life and I don’t have a clue about what they are really feeling or thinking. I might know them for months or even years and still have no clue. But in an anime, I can usually see what a person is feeling and understand their motivation and trust my perceptions about them. I’m not fighting my way through a fog of social cues I don’t understand and even deeper, deliberately concealed intent.

    Because I understand what motivates them and there are no real games to have to figure them out, I can fall in love with a Rem or root for a Kenshin or ride along behind a Kino just admiring her freedom and composure. What you are seeing is who they are. That is so insanely important to an Aspie like me.

    Very many of the characters in anime also exhibit many Aspie traits. But they don’t spend the next year at the therapist just trying to deal. They get to fight or work their way through to their happiness. They get to have romance and respect without having to go through a Pygmalion process to normalize them. That’s important too.

    That… and there is simply a higher proportion of actual creativity in anime. Just my humble opinion, tho. if 90% of anime is sludge, live-action TV and movies reach the high 90s.

    • Irina says:

      I once speculated on how the lack of general oversight in anime affects the end product and came up with something similar. Anime is in many ways more experimental than a lot of mediums but at the same time so steeped in tropes and traditions that it still manages to becomes familiar.

      • It almost feel like anime had been given s pass on the cultural restrictions other literature has been subjected to because it is animated. There is an advantage in not being taken seriously here.

        Why is GITS such an anime classic and hugely successful while the live action version only modestly successful? (BTW I did enjoy the movie,) It seemed to be an anime well suited to adaptation without massive amounts of censorship and plot revision.

  10. I guess the reason I watch anime is because it has been part of my life. I cannot shake it off that easily (unless I got into in a traumatic experience which involves anime) and most of my childhood years is spent mostly watching anime.

  11. Merlin says:

    Because I like it. 😉

  12. Mari says:

    There are a bunch of things I like about anime, but I think if I had to boil it down to one answer, what draws me to anime is that there is this kind of vibrance, this richness of emotion, that I just don’t see in a lot of Western TV and films.

    It’s kind of hard for me to explain, so I’ll try to give an example. One of my favorite live action TV shows is Breaking Bad. Everything about it is spectacular – the writing, directing, acting are all the best in the biz, and there’s not a single bad episode on it. But I never got *obsessed* with Breaking Bad the way I would for a show like FMA: Brotherhood, or Madoka Magica, or K-On! I never spent hours listening to the Breaking Bad OST, or scoured the Internet for lore and random trivia, or spent an entire Saturday drawing terrible fan art of my waifu Jesse Pinkman. It feels like when I watch a good anime, something in my brain just clicks. I pay attention to every detail, get lost in the world and the atmosphere, and spend hours and days thinking about it long after the show is done. There are a few other shows that have done that for me, (Doctor Who for a while, although I haven’t kept up with the latest few seasons), but anime (and my other special interest, music) just does it the most consistently.

    • Irina says:

      Oh wow, actually now that you mention it, anime is very openly and earnestly emotional. It’s unembarrassed. That is nice.

  13. eggheadluna says:

    Originally, I think I liked it more than Western cartoons because of how Japanese animations could prolong a serious plot for multiple episodes, whereas, (when I was growing up) American cartoons mostly consisted of silly one-shots that would never lead anywhere. I liked following the characters’ adventures in Digimon or Rurōni Kenshin, and all of them always seemed to deeply care about each other more than in other cartoons, too.

    Nowadays, with how many slice-of-life series there are, I can either choose to relax or engage in a serious plot. The visual aesthetic has always caught my eye, as well, there used to be a bazaar near my old house and they would occasionally sell Saint Seiya trading cards, and I remember (attempting to) hunting those down, because they were so pretty. The first holographic card I ever got was of Dragon Shiryū!

  14. The simple answer for me is that it got to me when I was young, I grew up with Pokemon, Digimon, Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Gundam Wing, to name only a few. I really didn’t stand a chance.

    For the more analytical answer, I’ve always held on to a special love for animation. Alongside the written word it’s my favourite story-telling medium just for the breadth of ideas and stories it can bring to life. Anime is even more special to me though because it brings me stories, characters and concepts that I don’t encounter anywhere else and I love experiencing new, crazy ideas. Joy I get out of seeing a title like ‘Devil is a Part-Timer’ and then wondering, ‘okay, I need to know what that is about.’.

    Not that any of this matters, like what you like for the sheer joy of liking it. I just really overthink this stuff.

  15. foovay says:

    Some people like lima beans.

    Which is part of a sort of long inside joke, but the point is we simply like what we like and there isn’t necessarily a reason you can point at.

  16. Halsdoll says:

    Sometimes we do things we just don’t know why we do it. I have friends who are always shocked to learn how hardcore of a gamer I am. I rather game than go out drinking. Regardless, I think it is cool that you like anime this much to make a hobby out of it.

    • Irina says:

      I think most people I know would rather game than go out drinking so I don’t have that issue. Explaining why I like games is always a lot easier I find. Synaptic feedback and the essential need to play are well-known ideas.
      This said, it’s not like I need a reason to like anime or anything for that matter.

  17. Scott says:

    I don’t have much to say, honestly. All I can say is Toonami had anime on it and one day, anime and Gundam took me by the hand and hasn’t let go since. It’s been 20 or do years now and I find new things to love in anime everyday.

  18. raistlin0903 says:

    Honestly…? I can’t answer that question either. In fact I probably wouldn’t be watching anime today (again) if I hadn’t started up my blog and ran into Karandi all those years ago. As I mentioned back then I had not watched anime in years, but because of her blog and enthusiasm, I luckily picked it back up and haven’t regretted it since. Still…as to why I like it? No idea….I’m with Annie on this one: I just do! 😂😂

  19. Annie says:

    I just do, and I enjoy it. That’s it for me 😂

  20. Anonymous says:

    1) I have an interest in Japanese stuff from their games and books.
    2) Its completetly different then whats shown here in the west
    3)I saw alot of anime growing up on YTV late at night like on Bionix

    -K.Anthony

  21. I watch anime because of a few reasons:
    1) I’ve basically been watching it my entire life anyway, for as far as I can recall. Even the period which I can’t really call “a period affected by anime” has Pokemon in the background somewhere.

    2) I’ve been liking Japanese stuff ever since one of my childhood friends’ mother owned a sushi/okonomiyaki place and that preference just stuck (said mother now owns a dumpling place in the same place where the sushi place used to be, come to think of it).

    3) My mum. She was (most likely) the one who borrowed Sailor Moon DVDs, her sister was the one who gave the Cantonese-dubbed Pokemon DVDs to my family and when I asked her about Detective Conan after we brought home a game from that series about a decade or so ago (!!!), she happily obliged and that led me down the rabbit hole, around about the time where streaming took off in my region (give or take about 5 years). It’s a bit of a miracle that we can get Detective Conan streaming now…and maybe someday, there’ll be all of it legally online so no one has to pirate it like I used to have to.

    • Irina says:

      So it was something of a tradition for you. As in something you could enjoy with your family. Sadly, my parents (one of which use to technically draw for a living) never enjoyed cartoons of any kind and always refused to watch them with me.

  22. Dawnstorm says:

    I was watching anime all my life, even before it became known under that name. I just called them Japanese cartoons, as a kid. One of the things that I liked about anime as a kid, that made it stand out, was its villains. Villain teams would usually care about each other, have friendships, bicker amongst themselves, much like the hero teams. Western cartoons either had just colleagues, or at worst a manic despot with comically inept underlings who were mortally afraid of them. (That would get better later, with shows like Gargoyles, for example.)

    But many anime didn’t even really have villains. The World Masterpiece Theatre stands out; a series of shows adapted from classic world literature. I was particularly fond of Takahata’s stuff: Heidi – Girl of the Alps, and 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (I didn’t know about Takahata until much, much later, when I learned about Ghibli – which didn’t even exist yet at the time; Imagine finding out that Takahata was likely responsible for forming a lot of my taste – I watched the shows that early; I was around 4 – 6 years old – not sure anymore how old exactly.)

    I wasn’t singling out anime, at the time, I was watching pretty much any cartoon I could find. Stuff that stands out was Spanish show about Don Quixote, which included DeCervantes as a character (writing in prison). And a French show that played through world history with the same recurring cast of characters. And, of course, Disney, too.

    I never really stopped watching cartoons as I aged, but I sort of grew out of Disney. I don’t feel much of a fondness for the TV series, and while I do like a lot of the movies they have little personal meaning. When it comes to American classic cartoons on TV, I’d say it’s Warner -> Hanna Baberra -> Disney, for me. However, anime remained special to me. I’d watch anything I could get my hands on, even shows obviously targeted at kids, like Hamtaro. I have a life-long affection for cuteness, see? (I was 29 when Hamtaro started airing in Japan; I was probably in my 30ies when it came over here.)

    I’ve always wanted to see anime in Japanese, but couldn’t until they showed subbed anime on late-night TV in the late 90ies. This isn’t anything special. Ever since I was a child, I’d watch subtitled Hollywood movies (they often came on Sunday mornings) whenever I could. I’d watch anything subtitled if I could. But for anime, watching my first subbed show, Silent Möbius, was a revelation. Dub fans tend to ask what’s the point if you don’t speak the language? But… well, there were all the familiar tropes, but they suddenly made more sense. It’s hard to explain: female characters and childrens often came across as overly naive in the German dubs I used to watch. I didn’t mind, it was just something I noticed. But then you have this show, and recognise the tropes, but the way they speak… it felt more like a… social nicety? Watching a single subbed anime episode triggered a sort of paradigm shift in me; I reframed 20+ years of watching anime in a moment. That sounds more dramatic than it actually was. It was more like: “Oh, so that’s how it is.” A minor, inarticulate niggle was just gone in a moment. There is something in intonation that carries emotion across cutlures, I think, or maybe I’m just really good at convincing myself of nonsense.

    Anyway, the point here is that I just never grew out of anime, and that every once in a while there’d be some sort of event that re-inforced that hobby. I only went full-on anime nuts when I discovered fansub sites on the net (in 2009, via a writing buddy).

    So why do I watch anime? Because I’ve always enjoyed it. Not always for the same reasons, not always with the same depth, but it’s just always been around. There are also a lot of little anecdotes, like when I watched some slice of life show, and my father looked over my shoulder. There was this one shot where a character reached up to open a cellar window. And my father wondered out loud why they put so much detail into the fingers and hands when the faces are all so schematic. I’d never considered this.

    Would people look at me funnily, if I said I’m connected to anime with the red string of fate (animated version)?

    • Irina says:

      never even thought of the villain angle. That’s really interesting.
      I have noticed the symbolism of hands in anime for a long time. I think this may be a cultural bias but I’m not sure what I’m basing that on.
      I do believe a lot of the heroines I watched when I was little were from anime.

  23. David Boone (moonhawk81) says:

    I’ve enjoyed animated shows/movies since I was a kid, and never outgrew that love. That’s my answer–I’ve always loved animation in general, and always will. (And, yeah, the French do some pretty awesome–and confusing–stuff with their anime offerings!)

  1. October 19, 2020

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