Why Watch Anime?
Welcome to the Anime section! I’m your resident otaku and primary editor for anime articles on Geek Spire. I thought I’d start the section off with a bang by explaining what anime is, why you might want to watch it, and where to begin.
Don’t worry too much if you don’t know what an otaku is, because that’s exactly what this article is here for, as well as so much more. Whether you’re an experienced anime viewer, a casual watcher, or brand new to the media, there will be something for everyone in the following pages.
What is Anime?
In the simplest western definition, Anime is any animated media from Japan. That’s probably a bit of an oversimplification, but for the most part, Anime fits nicely under that definition. In Japan, the term anime means all animation, and comes from the abbreviated from of アニメーション (animeshon), which was borrowed from English and abbreviated in the 70s, possibly supported in its transition to the mainstream by the French word, Animé.
In more precise terms, anime covers a style of animation that developed in Japan starting in the 1920s and 30s. Big eyes, colorful hair, elongated bodies, and stylized facial expressions are key features in most anime today, although not all anime share all the same features.
There is also a set of typical tropes and stereotypes present in most anime that helps distinguish it as a medium. Over the top plots, characters and action sequences are infamous, as well as an endless collection of character and story archetypes that have become fairly ubiquitous.
Some famous anime that most of us here in the west have seen or at least heard of includes: Pokemon, Digimon, Sailor Moon, Gundam, Inuyasha, Dragonball Z and Cardcaptors. Unfortunately, these series are some of the less serious offerings of the medium, and many people are lead to believe that anime is meant mostly if not solely for children due to these early influences.
However, for those who caught a glimpse of Escaflowne, Death Note, or Cowboy Bebop on television, anime may start to give an entirely different impression.
Then there are also the series that bridge the gap and can be watched by children and older people alike, which help countless new fans get into the fandom. Some of these series and movies include Naruto, Bleach, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Full Metal Alchemist.
All these series shape our first impression of this method of storytelling, and for better or worse, give us an idea of what anime has to offer. However, if you’re here now, read on, and you’ll learn about what anime really has in store, and maybe find a whole new avenue of amazing stories to explore.
What makes anime worth watching?
Just as Film and Literature have a wealth of genres, styles, and offerings, so too does anime. Whether you enjoy a good action adventure series (like the popular ‘Shonen’ titles Hunter X Hunter, One Piece or Hajime no Ippo), or a sci fi (like the mecha shows Gundam Seed, Neon Genesis Evangelion, or Code Geass), or maybe you’re looking for a good laugh (with some great Comedy like Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Great Teacher Onizuka, and Skip Beat!). Anime has it all in abundance.
There is even a range of special genres that came into being because of anime. To begin with, we have the “audiences” anime are geared towards. Almost all anime is produced for a certain audience, and there are special names for these major distinctions:
Shonen – Translates to “boy”, is made for 8-19 year old guys typically, and often features a lead male character going on an adventure to become the best at some skill or profession, possibly in conjunction with trying to battle the forces of evil. Examples include Pokemon, Shaman King, and Yu-Gi-Oh!.
Shoujo – Translates to “girl”, is made for 8-19 year old girls typically, and often features a lead female character and focuses on her emotions, relationships and journey through life. Examples include Sailor Moon, Fruits Basket and Cardcaptors.
Seinen – Translates to “young man”, is made for 20-30 year old men typically, and features more mature, realistic subject matter. Often with a strong emphasis on good story and characters, Seinen anime can be some of the most powerful and gripping in the field. Examples include GANTZ, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and Welcome to the NHK!.
Jousei – Translates to “young woman”, is made for 20-30 year old women typically, and features more realistic portrayals of romance, adult life, and dealing with our society today. With its focus on a more subdued and a less romanticized look at life, Jousei series often don’t reach a large audience, but are well received by those interested. Examples include Honey and Clover, Paradise Kiss, and Nodame Cantabile.
In addition, anime has it’s own set of special genres, in addition to the traditional fantasy, action, sci fi, horror, thriller, romance, drama, supernatural, and comedy genres. These are:
Epic – Featuring a non-traditional fantasy world is very common in anime, and when characters adventure around these new worlds, it is sometimes referred to as an “epic”.
Slice of Life – Similar to how many independent films are done, Slice of Life series take just that: a look into a slice of a character or set of characters lives.
Mecha – A genre very unique to anime, there are many sci-fi anime series which feature ‘mechas’, large, humanoid robots which battle with an array of laser swords, guns and missiles.
Magical Girl – Another unique to anime genre, Magical girl series feature female cast members who have magical abilities and fight evil.
People with Powers – Not as much a genre as a very common trait in anime, there are a large number of anime series which feature an array of characters who have special abilities unique to them.
Moe, Ecchi, and Harem – While each of these terms carries different meanings, oftentimes series share all three. Moe series feature hyper-exaggerated cute girls, possibly with other cute things mixed in. Ecchi series features sexually revealing female characters, and Harem series features one male lead surrounded by three of more options for female companionship.
There is a multitude more genres, options and classifications as well, but this should get anyone started off well in the terminology they’ll come across exploring the seas of anime.
What though, makes anime good? Is there any particular traits that have made it the phenomenon it is today?
Yes, yes there are.
At it’s best, just like film and literature, anime can tell an unbelievably compelling and beautiful story, as well as introduce multidimensional, strong character studies. The themes anime explores are often overlooked in American culture, with revelations that feel refreshingly different than you’re usual Western movie or book. Combine this with the fact that anime can show absolutely gorgeous visual design, allowing audiences to peek into worlds not easily doable on film, and not visible in books. Anime allows action scenes with superhuman powers being released to look crisp and visceral, while at the same time allowing battles in the deep reaches of outer space to look just as stunning. Add in memorable character designs with wild hair and body proportions, and you have a medium that can take the best of traditional art, comics and graphic design and blend it with the best of film, movies and television.
Anime also has a diverse range of musical scores, soundtracks, plus opening and ending songs which enrichens the experience. It can even bring the series to a whole new level in cases like Cowboy Bebop, which undoubtedly couldn’t have been done in the same way if it were in Manga (Japanese comic book) form.
Now that you’re all excited to check out this inspiring new medium and explore what it has to offer, the burning questions arises…
Where does a new anime fan begin?
There are innumerable resources for the newest of otaku (anime fan) to find their next fix at. Let’s start with the basics:
How to get your hands on anime -
Buying and renting DVDs – At your local anime store, hobby store, or conventions you can pick up a wide selection of licensed anime DVDs. You can also purchase DVDs online from countless sites. Online purchases can be made more informatively and can probably get you a cheaper deal. You can try Ebay.com, Amazon.com, or www.Rightstuf.com, all of them are great.
Fansubs – Especially when a series is unlicensed, many anime fans prefer to download the fansubs. These are fan created subtitled translations of an anime series, and can be downloaded in many places on the internet. Unfortunately, these don’t support the creators, but they can generate the interest needed to get the series licensed and available for streaming and DVD releases that may then be purchased.
How to choose what to watch -
Animenewsnetwork.com – All the latest anime news, reviews and reccomendations, as well as an active forum community.
Anime-Planet.com and Myanimelist.com – Both of these sites offer ways to keep track of your anime viewing, as well as great reviews, recommendations and synopsis of series. Both sites also have well established forums in which the members will be more than happy to share their thoughts and listen to your opinions.
DesuDesBrigade.com – A personally favored anime reviewers amalgamation site, you can check out stellar reviews from JesuOtaku, Vixen, Arkada, and ProfessorOtaku, as well as other members of the site.
Youtube.com: Mr. Anime Reviews, the Anime Zone, and Bionic Slime – Just a sampling of the reviewers active on Youtube. It’s a great resource for finding reviewers you like, and joining the popular AMV (Anime music video) scene may help you discover even more.
AniviewReviews.com and Youtube.com/aniviewreviews2 – WriterWrydren (AKA Leon) and myself (AKA Lyzl) reviewed around one hundred series in the weekly and review style episodes of Aniview. These can certainly help get you started and find many series that interest you.
and of course, you can keep checking back here for the latest recommendations!
What if I’m really, really lazy though?
Ok, fine, as a super easy, final measure, here’s Aniview’s Beginner’s Guide to Anime. It’ll definitely get you started on the right foot, no matter what your taste is.
To the uninitiated, anime can seem childish, pornographic, over the top or just plain strange. It can be all of those things, admittedly, but it is also so much more. Anime can be mature where our television is juvenile. It can be original where our movies are monotonous. It can even be subtle when it needs to, where our books are often loud and controversial.
Anime undoubtedly has just as much nuance, ambiance, and power as any other medium, and in the past 20 years has released much extraordinary content. It is in a golden age where it is watched worldwide and constantly growing, with each year’s conventions and fanbases blooming. So join the party, you’ll be sure to enjoy your stay.