Friday, 15 January 2010

Wanted: anime sans anime.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Share it Please

Dimitri commented on my last post about my view on anime and I thought I'd reply and expand a little bit on it. However, the reply kept getting longer and longer so in the end I decided to turn it into it's own post. I hope you're fine with reading some ramblings. :)

Basically, what I said was that I have a hard time watching anime since I moved to Japan.

When it comes to anime, I think it was a combination of only being generally familiar with the culture and missing a lot of contextual stuff and being interested in Japan and wanting to learn more about it through means that was available to me back then.

The latter reason probably made me less critical towards anime simply because it helped me learn about Japan (although in a extremely slanted way) so I put up with watching stuff I'd dismissed if it was made in the west. The former reason is a bit more complicated. A lot of things that seemed cute or funny when watching anime back then just makes me cringe after living almost five years in Japan. It's difficult to explain to someone who has not lived here without sounding elitist, but it's kind of like... anime has become 500% more nerdier/geekier since I started living here. And I don't mean that in a positive way, I mean it in the really bad Japanese otaku way.

A good example might be the way they talk in (most) anime. When you don't speak Japanese it's just Japanese, but when you do speak it it sounds extremely, for want of a better word, "lame". No one talks like that! The expressions, the intonation, the weird grunts. When I first came here I met some other people when studying and several of them were really big anime fans. They used to use different expressions they'd learnt from anime when talking to Japanese people because they thought that's "how people spoke", and it always got the same reaction: a nervous laugh, some weird looks and the Japanese person asking where they'd heart that expression.

What I think most westerners don't realize is how much more stigmatized anime is here than in the west. It might sound backwards, but while in Europe or the US people who watch anime can be seen as nerds it's still "Anime!". It's still from Japan and things from Japan still retains an extra level of  cool. Westerners has the image of anime being wildly popular among all Japanese and thinks that Akihabara is a popular place to go for most people. However, non-otaku avoid Akihabara like the plague and watching anything other than kid's shows like Doraemon, Ghibli movies or maybe One Piece will brand you as a huuuge nerd/geek (again, in the bad way).

Like I said, I don't want to come off as an elitist, but fact is that spending time in this country has changed my view of anime drastically. Of course, there are exceptions. For me now a days anime shows that doesn't have those tiring anime tropes I can watch no problem. A good example is Cowboy Bebop but there are naturally others as well.

What bothers me is when the anime tropes ruins an otherwise interesting series or movie. For example, I was getting back into Jovian Chronicles a couple of years ago and read the overarching plot to different Gundam series. I watched half of Gundam Wing years ago and thought it was pretty bad, but reading about all kinds of cool sounding plots I decided to give the giant robots another try. People were talking up Gundam Seed so I tried that, but could hardly get through the first episode because of the horrible, taxing anime tropes. I'm sure there's actually a really cool story at the bottom of it, but I just can't stand to have to showel through all that crap to have to get to it. It might be my loss, but that's how I feel about it.

Like I said, it's kind of hard to explain, but I hope you can understand a bit about my point of view. Or at least that it was an intersting read. :)

4 kommentarer :

  1. Oh boy, what have I started ? :p
    Before trying to answer more in details, I've read more than once than westerners in Japan were quite surprised to discover that on average, Japanese have only little actual knowledge of western society and customs, and when they do, more often than not it comes from "skewed" sources such as MTV and assorted junk. That's kind of silly and cringe-inducing, but honestly, is it any sillier than assuming you're familiar with a given society and its customs from watching its cartoons ?
    Having said that, I think we forget easily that the anime we get in the West is really the tip of the iceberg, ie. the stuff that was succesful enough to warrant importation. This is somewhat less true these days than in the 80s and 90s, with a much larger selection currently available, and without even mentionning torrents and fansubs, but basically, most of the stuff that does reach the west has to follow certain standards. That's not really a complain, but it does hide an important fact : the majority of anime is junk. I'm not singling out japanime, it's also true of manga, comics, fromics, TV series, music, etc... The signal/noise ratio might vary depending on the media, but it remains usually quite unbalanced toward "noise". Cowboy Bebop is a jewel, sure, and there are others, but for one such classic, how many pieces of marketed junk like Gundam Wing ?
    Then, there are the fans. It used to be "fan" was a nice word, for people that enjoy something... as far as I'm concerned, it's kind of derogatory, now.
    I've watched anime, I have a decent selection of anime miniatures, I've played p&p RPGs, tabletop miniature wargames, pulled more than my fair share of all-nighters eating cold pizzas during LANs with friends. I thought I was a gamer. Then I spent nearly 4 years in North America (Montréal), and discovered that "Geek" really is a derogatory, or that, well, we've all heard about the legendary 30+ guys that still live in a basement, can quote whole pokemon CCG series, but don't know how to use soap, right ? They're not legends. They really exist, and they're just as uncool as one thinks. It's pretty much the same for anime, and if half the stuff you hear about Otakus is true, well, I don't think these are people I want to meet.
    So, to sum it up ? Yeah, I can see what you mean...

  2. Haha! It sounds like we're on the same page. Having worked in a a couple of different game stores way back when I've met my share of "legends". :)

    I'm just happy that I have a bunch of friends who are perfectly normal and socially adept but with whom I can also play RPG's, paint miniatures and discuss all kinds of geeky stuff.

    And yeah, sadly the noise will always outweigh the signal, in whatever medium. The only thing that is different for me about anime is how much my perception of it changed after having lived here.

  3. ... and mind you, all of that comes from someone who can identify the toy maker on a given anime robot figure ! :op

    Something I'm curious about though, is whether it's a recent trend, or it's the bigger exposure that finally reveals it, but it does feel like anime has been increasingly targeted toward a given audience (ie. Otakus) lately, with a heavy, and I do mean "heavy", use of archetypes (both characters and plot) and fan-service.

    Well, that, and I'm kind of curious on how someone in an anime-saturation situation would decide on starting to play/collect Heavy Gear Blitz :op

  4. Oh, I was just taking a little break from painting, stretching my legs for a bit. Hehe!

    I think you're right about that. Of course, I'm certainly no authority on anime these days, but that's definitely the general impression I get seeing what new anime series pop up. I especially find the archetypes you mentions very tiresome. I hope I'll never again have to see another anime where's they have some forced explanation for why only 14 year olds can pilot their giant robots!

    Of course that anime is aimed at kids in junior high and high school, but it still bothers me. But yes, I think you're right. Most of the anime today also looks identical with no special style to make it stand out.

    As for starting with HG... well, I've been a DP9 fan since the first edition of Jovian Chronicles and having read that I of course started buying and reading Heavy Gear books as well. But the good thing about the anime influence on HG/JC is that they're influenced by the parts of anime that I like and DP9 has also added their very own inspired ideas into it. Like for JC they've taken the (admittedly cool!) background story and the giant robots from Gundam but they don't force you to play a 14 year old with daddy issues. And it's also worth remembering that you could easily just take out the EXO armours, or replace them with fighters or something, and you'd still have an awesome hard sci-fi game! And same thing with HG, although there the background and timeline is even more massive.

    However, what initally drew me to DP9 was of course the really cool giant robots! :)

    Well, back to painting Jaguars. I don't think I'll have time to actually finish them tonight, but the basic brown/grey paint will get done. I'll put up some WIP pics.


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