I was one of the founding members of my high school’s anime club. It wasn’t my idea, but I was there from day one. I’ve been to anime cons. Not comic conventions, but conventions strictly for anime. My favorite store in the whole wide world is an Asian grocery that’s about a half hour away from my house. I read doujinshis. I read yaoi. I read yaoi doujinshis.
You couldn’t tell by looking at me. I wear clothes I bought from the Gap, not cat ears and black pants with too many belts. Even in high school, my “alternative style” was a black hoodie my mom bought for me from Target. I never talk about liking anime, either. I never talk about anime because most people that like anime are clinically insane or 14 years old.
Anime isn’t like enjoying another niche interest like comic books or cricket. Anime has certain connotations to it. People unfamiliar with anime think of tentacle-filled porno or a half hour of spiky-haired idiots screaming at each other. Although I love it, a lot of anime is total bullshit.
There are some exceptions, however.
Recently, Kid Cork and I have been watching Shingeki no Kyojin, known to English speakers as Attack on Titan. It has a compelling plot, interesting characters and beautiful animation. The pacing is even— as of this article there are 46 chapters. We don’t know everything, but we know enough to feel satisfied.
But this isn’t a review of Attack on Titan. This is more of an explanation. A lot of anime has it’s own tropes; a bumbling but well-meaning girl falls in love with the haughty rich guy, the adventurous every-day guy with fantastic powers goes on a journey with his friends. The same old story told over and over again. It’s not necessarily bad, but it is a problem. For every Attack on Titan or Monster (which is an amazing story about east and west Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall) there are 300 clones of Naruto or Fushigi Yuugi.
Not that Naruto or Fushigi Yuugi are bad stories (well, Fushigi Yuugi is fucking horrendous, but that’s neither here or there), it’s just that they’re predictable. People know exactly what to expect from them. At the end of the day, Naruto and Sasuke will defeat Orochimaru with a mythical ninja ass-pull, and Miaka will marry Tamahome and then have two kids. There’s no excitement or mystery. Sometimes being predictable is alright, as long as the characters are well defined and carry the show.
A quote I read once described manga as being like candy. It’s meant to be consumed fast, and can be generally unfulfilling, but it leaves a great taste. A lot of manga produced is fun, and meant to be light entertainment, but I think, for Western audiences at least, most of the more compelling manga and anime stories are lost among the tried-and-true staples of shounen and shoujo. Anime will always be considered “childish” or “perverted,” until Westerners start to have more access to these varied stories.
I may never admit to people other than y’all that I like anime, but I hope I do. I hope that one day it becomes something other than a joke on Futurama or American Dad. I think there are a lot of great stories out there that are hidden from Western audiences. For now, I guess there’s always fansubs.