I’ve bitched a lot about what I don’t like about anime, so why don’t I dedicate this week’s Ani-Column to what I do like about the medium by me looking at my history with the thing? Although I do end up bitching about a lot of well-known anime anyways in this post, as well doing quite a bit of self-indulgence. If you can’t handle that, this isn’t the article (or blog in general) for you.
I started watching anime (not counting kids’ stuff that I thought were American productions like Pokemon, Cardcaptors, Shaman King, etc.) around 2004/05 when I coincidentally watched Detective Conan whilst on vacation in Alaska one day and was enraptured by how Japanese animation can tell interesting stories that you don’t see much of in live-action stuff. Coming across the series on DVD one day whilst checking out the new Frys store that had opened, I asked my Dad if I could buy three episodes, and after getting into that hobby, I discovered the existence of Youtube where most people posted anime back in the day and have since gotten to checking out many episodes of the kid detective as well as other popular Shonen Jump series like Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece (I only stuck with the last one FYI, because I found the other two to be crap). Then I discovered the existence of Crunchyroll and…well things evolved from there.
You know, people say that the time when you got into anime and what series you watched first that shape your tastes, but honestly the only nostalgic stuff I have amongst my favorites are six titles: Fullmetal Alchemist, Ranma 1/2, Code Geass, One Piece, Clannad the Motion Picture, and Monster (although I didn’t highly regard the latter two until later). Other stuff I’ve seen like Ginban Kaleidoscope, Higurashi, Hayate the Combat Butler, and YuYu Hakusho just didn’t have much staying power with me and I watched a lot of crap in the past too like Negima, Umishou, Shuffle, and more than two hundred hentai titles, with more than half of them still missing from my MAL because I can’t remember their names. Most of my other favorites I didn’t even watch until 2010 when I had integrated myself more into the community (and even some of those like Madoka failed to hold up over time), and even more I didn’t see until after I started this blog. And none of my top five, let alone top ten, anime were a part of those formative years, surprisingly enough. Then again, I didn’t watch Daria until early 2012 so hey.
With all that said, is it a little strange that my top three favorite series are stuff that came out before I even knew anime existed? Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, and Maison Ikkoku. Most people love them to death and my taste tend to strive towards what’s highly rated and popular, so it’s no surprise that I love them so much, but not a single series from the 00s in my top 5? However, in a way it makes sense that stuff from the past generation would rank high with me because whilst none of them are exactly what I’d call original even back then, they represent the peak in terms of what I love about anime before current trends came to ruin the creativity their copycats tried to recreate (I can’t stand Rahxephon, Inuyasha, Jormungand, Penguindrum, etc.). Evangelion is the pinnacle in my love for awesome pretentious mindfuckery. Bebop is the pinnacle of my love for movies in general. And Ikkoku is the pinnacle of my love for slice-of-life stuff.
But yeah, despite my harsh bias towards the copycats and the current trends that I complain about (and will continue to complain about as long as they stay), I do have a lot of recent anime amongst my favorites. I recently put Flowers of Evil, Garden of Words, and Jojo amongst the tops and I absolutely love that maligned Evangelion 3.0 movie. Whilst I don’t really see anything else this season joining them, there’s a bunch of stuff I’m sticking with for now that have the chance to change all that, so you never know. It’s not like the ratio of good anime to crappy anime has changed in recent times, at least according to what I’ve seen. The trends have definitely become different though, and most of them not for the better. I can’t stand the LN adaptation trend that takes an interesting premise and screws it up by taking all the teeth out of it with fan-pandering and otaku humor, and I avoid most 4-koma adaptations like the plague because their brand of humor tends to be foreign to me. I’m also finding that I can’t seem to get into what most people consider popular these days. For example, the big hits of 2011 were Penguindrum, Madoka, and Steins;Gate. I only like the last one and I just think it’s decent at best. Also, I could not get into Attack on Titan or Valvrave, which are probably the most watched and discussed 2013 shows right now. Shocking I know.
Then again, I’ve always been hit and miss when it comes to the popular stuff. For every beloved classic I love like Kaiba or Durarara, I’ll run into a Shiki or Guilty Crown (sort of a beloved classic) that does nothing for me. I’m not a fan of the stuff that goes too far in trying to make a point that they forget to be entertaining like Simoun or Humanity Has Declined, especially when they try to emotionally manipulate you (fucking Now and Then, Here and There). I’ve complained about “intelligent” shows before, but lets be honest, most of my top favorites are intelligent stuff, because despite everything, I really love stories that combine the surface level with the thematic level. The only problem is that most anime (and stories in general) suck at it. They think they know what they’re talking about when in reality they don’t have a bloody clue in regards to the subject matter at hand (and due to the LN trend, this is becoming an increasing problem), and I can’t help but think that most people see these anime as great because the rest of the playing field set the bar so goddamn low.
It’s that kind of thinking that I’m not a fan of, as well as why I’m so harsh on my cartoons. I’m not going to settle for mediocrity just because stuff like Digimon Frontier is shit. Why should I be happy with bland action movie trash like Jormungand when Black Lagoon exists? Why should I watch Ninja Resurrection when I could watch Ninja Scroll? Why would I watch that Genei-whatever thing when I could just watch Madoka again, or something that actually does violence well like Ichi the Killer (who says that anime should only be compared to other anime, eh?)? I’m not saying these new anime have to live up to all these classics I like. That’s too much to ask at times. But the very least you can do is put some new spins and do some different things with the formula (that aren’t stupid) like Soremachi did with the slice-of-life genre and actually be good on your own, rather than the good by comparison shit that Maou-sama gave us.
However, just like pop music, the few good stuff is worth sitting through all the crap for. After all, where else am I going to get scenes like…
Or also this? On Adult Swim? Hah!
I’m completely against that bizarre mindset that being an anime fan requires you to love the majority of what it dishes out at you, especially considering how many cost-cutting techniques most anime employ nowadays to the point of distraction. It’s quite the opposite really, in my mind. Being a true fan of anime means never settling for less, being the father who’s harsh on your children because they waste their potential in the slums, and overall loving the art and creativity it is capable of. It wasn’t the original intention despite the fact that I based my blog on one of the most negative cartoon characters around, but it’s the way I learned to embrace the medium based on all of my experiences, it’s the reason why I continue to watch and blog about it, and it’s also why I am a fan of it in general. And even though I’m not a fan of some of the new trends (or where anime is going in general), there are others I am fond of, and I like how anime embraces them to tell new unique things.
Basically, what I’m saying is that I love anime. It’s as simple as that.