In many ways, I view anime just like I view other media entertainment, like movies and TV shows. For a long time I thought anime was strange, but it’s just another format for a story to be told through. Stories have always been important to my life: I’ve read most of my life, I’ve written fiction for most of my life, and I’ve avidly enjoyed movies and tv shows too. Anime is another platform for me to digest more stories.
There are several major advantages, or pluses, that anime has over American animation and television and that’s a topic for another day. But I’d like to say that I really appreciate anime for delivering another culture’s stories and amazing imagination to me effectively with beautiful visuals, stories and characters.
However, I do hold a bit of a standard for what I think makes good anime. It’s really the same standard that I use when I look at books and movies and TV shows, except with an extra spot for animation.
Dimensional, Intriguing, Relatable, or Fun.
I believe characters are the strongest, most important part of any type of story. Characters are what we’re suppose to connect with, they carry the story, and make us care. Of course, I don’t expect the perfect character type in every anime. Not all characters have to be quirky, they just need to be fun to hang out with (Kumiko from Sound! Euphonium.) Not all characters need to be relatable, they simply need to be intriguing enough for me to cross over into their story (Kuroko’s Basketball.) But please, no cardboard cut outs!
When characters are done well, heck yes! (Light Yagami from Death Note as an intriguing example.) But all I need are a few likable, enjoyable characters and I’m set. If an anime fails to do that…well, what are the chances of me sticking around in that story for very long?
Solid, Engaging, Surprising, and Strong.
If the plot of the story is solid, engaging, unique, or just enjoyable (and meshes well with the genre it’s working with) I’ll probably really enjoy it! I don’t dislike many anime genres–really, the more types of genres, the better range of story I can get. I don’t care if the story is sports, slice of life, fantasy, josei, psychological, harem, action, school club, historical, comedy, or sci-fi. If it’s funny, or smart, or enjoyable, or thrilling, I’m probably going to enjoy it. Plot cliches, the overuse of “the-easy-way-out” endings, dragging middles, and pointless fanservice is all baggage I expect a good anime to avoid.
Bottom line: Anime is a form of story. It better be done well. And if it is, I’ll likely really enjoy it.
Beauty, Flow, Detail, and An Appeal to Personal Tastes.
This is pretty big for me because I’m a huge animation junkie. I’m not that strong in technical lingo, but animation has always been an important form of storytelling for me, since I was three years old. In regards to anime, I’m especially drawn to moe and bishounen art, but really any animation that isn’t too strange and creepy looking I’ll love and appreciate the work that was put into it (Kekkai Sensen is a great example of quirky, amazing visual art!) However this does not mean that there isn’t a difference between good and poor animation to me. Because there is.
Just with story and character, the strength and style of an anime is incredibly important. Although an anime with poor animation quality can still be enjoyed because of characters or humor (ie: Welcome to the NHK) it is incredibly important that something animated flows well and looks appealing. Not everyone is going to have the same tastes in animation style or character design or background art and that’s ok. But poor and/or ugly animation style and characters can really hinder how much I will enjoy an anime. Especially if the story and characters are also poorly done.
To wrap this up: animation is an important story format to me. That’s why I’ll give Disney’s latest films Frozen and Big Hero 6 such a hard time–they might be pretty, but man, it really peeves me off when a multi-million storytelling company puts out shoddy characters and poor plot development. That’s why I’m so thankful that anime exists! The Japanese have put out some amazing stories over the years, and I’m so happy that I get to be a part of the adventures! While I do expect decent storytelling and animation, just like from anything else, they thankfully satisfy my craving for a good story and beautiful visuals more often than not!
What do you expect when you watch anime (or any type of entertainment?) Do you care if a popular story uses cliche characters types or lots of filler episodes? Which do you think is more important to storytelling: character or plot? What’s your favorite type of visual style?