It’s time I explain what anime has meant to me this past year, after all the exposure and learning curves and enjoyment. After all, I don’t consider it just “another piece of entertainment.” Anime is special to me. So, as part of my 1 year with anime celebration, I’m going to lay out what anime means to me as Jamie.
I’ve always loved animation. Going from a child to a teenager to an adult, I’ve loved the stories animation can tell and I’ve loved admiring the work that’s put into them physically–claymation still blows my mind. However, as I’ve become an adult, I found I was running out of animated stories to watch…and most of what I was watching was not even being made for my age demographic. I almost always had to watch children movies (Disney/Dreamworks/Blue Sky) to see decent animation. Or I had Family Guy–which I still enjoy but only for the stupid laughs, not the animation.
Before I turned to anime, Disney’s new movies were disappointing me with predictable stories and characters who all look the same (exception being Wreck-it Ralph.) Everything else I watched pretty much fell into the “family friendly” category… but family friendly wasn’t necessarily the problem…
When family friendly miserably fails to communicate or connect any human emotion from the story to me…there’s a problem….and Western children’s animation had not connected with me in a long time. Was it my fault, for growing into an adult on accident? 😉 Partially yes, but partially no! The emotional failure is also on the story, which in turn is on the writers.
After all, most of Studio Ghibli’s films are family friendly and for children, but their stories connect with adults all the time, myself included. This is because their storytelling makes a genuine heart-to-heart connection from themselves to us through solid characters who are lovable but who can also be taken seriously. Their films aren’t made to pander to children alone but to the whole family…and that includes adults. This is where the Western animation world is failing, because their humor and story-telling panders mostly to the children.
I can’t even remember the last time one of Disney’s recent films accomplished a connection like Ghibli’s films did with me and they’re both in the same group of “family friendly storytelling.”
When I discovered anime, I discovered a medium of storytelling that was much more efficient with communicating emotions and plots and characters than anything the animators or writers of the Western world was managing. Anime can tell stories for children, for teenagers, and for adults too–there is such a wide spectrum of maturity within anime which is very refreshing. As an adult, I can now watch something beautifully executed and it be meaty for my older mind to chew on.
And more often than not, the stories and characters are actually able to reach from the screen to me: Either by making me cry, or gape, or clutch the nearest piece of furniture, or hysterically laugh.
In a very big way, when I finally clicked with anime in 2014, it began to feed a starving part of me. The Japanese industry of animation threw open a whole new world of gorgeous visuals to devour with a huge range of story genres and characters and unique plots. And there are tons of new stories coming out every year. I won’t run out of “good” anime for a long while, and to me that is a very reassuring feeling.
I no longer need to rely on Disney as the sole provider for my animation needs. To me, the Japanese are miles ahead of them with the storytelling and animation quality, with so many studios to produces shows and movies! They don’t all have to be five star quality stories, but as long as I can connect with them and drool over the animation’s beauty, that’s what’s important to me.
The amazing thing is that good stories have no limits. I can watch a story told in a different language, set in a different culture, and still feel an impact on my own life because of it. I haven’t had a Western animated film touch me like that since 2013, but now I get that connection multiple times a week, depending on what I watch.
That’s powerful. That’s astounding.
That’s what anime means to me.