Monday, November 17, 2003


Anime, for the uninitiated, means Animation in Japanese. It does not refer to any particular type of animation. Just animation. And they animate everything in Japan. Adults watch animation just as much as kids, I understand. It does not have to have ninjas or 70 foot cyborg panda bears or any other particular thing in order to be called Anime. It just has to be animated.

Please don't ever use the term JapAnimation. This is an embarrassing thing to say, as it reveals the fact that you don't know what you're talking about.

Anime, however, has come to have certain associations in America. This is due largely to the unfortunate fact that Anime was discovered by the American version of what the Japanese refer to as otaku. It tells you everything you need to know about this group of people that they 1.) have decided that being called an otaku is a compliment, when in fact it is the most degrading sort of insult, like being called an uber-dork or something. An otaku is someone with no life, who is completely socially inept and has nothing better to do with their time than sit at home and play on their computer and watch movies. It is not a badge of honor. They are basically the equivalent of people who frequently go to Star Trek conventions (offense intended).

And 2.), that the word Anime has come to be associated, mostly through the agency of the otakus, with movies that are primarily too stupid to be watched by any adult, but too violent and sexually explicit to be watched by any child.

I have tried to watch these movies on a number of occasions, almost continuously against my better judgment, at the urging of people I knew and respected, although I should not have respected them, it turns out, in at least some cases. This quest is periodically renewed by my viewing of an occasional Japanese animated movie or TV series, Anime to them, that I thorougly enjoy. Examples include Cowboy Bebop, Grave of the Fireflies and Spirited Away. These three movies are excellent and I recommend them to anyone. But of all of them, perhaps only "Cowboy Bebop" is typically considered "Anime" to the Otakus, being sci-fi, with space ships and guns and stuff. Grave of the Fireflies is a heart-rending story about a pair of orphans whose parents were killed in the firebombings of WWII, and Spirited Away is a dreamy children's fantasy that absolutely puts Disney and Pixar to shame.

But the American Anime crowd is always talking in hushed tones about movies like Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion, which are awful. And don't even talk about Sailor Moon. Most of the Otakus' favorite movies seem to prominently feature well-endowed schoolgirls fighting aliens or demons. If it's not that, then it's cyborgs that needed for some reason to be designed to look like extremely attractive women. And it's not like they're undercover or anything. Everyone knows they're cyborgs. And yet, they are anatomically correct (for the most part) women. How do I know this? Because the cyborg women seem to need to do an awful lot of their cyborg work naked.

And of course there are lots of ninjas and space robots and slo-mos, like The Matrix except with animated characters that oddly are less animated in many cases than Keanu Reeves, if you can believe that. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that cheap animation with like 4 frames a second was an artistic statement. And so you have scenes that look like a sexed-up version of Fred Flintstone- you know when he'd run through the house, and you saw the same background go by over and over? Yeah, they do that. Or a person (or ninja rabbit or anatomically correct cyborg girl) standing in a pose while the same scene goes by in the background over and over.

Also people have different colored hair, so you can tell who's who. Which one's Sailor Jupiter? Oh, she's the one who looks exactly like all the other ones, that is, a really leggy girl with a superhero outfit that looks like schoolgirl uniform, except she has green hair. That's how she's different. Strong Bad gets it pretty much Exactly Right, here.

Don't watch these movies, unless you too would like to be an Otaku, which remember is A Bad Thing, not A Good Thing. I am sorry (not really) if I offended anyone. If I did offend anyone, it's a good sign that you should get a job, move out of your parents' basement, and read a book or two. And not one with pictures.

Remember, that does not mean you should not watch Anime. A great deal of Anime is really good. But DO NOT watch Anime as defined as anything other than Japanese movies which happen to be animated, and DO NOT under any circumstances take the advice of someone who assumes that because you liked one animated movie made by Japanese people, that you will also like Battle Athletes or The Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040. This is like saying that because you liked Saving Private Ryan, you will also likely enjoy Bring It On.

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