I HATE ANIME!

Do I have your attention now? Great! I actually don’t hate anime. In fact, I grew up watching mucho anime (Gundam, Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Gigantor, SpeedRacer, Devilman, etc.) but I could never be a weeb or otaku or whatever. No, I do like SOME anime, but I can’t get into a lot of it for a few very specific reasons… but, at the same time, I really enjoy a lot of anime for some very specific reasons.

Even if you don’t like anime at all, you should give SOME of it a try. I mean, if I can not-hate some anime, surely anyone can watch some. In fact, I recently got into My Hero Academia. Thus, I shall use that and some classic anime I grew up on to illustrate my relationship with Japanese animation.

HATE: PACING

Much of the popular, episodic anime has a big problem for me and many Western viewers: pacing. Sit down and watch an episode of a critically acclaimed “American” cartoon – say, Batman: The Animated Series – then watch an episode of My Hero Academia. Notice something major? How much slower and at times boring or unnecessarily long parts of the Japanese show are?

That’s pacing.

A lot of the themes we equate to Japanese anime involve internal monologue, characters unsure of themselves, and drawn out action sequences. Obviously, this isn’t true for ALL anime. A show like, say, Dragonball Z really doesn’t have these issues. But a show like My Hero Academia or Gundam do.

I hope you like crybabies instead of action moving the plot forward…

When an American-style cartoon might take 6 minutes to get from one plot point to another, My Hero Academia takes 30.

SPOILERS: In one episode, the villains attack. A teacher/hero (Shota Aizawa) is critically injured. Instead of hurrying away with his body to get him help, they stand around taking holding his body. In that same episode, the fastest character (Tenya) is asked to run off and get help. Does he do that immediately? No. It takes what feels like forever for him to even START running. I swear it was 13 minutes of non-urgency.

“Everyone is about to die! Go get help!”

*internally* “Am I the hero to go get help? Should I get help? How does Webster’s dictionary define help? Does help contain carbs?”

HATE: UNCOMFORTABLE JAPANESE CULTURAL MOMENTS

This is a big complaint I have for most anime, even the ones squarely aimed towards children. A lot of the Japanese cultural bits and pieces either add to the show or at least don’t detract from the show. Have you watched Pokemon? Does you ever notice or care that everyone is eating Japanese style meals? Probably not or, if you have, as a Western viewer you just passed that over.

But there is one big part of Japanese culture that we as Westerners don’t really have, at least overtly in much of our art aimed at children or young adults: Making young women sex objects.

At least they’re both teenagers…

In an early episode of Dragonball Z, Roshi agrees to help because he sees a vagina. I am not joking, that’s how the original edit goes. In My Hero Academia, there are jokes about women’s bodies and a student wearing revealing clothes. Now, it’s not as bad here because these are teenagers talking about other teenagers, but still.

There is a way to discuss teen sexuality and bodies. Jokes about a 14? 15? year old character having big boobs is PROBABLY not the way to do it, and for someone from the West like me, it feels kind of… gross at times. This is in a lot of anime, too. Sure, superhero comics and American cartoons sometimes wrongly sexualize women for no reason, but most of these women are ADULTS. It’s the jokes about clearly underage women that, uh, yeah… It’s not the sexuality or comedy that’s the issue, but who it’s directed at and why.

There’s even a creepy Japanese version Pokemon card where Grimer is looking up someone’s skirt. Really, Japan?! I don’t need a college-age Tuxedo mask into a Freshman in school, but here we are…Oh, and there’s the stuff that’s a bit racist, but that’s for another day.

Grimer, looking up young girl’s skirt, because ew. 

HATE: EVERYONE IS A TEENAGER FOREVER

Now, not everyone anime focuses on Young Adult (YA) style literature, but it is a BIG part of much of the popular anime. A lot of them focus on teenagers or younger with big problems they have to learn how to solve. I mean, like, a LOT of anime is kids.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but sometimes I like stories about adults, or old people, or married couples, or… anything but 10 – 17 year old pretty people with problems.

1,000 games and 5,675,233 episodes later and all the protagonists are still 10.

My Hero Academia focuses on high school kids. Sailor Moon? High school kids. Pokemon? Pre-teens to early teens. Goku? Well, he’s an adult for much of the series. Seriously, though, go to Netflix or Hulu and look up “ANIME”. Something like 80% of the shows are about pretty teenagers with issues. Anime is basically the CW of animation, at least the ones that make it to America.

HATE: THE FANS

I know this isn’t the direct fault of anime or Japanese culture itself, or even animation in general, but there is a large and distinct population of anime fans who are raging dick bags, feeling superior to anyone who watches My Hero Academia because they prefer some obscure series that doesn’t even come in a sub form. They let you know how crappy your views on popular things are. They shut you out of getting involved in anime clubs and anime cons. They laugh and sit by their computer, wondering how a fool like you could EVER enjoy popular trash like Pokemon.

As someone how in his mid-30’s, I can attest that these people have always and will always be a part of anime culture. As a comic book fan, these kinds of people exist in other nerd culture corners as well, but somehow anime fans became… something worse. I don’t know if it was the underground, single white male population originally associated with anime fandom in the US or the fact that places like 4Chan are full of them. What I do know, though, is a lot of anime fans are assholes.

My childhood, minus comics.

This has been happening since I was buying bootleg Gundam VHS tapes at comic cons in the 90’s in the Midwest and now that I go to cons cosplaying as popular anime and video game characters in California. And it turns a lot of folks off to anime or anime culture, especially introverts or young women. The problems above, like the sexualization of underage girls doesn’t help. Creeps are, as always, ruining it for the rest of you.

Me at 15: “How much for this Armitage III VHS?”

Weeb Dealer: “Fucking noob… I bet you haven’t even watched Galactic Patrol Lensman. I won’t sell your his.”

Is there any good in this world? Will there ever be justice from me, an American comic nerd, for anime? What about the REALLY GOOD anime?!

Ok . Fine. You figured me out, actually…

I LOVE ANIME!

Little did you know, my title and anger were all a click bait ploy! I wanted you to read and understand some of my issues with the anime genre as a whole, but also to know why, despite all of that, I love anime. Why did I search for bootleg VHS tapes in dusty bins at comic cons? Why did I get weird Japanese games of my favorite shows sent to me off of eBay and Yahoo Auctions? Because, hey, I am a secret weeb, through and through.

LOVE: CHARACTER DESIGNS

I don’t even need to tell you who that above character is and you immediately know he’s a bad guy, and a terrifying one at that. That design is part video game, part nightmare, and all cool. Most of the designs in a show like My Hero Academia combined the two things that make the underlying theme great – Western superhero comics with Japanese anime culture – into a new, cool, third thing. Mt. Lady is rad. All Might is Shazam but also so much more, a parody of the American ideal hero. It’s all fantastic fun and brilliant design.

The wonderful design of many of the popular animes and the DIFFERENCES in design are what make world building. If you look at a genre I love – superhero comics – there are really a handful of “types” based on decades or eras, mostly. You’ve got the classic hero look, the 60’s Marvel look, the 90’s tech look, etc. But most superhero comics look kind of similar, even if the art is very different. Compare that to the characters in My Hero Academia, Dragon Ball Z, and Pokemon. They are all very different and have brilliant designs, from the simple to the complex. Oh, but wait! You are arguing because those aren’t even in the same damned category or genre… Well…

LOVE: THEY AREN’T ALL THE SAME DAMNED GENRE

I love comic books. I love superheroes. It was my first and forever genre love. But, I have to face the fact that in America the biggest, most popular thing is superheroes. Even shows, cartoons, and comics that border on being other things, like fantasy, take ideas and a look from superheroes. Muscular dudes. Curvy women. Costumes. Look at He-Man. They aren’t superhero comics but, hey, the might as well be.

It’s true, Japan. Americans are all tall, handsome blonde dudes like All Might and Lt. Surge.

Sure we have American stuff in fantasy, western, etc. But it isn’t very popular. The biggest thing right now is superheroes, like My Hero Academia. But most anime that has become popular ISN’T really superhero. Arguably something like Sailor Moon sort of is, but you can find a really popular anime with a big fan base for sci-fi, fantasy, western, etc. It’s not one size fits all like superhero comics have become, especially the mainstream one. And when you consider that many popular anime – say, My Hero Academia – are based on manga, that difference in style and genre becomes even more apparent.

America is currently the land of Star Wars and superheroes. Japan is the land of whatever they want to do that week.

LOVE: BEING A HIPSTER

There’s something delightful about being the first person to uncover that cool, weird thing no one else likes. When I was a teenager, anime was for the nerdiest of nerds. Cool kids could play video games and even enjoy Batman. Nerds like me read comics. Then the nerds who hung out in basements drinking Mountain Dew and talking about modding game systems to play Japanese games watched anime… You know, nerds like me. It was fun to be a part of a weird culture that not everyone was.

Even though anime has gone mainstream, I still get to have that fun, hipster feeling about liking something before it was cool or uncovering a hidden gem. It’s a feeling that I really can’t get with comics anymore because even though comic books aren’t hugely popular, the characters therein are. No longer is living Black Panther or Howard the Duck edgy and cool. Everyone likes them now. To have my own secret thing that I KNEW ABOUT FIRST, I can sneak over to anime… There’s always something weird and cool no one watches, especially if you are an old man like me and you enjoy vintage shows.

Seriously, kids, watch Gatchaman. 

There’s also a great feeling of being the person to introduce some friends to a new thing. “Hey, 20 year old anime fan, try Gatchaman! You’ll love it!” Then when they like it, and tell a friend, and a friend, and a friend, you get to see that thing that was a part of you expand and become a part of many more. I’ve lost that feeling with comics and 80’s stuff, but I still get to hold onto it with anime… At least for a little while.

LOVE: IT’S ART

I know it sounds silly, but a good anime is like a good painting or a good book: it’s art. I grew up loving animation. I own several animation cells, enjoy comic and manga art, and have a wall of paintings and drawings in my house. Art for art’s sake is an important part of the human condition. It’s why my ancestors were painting their hands onto caves in Europe thousands of years ago and it’s why I cosplay now.

Sure, that image is pop art but it is art. Animation that’s well done and fluid, like My Hero Academia, is art for art’s sake. Even if you hate the story and the genre, you can enjoy the pieces as they come together and form… art. Just art. That’s what animation is, after all. It’s moving pictures and synced words. It’s the art of illustration, the art of storytelling, the art of sound design, and more all wrapped into one fun, colorful package.

And like all great forms of art, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Maybe you like classic animation, like vintage Disney and Warner Brothers, so you might like to check out Astro Boy. If you like high-end film animation, so you check out Spirited Away. Love 80’s techno stuff? Akira. It’s that simple. Anime is more than just one pigeonholed thing. Unlike American comic books, it hasn’t become dominated by one genre and one style. It isn’t JUST superheroes like My Hero Academia. That isn’t even most of it. Sure, you get boring and repetitive tropes like magic girl or weak sad boy, but that’s life. Because it’s art, there’s so much to find and enjoy.

Think of anime as going to an art gallery. There might be a few masterpieces everyone can agree on, like an Akira or Princess Mononoke. Then you get the pop art, like Pokemon, that some people love and others hate. Same with the modern art section or the religions medieval art and so on.

I really enjoy My Hero Academia, flaws and all, and I am going to keep watching it. I doubt it’ll get me to be hardcore into anime like I was at 14 – 17. But that isn’t the point for me. Why I love anime is because it’s art for art’s sake in my eyes. It’s the same reason I enjoy comics or novels or movies.

Some people can just go watch Dragon Ball Z, accept it at face value, and move on with their lives. I can’t. I want to dissect and understand and think and talk about the things I love. Yes, anime has tons of flaws. Sure, there are plenty of garbage series on Netflix you might accidentally come across and realize you hate. That, though, is the point of creating art. Watch something. Enjoy or hate something. Talk about why you enjoyed it or hated it. Find the positives in the awful and the awful in the great. Move on to your next anime and become a better, smarter consumer with a bit of culture…

And, hey, a good place to start a journey into anime is with My Hero Academia. It’s a very American-style series with heavy Japanese influence. If you love the Avengers or X-Men, give it a chance. For as much as I hate parts of it, I love other parts. That’s what art is.

Then come to Anime Pasadena and discuss it with me on May 26th, the day before my birthday. Just don’t tell me you like that stupid sticky ball throwing idiot character. He’s the most worthless thing since Toad in the X-Men comics. Really? Sticky balls?

Cry away, Minoru Mineta. You are worthless.