So, this is something many of my friends ask. Why do you talk about anime? It’s only cartoons. Shouldn’t you be saying more about books? And, of course, they have a point. Anime is only a side interest for me, with writing and reading (and running) taking up most of my free time. So, this is an attempt to answer them, in a perhaps slightly more personal take on the genre.
Here we go:
Anime at its best is an art form that makes me think more, feel more, and provides an audio-visual feast for the senses.
Oh. You wanted more than that?
OK. First of all then, it’s about the story. In anime, I have experienced an incredibly rich vein of story-telling, including tales that just wouldn’t work so well in any other medium. Not just great stories, but with some fantastic twists in the plot and a rich array of characters to flesh out the tapestry.
Then it’s the artwork. Many anime have stunning visuals that just suck you in. Sometimes that’s the scenery, beautiful enough that you think “I’d like to visit there”. Or it could be the characters, captured in a particular pose or with an expression that moves the story on without using any words. Then there’s moments of action, so intricately choreographed you can’t but help admire the skill of the artists.
Not to mention the music. The best anime have some fantastic soundtracks, right up to full orchestra set pieces, with great synchronisation between what you hear and what you see on screen. And then there’s the opening and ending songs. Many of these are hits in their own right, from ballads and poppy tunes through to tracks which verge on grunge metal.
Somehow, when all this melds together, there’s a magical spell that draws you in. (If you’ve been paying attention, that is, not doodling on your tablet…) You no longer just feel that you are watching a cartoon, but – as with any story – you are engaged in the world the characters inhabit. And like with any art form. you will hopefully encounter some works that reach your soul.
As I said at the start, Anime makes me think more and feel more.
I watched open mouthed as the intricate plot unfolded in Stein’s Gate; cheered on the characters in SAO; howled with laughter at Miss Kobayashis’ Dragon Maid; then Your Lie in April broke my heart; and Violet Evergarden healed me.
My heart soared at Joe Hisaishi’s swooping orchestral pieces; it pounded faster at the tempo of Sawano Hiroyuki’s upbeat tracks; Radwimps anthems helped me to chill; and I still can’t stop smiling and humming the powerful, beautiful, ballads of Eir Aoi and LiSA.
Laid Back Camp made me want to get back into the outdoors; 86 Eighty Six made me take a closer look at the world around me; in the midst of the pandemic, Toradora gave me the courage to carry on; Iroduku taught me to believe in myself; and Barakamon got me to pick my pen up and get back to writing.
So, no, my time watching anime has not been wasted; it has helped me to live life.
Still not convinced?
Go watch at least the movies of Spirited Away, Grave of the Fireflies, Your Name, and Millennium Actress; then tell me there’s not something special about this art form. (Grittier recommendations are also available!)
This, then, is why I watch anime.
So thank you, Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, Kyoto Animation, Makoto Shinkai, A-1 Pictures, Sunrise Studio, Bones, P A Works, J. C. Staff, and so many, many more, for bringing so much art into my life.