“Why on Earth do you watch Anime?” (frowns)
The next time you get this question from your friends, possibly along with the frowns, I suggest you answer with the following three premises, and then proceed to guide them to the devastatingly certain conclusion.
1) The Japanese race is pure genius.
2) The Japanese race is in chains.
3) The only major outlet for free expression in Japan is manga/anime.
Imagine a big plastic bottle chock full of Coke. You shake it until it’s ready to burst, then you poke a hole in it. Now say the bottle is Japanese society, the Coke is the Japanese mind and the hole is the medium of animation. What gushes out the hole is pure goodness, and that’s what we call sweet sparkling Anime. Not convinced? Let me take each premise in turn.
1) The Japanese race is pure genius. Is there any doubt? In the last 150 years alone Japan came out of self-imposed isolation to become a vibrant world power with possibly the best Navy in the world. They gave the U.S. a good run in the last war, a rival with an economy 17 times the size of Japan. After the devastation of the war they rose to be the second largest economy in the world. That’s just in the last 150 years! I’m leaving out all that great stuff like samurais and poetry. I’ve heard it seriously argued that any graduate from Tokyo University (anyone!) is potentially a Nobel prize winner. Amazing…
2) The Japanese race is in chains of their own making. Japanese society is one gigantic torture chamber. Go near any train station in Tokyo after ten pm. You will see the drunken salarymen and office ladies crawling on all fours, vomiting, trying desperately to get home after having tried too hard to forget yet another hellish workday in a dingy bar. You think Shinji Ikari gagging on LCL fluid while trying to control his terror was having a hard time?? That ain’t nothing next to RL Japan.
3) The nail that sticks out gets hammered in…hard. So you end up with things like the NHK weekly programming. Most of the famous cultural products of Japan are stagnant, handed down by old families so concentrated on following every single 500 year-old rule that they don’t notice that no one is watching anymore (e.g. Japanese theater). One thing that really struck me after leaving Japan and moving to Thailand was how vibrant the Thai movie industry is. Thais make loads of high-budget films, and people go and watch them!! Muay Thai boxing is on all the time, and people care!! And this a nation with half the population of Japan and half the history!
But there is one free zone where Japanese can be creative and play out all of their dreams and fantasies and get paid for it. And that’s the realm of manga/anime production and circulation, from doujinshi to Gainax and Sunrise. It is the concentrated product of the free expression of Japanese minds. And that’s bound to be a very good thing, deserving of being watched. Q.E.D.