I have a mixed feelings on Japanese Anime as an American. See, my husband has been watching it so much, I am surprised when I hear English coming from my television. This is mostly because he has watched what was interesting to him that is available in English and has become bored. Bored because there is very little difference between stories. Oh, sure, there are some interesting stories now and then that are unique to the series, or to the movie. But in the end, our entertainment seems to be stuck in lockstep with story “beats” and formulaic storytelling. Hollywood and most American studios won’t deviate from these because they make the most money.
I equate American television programming to junk food. The quality is minimal. It’s cheap to produce. It’s addictive and mindless. And it’s utterly unhealthy and poisonous to entertainment ‘diets’ because little of it makes people think. Just like junk food makers, Hollywood won’t stop making junk programming because the excuse is that it sells. Hollywood accounting, which really should be illegal, try their damnedest to make their productions lose money and thus drive up production costs to drive up profitability and excuses to bankrupt as many people related to them as possible.
Anyway. Anime. There are several classifications of stories in Anime, and you can often guess which it is by the art style within the first few minutes of the show/movie.
- Hair color – Look for the amount of “pink hair.” Or other unnatural haircolors. If the story is more serious, you will have very little unnatural-colored hair. The only exceptions to this would be something more futuristic and the character is a punk/rebel/anarchist type. Distinctive hair colors and styles are generally used to identify characters. (They sometimes all look rather alike.)
- Eye sizes – The further from serious a story is, the more normal sized character eyes will be. Not that they will be ‘natural’ sized by any means. The Japanese animation style uses eyes for expressiveness.
- Women’s breasts – I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or the pervert-nerd-in-a-closet-now-animator fetish thing. The more serious stories generally will have a uniform breast size across all female characters appropriate for the characters’ ages. The less serious, you get the range from the jealous flat-chested characters to the party-balloon heroines with the occasional dirigible-esque villains/sidekicks. (Also, the more animated the boobs, the less serious. Honest, there’s more waves in some Anime breasts than a 9.0 earthquake in the ocean.)
- Women’s clothes – There is a perplexing fascination with panties in Japanese Anime. I don’t know if the culture spawned it and it’s reflected in their entertainment, or the entertainment seeded it and it just blossomed. Nevertheless, schoolgirls wear skirts. The more serious (or female-audience-targeted, there are a few of those,) the longer the skirts and the less likelihood of seeing a girl’s panties if she falls. Some skirt the borders of Japanese decency rules a LOT by not leaving a lot to the imagination, regardless of what is supposedly drawn to hide things.
Now, this isn’t saying that everything is bad with Japanese Anime, even if I get rather tired of some of the more re-used storylines, which seems to be the “harem anime.” These are stories usually with one guy and a bunch of girls around some central theme that varies from series to series. The guy is usually the meek, socially-awkward-around-girls, nice but utter-sexually-clueless sorts who, for gods know what reasons, has every female wanting him and all but throwing themselves at him. There is the occasional switch up with a central female who may or may not be meek and several males of assorted forwardness who eventually fall for her. This, I suspect, is something culture-centric around Japan that we don’t see here. I don’t pretend to understand it entirely.
What DOES fascinate me is how the Japanese will take historical facts, legends or myths, and change them up for their stories. We take such pains to be “accurate.” There is only so far things will deviate, and we are fixated on being realistic. Even in the Marvel universe, the Norse mythology has been wrapped up in the blanket of the Asgardians not being gods, but extremely long-lived aliens and their magic is science that is so far advanced, it may as well be magic to us. I do like this! But I also see it as a crutch. When we do have magic in the real world, it is hidden and secret, the “real” reason behind historical happenstances. Everything must be explained with real or “real” science to allow its existence instead of just accepted.
In Japanese stories, they throw that all out the window. At the most, they will take a few key facts/details/descriptions of events, objects, or people, and then build an entire world that simply exists around it. (There is also a penchant to have all-female casts in some series, which just boggles the mind.) Schools where girls drive tanks and compete in tournaments between schools. (I kid you not, it’s out there.) One series with humans and a human-like race who live underwater and the contention between the two groups. (It’s interesting, but a tad confusing.) Worlds where magic is real, or science did/produced/something with X and dealing with that. They just do things and the audience just accepts that world’s rules and enjoys the stories.
One series, Log Horizon, is about a bunch of people having gotten dropped into an online gaming world and instead of focusing on getting out, they focus on making a life there. (Waiting on the next season/story in the world.) It’s actually pretty interesting. Another, which I term a reverse-harem anime, called Kamigami no Asobi, is about a Japanese girl dropped into a mock high school for several (male, of course) gods from a variety of mythos (Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Japanese) so the gods could learn more about humans and she was tasked to help them learn. It was rather cute, and interesting how they created the story.
There are others, but these two come to mind immediately. (Can find them on Crunchyroll.com if you’re curious. Sorry, subtitled only.) Most of the others that I remember, when Christianity or elements of Christianity are in the story, do not treat Christianity kindly. With other religions or myths or such they mix up being good, neutral, or evil. Historical figures, generally the same. Mixed up whether they are good, neutral, or evil.
Now, while I don’t think I will be rewriting myths to put in my stories, I do think that I may based some of my own societies and deities off our own with a few twists of my own. And I may just steal a few names because frankly, I have always rather liked some of them. It could be fun.