What is the Appeal of Anime?
Japanese anime has a huge following across the globe. I’m a bit of a fan myself, but I do get some strange looks when mentioning my interest in it. So I felt compelled to write this quick little article to try to alleviate some of the myths, and maybe win over some converts.
I think many folks do tend to incorrectly associate anime with cartoons, and automatically dismiss it all as kids stuff, but if more people understood what anime truly has to offer, I believe it would gain an even bigger following.
I’ve been a fan of Japanese anime for a long time, actually it’s not just anime, it’s the whole Japanese culture that I find fascinating, and anime feels like a sort-of gateway in to that world and culture, even though many Japanese people will tell you that anime can often be an overstated caricature that has little resemblance to real Japanese life.
Anime comes in all shapes and sizes, and I mean all! It reaches across a huge spectrum of genres and niches that span from the from the spectacularly beautiful to the completely bonkers, from the paranormal to the downright perverted, with just about every shade of subject mater in between. My own preferences in anime tend to keep me towards the more sober end of this spectrum, in fact I can be quite fussy and selective about the kind of anime I watch. I'll ultimately try to seek out the more quiet stories with good likable characters and most importantly, beautiful visuals.
By far the biggest attraction to anime for me is the scenery artwork. It doesn't matter if it’s a street scene or an open landscape, there is often amazing attention to detail, a vibrancy of colour, and a dreaminess that can only be found in anime.
Green summery landscapes in particular can be simply breathtaking and to see such imagery as a moving living artwork is just wonderful. Watching such beautiful scenery can feel like such a treat; a visual feast you just don’t want to end.
Even a seemingly mundane street scene can have a magical quality to it that you just can’t get in other media.
Some of the best visuals I have ever seen in anime were in; The Garden of Words, Wolf Children, and Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises (below).
As well as good artwork, good characters are obviously another essential component, although sometimes in anime, it can be a bit hit-and-miss…
Also, I’m assuming it’s a Japanese cultural thing, but anime does seem to have a rather disproportionately large share of loud, brash, ‘shouty’ and permanently angry characters, many of whom can be rather grating to us westerners. It doesn’t always depict female characters in a good light either, and again, can seem to offer a disproportionately large share of squeaky voiced, shallow, sex-crazed bimbo stereotypes with intelligence and/or violent anger issues.
However, after saying that, there is still loads of truly excellent anime out there that features enjoyable and likable characters that you will find compelling to watch. I think the trick for me, has always been finding a combination of the two; Both good likable characters, and excellent visuals.
Obviously a good storyline is a plus and in Japanese anime there are some superb story lines out there, but that's not always the case. Because of many differences in our cultures, some anime themes can seem completely bonkers to us westerners!
I figure as long as I can find anime that meets the criteria of beautiful visuals and likable characters, I’ll often just run with the storyline (unless its really dire), because 2 out of 3 ain’t bad! 😁
There is an awful lot of Japanese anime out there, catering to every taste. A lot of it is mediocre at best, some of is just awful, but there is also some that are stunningly superb. Obviously everyone's tastes are different, but if you enjoy beautiful visuals combined with likable characters, you might enjoy some of the recommendations below…
A Few Recommendations
There will always be the safe (and often epic) timeless classic anime films like, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbour Totoro, Stein’s Gate, Howl’s Moving Castle, etc, and more recently Wolf Children and Garden of Words.
My current favourite anime film is one I recently discovered. It’s only about an hour long and is the one I always recommend to anyone who wants to try watching anime for the first time.
It’s called “Hal” and is an anime that ticks all the right boxes; Beautiful visuals and scenery, likable characters, and a superb little story with a twist that will completely blow you away at the end!