Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why you actually enjoy watching anime? These Japanese animated series that not too long ago were shrouded in mystery as there were very few legal alternatives to use? At first you may have come across anime on a whim, perhaps being introduced to it by a friend or discovering that a TV channel airs it. It could have been anything that piqued your interest to begin with.
But why did you stay? Exactly what is so fascinating about anime that we still continue watching? Surely, there must be reasons for it.
To me, there are multiple reasons as to why anime has found a guaranteed place next to my other hobby which is gaming. These vary from smaller obscure things, such as certain series having festivals in them – something that I, coming from Sweden where we do not really have that, find exciting – to the fact that a lot of anime have life lessons in them in one way or another.
After a lot of thinking I have tried to sum up the three most vital reasons as to why I like anime. What are yours?
It is animation
Yes, this one is fairly obvious. Anime is, as the word implies, animation. Ever since I was little, I have always preferred drawings to photos. And if we take it one step further, I have always enjoyed a more cartoony style rather than a realistic one. Video games? Give me Super Mario rather than Uncharted. Comic books? Donald Duck is better than Batman!
With this in mind, anime fits me perfectly. In general it adheres to a more cartoony style while also being, well, animated! There is something about seeing animated scenes that resonates with my inner self, something that cannot be said about live-action.
Oddly enough I also feel much more connected to the characters and worlds themselves simply because they are drawings. If I had to put my finger on it, it is due to it being a much more limited format than live-action where you can depict, for example, emotions much more easily.
With cartoons, you instead have to use your imagination and create the reactions yourself to a certain degree – especially so in the case of anime, where it is a good way to minimize the costs. A character is absolutely heartbroken? Then we only see half of his face, presumably with the visible parts covered by hair or shadows. This forces the viewer to put herself into the shoes of the character, imagining the feelings the scene is trying to convey.
The limitations help building a closer relationship to the series in question, as you become an active participant in the storytelling itself.
Another reason I have always enjoyed cartoons is that they surpass the suspension of disbelief. Naturally, there are still instances of this not working at all, but merely the fact that it is not reality allows for some more imaginative stories that otherwise could not be created.
Do you wish to have stories with ancient spirits and folklores like Spirited Away or Natsume Yuujinchou? Or how about ambitious modern fairy tales such as Eureka Seven, boasting 50 episodes of a bizarre concept consisting of giant robots using surfing boards high up in the sky? Anything goes!
You never quite know what to expect. There are no restrictions as to what can be created as we are talking about drawings, nor will there be any occurrences of dissonance found in live-action movies when real footage mixes with what is clearly computer-generated imagery. Instead, it all becomes a pleasant whole where less stands out.
Furthermore, anime also has something I personally would call unique. “Slice of life”, or to use the Japanese term: “kuukikei”, which roughly means atmospheric. While this in the West is often associated with anime taking place in school (as “slice of life” is rather vague), it actually means anime focused on the mood.
These types of anime are often seen as nonsense stories where nothing actually happens, which is certainly true. The joy in these series is not action, but being swept into the atmosphere and feeling part of the events transpiring.
My favorite anime of all time is Aria, which is even deemed as “healing” (“iyashikei”). It is near impossible to put into words as to what makes it so special, but watching an episode of it washes away any of the worries you ever had and replaces them with happy feelings.
These are types of stories I have never experienced, or even heard of, outside of anime (and manga, for that part).
The final reason why anime appeals so much to me is, to put it bluntly, how short they are. The majority of anime is between 12 to 26 episodes, where each one is only about 24 minutes in length. This means you can finish whole series in less than a couple of days! Very rarely do they overstay their welcome, too, which is very satisfying.
While there naturally are problems in terms of lack of sequels, leaving stories unfinished, they often tend to end on a good point that gives a sense of conclusion. Unless I have been extraordinarily lucky in this regard, that is.