Have you ever seen those posters that start out with “Everything I need to know I learned in <insert school grade/movie/book>…” that list all these wonderful little truths about life that everyone knows but nobody really pays attention to? I have my own version of this poster. Everything I need to know I learned from anime. The difference between American cartoons and anime (or Japanese animated television shows) is a large gap of maturity and true life lessons gleaned from character development. I find more meaning in one episode of, say, Gundam Seed than in the entire run of Scooby Doo.
There is a huge difference in mentality when our respective countries approach animated works. Americans by and large consider the animation medium as something childish and only fit for the most shallow of pursuits. The Japanese approach animated work as a serious art that can convey even the most complex stories with better efficiency and cost than a live-action and special effects ridden behemoth that one would expect from Hollywood. They do not demean the medium because of silly preconceptions. Some great dramas can be conveyed through animation. I speak of stories and characters with real depth and real growth over the course of the story arc. Characters are often flawed and dealing with inner turmoil that can cause what would normally be a minor situation to turn into a major catastrophe. These same characters make human mistakes and suffer consequences for said mistakes.
The writers have a goal to tell a story. This is true regardless of what country a writer hails from. Stories that are written without regard to what kind of budget the studio has to offer are far better than those crammed into cookie cutter sized generic flavored snack batches that Hollywood is so famous for spewing forth onto the masses. Using animation as a medium, suddenly the cost of that planet exploding or those slow motion effects have no monetary difference from that scene of two guys sitting at a table and talking. This gives the writer the ability to truly delve deeply into the tale he or she wishes to weave for the audience so that they might share some of what the writer has put into the work. But I stray from the subject…
Some of the things I have learned from anime:
- Choices have consequences both good and bad. I must take responsibility for my choices and actions. [Gundam Seed]
- It may be far easier to do nothing, but it is far more rewarding to stand up and take action. [DBZ, Gundam, most action anime]
- Stereotypes are misleading. Everyone is different so give everyone a chance. [Witch Hunter Robin, Inuyasha]
- Never give up on a dream. [Gundam Wing, Outlaw Star]
- Money is not the most important thing in life. [King of Bandit Jing]
- Love conquers all. [Chobits, Appleseed]
- People can change. [Elfen Lied, Rurouni Kenshin]
- Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense. Just take those times and deal with them the best that you can. [FLCL]
- True friends will be there for you. [DBZ, Rurouni Kenshin, Outlaw Star, Dual!]
- Every day is an opportunity to learn to understand myself better. [Noir, .Hack]
- Everyone needs help sometimes. True friends will be there for you. [Yu Yu Hakusho, all Gundam]
I could continue this but the point is made. Unlike most American animated shows, anime offers something deeper and more meaningful…something that can provoke thought and understanding. So don’t just shrug off Japanese animated shows as “kiddie stuff”. Give them a chance and you may be surprised at how well written the stories and characters actually are. Just avoid things like Colorful and Bo-bo-bo. After all…every genre has a few bad seeds.