As of now, I’ve lived in Japan as an English Teacher for a year and two months. My job involves educating the nation's youth on the “joys of learning English”. Whether they’re teaching me more about Japan and the Japanese language is a completely different matter. Yet it’s clearly evident that my preconceived knowledge and understanding of the country’s modern culture was and still is pretty terrible.
I was exposed to the likes of Godzilla, Ultraman and Doraemon at a relatively young age, most of which remains relatively fresh in my memory. Heck, my first trip to Disneyland was actually in Tokyo, where I shook the hand of a Japanese Mickey Mouse whom I couldn’t understand a single word. Soon my primary/ elementary school days were awash with the likes of Pokemon, Gundam Wing and Dragonball Z which would abruptly end during my teens, I’m not entirely sure why but I seem to recall video games consuming most my free time.
It’s only been over the last five years that I’ve built a steady awareness and subsequent interest in Japan’s animated medium, know as anime. Being introduced to Studio Ghibli offered an assessable gateway into the sights and sounds that were on show, and I’ve formed a strong relationship with Ghibli’s work as you may know. From there Akira, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Tokyo Godfathers and Azumanga Daioh have highlighted some of the best the genre has offered. Yet from an outsiders’ perspective, wadding through the tidal wave of new series each year and the extensive back catalogue is a monumental and impossible task. Even as someone who occasionally watches new anime, I feel completely out of my depth when someone starts discusses it. I seem to recall the last time being aggressively belittled after I stated that Attack on Titan was “an overrated pile of crap”, which it is.
There’s an obvious breadth of creativity to the medium that as spawned a barrage of personalities, stories and fictional worlds that have been met with mixed success. Yet one thing’s for sure, there’s plenty of choice; high school dramas, alien invasions, psychological thrillers an straight-up pornography, there’s something for everyone. Yet for all its popularity and impact on Japanese culture and modern pop culture in general, my cynical sensibilities have grown over the pass two years. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy anime, certain anime. But those few series represent a minuscule percentage of what's actually available. The incessant moaning from students and friends on my critical nature towards anime is one that has justified me writing this article.
There are definitely plenty of problems with the medium but I’ll be highlighting the four major problems that have become prevalent from my “observations”;
-The Actual Characters
-Originality and Fan-service
-Anime’s “dark and twisted side”