What's My Problem With Anime?

Category: Anime
Last article published: 26 August 2018
This is the 35th post under this label
Don't get me wrong. I watch and enjoy anime on occasion. I wax nostalgic about some of the great old anime shows I saw as a kid, and whenever I see a high-end anime film, like a Miyazaki or a Hosoda, I end up liking it, even loving it. But for the life of me, I have a lot of difficulty getting enthusiastic at its prospect. It's kind of like travel. I have a good time where ever I end up, but I never look forward to the journey itself. And I'd say this is true of most animation, not just anime, though my reflection on the subject highlights why anime is the most difficult of all.

Obviously, animation contrasts with live action, and if I have a choice between watching animation or live action (I mean generally, not adaptations of animated material), I will prefer live action. The collaborative process of film (and television) making is key to my interest, I think. To successfully get something good to the screen, a lot of different skill sets have to be brought to bear, and when it's NOT all clicking into place, SOME of those skill sets can save the production despite the others falling down on the job. Indeed, you can enjoy a film for its script, its cinematography, its design, its acting, its effects, its editing, its music, its action choreography, or its overall direction (to name most examples). Animation has fewer of these, and quite often, the same person is responsible for most of them, despite having a crew of nameless animators toiling away in the background.

And that's part of it. Cinema lovers become fans of a variety of artists. We follow directors from film to film, sure, but also actors, composers, effects artists, designers, and so on. But while I may put that next Makoto Shinkai picture on my watch list, there's no one else connected to the film that makes me want to see it. I'm sure ardent fans know who the best Japanese voice actors are, but I don't. For the most part, anime films feel like one-man shows, despite employing hundreds of people. It's not as bad with American animation, where big-name actors record their voices before the film is animated and seem to have more input as a result. And it's just easier to get to know the people behind the scenes because they make it part of the marketing. Knowing who the writers are on Batman: The Animated Series makes me like it more, gives me more artists to follow, and so on.

But still, live action gives me more of a thrill. Because so much CAN go wrong, and it's not a matter of literally going back to the drawing board. Movies made in editing. On-the-fly compromises that give the film an unplanned strangeness. Iconic performances that save middling stories. Mistakes that fuel fan theories. Uncooperative locations and animal performers. Physical proficiency (in kung fu flicks or musicals, for example). The veritable LACK OF CONTROL that exists in live action simply makes it more exciting to me. Animation has its own challenges, yes, but they don't speak to me as readily.

Live action is more thrilling, and also has more access points than animation, especially anime, which, again, doesn't mean I can't or won't enjoy a good animated picture when someone recommends one. But it's not an expertise I care to build by myself. I've had shades of this argument with anime fans over the years, which is why I tried to pin my reasoning down. Even a Geekery Generalist must have his blind spots.


Brendoon said...

You'll notice it in recorded music as well: when its a one man show there's something incomplete about it... although I'm a lifelong Mike Oldfield fan and as a hobby record music myself I still sense the greater completeness when there's several minds involved.
Interaction is the magic ingredient I suppose, one artist's creativity bouncing off the unexpected (or at least different) response from another mind or heart.
Was a time I aspired to curmudgeonliness, but it's not a "grown up" response to the universe. Darn it, people need each other to make the best of things.

Siskoid said...

And it's not that there's no collaboration in animation, it's just not as visible to me.

Brendoon said...

I suppose that's true.
Perhaps there's less to connect to in the simplified portrayal in animation... shearing away the "3rd dimension" (so to speak) so it doesn't grab the senses the same.
I guess anime's heavier stylisation takes from the feeling of reality but also the traditional doubling-of-the-frames animation which effectively makes 'em... what, 12 frames a second or something?
The DVD "extras" on animations tend to be quite dry too, in relation to your comments about writers, cameramen etc.

For the most visceral experience I think the closest thing to a "Total Rekall" machine may still be the novel. I've got a less than healthy addiction in that regard.


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