How I learned to stop worrying and enjoy Anime
By Adam Tatelman, Senior Columnist
When I was growing up, it was all about Pokémon. Every kid got up Saturday morning to watch the cartoon, ripped off other kids at school for the playing cards, and locked themselves in their rooms to play the video games instead of doing their homework. Every kid, that is, except for me. I was the kid who watched Batman: The Animated Series, read Spider-Man comic books, and played Starfox.
Most of the Poké-fans enforced an exclusionist policy against those not of the faith, so I kept to my obviously superior hobbies and that was that. No Pokémon, and by extension, no Anime. Strange as it may sound, I began to avoid Japanese animation on principle. I was one of those kids who just didn’t get it.
Only now do I understand the odd cultural anomaly I occupy. I grew up with a Nintendo in the house. Sushi is a delicacy to me. You say Orson Welles, I say Akira Kurosawa. I’ve spent 10 years practicing karate and I’m absolutely obsessed with ninjas. Yet I’ve never watched so much as a single frame of Anime in my life. So, after much deliberation, my course of action has become clear: I must undertake a critic’s hit list of influential Anime.
In my generation, Anime has become equally a fixture of Western popular culture as Eastern. Entire archives of modern film and television—both live action and hand-drawn—have been inspired by the efforts of Japanese animators. TV channels like Toonami are dedicated to playing Anime 24/7. The massive influx of Anime in need of English dubbing gave work to a new generation of voice actors in the ‘90s, most of whom now rule the field. The concept of animation being “just for kids” was obliterated by the “seinen”(mature audience)genre of Anime, which incorporated more cinematic elements and darker, more mature themes. I feel it is finally time for me to acknowledge the global impact Japan has had on all forms of modern media.
The rules for this column are as follows:
-Anime only, not Manga-dependent series
-Feature films only, since a whole Anime series would take too long
-Dubs only, so the subtitles don’t detract from the artwork
-Seinenonly, since “shounen”(younger audience)series have entire litters of movies and choosing one film wouldn’t represent the entire series
This doesn’t mean I’m finally going to watch all that Pokémon I missed out on when I was five years old. Given the show’s premise of children capturing wild animals and training them to do brutal battle in tournaments for the glory of the trainer, I’ve always felt Pokémon had some questionable undertones. But I am going to do my level best to “get it.”
So join me in the next instalment of Animesque as I dive into the incredibly immodestly billed “work that becomes a new genre itself,” Shinichirō Watanabe’s Cowboy Bebop.