I was watching Nerdwriter1‘s video titled, “The Epidemic of Passable Movies“, when I realized that his thoughts on Hollywood movies were–not too surprisingly–relevant to anime’s ‘passable’ and derivative shows. But the problem isn’t so much that something is a reiteration of what we’ve seen before, but rather what we see isn’t realistic.
Evan says, “Stories are always about people. And great stories are always the ones that observe people truthfully, the ones that capture human experience with nuance and insight. And the best stories make such acute observations about humanity that they can show us things about ourselves that we didn’t know. Or teach us how to articulate those things against a vast unintelligible anxiety.”
I wholehearted agree. And I think this is a realization that all of us have come to understand about fiction at some point, especially in its defence. Evan continues, however, to talk about the dangers of cliche. If you would, replace the word ‘movies’ with ‘anime’, and it becomes a completely relevant dialogue that mirrors what I would hear in the anime community:
“And this I think is the big difference between great movies and passable ones: when passable movies observe human experience, they observe it not through the lens of real life, but through the lens of other movies. There is this huge vocabulary of actions built up over the years that people don’t really do but which happens so often in movies that they’re familiar enough to an audience that they become passable for human motivations. I’m not saying it’s bad for filmmakers to cite or pay homage to the movies that they love in their own work, I’m saying that too many films released today are being cobbled together from a weird alternate reality that is only a dim echo of our own. This is the long term danger of cliche. The more we allow it to happen the harder it is to escape. The more difficult it is for audiences and writers to tell the difference. The last thing we want is to see our own lives through the lens of art that’s only passable. New perspectives are what we need. Originality is what we should encourage at every chance. Otherwise, I’m afraid our movies and ourselves will change into something quite different.”
Hideaki Anno puts it more bluntly and says, “If you want to get into anime, my best advice to you as a creator is to please have diverse interests in things besides animation. Look outward, first of all. Most anime makers are basically autistic. …”
I really like anime. I love the meta humour, occasional trashiness, and all the emotionally sensitive characters that I find myself resonating with. As a Western anime fan, however, the dissimilarities between anime and reality can be confounded by intriguing cultural differences. And under that veil, I often did not understand that many actions were created for male gratification and lust.
I seem to be watching less and less anime these days, but I wouldn’t say that I’m transitioning out of anime. While I used to watch a lot of Hollywood films and now I seldom do, it’s because I found myself drawn to other mediums–anime–that tell the same kind of stories. Because in the core are stories and stories are about people.
I found solace in watching anime because you just didn’t see introverted characters represented in popular Western media. The hurt, broken, immature, repressed, and bashful tsundere characters trying to live in the (high school) world was a large part of my anime experience and reality. While I still very much resonate with being a tsundere, it’s not quite the reality of love that I’m transitioning into.
I am going through The Chronicles of Narnia right now with my fiancee. Not only is it more approachable for her, it still has everything I want: nostalgia, adventure, magic, action, and relationships. C.S. Lewis says:
“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”
And perhaps the most meta aspect of it all is that our very own lives are stories, and that we appear in other people’s stories through the relationships that are created. Being a Christian is discovering God’s story of loving us by dying for us, letting God be the author of our stories, and then entering into other people’s lives with the love of God. “Jesus love you” is a cliche. It doesn’t mean it’s not true.