My journey in understanding the anime culture

This will be a growing list of topics (and resources) that may help others in understanding/navigating the culture and phenomena surrounding anime. This won’t be a comprehensive guide nor will it solely be about anime; the topics presented here are centered around themes that I have a particular interest in.

Let’s dive right in. First, what is anime (as art, culture, and a commercial product) and what is its appeal? In What is the Appeal of Anime? (video version), which is one of my favourite analysis videos, Digibro does a superb job in covering all the basics while solidifying anime as a powerful medium.

In You’ll Grow Out Of Anime…EventuallyGigguk describes his experiences with anime, which I think many people from the anime community outside Japan can relate to. Don’t worry about the title, it’s a misnomer.

Gigguk also has Your Waifu Doesn’t Love You video, which I thought was a hilarious and slightly edgy commentary on people having ‘waifu‘s. If you’re familiar with the prominent and common themes in anime, such as waifu, ‘moe‘, and ‘fanservice‘, you may be interested in discussions regarding anime’s portrayal of women, children, and sexuality.

JekoJeko has two posts, What’s the Matter with Moe? An Inside Look and Fanserivce, Feminism and What’s Really Being Objectified that expertly navigates the discussion of such topics by offering multiple perspectives. They are highly insightful, and by bringing an understanding of the culture, it enables learning and celebrating the positives — it does not alienate.

“I’m Only Interested in 2D Girls!”: On Lust, Animated Desire, and Gender Expectations by gendomike is another great post that discusses these topics. Compared to JekoJeko, it takes on a bit of a cautionary tone, offering warnings as to what could happen with over-consumption. The author has a good grasp on the culture, being a fan himself, and does not judge.

Out of the academics that study anime and Japanese culture, the most popular — or the easiest to access, because English — is probably Patrick W. Galbraith. He is known for The Moe Manifesto, a whole book looking at the world of manga, anime, and gaming. He also tackles topics such as ‘lolicon‘ in essays such as Lolicon: The Reality of ‘Virtual Child Pornography’ in Japan.

In a related note, watching Welcome to the NHK has brought the ‘hikikomori‘ condition to my attention. This real suffering has been covered by BBC News in Hikikomori: Why are so many Japanese men refusing to leave their rooms? and it’s a good insight into how a different culture might aggravate different aspects of mental health issues.

On a differently related topic, I discovered the following discussion on Crunchyroll’s forum: Why Is Incest Such A Common Topic In Anime?. It’s an interesting read.

Switching topics a little bit, I’m not sure if it’s possible to convince someone the appeal of the ‘slice of life‘ genre. It is neither effective to force a taste in art on someone nor is it effective to explain the appeal without having them experiencing it themselves and them connecting with it on personal significance. With this is mind, I enjoyed K-On! – Life in Animation because RCAnime focused on what makes a film feel human.

From there, if you wanted to look at how anime has evolved over the years — through the lens of character design — AnimeEveryday has a video called The Evolution of Anime Character Designs that covers a fair bit of ground. He has another video called The Evolution of Moe Anime that is encompassing than it seems because AnimeEveryday defines moe as an aesthetic that anime has had since its birth.

Here are some other interesting videos:

By bill wurtz:

history of japan

By Anime Historian:

Lolicon And The Sexualization Of Minors: Anime History

Moe Part 2: Anime History

By That Japanese Man Yuta:

Growing Up Half-black in Japan (Interview)

What Anime Do Japanese People Like? (Akihabara Interview)

What Anime Do Japanese Girls Like? (Interview)

By 데이브 The World of Dave:

Dave [English,Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Cartoon Pronunciations]

Dave [Eng/Korean/Japanese/Chinese Marvel Hero Pronuncation Differences]

Dave [American, Korean & Japanese Pokemon song comparison]

By Mother’s Basement:

Avatar is an Anime. F*** You. Fight Me.

By The Pedantic Romantic:

How Hibike Euphonium Crafted The Most Human Characters In Anime

 

 

More to come!


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Image is from Hyouka

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Re: What’s the Matter with Moe? An Inside Look

UEM!

Previously, The Mary Sue argued that we should be critical of ‘objectification’ by ignoring contexts of characterization and treating anime girls as no more than objects in the first place. Now they want the community to be ‘critical about cuteness’, as they vaguely denounce the ‘adult male’ viewership of moe as misogynistic, and conclude that moe is ‘alienating’ for those who want to see ‘real women’ in anime, and not the lovable and hyperreal figures modern Japanese culture is full of.

View original post 6,146 more words

Linguistics of anime and moe

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(Note: I don’t have the necessary experience to discuss this topic myself, so I’ll be doing a meta-analysis on what has been discussed already)

A video by Geoff Thew (Mother’s Basement) called, “Avatar is an Anime. F*** You. Fight Me.” went to the top of r/anime today. But the focus of this video wasn’t really about Avatar: The Last Airbender as it was about discussing the changing definition of “anime”. I highly recommend watching it, but what the video discusses is the growing problem with defining anime as a “Japanese produced animated series”. Geoff starts his argument with Shelter, which is a music video that challenged the integrity of the definition in a way that has never been challenged before. Can we call the work of an American music producer (Porter Robinson) collaborating with a Japanese animation studio (A-1 Pictures) an anime? Moreover, what about the fact that what most people would consider anime are actually produced in Korea or China?

Digibro acknowledges this dilution of the term but makes a point that having a distinction is convenient for discussion. r/anime certainly agrees in having the distinction as it exists to “focus on the discussion of anime”. So then, the question is, “What Is Anime?” We’ll come back to this after we look at moe.

In his video, “The Evolution of Moe Anime” (which was posted just 2 days ago), Lewis (Anime Everyday) defines moe as pertaining to both a genre and an aesthetic, where moe is a certain characteristic and art style used in anime. My interpretation of this is that moe is a device used to invoke feelings of ‘cherishment’ and love towards what the moe aesthetic was applied to. Lewis suggests that this moe aesthetic has pretty much always been an element in anime, as far back as Astro Boy: the focus on facial expressions, the emphasis on innocence, and the marketability of creating characters that live beyond the screen. Lewis highlights the introduction of lead female characters in anime which led to an increase in female viewers in the ’70s, thereby pushing anime productions to include moe aesthetics to appeal to both male and female viewers.

Digibro has also released a video in which he discusses moe. Digibro, however, is more concerned about how the word moe has been used and makes a clear distinction that initially, moe referred to neither a genre nor an art style, but was a word to describe a feeling. Thus, in its initial usage, otaku would use ‘moe’ to describe the feeling they had for anime characters — as in, they would feel moe towards a character that they wanted to see do well and succeed. This is different from how moe is presently understood as “something that triggers your protective instincts”. Digibro concludes by saying that moe is a dead term that only exists now to be used derogatorily to describe bad “cute girls doing cute things” shows.

What I think is interesting about all of this is the lack of Japanese perspective on these terms and their usage in Japan. But, understandably, the focus of the discussion is the cultural landscape of the international audience of anime. After all, we are using the word “anime” instead of cartoons to describe the predominantly and initially Japanese medium in our discussions. The definition of moe seems to be continuously debated and disagreed upon, but I think that as language evolves and definitions change, moe will largely be referring to the aesthetic of cute character designs.

Geoff and Digibro agree that, as time goes on, the distinction between anime and other mediums will be impossible to make. Geoff concluded in his video that anime is a movement and that it influences the American anime that we see today (like Avatar), and that the future anime creators are being influenced by the what’s popular now. As I’ve said before, one of the reasons why I watch anime is because it allows me to affectionately revisit the cultural attitudes and feelings of my upbringing. What I think will be interesting is to see how the specific cultural values and relational hierarchies that exist in Japan and thus in anime will translate to other mediums.

On Moe and Kiniro Mosaic (2013)

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Because midterm season is in full swing right now, I haven’t posted anything lately. But since blogging is always on the back of my mind, I thought I do a quick post on Kiniro Mosaic and its second season Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic (2015), which I finished watching two weeks ago.

I also wanted to draw attention to the “Moe” category under the “Anime” category that I’ve created. Moe, as AnimeEveryday discusses in his video The Problem With Moe Anime, is an asthetic rather than a distinct genre. And moe is more than an art style, it’s an approach to evoking feelings of love and cherish-ment. And since I watch a lot of moe and cute girls doing cute things anime anyways, I thought I try to specialize in highlighting and understanding the moe aesthetic.

Having said this, Kinmoza (from Studio Gokumi) is probably the most “pop” moe anime out there. What I mean by pop is that it is familiar, mainstream, and is well produced — just like pop music. And while this also usually means generic, I didn’t think that this aspect hurt Kinmoza. If you watch the PV (promotional video), you’ll understand that Kinzoma’s intentions were just to be cute for the sake of being cute. And with this expectation, the audience got exactly what they were promised.

Moreover, I want to recognize Kinmoza’s visuals for being one of the most accessible and iconic CGDCT series. Iconic in a sense that Kinmoza is what I think of when I think of cute anime, and I think that a lot of others will agree. Even with its cliche premise about the friendship of 5 girls who attend high school together, Kinmoza’s story feels authentic because it comes to its own. Here are some thoughts that I had about the show:

  1. Kinmoza is like the hallmark of being cheerful, energetic, and affectionate in a moe anime. It shows that doing everyday life things can be fun when you do them with your friends, and all of this is executed very well.
  2. The show has 2 characters from England, and this is an interesting addition to the plot of the show. The challenges that they face in adapting to the new environment, learning a new language, and missing home was something that I could relate to.
  3. One aspect of the show that I thought was weird/racist was in the portrayal of Western culture. For example, one of the girls from England wore a Union Jack sweater all the time and the MC was seriously obsessed her friends’ blond hair. Nothing was particularly offensive but it was interesting seeing “white culture” be stereotyped and blond hair be objectified.
  4. Some of the show’s funniest moments come from the seiyuu of the blond girls trying to speak English like its their native language. Genuinely cute and hilarious.
  5. I remember feeling fairly annoyed in one or two of the earlier episodes because the MC had such an insecure jealousy over her friend. It was too much drama and misunderstandings. But the rest of the show wasn’t like this.

There isn’t much else to talk about in terms of the plot or characters in Kinmoza because the point of the show for me was to enjoy its moe aesthetics and character interactions. Like I said, it’s “pop”. But with nothing glaring to complain about, and also for being one of the most typical yet iconic CGDCT slice of life anime, I would give both seasons a high 7/10.


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Image is from Kiniro Mosaic

First thoughts on Urara Meirochou (2017)

urarameirochou

(Note: This post was written after watching just the first episode)

Urara Meirochou is a 2017 Winter season anime from J.C.Staff. Quite frankly, I decided to watch this series because it looked cute asf. But what added to my anticipation waiting for the series to start was when I checked that Urara’s source was 4-koma manga. Some of my favourite anime have been adapted from 4-koma manga (like K-On! and New Game!), and so I was hoping that Urara would be another good one. Settings wise, this is a standard moe narrative involving CGDCT (cute girls doing cute things).

The strange thing is, however, for a CGDCT anime, I thought that I felt some dark implications in its tone. For one thing,  Urara had a rather muted colour palette instead the bright, poppy, and cheerful colour palettes I’ve comes to expect from modern anime like New Game! or Konosuba. Not only this, I thought that the leaf reading and kokkuri scenes were actually trippy and fairly serious in tone compared to its contemporaries dealing with magic and spirits.

I’m having a hard time putting this feeling into words at the moment but the vibe of Urara is strangely reminiscent of 2000s era anime in that it has an “earthy” feel to it. On top of the colours, the outlines are more in sketches than clean and minimal lines that are stylistic of modern anime. And just… how shall I put it, the plot feels more like a shonen anime than a moe anime — there is adventure waiting to be had.

There was some ecchi too. And I couldn’t believe that they somehow brought ecchi into an anime depicting 15 year old girls. But although it’s obviously catering to a certain audience, I kind of appreciated the playfulness of it rather than straight up ecchi fanservice. Feral is apparently the new savage.

Towards the end of the episode, it seemed like the writers needed to force the plot into the 20 minute time frame, because all of a sudden, there was this cliche ecchi scene involving skirts and a rather noticeable background music shift. But I would have to say that this was the only time the story’s immersion broke.

Overall, I think this will be one of the more popular anime of this season due to how cute it is. I’m looking forward to watching more of it.

Edit:  My roommate Edward got back to Vancouver just a few days ago, and we decided to kick this year off with Urara’s pilot. Cheers to another fun year of watching anime together!


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Image is from Urara Meirochou