A guide to showing people that anime is not just porn and Pokemon

*Announcement: I apologize for the lack of new posts this week. My work schedule has been overbearing, but it will only last a few more weeks (after which, I may be jobless 0_o) So yeah, posts are going to be slow until then. Keep an eye on Twitter to see when I’m ready to post. As of now, my next new post is looking to be Wed. or Thurs.*

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As most of us have known for years, the average American either does not know anything about anime, or has a very distorted idea of what it is. By “distorted,” I mean that they think anime is just one of two things – kiddy cartoons from Japan, or pornographic or overly violent animation for questionable adults – a “porn and Pokemon” misconception as I call it…

This misconception has faded slightly since the early 2000s, mostly due to all the anime that aired on Toonami and Adult Swim. Shows like Rurouni Kenshin, Inuyasha, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Cowboy Bebop could be easily accessed to people all across the country and provided a taste of the variety of stories that encompass the term “anime.” But it still has done little to change the average view. Thus, since I became a fan, I’m always thinking of relatively easy, non-imposing ways to show the average American what anime is all about.

Of course, the most efficient way to show people that anime is more than kid shows and hentai is to simply show them a variety of anime series. But realistically, someone not interested in anime is not going to use hours of their time to watch different shows just to see that anime isn’t what they thought it was.

Therefore, I’ve come up with seven ways to show the average person that anime is much more than “porn and Pokemon.” They’re listed below in order, with the last one being the most effective. I’ve also listed possible disadvantages for each method as well.

7. Informative anime web sites

Having the person browse through easy-to-use, newbie-friendly anime sites that provide information about different anime, such as ANN, MAL, or my own AnimeYume.com would be a good way for them to read up on the variety of genres and stories that exist in anime. Or perhaps, giving them a list of specific titles to look up on Wikipedia would also be good. With these methods, they could quickly read short synopsis of different titles without having to take the time to watch them.

Possible disadvantages: Many people don’t spend as much time on the Internet as the average anime fan, so looking up anime web sites is something they may never get around to doing. Also, reading does take more effort than watching, so reading about something they’re not interested in just for the sake of knowledge will be more hassle than it’s worth to most people.

6. Manga or other related books

Giving the person manga or other books related to anime could be another effective way. Since so much anime is based on manga, manga chapters are quicker and easier substitutes for anime episodes. Giving the person a volume or two of a good manga series to read takes much less time and effort than getting through episodes of anime. Giving them books about anime to read may provide a more thorough effect in terms of seeing what anime is, but most people would rather read a comic book than read detailed academia books about something they’re not interested in.

Possible disadvantages: Like with anime episodes, many people will not want to take the time and effort to read manga, even though it takes less time to get through a series than anime. And as I’ve mentioned above, only certain people would read academia books about anime when they’re not fans themselves.

5. Talking about anime

The one method on this list that doesn’t require any extra anime-related paraphernalia is simply to talk about anime to the person in question. Provide them with easily digestible synopses of different series to show the variety of stories that anime encompasses. Tell them about other unique points such as character relationships, the fan community, etc,. An even more effective way is to find out what genres of movies and TV shows they like and tell them about anime from those genres. Talking about anime could obviously be used in conjunction with all the other methods on the list.

Possible disadvantages: If you’re someone like me who’s not very articulate, especially when it comes to imposing my interests on others, I wouldn’t be good at this method. But even for someone who would be good at this, going too far with it may start to annoy the person and make them think you’re some kind of obsessed nerd who wants to get them into your hobby. Finding the right balance between how much to tell them about anime without going overboard and sounding imposing, is tricky. And many people have to see to believe, so simply telling them about anime may not pique much interest unless they see for themselves.

4. Anime pictures

The quickest and easiest method on the list is simply to show the person good anime pictures from a variety of titles. Thumbing through a bunch of pictures online or on paper takes less time and effort than any other method on the list. Not just any pictures will do though – they should be good quality artwork images that show the variety of character designs and styles, facial expressions, detailed settings, interesting clothing, etc., that exist in anime. The kind of quality scans and wallpapers on Anime Paper, or the many fantastic fan art images on pixiv, would be best. Giving the person actual anime artbooks to look through would be good, too.

Possible disadvantages: Although “pictures say a thousand words,” they still are not enough to tell someone about anime in terms of story, plot, creativity, character development, etc. The pictures may attract the person to the visual style of anime, but without knowing the context or anything about the story or characters doesn’t say much else about anime other than what it looks like. But perhaps combining this method with #5 would be better – as you show the pictures, you could tell the person information about the story and characters.

3. Openings and endings

Showing the person the openings and ending videos of different anime could give them a good idea of the mood and style of each series without having to actually watch it. People would be more inclined to check out a minute and half long videos instead of half hour episodes. OPs and EDs could also introduce people to Japanese music, which is an essential part of anime.

Possible disadvantages: The foreign sound of some Japanese songs and singers could turn people off. Also, some OPs and EDs are misleading or don’t represent their series very well to someone unfamiliar with it.

2. Notable anime scenes

Instead of making someone spend the hours to watch anywhere from 13 to over 50 episodes of an anime series, showing them especially good scenes from different series, such as the many character development-laden scenes in Naruto, the relationship turmoils in Toradora!, the gut-wrenching sadness in Clannad After Story, or the flashy action in Gurren Lagann, would give them a good idea of how engagingly and powerfully anime can present its stories.

Possible disadvantages: You’d have to make sure to pick scenes that can be enjoyable even when taken out of the context of the episode or series. Some people might not like it if they don’t know what the context is regardless of other factors.

1. AMVs

As strange as it sounds, I believe showing someone a few good AMVs gives them an excellent grasp of what anime is about. I believe they’re the most effective method because 1) they’re short, 2) they can showcase many different series in just a few minutes or 3) the excellent aspects of just one series, 4) they use a variety of music that can match different people’s tastes, and 5) they often emphasize the most appealing themes of anime, such as romance, action, emotions, beautiful animation, character development, etc., which are precisely the things that average people are unaware of. AMVs like “Beautiful Day” which portrays the beauty of anime, “Jihaku” which portrays the gripping emotions of anime, and “Attack of the Otaku” which portrays the visually fun and cute side of anime, would be perfect to show someone about anime in a short amount of time. Actually, I think taking twelve minutes to show someone three good AMVs may be more effective than having them spend hours watching just one series.

Possible disadvantages: AMVs are full of feeling, which is obviously a big part of anime’s appeal, but like #4, #3 and #2 on the list, without the context of story and characters, part of their appeal is lost. Most showcase a lot of the visual styles and emotions of anime, but not much else.

*Bonus method*


What is Anime? – the Visual Definition
and What is Anime? – the Written Definition are two projects I’ve worked on precisely for this purpose. I’ve showed them to friends and professors with great results! Check them out if you’re interested =)

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If you can think of other good ways to show people that anime is more than just “porn and Pokemon,” feel free to comment below. And if you’ve tried these methods on someone, I’d love to hear how they went =)

37 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Wait… its not just all Pokemon and porn? I feel so… betrayed.

  2. Yumeka says:

    @ A Day Without Me

    LOL, I knew someone would make a comment like that XD

  3. kluxorious says:

    Everyone knows about Naruto. So I’ll just asked them if they see any porn in Naruto. The problem is, they’ll then compared it to Pokemon >_>

  4. Yumeka says:

    @ kluxorious

    Yeah, even though Naruto is technically a kids show, it has a lot of mature themes such as death, betrayal, murder, severe suffering, the morality of war, etc. So showing someone scenes that showcase these mature themes would prove that for anime, even if it’s a kids show, it’s not always just for kids. But if someone does decide to lump Naruto together with Pokemon, Bakugan, and the like, then you may just want to use a different series that can’t be accused of being a kids show or ecchi/hentai.

  5. Valence says:

    Being from a Chinese family, my father is very conservative and constantly asks me how to ‘cure me from this (quote) disease’. He shares a room with me, and I guess he hates the sight of his son, who is even taller than he is, playing with what he calls a ‘Japanese Barbie Doll’, or watching some anime which he deems as perverted. Once I watched Higashi no Eden on TV, and when the scene where Akira is half-nude, he comes in and decries Japan as a perverted world and whatnot.

    Rather ironically, the only show he supports anyone in the family watching is Naruto. You never see him complain about how Naruto misinterprets Ninjas, or whatnot. It’s not like he watches the show, he even bought the entire Naruto season for my brother (not me, thankfully) But why does he not relate Japan as a ninja-crazed country?

    Simple. To quote him, he says that anime is “Japanese Cartoons”. And that’s a wrap. People think that Anime is purely Children’s cartoons, so when the content is childish (at first glance), they have nothing to say. Bring in one semi-nude guy or someone who could make the entire show PG, and they raise hell. I can’t really watch ecchi around him, so I do so at unearthly hours when everyone should have been asleep.

  6. Yumeka says:

    @ Valence

    That’s a shame about your dad. But there are many people like him who refuse to open their mind and would rather remain ignorant about anime. It’s too bad he puts you down for liking it, but at least he doesn’t forbid it completely. But if you want to make the effort, try getting him to take five minutes to watch an AMV like “Beautiful Day.” It might sway him a little, maybe =)

  7. chikorita157 says:

    @Valence

    I’m in the same descent and my father simply doesn’t care what I or my sister watch… and he came from China… I guess he is more open minded. It just proves that some people have different views on stuff…

    Okay, with the guide… it seems good, but there has to be a better way to convince them. Show them the deeper that has a lot of drama. Stuff like Aria, 5 centimeters per second, Clannad, ef tales of memories/melodies, Kanon, True Tears and the such… not the stuff that they will perceive childish and they might change their minds…

  8. Yumeka says:

    @ chikorita157

    Stuff like Aria, 5 centimeters per second, Clannad, ef tales of memories/melodies, Kanon, True Tears and the such

    My guide is based on the fact that most people who are ignorant about anime are not going to take the time to watch actual episodes. But if you mean introducing someone to these series in a less time consuming way, such as with OPs/EDs, pictures, particular scenes, or AMVs, then yes, that would be good.

    That’s interesting that you and Valence are from the same descent but your fathers are so different. Guess it just has to do with their upbringing and how conservative or liberal they are.

    And thanks for the post on Shiori’s Diary =)

  9. Jan S. says:

    Whenever I try method no. 6, showing people manga, I always start out by saying “anime and manga are more than just big-eyed characters” – and then inevitably I will open a manga to a page that features the biggest-eyed manga character you’ve ever seen in all your years of anime and manga fandom. So basically I just let others be… they’ll come around to anime and manga if they’re supposed to. ;)

  10. Yumeka says:

    @ Jan

    That’s a good way of looking at it. I know there are plenty of people who will never even try to get into anime unless you force them (which usually doesn’t happen). But there are many who are potential fans yet have simply never gotten the exposure. If you see that someone has even a slight interest in learning more about anime, I think it’s safe to gradually try these methods on them and see what happens =)

  11. Bonehimer says:

    An even more effective way is to find out what genres of movies and TV shows they like and tell them about anime from those genres.

    I believe this is the most efficient way to go about it, you expose them to anime but it still is something familiar to them. People not wanting to sink time into something they aren’t familiar is a problem but here is where anthologies come in handy. Each segment is only a couple of minutes long and they often have very different art style and moods. Here is a pretty good article about it.

  12. Yumeka says:

    @ Bonehimer

    That’s a very good point, especially if you don’t have access to any anime stuff like pictures or videos to show them. If you find a good anime that matches the genre they like, I’m sure you’ll have a better chance of getting them to take the time to watch an actual series.

  13. mrwan says:

    I don’t think people from the older generations(parents, etc) would be very impressed if they’re shown most romance anime or slice of life comedies simply for the reason that they would think it’s quite perverted that their son would watch shows where the ratio of male to female is 1 : 20, or all these ‘cute girls doing cute things’ cartoons, especially if you’re in the late twenties or something. There may not be ecchi in the anime, but I find they’ll complain if the skirts the girls wear are too short, which pretty much rules most romance anime out.

  14. Yumeka says:

    @ mrwan

    In which case, you should show them anime that’s more appealing to adults, with less cutesy romance, harems, and the things you described. Anime like Mushishi, Death Note, Wolf’s Rain, and Cowboy Bebop just to name a few.

  15. Glo says:

    “animation for questionable adults”

    I’ve been engrossed in anime for years now. I’d say that definition is perfect. Related, my friend who dislikes anime told me that his boss told him to watch Howl’s Moving Castle. I told him that the movie kicks ass (cuz it does) and he agreed to watch it. However, then he watched th-

    ….

    You know what, bottomline here is everyone is dumb, they could all suck my dick.

  16. Yumeka says:

    @ Glo

    Yeah, as hard as it is for hardcore fans to accept, there are people who don’t like anime. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this – what irks me is that many of them say they don’t like anime yet don’t even know much of anything about (and would rather remain ignorant rather than learn what it really is). For example, they’ve seen a little Dragon Ball or something and think it’s all kids shows. I think that for everyone who enjoys good fiction, there’s at least one anime title that would appeal to them. The trouble is finding which ones they would like, since most people who are not fans wouldn’t watch anime just because it’s anime.

    Ghibli films are fantastic but they’re not really good representations of the kind of anime TV series that the majority of the fandom is into. Your friend may not have liked Howl, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause – he could still like an anime TV series that falls into a genre he likes.

  17. Saere says:

    And yet we can never deny that all anime can, in some way, be MADE into porn. :)

    I actually wrote a paper about this once. I remember saying something like “anime is as diverse as Hollywood” and therefore can’t be succinctly categorized. I went on to compare children’s anime (a huge distinction) to American children’s cartoons.

  18. Yumeka says:

    @ Saere

    LOL, I think many people who don’t know about anime are quick to label it as “porn” if they see even a slightly ecchi picture of a female character. Since it’s so foreign to them, they label it with the easiest first impression they get, not know that anime is, as you say, “as diverse as Hollywood.” They don’t realize that it would be like seeing a Hollywood movie with sex scenes and assuming that all Hollywood movies are like that.

    If you’re interested, I wrote a similar post comparing children’s anime to American cartoons =)

    Incidentally, I think the porn mislabeling has something to do with how nudity is not as big a deal in Japan as it is in America. Talking about breasts or a little sexual innuendo, as well as busty female characters, are acceptable even in children’s anime (not excessively of course). I would assume some of this openness to the human body has to do with Japan’s history of communal bathing. But whatever it is, to Americans, seeing or hearing about breasts, especially in a cartoon, automatically causes extreme reactions.

  19. f0calizer says:

    Based on your post and the comments already posted, it sounds like there are two potential groups of people we’d like to reach out to: 1) those who believe anime is only porn & Pokemon & need to have this misconception gently corrected *but* will probably not become anime fans; 2) those who casually enjoy certain mainstream anime involving ninjas, shinigami, pirates, giant robots, etc. but don’t seem to branch out into other genres/series because they feel most other anime is porn & Pokemon.

    For group #1 I often suggest some movies that they can watch at one sitting, such as Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers or The Animatrix anthology. (Of course if they’re not willing to spend the 1.5 hrs watching these, then it’s a lost cause anyway. =P) Or, as some of your other posters said, if they like a certain genre of live-action movies or TV series, I would point them to certain movies in that area. The best we can do for people in this group is to show them that anime has dramatic & artistic merit, in hopes that they won’t keep despising anime & badmouthing it to others.

    For group #2 who are casual mainstream fans who can become more omnivorous, the AMV idea might work pretty well. I remember coming across new series through AMVs (like Trinity Blood) in the past. I’d also suggest titles according to their interest, but here we can afford to bring up more intense or eccentric titles that people in group #1 would completely be turned off by, such as Basilisk (which has very stylish art but is quite violent) or Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu (which is, well…baka in an entertaining way).

  20. Yumeka says:

    @ f0calizer

    Lots of good points. I agree that movies would be a good way to introduce someone to anime without the hours needed to watch a series. However, original anime motion pictures (not based on a TV series, OVA, etc) are usually quite different from typical anime shows (better animation, often slower pacing) so be careful about that. You might want to use this option if you think the person would like the genre of the anime movie you have in mind.

    But yeah, AMVs or even other anime OPs and EDs would be good to make casual fans branch out (you must have the anime meet-up people in mind =P)

  21. Yi says:

    I think that most people do know anime is not just porn and pokemon. The harder thing is to explain all the fan service in so many popular shows. I think rather than actual hentai, fan service, big breasted anime girls, and flashing panties that dominate each season have done more to instill this image.
    I don’t really have any good suggestion on changing people’s minds. One thing I think always kind of works though is simply dragging people to see a particular series, but as you said, most people don’t have the will to do it.

  22. Yumeka says:

    @ Yi

    Yeah, fan service and the like have certainly increased over the years. But if you are introducing someone to anime, just leave out any fan service videos, pictures, etc,. I know it may seem like you’re creating a biased image of anime by showing them only the good and not the bad, but first impressions are important in this case, and once they realize that anime is better than what they imagined, then you can show them that, like everything else, it has its questionable side too. Unfortunately for most people, if they’re introduced to the “porn and Pokemon” aspects right away, it’s hard for them to shed this image simply because it’s easier to remain ignorant.

  23. Canne says:

    How about music? I remember a few years back, I gave my cousin a ride in my car and I played the CD in which I compiled all the gorgeous music from Ghibli. My cousin, who had zero interest in anime, asked me where did these music came from and she was kinda shocked when she learn that these were anime music. That’s one way to give someone exposure to different aspect of anime :)

  24. Yumeka says:

    @ Canne

    Yeah, music could definitely be a good way to get someone interested in anime, but it totally depends on the person. Some people may be instantly attracted to the unique sound of j-pop and j-rock or, if they like instrumental pieces, they could like the many wonderful anime BGM tracks. But on the flip side, many people don’t care for instrumental pieces and may be turned off by Japanese songs if they can’t understand the words.

  25. Glo says:

    @ Yumeka

    He actually still hasn’t seen it, but he saw the trailer and said it looked gay. After watching the trailer myself, I had to agree with him.

  26. KyonzumiNagato13 says:

    I cannot just understand why people still think this way! I mean the information is right there in the media resources. Name it! Wikipedia, YouTube, and other things that usually can be reliable! I can’t understand why people can’t just look that up!

  27. Yumeka says:

    @ KyonzumiNagato13

    The information may be there, but if people aren’t interested in the topic, why would they look it up? If they hear things about anime through the grape vine or if they happen to know certain “nerdy” people who like it, they’d rather go by that rather than take the time and effort to look up what it’s really about. Sadly, most people would rather comfortably remain ignorant rather than risk being contradicted.

  28. Linnie says:

    I’d use animation in general as analogy. Everybody understands difference between regular kid shows and Pixar movies and everyone’s seen Shrek (well, if a person says Shrek is “just a cartoon” you know there’s no hope left). AMV’s, OP’s and ED’s work for me but you have the concept to be familiar with anime to enjoy it. Studio Ghibli is probably the best – a lot of people respect it and it’s mainstream since Spirited Away got an Oscar.

    Thus far, my only test subjects were my family. My mother hates anime because of the “shrieky girls” and refuses to come near it BUT she loves Studio Ghibli and practically begged me to show her Ponyo. She’ll probably never watch other things than that but I try to expose her to random funny clips which she likes but she’ll never watch anime on her own.

    My father doesn’t mind it that much so we first chose Haibane Renmei (no violence, no fanservice, no green hair, great music, interesting setting). He nearly dropped in the middle because he found it too depressing (it was just an episode or two in a 13 episode series packed with friendly characters and no menacing plot!). We tried Fullmetal Alchemist on him next and he endured about 30 episodes and then got dissinterested so we switched to FMA: Brotherhood… and he stopped complaining how long it is and watched the whole thing. If we get him to start another series and finish it he’s taken by the Dark Side :D (big question is what? Death Note is about a school boy, Cowboy Bebop is episodic, same could be said about Mushishi; Azumanga Daioh is too japanese…)

    My brother is a another case. His friends made him watch something (later investigations revealed it was Elfen Lied and Full Metal Panic!). The outcome? He says it’s all little cute girls and that it can be fun for a while but brings nothing new (P.S. – Elfen Lied is “f***ed up”). I showed him an episode from Cowboy Bebop (he likes Keanu Reeves so I explained to him how this will be made into a movie and stuff). He said he appreciates the “no stupid talking” aspect of it and that he maybe checks it out after the live action movie is made. That reminds me… Cowboy Bebop is a good starting point. I recently discoveredFirefly which must be inspired by Cowboy Bebop A LOT. So if people like Firefly, they could be recomended Cowboy Bebop (not sure it works, I saw it in reverse order…)

  29. Yumeka says:

    @ Linnie

    Thanks for the input.

    When it comes to animation in general, to most Americans, if it’s not an adult comedy like the Simpsons, then it’s for kids. Even though Shrek and Pixar movies are enjoyed by people of all ages, they understand that it’s made first and foremost for a young audience. So it’s hard for Americans to shake off this perception of animation that’s been instilled in the country for so long.

    In terms of anime, your mom sounds like my mom in terms of not liking the “shrieking girls” sound and preferring more mature anime like Ghibli films or shows like Death Note and Mushishi. But as I’ve written in a previous post my mom likes anime in general, though she only enjoys watching certain series. Speaking of Death Note, I think you should try it on your dad. Besides my mom, I have an older friend who likes it as well, so I think there’s something about it that appeals to older people. Your brother however, doesn’t sound like he’ll ever get into an anime, but you can keep trying =)

  30. Wingless says:

    I am running into this problem more and more. I’m stationed on a boat with a rather small crew (12 attached to my unit). And there are only two people on the entire boat who know anything about anime at all. One of them is me. :)

    Trying to explain how anime is more than “pokemon and porn” is difficult when you are being actively opposed. Just the other day we pulled into port and our direct tv started working again, and Spirited Away was on some indy movie channel. So naturally I turn it on and watch it, while everyone is packing up and changing into civies and going home. They HAVE to walk past this giant tv and every single one of them asked me if I was watching porn. /facepalm

    I will slowly win them to my side. Or at least get them to accept that anime isn’t just the two p’s. Your two guides you posted are great though. I’m gonna use some of that to fuel my war. :) You have my thanks!

  31. Yumeka says:

    @ Wingless

    That’s a shame since Ghibli movies are a lot more universal than many anime TV series. Did you tell them that Spirited Away actually won an academy award here in America?

    Thanks, I’m glad you found my guides useful ^_^ Please let me know if they work on your crew!

  32. Aorii says:

    If you want an extra concise way, there’s also this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcVoO0ZbgJo
    Fresh from the Otakon AMV contest, comedy category winners~

    But by and most, people I talk to know Miyazaki and the brilliance of it (shrug).

  33. Yumeka says:

    @ Aorii

    Awesome AMV~! I just looked through the new top rated ones on AMV.org and must have missed that one. Though I don’t think it would be very good at showing non-fans exactly what anime is, actual fans would get the humor XD Thanks for sharing (had to share it on my Twitter too).

  34. radiant says:

    A looong time ago, I wrote a similar article on anime and other peoples’ misconceptions of it being porn. Please do check it out. http://radiantdreamer.net/2008/03/01/are-you-a-hentai-otaku/

  35. Yumeka says:

    @ radiant

    Thanks, that’s a great post you have there =) I read it and left you a comment.

  36. H says:

    cool. Before i even read this article i was doing number 5 though and i just yesterday told a classmate of mine about a manga i really liked and convinsed her to read it. But thanks i’ll keep those in mind. ^^
    bye.
    –End–

  37. keiichicom says:

    I was surprised when I put on “Witch Hunter Robin” for my Dad and he actually liked it(he normally can’t stand supernatural stuff), but I figured out it was the “intrigue” part of the plot that appealed to him, since he is a very big fan of spy novels. Also he liked the “Metropolis” movie due to the detective character. So trying “genre” matching might be another way to get people interested…

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