Last month, hoshiko wrote a post discussing certain qualities of anime she feels make them memorable. While I’m sure we can all think of things that make an anime “good,” I think the traits that make an anime “memorable” are different…
In this day and age where we have access to literally every anime series that’s available, whether it’s from years ago or a currently airing show, a lot of them end up being dispensable as a result; we enjoy them (or not) while we watch them and then soon forget them once we move on to the next show. But the ones that we do remember, the ones that we continue to cite in anime discussions and the ones that more easily come to mind when we think about anime, are the memorable ones. They don’t necessarily have to be our favorite series or even series we particularly like, but they’re series that had one or more traits that stuck out to us even long after we watched them. It’s easy to say an anime is memorable because it’s good, i.e., it has good characters and a good story, but I think it’s possible to separate “memorable” from “good” and see what certain traits make an anime come to our minds more often over the many others that we’ve watched and forgotten about even if they’re not ones we think are necessarily masterpieces. Below I’ve put together five such traits that I feel make an anime memorable:
Music is one of the memorable traits for an anime hoshiko mentioned in her post and one I agree with. All anime series have music of course, but only a handful have music (besides opening and ending songs) that I’ll continue to remember even years after I watched the anime. For me, Macross Frontier is the biggest example. I haven’t watched it since 2008 but I could never forget its songs and continued to listen to and enjoy them since. And it’s not just because the songs are good but because I remember how they were also part of the story and the impact they had on certain parts. Another series I feel is memorable for its music is Noir (which just happens to be a favorite of mine too). I’ve watched Noir a lot of times, but even after my first watch, that eerie Yuki Kajiura music and the scenes that went with it never left my mind. I know a lot of people don’t like Noir but still agree that the music is unforgettable. So again, it’s not only that the music was good for these series, but that it was present in such a way in the shows that it immortalized certain scenes and events in my mind, and that’s what made it memorable.
Something that can definitely make an anime memorable to me even if it’s a series I didn’t really like is having an unusual animation style. For example, I’m not a big fan of Bake/Nisemonogatari, but I’ll certainly never forget the uniqueness of Shaft’s animation in terms of the show’s dream-like background settings and barrages of on-screen text. Likewise, even if you’re not a fan of Madoka Magica, the LSD-esque nightmares that are the witches’ labyrinths are not soon forgotten. Besides the Shaft model of being wildly stylish with their animation, an anime’s animation can also stand out to us if its overall quality is simply noticeably higher than the rest, as is the case with a lot of Kyoto Animation titles. I know one thing that made the original Haruhi series wow people was the quality of the animation (most people hadn’t even heard of KyoAni back then) and I’ve heard countless praise of Hyouka’s style of making a show with so much dialogue and little action gorgeous to watch. Like with music, because the animation of these series is so unique, it makes particular scenes more immortalized in our minds than if they were to just have your run-of-the-mill style.
What I mean by this is when the events, plot, messages, and overall narrative of an anime completely blows our mind for better or worse. For better would be if it really makes us think and makes us want to analyze it and see if we can understand its complex story. For worse would be if it leaves us with a major sense of WTF, over-the-top weirdness. Evangelion is a perfect example of this as I know people have experienced it in both of these lights. But even if they felt it leaned toward the negative of being too weird and WTF-ish, it’s still something they never forget and continue to use as points of anime discussion for years to come. Revolutionary Girl Utena is another example where it’s total mind-numbing strangeness ingrained itself in my mind. Despite it not being a huge favorite of mine and not having watched it for years, I’ll never forget some of that imagery it had such as an upside down castle in the sky and the “Utena-mobile” from the movie. And for one more example, the themes and storyline of Wolf’s Rain are things I continue to examine and think about to this day, and even though I’ve watched it many times, I feel like I get a new “piece of the puzzle” each time – the mark of a true thought-provoking anime ;)
This is probably the most personalized of the traits I’m listing as all it means is that one or more things in an anime made us experience such a high level of emotion that we won’t ever forget it. The emotion could be anything – sadness, humor, anger, endearment – but it was strong enough to make the series that caused it unforgettable. A popular series in terms of sadness is Clannad After Story. I’ll never forget the sheer tragedy I felt in the show’s latter episodes even though I haven’t watched it in years. For a negative example, I’ll always remember how utterly disappointed and frustrated I was with the second season of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu. This show is memorable to me for how bad it was and I’m sure we all have anime like that (but hopefully not too many =P)
Lastly, what makes an anime memorable isn’t necessarily the lasting impression it leaves on me, but on the fandom that I’m a part of. There’s no denying the timelessness Evangelion has in the anime medium, so even if you yourself didn’t think much of it, it’s hard to forget about it as long as we’re part of anime fandom and it continues to be such a prominent title in the medium. Madoka Magica is looking to be in a similar position though it’s still too new of an anime to tell. Other extremely popular titles such as KyoAni hits like Haruhi, Lucky Star, and K-ON which have arguably steered the anime medium in a new direction, could again be thought of as memorable because of the impact they had in the fandom in general whether they had the same impact for us personally or not. As long as we continue to be involved in anime fandom, there are certain everlasting popular series we can’t ever forget about whether we want to or not =P