Most of you are probably not aware, but 2013 marks the 50-year anniversary of modern style anime (thanks to chii for bringing this up). Fifty years ago in 1963, Astro Boy began airing, the series credited with being the very first television anime that inspired the style of anime we see today. Anime has come a long, long way since then and has certainly changed in more ways than I can write about. But I wanted to do something to celebrate this milestone for the medium that has been such a big part of my life for roughly 14 of those 50 years. I thought, should I do something generic, like write about what I think are the best anime, characters, scenes., etc., to come out in those fifty years? But in the end, I opted to do something more personal and discuss a few ways anime has affected me personally – how it’s affected my life, my thoughts, my relationships, and other things…
Times are changing and I’m not so different after all: One of the very first ways anime changed me as a person is when I realized that I wasn’t the only one still into cartoons and video games despite long ago reaching the age when people move on to other things. I used to think there was something odd about myself back in middle school when I was the only one who liked Pokemon and other cartoons while all my classmates had “moved on” to “grown up” things like dating and American pop culture stuff. It wasn’t until high school when I started attending the anime club there, that I realized that there are indeed plenty of people my age who still love animation and games. And looking back on it now, I realize that I’m lucky to live in these times when it’s becoming more and more acceptable for people to be different and not fit social norms. It’s becoming more commonplace for adults to like things aimed at children, from Pokemon to My Little Pony, as well as for girls to like things aimed at guys such as violent video games and shonen anime, and guys to like “girly” things such as anime that revolve around romance and cuteness.
The world extends way beyond California: This might sound funny…or maybe it’s not so strange for a little kid to be like this, but when I was a child I hardly thought about anything beyond the little California suburban valley where I live. I didn’t think about people in other countries, or even in other states, and how different, as well as similar, their cultures could be. But like anyone who gets into anime, I couldn’t help but start taking notice of Japanese language, culture, and customs once I became part of the fandom. And once I actually became interested enough to study Japanese at college, I was completely enlightened; learning a different language and studying another country’s history, politics, art history, literature, etc., and being able to compare it to my own, made me see the world and understand the human experience anew. In addition, since anime is a fandom very tied to the Internet, over the years I’ve been able to meet a ton of people in other states and countries who also like anime and I’ve come to understand our similarities and differences. I’ve certainly changed from my sheltered view of the world I had when I was a kid and it may not have happened without anime =)
I can write and people will read: It’s no secret that my web site has been a huge part of my participation in anime fandom ever since I began work on it in 2002. Because I’ve been so passionate about anime and yearned to share my thoughts about it with others, I’ve been writing consistently for over ten years and naturally my skills have gradually improved over the course of that time (I’ve also managed to maintain a 50WMP speed). Very few things besides anime have come into my life that I’ve been passionate enough to write about. So I have anime to thank in terms of making me a diligent and skilled writer, which is definitely saying something in this day and age of short-hand texting on the go that’s sadly causing appreciation for profound and grammatically-sound written words to become obsolete. Another reason writing about my passion is important to me is because in real life I’m actually very soft-spoken and not the type people gravitate to in terms of conversation. I’ve always had trouble getting noticed and being able to voice my opinion in any kind of group discussions. Blogging about anime has allowed me to express myself in ways I can’t otherwise and actually get people to hear (or, read) what I say.
Learning to criticize even what you like: A recent post by Mikoto actually reminded me of another thing anime has taught me over the years – the value of analyzing and being critical, even if it’s something you like. When I was brand new to anime, I placed every anime I watched on a pedestal and only focused on the good things I saw in them and how awesome and creative they were. But as time went on and I watched more and more anime titles, began learning all the cliches of the medium and viewing more series in a single season than I did in a whole year back when I was a newbie fan, I realized that not every anime is great and it’s okay to express the things I dislike about them without seeming like a “hater.” I learned that people will take you much more seriously as a fan of something if you not only give precise reasons for your praise, but can also acknowledge that it’s not perfect and try to understand why others may not like it. So I became more critical over the years and now place every anime or even every game, movie, book, or any creative work under a microscope and see what’s good about it as well as bad. Thus in all my anime reviews, or for anything, I try to bring up both the good and the bad regardless of whether I liked it or disliked it overall. And again, if I wasn’t passionate enough about anime, I may have never developed this way of looking at things.
Appreciating certain aesthetics: Anime has taught me to appreciate many things in animation and visual entertainment in general, but to give a few examples, one thing it really opened my eyes to was appreciation of “the moment.” Anyone who’s seen enough anime knows that it’s not afraid to focus on one worthwhile scene for a considerable length of time, or remain silent for a while, letting the visuals speak for themselves, which is all quite contrasting to the fast-paced and relatively loud style of Western entertainment I was used to. Another thing anime brings out appreciation for because of its Japanese origins is the beauty of nature. Many anime that have nothing to do with nature have plenty of scenes of cherry blossoms falling, birds flying, sunlit trees blowing in the wind, etc,…just take a look at a number of anime opening songs from any genre to see this kind of stuff. I’ve always had an appreciation for nature but the beautiful way it’s conveyed in anime has enhanced my appreciation of how it can be used in a story. And lastly, probably something many of us have but don’t think about, is how anime has made me develop an appreciation for cute things that I never may have had otherwise. Starting with the many cute pokemon characters, I really started to adore the “cute characters with power” trope that’s so common in anime – having something small and cute, whether it’s a magical animal or Japanese school girl, that also has great powers and can defend against evil. Coming from a time when only muscle-bound comic book superheros had powers, it’s great to see characters like cute magical girls and animals being seriously portrayed as having superpowers.
Making true friends: And the last major way that anime has affected my life is how it’s helped me make many wonderful friends over the years, both in real life and online. I met all the good friends I have now, most of which I’ve been friends with for years, because of our same interest in anime. And even though some of them aren’t even into anime anymore, we’ve still stayed friends and found other common interests. Anime has certainly taught me that having a hobby that you both love is the best way to start fostering a friendship. Maybe I don’t have hundreds of Facebook friends like a lot of other people, but I’d much rather have a handful of true friends I really enjoy spending time with, than many flimsy “fair weather” friends =P