Why “I Don’t Like Anime” Doesn’t Really Make Sense

I have a hard time sympathizing with anyone who says, point blank, “I don’t like anime,” especially when their experience with it is limited to childrens’ television dubs. “I don’t watch anime” is fine and honest, but stating the former just presents itself as being really ignorant. When I first started here at Amazing, I mentioned that writing about anime as a genre is kind of impossible because, quite frankly, anime is not a genre. It’s nothing more than a style of animation, a medium through which people tell stories. And while I’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible with the types of things I discuss, I have obviously played favorites; I like anime, but not all anime. I like films, too, but not all genres of film. See what I’m getting at?

There are people will say “well, I just don’t like the art style.” You know something? I also don’t love the overdone, connect-the-dots, generic “anime” style. But what you see in the How To Draw Manga books isn’t actually what animanga looks like. The stylistic differences between Dragonball Z and Mononoke, for example, are too copious to enumerate. It’s okay to not find yourself attracted to a particular art or animation style (I choose series this way much of the time), but it’s not okay to assume that all anime, and their predecessors in manga, are created equally.

EveryoneInDragonBallZ mononoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

That all being said, I can understand that not everyone is going to want to invest the time and energy in finding those titles that they would potentially like. There are a lot of very intrinsically Japanese cultural elements that are central to many series, and that can be difficult to get a hang of at first (one of the biggest difficulties I hear people facing is that Japanese cinematic/visual pacing is much slower). I get that, I honestly do. But it bothers me when I can tell people aren’t interested because it’s Japanese. Writing off an entire medium because it’s “too different” has the distinct whiff of passive racism about it. That is to say, I don’t think people intend to be harmful by rejecting anime, but they’re also entirely unaware that disliking something by virtue of it’s other-ness is problematic. There’s definitely a reason that Cowboy Bebop and Akira are the most popular titles among non-anime fans Stateside in my experience; neither of these titles are so entrenched in Japanese customs or daily life as to be non-consumable by a Western audience; Bebop is intentionally very American, and though you can argue that Akira is very Japanese in its grim, post-apocalyptic Tokyo (the WWII bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki set a huge precedent for a cultural obsession with the end times), the characters are very universal types in a very recognizable cityscape.

Akira_movie_poster

I completely understand that we all can’t have the same hobbies and interests.  I honestly don’t even want everyone to be anime fans. But there is a kind of shame associated with being a fan (of anything that’s not mass-media), such that people will dismiss anime without a second thought. My roommate, Manda, really loved anime as a kid—Pokemon, Dragonball Z, Cardcaptor Sakura, you name it. But by the time she got to early high school, anime wasn’t cool anymore. Cue the denial phase!  Now that she lives with me, she’s letting her otaku flag fly free, re-immersing herself in her old FAKE manga, watching all of the subbed Cardcaptor Sakura, and now starting CLAMP’s alternate universe title, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. Even my fiance, who associated most anime with annoying people in high school, is now halfway through One Piece—which means he just finished episode number 330. I didn’t talk about manga much myself throughout high school, simply because I only had a couple friends who were interested (but everyone knew that I liked it because, like so many teenage comic fans the world over, I carried my sketchbook everywhere).

I guess that all I’m trying to say here is please don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. If you’re seriously not interested in making the effort, that is fine. But you can say, “I honestly don’t know much about anime,” or “I haven’t seen any anime that I’ve liked so far.” We need to stop treating anime like it’s all one big genre; the only uniting factor is that it’s all cartoons from Japan.  Also, it’s kind of rude to admit to someone who does like anime that you think their hobby is childish, irrelevant, and inferior.  We all got enough of that in middle and high school—we grew up, and we would appreciate it if everyone else did, too.

Goku_taunting_Yamcha

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12 thoughts on "Why “I Don’t Like Anime” Doesn’t Really Make Sense"

  1. Emma says:

    I honestly don’t even find anime such as
    Monoke, Monster or other more realistic anime as appealing. They all still hold that certain japanese art influence in them, which I dislike. I don’t like the small edgy facial features, pointy chins and eyes, big or small. I don’t like the more or less spiky hair that goes over their forehead. I have come across various of anime yet not a single one has really got me. The ones that get me are not labeled as anime, but as cartoon.

  2. You need to watch Code Geas, then. 😛 And no, my father was mostly into Robert E. Howard / Conan, so he went beyond the silver age. I still remember what it was like growing up. I didn’t meet someone who liked Star Trek until High School. But I never felt stigmatized by anime because half of my friends were from South Asian immigrant families. Once in awhile, I lent tapes to my American friends. Ninja Scroll was probably the one everyone wanted to borrow. But that seems like an eternity ago, in a different world.

    1. Is it good? I was just checking out a bit on Wikipedia – I had no idea CLAMP was involved with it.

      Anyway, I think you got pretty lucky with all the South Asian friends. I had two Filippina friends in eighth grade/freshman year, but after that I was a little lonely in the anime world for a couple years. Until I got to college and met other crazy outcasts. =P

  3. I get your point, Morgana, and this post needed to be written! But as someone who has, yes, uttered the dread words “I don’t like anime” more than once in the past, I have to offer another explanation:

    Some of us just aren’t that visual. We prefer books.

    No value judgement implied. Just sayin’!

    1. Hey, that sounds like a reasonable reason to me!

  4. I didn’t say your interests were based around socializing. I said a large chunk of the population’s was, e.g., Justin Bieber, Michael Bay Films, 50 Shades of Grey, reality TV shows, etc, etc, etc. I can keep going and going with this, but it’s not debatable. And your personal history of not being interested in things because your friends were into them, doesn’t negate that. If you were even remotely right, viral videos would never exist. Also, young Adult, as a category, isn’t used for children’s books.

    I don’t even want to get started on the commercialization and trendiness of geekdom in popular culture. But it’s demonstrably a part of it. Hell, Wesley Crusher has a million followers on Twitter.

    As a kid, I spent a good amount of time talking about comics and cartoons. We just carried it into adult hood a bit — us Mellenials more than anyone. I personally graduated from Mcfarlane to Moore by the time high school was over. But my dad’s collection, from the 50s up, dwarfed mine, and he wasn’t anything close to a geek or nerd. Maybe for girls it was a different experience; I can see that. But for us boys, comic books were very much a social feature in our lives, since their advent.

    And no, I don’t consider any of those stories complex. Something like Gravity’s Rainbow, Ulysses, The Sound and The Fury, or even Moby Dick is complex. Akira is fairly straightforward. You could have listed something more like Code Geas or Death Note as an example of more complex efforts, but they are still, very much, tied down to tropes / cliches, and lack serious depth outside of plot.

    Ultimately, the world is filled with lots of different types of people. Anime is a style of cartoon. Lot’s of grown men, myself not included, hate cartoons. They want to see real actors. They don’t want to see basic mouth animations over static drawings tell a story, regardless of whether it’s worth hearing or not.

    1. I did start using “children” instead of “young adult,” I realized that afterward. Regardless of geekdom’s CURRENT trendiness, I think we need to examine the fact that it hasn’t always been trendy, and yet it some how survived. Comics were very much a thing for boys growing up, so your father’s collection from the fifties is unsurprising – but it’s probably a bunch of basic cape titles. I obviously don’t know this, but it doesn’t sound like your father was a collector in the same way that my father was – with several milk crates full of plastic-wrapped issues. For him, growing up with this interest in the seventies and eighties was isolating but also a source of comfort. As you said, my experiences don’t negate the rest of what the population is up to, but I don’t think most hardcore anime fans are in the social majority. And if they are, then they have plenty of people to talk anime with, which means your initial assertion doesn’t make much sense.

      I don’t think Akira is particularly straightforward, but again, I feel there is a lot there that is very specific to Japan. I’ve read some pretty interesting essays on its themes and it kind of bowled me over. Of course, I watched it for the first time when I was nine, so there’s a lot that I missed the first couple times around. I didn’t mention Code Geas because I don’t know anything about it, and I didn’t mention Death Note because it actually is intended for young adults (also, I don’t understand everyone’s obsession with it; I don’t think it’s very clever at all).

      All that being said, there are more reasons to watch anime than plot and character progression, such as style of art/animation, musical score,etc. But as you said, the world is full of lots of different types of people, and I’ve said repeatedly that I understand and appreciate that. I find something in anime that perhaps you don’t (such as stories with complex female characters – which aren’t really a thing in Ulysses or Moby Dick – or transgender characters like in “Wandering Son”). Also, not sure why “grown men” are suddenly the audience we’re talking about, but they’re not the sole demographic I’m speaking to, nor are they necessarily the demographic I think needs representing here.

  5. Eh, I don’t know about that. It’s obvious that a large chunk of the population bases their interest on their entertainment’s or activity’s social implications more than the actual substance of the work. Basically, if people can’t talk about it with the people they like, then it has nothing to offer them.

    But even with that said, I think anime fans tend to dramatically overestimate the quality of story telling and complexity they’re getting. E.g., I have yet to see one that wouldn’t be classified under young adult if they were novelized, and I’ve been watching these cartoons since the 80s. Obviously, not counting all the creepy porn.

    Anyways, there are lots of people I know who wouldn’t and couldn’t care less about anime as Japanese writers and artists don’t transcend cultural and social barriers with everyone.

    1. First of all, I started my interest in anime without a social group to talk with about it (I was 5; the anime was Sailor Moon). I continue to do most of my reading and viewing by myself, occasionally turning to fellow fans on the internet. So your assumption that it’s a social event is skewed – perhaps that is how you consume media, but it’s not necessarily across the board. I consume manga in particular the way many people consume other reading material – alone, as a quiet and personal entertainment. If social-ness was the meter by which everyone gauged something’s worth, where did all the classic loner comic book nerds come from?

      As for animanga with an intriguing storyline that aren’t intended for children and also aren’t pornographic in nature:
      -Cowboy Bebop
      -Akira
      -Mononoke
      -Ayakashi
      -Lupin III (okay, not necessarily a sophisticated story, but definitely intended for adults)
      -Tramps Like Us
      -Tokyo Godfathers
      -Hellsing
      -Pet Shop of Horrors
      -The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service
      -Samurai Champloo
      -Uzumaki
      -Gyo
      -Vampire Hunter D
      -Nana

      Of course, some of the sophistication in these narratives is lost because, as I said, there are many cultural elements that go over the heads of many Western viewers. In Akira, for example, Tetsuo is supposed to be an allegory for a weak, victimized Japan, always being defended by the West (the character Kaneda). Tetsuo ends up becoming hugely powerful and flaunting that power at Kaneda, thereby destroying all of Neo Tokyo. Even kids’ series like One Piece have a lot of very complex analogies concerning the Japanese culture of victimization and fear.

      Once again, I don’t care if people aren’t actively interested. I just would prefer they didn’t go around dumping all over something for which they have very little context – and perhaps also for them to understand the reasons they’re not interested, which could be as simple as just not wanting to invest the time in a new hobby. Totally reasonable.

      (P.S. Just because something is intended for children does not mean that it has poor quality of storytelling. On the contrary, if it can fully engage children in its world, it is a hugely successful and worthy story indeed.)

  6. Nice post. Anime is one of those things that I brushed up against as a kid, but didn’t have a lot of exposure to. As an adult, there’s a huge variety out there, from Serial Experiments Lain (cool, but I’m still not sure I get it) to stuff like Dragonball Z or Pokemon (not my bag, I think I was just too old to get on that boat) or Claymore (awesome – I never did read the actual comics), and of course everything Miyazaki.

    I think the embarrassment some people feel is based partially on the idea of being lumped in liking everything anime when some of it they really don’t like, but like you said: anime just means cartoons from Japan, and when you like some of it but not all of it, it’s no different from loving Justice League: Unlimited but not digging on Batman: The Brave and the Bold – that doesn’t mean you don’t like cartoons.

    Part of it also is just people not comfortable liking what they like, which is what being an SFF fan is all about! 🙂

    1. Being a fan of anything can certainly be an ordeal! Thanks for your comment – I love hearing about what experiences people have had with anime. I haven’t seen or watched Claymore, but I’ve heard that the comic is fabulous.

      But yeah, for a good while I just didn’t talk about anime because I knew that people would make assumptions about me based on that one interest. Pretty crappy deal for a teenager who already has to deal with all that other dumb teenage stuff!

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