When you were a kid, did you ever watch programmes such as Lady Oscar, Lupin or Candy Candy? How about Ken Shiro: Fist of the North Star, Sailor Moon or Daitarn 3?
These are all ‘anime,’ Japanese-produced cartoons, which have enchanted and entertained for generations. Most people wrongly assume that anime is a phenomenon targeted towards and enjoyed only by children. It is a fact however, that in Japan, anime is and always has been very varied, and like manga (Japanese comic-books), there are various types of anime targeted towards different sections of society. These types of anime are usually classified by genre, by demographic (the age and/or gender it is aimed at) or by the themes in the plot.
Some major types of anime include:
‘Shoujo’, which is anime aimed at young girls, such as Sailor Moon, Candy Candy and Cardcaptor Sakura;
‘Shonen’, is anime aimed at young boys, such as, Fist of the North Star, Death Note, Dragon Ball and Saint Seiya;
‘Seinen’, is anime aimed at adult males, such as Akira, Berserk, Hellsing and Ghost in the Shell;
‘Josei’, is anime aimed at adult women which include Nana, Paradise Kiss, and Kare Kano.
Anime dates back to the early 20th century, however the style was mostly developed in the 60’s and 70’s, becoming more and more popular in Europe through the airing of Japanese anime on Italian channels in the 80s and 90s. Such anime versions were obviously dubbed in Italian and mostly censored, since Japanese anime usually contains a percentage of what is called, ‘fan service’, which Italian channels cut out of the main story. Fan service refers to material intentionally added to give pleasure to the audience. It is also referred to as ‘gratitious titillation’ and usually takes the form of ‘eye candy,’ such as girls in bathing suits, long violent fighting scenes and ‘up-skirts’ – glimpses of characters’ underwear. These are more frequent in anime targeted to an adult audience, however they are also present in ‘shonen’ and ‘shoujo’ anime to a certain degree. Of course, if one really likes this sort of thing, one could deviate directly to ‘Hentai’. The word translated from Japanese literally means ‘pervert’ and it consists of pornographic or erotic anime.
Anime has a tremendous following around the world. Most adult anime, apart from focusing on characters and a main story, tackle social themes such as bullying, friendship, gender roles and emotional instability. Others are more psychological or philosophical, breaching issues which include religion, personal ethics, the meaning of morality and the importance of the senses.
Being an anime aficionado, I have been continuously amazed by its artistry and narrative, and I have discovered anime such as Paprika, which starts out to be a metaphorical re-enactment of the interpretation and importance of dreams, but ends up stretching ethical and emotional parameters. Another example is Elfen Lied which, though full of fan service, is clearly about the issue of inclusion in society and the marginalisation of minority groups. There is also Death Note, which shows how power can corrupt and that the means to a good end, if evil, are still not justifiable.
Anime can be serialised, comprising of a number of episodes (mostly around 23 or 24) of 20 to 25 minutes each and further lengthened into seasons. Some anime are very long, having more than a hundred episodes, such as Bleach or Inuyasha. Other anime can take the shape of a movie, consisting of one or two episodes of an hour and a half or two hours each. Examples of these are Ghost in the Shell, Perfect Blue, or Spirited Away.
The anime industry, which comprises of hundreds of companies, including Studio Ghibli, Toei Animation, Gainax and Gonzo, has in turn created other industries, which are mostly linked to fans and fan-art. Cosplay, which involves the dressing up of people (be they children or adults) in costumes reminiscent of their favourite anime characters, has opened up a new retail market, especially online. The business associated with the production of cosplay conventions and memorabilia should not go unmentioned. Websites promoting anime fan-fiction and anime art have also flourished.
I personally love anime because I perceive it as a fun and creative way of broadening one’s horizons. It has nothing to do with age, in fact, many anime tackle difficult and sensitive subjects, and it has everything to do with acquiring different types of knowledge, empathising with variegated characters and situations, and becoming aware of new things.
What is your favourite anime and why?