As you might guess from the site’s name, I enjoy watching anime. However, there are a significant amount of bad things that anime does, or is associated with which put a taint on my enjoyment and furthermore, hampers its global appeal.
The obsession with objectifying women
I won’t go into too much detail here as the objectification of women in anime has been covered extensively already and due to the nature of the topic, I don’t want to risk mis-phrasing something to come off as insulting. A large section of anime fans are male teenagers and the market has targetted them by producing a regular stream of echii [eh-chee] – Shows that thread on a fine line between acceptable broadcast material and porn.
Frequent panty-shots and accidental tripping-and-falling-on-someone’s-chest scenarios are a staple of these shows, and this is the appeal for many of its male viewers – As tasteless as it is, the larger problem for a viewer like myself is that this attitude towards women as sexual objects has leaked into other series. One Piece for instance has changed the design of one of the female leads to be more appealing to male audiences over the course of its airing.
Women are often categorised into certain boxes – Clumsy Maid, Tsundere, Sporty, Childhood friend, etc. Male characters are categorized also, but into less fetishized categories like the straight man or his partner the fool. There are many shows that are entertaining that use these tropes well – generally when the characters have other aspects to their characters, but for the most part it makes for unentertaining, repetitive viewing.
Anime can produce intriguing fleshed out female characters; Studio Ghibli, whilst arguably a completely different style and audience to TV anime, consistently has well fleshed out female characters. If we take Ghibli’s Nausicaä as an example, pretty much all the female characters are individual thinkers and well fleshed out characters. Unfortunately, this is an exception rather than the standard in today’s anime shows – if not in the medium itself, through merchandise and other avenues of promotion.
The fan-base of anime is very much an influencer of and influenced by the trends of anime. Typically English-speaking fans are below 21, whereas otaku numbers in Japan (not necessarily anime) stay fairly consistent up until their 50s. Anime also tends to attract people suffering from mental illness and personality/social disorders, for much the same reason as technology does – escapism, indoor activity and the snowball effect of a community attracting like-minded people. One of the best things about the anime community is the high level of acceptance of community – no-one minds your personal anxieties or quirks, because for the most part they have their own too. Both technology and anime communities are reputed to have higher levels of non-heterosexual members for presumably similar reasons. see: Gender & Sexuality in anime
However, in my experience I find offline interaction with anime fans to be much less pleasant. Many of the same things apply to technology communities here and in some cases are worse, but I am going to split from the pairing I have set up and talk solely about anime fans.
Immaturity – The English-speaking fan-base is primarily teenagers, add this to the high density of social/personality disorders and conventions are filled with hyperactive people running around, glomping and generally being excited. They’re obviously having a great time, but things can get fairly chaotic if the con is not well controlled. Glomping, Yaoi paddles and other practises have been banned from conventions for these reasons. Many people may be in cosplay aswell, so the risk of things breaking is high.
And there’s also a lot of weirdos…
Sleaziness – I don’t mean to be insulting when I say that many of the male fans/attendees are not good at conversing with women, because it’s the truth. This results in a lot of uncomfortable conversations – and I’m not even a girl. This also ties into the merchandise that’s provided at conventions, some of which should need IDing in my opinion.
Age fall off – This is a personal gripe I have. The older anime community at conventions, at least in Ireland, is small and for the most part tightly knit and hard to approach as an outsider.
Anime Production Decisions
I understand that anime can be very hit and miss, so the producers want to minimize that risk as much as possible. But this has gotten to a state where only shows that are formulaic are produced. Only large studios afford the risk to produce unique and original content for their shows which is very disappointing. Only a few shows, if any, are genuinely innovative and worth watching per year. One example of the formulae used are the typical character types mentioned previously.
Because of low sales, the industry has discovered means of making people want to buy the physical copies of the media. Sometimes shows are purposefully drawn sloppily (by not holding a standard) and redrawn for the physical version. Scenes are intentionally censored, not by law, but by design decision – and uncensored on the physical media. Not just raunchy content, but violence too. I want to get the same quality production on release that I do when buying the media.
Sailor Moon Crystal: Broadcast | BluRay
The other side of income for companies is merchandise. Some studios rely soley on merchandise to turn a profit, with the anime acting merely as an expensive advertisement. I don’t like this product-oriented approach to animated shows. In general these perform at a lower level to the other airing shows, but the fans spend more money on merchandise. This could be obvious merchandise like robot shows where if you buy all 5 smaller robots, they will combine into one giant mega robot, but also merchandise like female figurines (popular with harem shows), posters and plush toys. I’m relatively okay with these items, but it’s the less salubrious merchandise like onaholes, breast mousemats, hug pillows with lewd depictions of characters that irk me. Firstly it demeans the characters in shows that I’ve come to appreciate during viewing, but also when laypeople view anime, this is what they think of first. Which brings me to my next, and last point…
Pretty much anyone who has an idea of what anime is, knows that the general public don’t think too fondly of it. Connotations associated with it are tentacle porn, incest and lolicon – and I’d like to say that those connotations are unfounded, but they aren’t. The community embraces these and refers to them time and time again. There’s even a drink targeted at anime watchers called Tentacle Grape.
I don’t think anime porn itself is a big issue for anime, there’s porn of everything popular. If anime really wants to move on, it has to get rid of the stuff that is weird. And by weird, I mean things that are generally taboo in society (the distinct gap is more so in Western countries where our cultures are quite different, but it still exists in the East).
Artist at http://katachan.deviantart.com/
Following on from this, anime is relatively underground in the public eye, even though it has many, many fans – The amount of fans has spawned subcultures or encompassed them. You will often see people in fursuits at conventions, or have discussion threads about My Little Pony on anime forums. These are also seen as weird in the public eye and are often linked to anime as the origin.
I have anime down in my résumé under my hobby section, which some people would question, and I’ve been asked about it occasionally. It actually lets me get a good impression of my prospective employer and how accepting they are with their preconceptions / willing to learn about something they haven’t heard about. Maybe with this I will at least change some people’s opinions.
A less harmful assumption is that all anime is for kids. This isn’t a really big issue as there’s lots of evidence to the contrary.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I am fan of anime – but not all anime is good. In fact, a large percentage of it is bad. But this is the same in any medium, a lot of Hollywood films are terrible, there are countless books that are utter tripe.
But, at the end of the day – they exist because people watch them, and that’s what has to change if they are to stop producing bad content and experiment with things more people will watch.