Japanimation

Before I met my husband, my entire experience with anime was a vague awareness that Sailor Moon existed. He was a longtime fan, starting with Battle of the Planets when he was a kid. When we first started dating he tried to get me to watch Love Hina, a fairly typical anime romantic comedy. I couldn’t get into it. I didn’t find the insane overreaction to embarrassing mishaps amusing, and that appeared to be the bulk of the humor. I wasn’t interested in Please Teacher either, for the same reasons, and when he tried to get me to watch Trigun I fell asleep.

I usually have no issue with subtitles, but in this case I think that was part of the turn-off. Many of the female Japanese voice actors have high-pitched, whiny voices. And unlike the languages of Europe and the Americas, the cadence of Japanese bears no similarity whatsoever to that of English. For example, questions don’t go up at the end, and the sentence structure is completely different. So I didn’t feel like I was really gaining anything by being a purist.

However, many English dubs are simply dreadful. Homestar Runner’s Stinkoman 20X6 was spot on. You can’t line English words up with an animated mouth speaking Japanese. Well, you can, but it’s just awkward. Luckily, dubbing has improved dramatically over the years, so most of the more recent series are perfectly bearable in English. (Not all of them, of course; Naruto’s “believe it!” just doesn’t translate.) Disney’s handling of Miyazaki’s films is an excellent example of just how good a dub can be.

One of the thing most anime outsiders don’t realize is that anime is not a genre: anime series span all genres, from romance to science fiction to drama to comedy to just plain old weird. It’s a style – and not even a specific style, really. Compare, if you will, characters from One Piece, Tokyo Mew Mew, and Ghost in the Shell:

One Piece

Tokyo Mew Mew

Ghost in the Shell

There’s hardly any comparison, though all three are very common artistic styles in anime. It could also be argued that anime doesn’t necessarily need to be Japanese. I would consider Teen Titans to be American anime, for instance, and there are plenty of anime-style comics from Korea.

Though my husband is quite enamored of this style of art, I’ve come across only a few series here and there that have piqued my interest:

  • Outlaw Star: I need to rewatch this one. Basically, it’s a science fiction story about a group of otherwise unrelated characters thrown together to search for the Galactic Leyline, a mythical place said to hold lots of treasure. They have lots of adventures along the way, many pretty hilarious.
  • Death Note: My favorite series so far. Bored college student Yagami Light finds a notebook that gives him an immense amount of power: whoever’s name he writes in the notebook will die. He decides to become the personification of justice, killing criminals left and right under the pseudonym “Kira” as uber-detective L attempts to discover his identity. Things get even more interesting when Light teams up with L to “help find Kira.” Throw in additional Death Notes and a jealous death god or two, and you have a fascinating game of cat and mouse. The live-action movies are almost better, actually, because they concentrate solely on the Light vs. L story of the first half of the anime series, rather than introducing later characters such as Near and Mello.
  • Kino’s Journey: Kino and her talking motorcycle explore vastly different countries in a strange land, sort of a fantastic interpretation of Gulliver’s Travels meets couch surfing. It’s been a long time since I watched this, so I don’t have much to say about it anymore, except that it was very interesting.
  • Naruto: I get a kick out of this series about kids going to ninja school. There’s a whole pile of characters, so you’re bound to find one you like. I’m not sure who I’d count as my favorite, though I’ve always been fond of Kakashi and Gaara. The English dub is decent but often unintentionally amusing, as everything Sasuke says sounds like a double entendre. It’s a long series (220 episodes, plus a continuation in the currently airing Naruto: Shippuden which will almost definitely surpass its predecessor by a large number of episodes) but not one you have to concentrate on, or even necessarily watch all of. After all, a battle sequence can last several episodes without actually moving the plot forward.
  • Bobobo-bo Bo-bobobo: Distilled insanity on a cracker, man. It could be argued that a lot of the jokes are Japanese cultural references that fly over my head, but that doesn’t explain a guy whose primary weapon is his nose hair, or the dude made out of gelatin (that everyone wants to eat), or — well, pretty much the entire rest of the series.

Would I call myself an anime fan? Not really. I’ve been to several conventions (usually to peddle wares in the artists alley), but the programming doesn’t really interest me. What about you? How do you feel about anime?

Hat tip to Wikipedia, PSP themes and Marilinunio for the images.

  1. Enh, I’m pretty much like you in regards to anime, though my list of ‘enjoyed’ anime is different (i’ve never heard of the ones you listed, though outlaw star sounds interesting).

    One ‘anime’ that I was suprised to find missing from your list was The Last Airbender. :)

    Most of the ‘silly’ anime stuff, and anything that could be considered ‘for fan only’ types (gross example: hentai) I’m not interested in. I tend to enjoy some of the more commercial and or serious type (akira, vampire hunter d, last airbender). Since you mention Miyazaki, I think everything he’s ever put out that I’ve seen is good (spirited away, mononoke, castle in the sky).

    I don’t actually mind subtitles though. Dubs are fairly hit and miss.

    I’m trying to remember other anime that i have come across, and besides Tenchi (started good, got stupid.) and Hades Project Zeorymer (and others already mentioned) I’m drawing a blank. Though, there was an anime series that I once rented from blockbuster. It was about a kid with a big sword saving a kingdom (no his name was not cloud). I really enjoyed it, but cannot remember the name of the thing. The box was black, and it had red highlights. Perhaps your husband, from this vague description, can figure it out? The internet has failed me.

    • You’re right, The Last Airbender is supposed to be awesome and has been recommended to me several times, but since I’ve never actually watched it, I didn’t think to include it. :)

      I’m a little surprised you haven’t heard of Cowboy Bebop, Death Note, or Naruto, as they are all insanely popular (and all played on Cartoon Network). But hey, not everybody has been plunged into anime culture as I have, being married to an anime fan. :) Miyazaki is *wonderful*. We even got to visit his studio’s museum while we were in Japan last March, and it was just amazing. I think Bill’s on a quest to own every single one of his films. :) Akira was good but it’s been a number of years since I saw it last. Vampire Hunter D is on my to-watch list (mostly because we own the DVD).

      I asked Bill about your mystery anime. His response: “Do you know how many anime series that describes?” :)

  2. Hollychihuahua here from Swap-Bot Blog Comments. I loved this post. I watch anime sometimes and find the voices hilarious. The best was when I watched one with subtitles that was not dubbed and one of the characters was speaking Japanese with a Boston accent!

    • *laugh* That’s awesome. My husband’s favorite dubbing weirdness is in Love Hina, where the Indian character has a Texas accent in the English dub. Whaaa? :)

  3. Hi, it’s akilovessweets from swap-bot.
    Though I’m in Japan, I’ve never seen some of the series you listed.
    Have you ever seen “Fullmetal Alchemist”? It’s very popular in Japan :)

    • My husbands LOVES Fullmetal Alchemist. I’m surprised he hasn’t forced me to watch it yet. :) I probably will at some point – I’ve seen the first couple episodes and the brothers are great.

  4. Hi there,
    Visiting your blog from swapbot’s Blog Comments swap.
    Love your blog and love anime allso. i’ve had the chance to visit Japan Last jear.
    Unfortunately, the museum of anime was closed :(
    That was very dissapointing…
    I picket up some new titles, gonna check them out too!!!

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