A Quick Explanation to Understanding Anime
As with many people being new to watching Anime, sometimes it can get highly confusing with that giant gap we call “Culture”. Understanding something created in another country can be complex, especially when it comes to things said and actions the characters make. With this quick explanation of Japanese culture, you should be able to understand it more and enjoying whatever series you end up watching to its full extent.
There is a lot of controversy around where the term “Anime” comes from. It is said to just be a Japanese word for all animation, but there are some that believe it derives from the French word “Dessin Animé”. Many people’s first thoughts when they hear about anime for the first time are that they are cartoons, aimed at children! Which is not true. Yes, it is animated, but the content and the story line is completely different to anything you would allow your child to watch. So to say that it is all for kids to watch, is just simply ignorant since, like movies, there are many genres and sub-genres. These might even range more than movie genres since the scope is way larger due to it being animated. Horrors, fantasy, love stories and even anime for children (let’s not forget them).
The story structure in anime can vary, but with all stories and movies and books, there are only so many structures for storytelling. Some series can be 13 episodes long, or 24 or even 52 episodes at about 20 minutes an episode. There is also on-going anime such as One Piece or Naruto which have quite a number of fillers to keep it going longer and longer.
One thing that confuses many newcomers to the medium is the style. Why is their hair so ridiculous? People don’t have such LARGE eyes. This style has its own explanation. Anime actually stems mostly from Manga, which is kind of like an equivalent to comic books; except that they are black and white and you read them backwards. In Japan, pretty much everyone has dark hair, and it has been a law that all primary and secondary school children have to wear school uniforms. You will also notice then that many anime stories take place in schools, so seeing as every character is wearing the same outfit and with the same hair colour; you can see how this can make very characters look the same. Being taken from a black and white medium known as Manga, the colour was eventually added to help differentiate characters. This is why there are so many different coloured hairstyles. You will also wonder why physics doesn’t apply to these amazing and fantastical character’s hairstyles? It simply allows for more creative freedom to help a character’s personality shine through. It is also said that anime was actually a result of Western Cartoons such as Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop. These characters are not realistic either, and yet they also had very large eyes. This wasn’t the only reason for this style of animation, but also that culturally, people with bigger eyes are said to let more light into their souls which make them easily trusted and seen as a nicer person. So you can see how seemingly logical this medium is.
You may notice that there seems to be a lack of body parts – particularly nipples and pubic hair and the really naughty bits as in example the anime Ranma 1/2. Japan, at some point, had a law against any body parts that may entice people to be aired on television. You won’t see any nipples or you will see just a shadow over the groin area. And there are a few anime series that actually involved ‘Tentacle Porn’. They bypassed the laws that said you couldn’t show a man’s parts so they used something else – like a giant squid monster or something. It may seem weird, but again pretty logical. Also, another way to show some sexual ‘finishing’ without actually showing it is the nosebleeds.
Now back to more Japanese culture; Japan is very big on respect. The words they call people, the politeness they show to each other. You will see it in every anime series you watch. They also believe that everyone should contribute to the good of Japan, which is known as a Collectivist Culture. With all the witty characters that seem to insult people all the time, it does make one wonder why. That is because they believe you should be honest, but also show respect by being honest privately so as to not embarrass anyone. In fact, speaking one’s mind is considered a form of delinquency in Japan. So it may be a common character attribute, but delinquent children are very rare in real life, and you can now see how this type of character is used so often.
This being a completely different style of animation, with in-depth stories and many visual appealing sequences, anime can be very enjoyable. And the more you watch, the more you will understand certain jokes or even a bit of body language. Logically, if you had to visit Japan after watching a lot of anime, you will most definitely be understanding of the culture more than any other average Westerner. So enjoy your journey into becoming an Anime Fanatik!
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