Chances are, if you live on planet earth, you must have heard about Pokémon. While to many it seems like your run of the mill cartoon, Pokémon is one of the first main stream forms of anime to become a popular craze in the west.
The word anime refers to all kinds of animation but in Japan it has taken on a far deeper meaning. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly constitutes anime?
As I have learned so far, fans of the genre consider it sacrilegious to compare anime to regular cartoons. The distinct look and feel, coupled with mature and often dark symbolisms and story lines have allowed anime series to start a cultural revolution. Until around forty years ago anime was bound to Japan, but it has slowly gained cult status in the West.
There are different genres of anime which target specific audiences called Kodomo, Shonen, Shojou, and Seinen. Kodomo refers to child appropriate anime, while Seinen contains adult only content. The genres you might be most familiar with are Shonen and Shojou which target male and female teenage viewers.
You might ask What’s the appeal in anime? Let’s start with appearance, even the most basic anime serials have a vibrant and visually striking feel. I’m sure you are all familiar with the bugged- eyed, tiny mouthed and petite sized characters which appear on most anime. Anime has a way to make even the most mundane moments appear refreshing. The in-depth storytelling and sheer breadth of the material offer a more sophisticated production as when compared to their western counterparts
Anime has literally become part and parcel of Japanese culture. Watching anime gives us unusual insights in to the norms of Japanese culture, almost as if we were travelling ‘through the looking glass’. For example, many common storylines, that would be considered inappropriate in the West, are welcomed in Japan. Many storylines include explicit violence and nudity which surprisingly are casually accepted in Japan.
Don’t worry though, if you are a newbie to anime. Anime distributors have strict protocols when it comes to rating their content. All anime productions come with appropriate guideline ratings. As I mentioned before there are many popular shows which target children such as Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z and Naruto. These are also typical gateway shows for beginners which require little or no understanding of Japanese nuances and culture.
Let’s take a look at some of the all-time favourites. Number one on the list is ‘Death Note’, an intriguing 33-part series. It follows an intellectual high school student, who acquires the book of death.
Second has to be ‘One Piece’ which documents the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy an elastic boy.
And lastly, another Shonen storyline called ‘Code Geass’, documents the story of a schoolboy who possess the power to control anyone he wishes.
The ability of anime producers throughout Japan to produce unique and compelling content for decades guarantees an exciting future for anime not only in Japan but internationally as well.