I love story. All story. Books, television, movies…even campfire stories. I am addicted to story. But, until 2009, I completely disregarded one type of story: Anime. No, please don’t run away. There is a reason why a fantasy writer is talking about anime. Truth is, today most children are watching anime. I grew up with my youngest brother watching Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon. I grew up watching Hello Kitty. My children watch Yu Gi Oh at friend’s houses and they watch Naruto and One Piece at home. If you are a parent or you plan to become one, you can expect your child to find anime. Know what it is.
Today, I love anime almost as much as I love telling people about anime. I love anime so much, my license plate says, “One Piece” (Not kidding) and I named her Merry after Luffy’s ship, “The Going Merry.” I have Luffy decals on the windows and Luffy’s jolly roger on my rear view mirror. I love anime.
Unfortunately, most Americans tend to dismiss anime without really knowing what it is (I did). I can not say this enough. They are missing out. Japan invests as much into an anime as Hollywood invests in a high budget film. Sometimes more. The results? A high quality animated story with detailed, gorgeous, and stunning digital art like what you would expect to see on the PS4. Voice actors deliver outstanding performances, and story lines are as complex and webbed as Harry Potter.
Unlike American television, anime is not bound to genres. So “anime” is as generic and broad as the word “movie.” An anime could refer to “Hello Kitty” (rated G) or “Pokemon,” (rated PG) which targets younger audiences. But anime can also refer to Death Note (16+) and Highschool of the Dead (17+).
Hentai (rated R to XXX) is not anime and is not for kids. The word “hentai” is the Japanese word for “pervert” or “perversion.” Most Americans mistake Hentai for anime and judge anime based on the Hentai they stumbled across. They develop the wrong impression without knowing what they really saw. I did.
I love anime. I hate hentai. I will say again. Hentai is not anime. Even Hentai fans agree. Hentai is not anime.
If you’ve ever watched Big Bang Theory, you may have seen Sheldon cringe at Penny calling anime “cartoons.” Anime is not “cartoons.” American cartoons are silly, goofy, and in all cases are portrayed with voice actors who tend to make ridiculous voices for the characters. Most American cartoons are not designed for the intellectual. American cartoons are never…never to be taken seriously while anime, in most cases, is meant to be taken seriously. Watch Death Note. An anime that is more serious than A Beautiful Mind. Absolutely no hint of silliness there.
If you think you’ve checked out anime and grabbed Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, or One Piece on Cartoon Network, guess again. More than twenty years ago, an American television station called 4Kidz purchased the rights, but destroyed the translation, the artwork, and the dubbing so bad that Funimation (The Japanese studio that sold them the rights) sued 4Kidz who are now out of business. Funimation is now redoing the damage done and is making an attempt to re-distribute the appropriate versions to the States. Here’s a clue, if the anime was dubbed, it was probably 4Kidz.
Anime (subbed) has moved me far deeper than anything I have ever read. And I have read The Notebook, Les Miserables, and Lord of the Rings. Yeah! You heard me! Anime is better than books! Let’s see Bugs Bunny do that to viewers! Please ask, what would drive a bibliophile…a fantasy writer to say anime is better than books?
Anime voice actors in Japan are equivalent to Tom Hanks here in the States. Their performances are, in my opinion, unmatched by anything you will see from Hollywood. We are talking story telling on a whole new caliber.
Even the animes that delve into the realm of ridiculous and silly like One Piece, find frequent moments to pull at your heartstrings and make you weep with them. I remember the first time I cried over anime. It was One Piece.
I just googled for the episode number and found a reddit thread entitled “Top 5 Moments that made you cry in One Piece.” That is how emotional One Piece is. Fans make lists of the number of times they cried. One Piece is currently on it’s 17th season. That’s Right! One Piece started in 1999 and is no where near done! I believe it will run for another ten years before the creator, Eiichiro Oda, will have it finished (Prediction: One Piece will end in 2025) For me, and in no particular order, I would have to say the top 5 emotional moments in One Piece are:
- Merry’s death
- Luffy loses his crew
- Ace’s death
- Robin’s “I want to live! Take me to sea with you!”
- Bellemere’s death and Nami’s “Luffy…Help me.”
Watching Nami’s mother, Bellemere, die. Hearing her whisper, “I love you,” then watching the bullet pass through her chest at point blank…I sobbed like a little girl. I looked at my husband, tears pouring down my face, and I said, “I can’t believe I’m crying over a cartoon! Bugs Bunny never made me cry like this!” That is when I realized anime is not a cartoon. I have goosebumps on my arms and legs just remembering Bellemere smiling. She turns to the camera knowing she will die, looks at her seven-year-old daughters, and says, “I love you.”
And bam! The gun goes off. The bullet goes right through her heart as her children look on in horror.
The story. I can not emphasize this enough. If you have a passion for story and story telling, get into anime! They have mastered the art of story like nothing you will ever see. Don’t think anime is for you? There are zombie apocalypse animes (Highschool of the Dead), sci-fi animes (a lot of those), post-apocalypse animes (a lot of those), vampire animes (Trinity Blood), video game animes (Sword Art Online), Norse myth animes (Ragnarok), and so…so much more!