About two years ago I looked at why I enjoy anime. It struck me, when I sat down to watch episode 315 of Bleach Saturday night, that I have been watching a single series for nearly 6 years! I tuned into Eureka SeveN for over a year, and I even stayed up extremely late to catch its first run episodes. There are few televisions series that can rival anime for its longevity.
Sure, long running series like Bleach and Naruto have major problems. Many of Bleach’s episodes made me groan and wonder why I stayed with it for so long. And then there are several good episodes that reward me for my patience. So, all this made me wonder: exactly what is it about anime that makes me stick with a series for 52 or 315 episodes? Six years is a long time to watch something regularly.
Anime has extremely memorable characters,; even if some are extremely annoying! Anime storytelling is often awful. They are full of plot holes, inconsistencies, and plan silliness. Bleach, just as an example, portrays the Menos Grande Hollows as something that would give a captain a hard time. Later in the series, they are nothing but cannon fodder. As for annoying or silly, every anime seems to have their equivalent of Jar-Jar Binks.
Despite the story problems of many anime, the characters shine. Certainly there are stereotypes, but there are also many characters that turn the stereotypes to create an interesting, living character. One of the best characters I have seen (in anime or movies) is Spice and Wolf’s Holo. Sure, she comes off as a stereotypical tsundere. But she has an intelligence, independence, and aggressiveness that is balanced by moments of vulnerability and loneliness. She is extremely human, and it stands out throughout the series. Her nudity in the series portrays her bold, indomitable spirit. Later on, her reluctance to shed her clothes portrays her growing affection for Lawrence and appreciation for her humanity. Her nudity never struck me as being sexual in the series. Her character prevents her from becoming merely a sex object. It was a natural offshoot of being a wolf – a creature with very different values than humans.
The Major from Ghost in the Shell is another deep character. She is a lesbian (or at least bi-sexual) that dresses provocatively. Yet, because her body is completely mechanical, that nudity emphasizes her other-worldliness rather than becomes merely a sex object. To her, the body means nothing because she can swap it on a whim. Her treatment of her bodies shows that part of her character. At the same time, she still prefers bodies that resemble what she might have grown to become had she kept her flesh.I enjoy anime because of these characters. I can weather a poor storyline if the characters are endearing and interesting. Perhaps it is because of the medium of anime that allows me to connect deeply with characters. I don’t feel the same resonance with movie screens as I do anime and novel characters. Perhaps it is because we see the same actors over and over. With anime, often times a character design is isolated to a particular series. The character will not show up again.
You can never be too old to enjoy stories and people. It matters not if they are animated, live action, or in a novel. It is the connection with the people inside the story that keeps us coming back. They grow to be old friends that we laugh and cry with. As long as anime continues to have characters that resonate, I will continue watching. Watching Renton and Eureka fly through the skies and Lawrence and Holo on their merchant wagon is like visiting old friends. That is why we are drawn to the characters we enjoy. The medium doesn’t matter. What matters is the friendship we develop with the characters; how they resonate within us. That is why I enjoy anime.