Happy Monday, everybody! I’m very excited to be joining the Amazing Stories Magazine blogging staff. Every week, I’ll be posting something new, mostly focusing on anime! Anime is an interesting and widespread topic, and I think it’s going to be very insightful (for myself as well as the readers) to write about it in the context of a primarily science-fiction and fantasy setting.
Treating anime as a genre makes a certain amount of sense, seeing as it’s vastly different from any kind of entertainment we have here in the West. However, it also poses the problem of lumping all anime into one category together (or assuming that all anime have certain traits or qualities in common – this is also an issue with foreign films), while the reality is that anime comes in many different forms: science-fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, comedy, historical – and everything in between!
Most folks from my generation have actually grown up watching anime, regardless of whether or not they continued to be fans into their teenage and adult years. Personally, I cut my teeth on Sailor Moon back when I was five years old – but there were a lot of different shows to choose from! Pokemon, Dragonball Z, Hamtaro – there was something for everyone in the late 80s and into the 90s. Because of this, I think it’s fair to say that anime has had a very profound influence on Western culture – and that it has introduced many young people to the wider range of fandom.
If we briefly ignore the fact that my name is Morgana and that I was doomed to fandom in the first place, we can see how exposure to anime really opened my own mind to the wider range of genres. For a short period of time in my pre-adolescence, I was actually very critical of geek culture; I was operating under many of the same assumptions that the rest of society has about people who become totally obsessed with fictitious events – that these people are socially inept, unhappy with their lives, and possibly not all “there.” This, of course, was absurd – and in short order, I found myself identifying immensely with a group of people who knew how to see life from more exciting angles, and who allowed themselves to retain their sense of wonder and imagination.
At age 14, I went to my first convention, which also happened to be the very first incarnation of ConnectiCon. I was there for the anime, but I discovered that there were other types of fans there, as well. I’m sure I saw at least one person dressed as Darth Vader or a Storm Trooper. At the time, I probably wondered what on earth Star Wars had to do with my interest in InuYasha, but I quickly caught on that people have been mixing their interests long before I even considered joining in on the fun.
Though I haven’t been a part of the convention scene in quite some time, my understanding is that fandom is as fluid as ever. You might go to Anime Boston, but it will be inevitable that you see merchandise and cosplay from Doctor Who, The Avengers, X-Men, and so on. So my advice to those of you who have not yet tried out anime, but who want to be able to relate with the generations of fans to come, is to give it a chance. Again, the genres within the genre of anime are so abundant that you’re bound to find something you like!
For the die-hard science-fiction fan, I would recommend Cowboy Bebop – an incredibly sophisticated space opera centering on a group of bounty hunters and utilizing the superb musical styling of Yoko Kanno. Bebop is, far and away, one of the greatest anime series of all time and can be appreciated by folks from any walk of life (though I definitely would say it’s rated 13+). There are many other science-fiction anime to choose from, but they tend to have long, complicated histories and back stories, whereas Bebop is 26 episodes long, easily digestible for a Western audience who is unfamiliar with Japanese culture, and absolutely, heart-breakingly beautiful.
Fantasy can also be found, though it’s more difficult to weed through the multitudinous definitions of what fantasy is within anime, since the large majority of the series will have at least some fantastical elements. Record of Lodoss War is supposed to be a fantastic example of high fantasy anime (I have it on my to-watch list currently), and very much in line with what we in the West think of as fantasy – involving elves and wizards, etc. For a more Eastern flavor to your fantasy, I would recommend the film Princess Mononoke, directed by the incomparable Hayao Miyazaki.
In fact, I would recommend anything directed by Hayao Miyazaki and/or put out by Studio Ghibli: Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Porco Rosso, Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle (based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones), Tales from Earthsea (based on the works of Ursula K. LeGuin), The Cat Returns, Whisper of the Heart…the list goes on and on. These movies tend to have very strong young female characters and deal with growth, change, friendship, and love in a realistic, delicate, and beautiful way. And even when the story falls short (which is seldom), the animation is more than enough to keep you hooked.
And even with all those recommendations, I’m not even close to skimming the surface of what anime has to offer. Horror fans would enjoy series like Hellsing or Pet Shop of Horrors (definitely 13+); historical fiction/fantasy people would love Samurai Champloo or InuYasha; the romantic among you have a cornucopia of series available to you, depending entirely on whether or not you want to throw some magic or monsters into your love story as well.
As exciting as it is to be able to share all these recommendations and thoughts with you lovely readers, it is equally exciting to be able to explore, once again, my own love for Japanese animation and culture! I hope that this post has been helpful, and if anyone has any questions or requests, please feel free to let me know! I promise to get to the real nitty-gritty in the following posts, but I wanted to get everybody on the same page before I totally nerded out on you!
Until next week!