Anime is a very divisive medium, to say the least. It elicits rabid joy in some, but can bring out ire and revulsion in equal measure. Why is this? What is it about anime that drives people away? Is it a cultural xenophobia from the West, or is there something deeper? While it may be easier to attribute this reluctance to ignorance and a skewed view of cartoons, it is not the correct answer. There are a few constant trends in anime that have become the face to the general public. In this article, I will highlight and explore them. What do they offer, and why are people repelled by them?
Dragonball Z, Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach. These series are by far some of the most well-known in the west, reaching into even non-anime viewer bases. However, while these shows attract new viewers (especially children and adolescents), there’s a problem. The shiny gloss of action and goofiness wears off, and the viewer is left with nothing but dull filler.
“Filler” refers to episodes of anime that have nothing to do with the main plot. The shows mentioned above are infamous for meandering through filler episodes at a snail’s pace, taking time to sniff the roses, while everyone is waiting to move on with the ride. After a while, people get tired of wasting time on a show that stagnates, and abandon it. These people are left with a sour taste in their mouths, and you can’t blame them — once bitten, twice shy.
Filler comes with a series that runs too long. As time progresses, the characters get old, and don’t change in any way. However, in order to pad out episode numbers, the producers do whatever they can for as cheaply as possible. Whatever keeps the golden goose laying eggs.
“Fanservice” is a term used to refer to moments in anime where characters (usually women) are shown in sexually suggestive positions, as a “treat” to viewers. This distracts from the story, and serves no point, other than “Heh, Bewbs.” People who don’t watch anime see this and it creeps them out. It’s objectification for objectification’s sake. Add in the fact that most of this fanservice involves underage girls, and you have a recipe for horror and revulsion.
No matter how good a show is, fanservice can kill it for people not used to anime’s “quirks.” One too many panty shots, and they are done. There is nothing that can bring them back. It IS creepy, and it IS perverted; there is no excuse.
4. Wish Fulfillment
Take a moment, and imagine the coolest version of yourself. Now imagine writing a story revolving around that version of you. Do you think it would be interesting to anyone but people who also desire to be your version of cool? It wouldn’t be. To everyone not in that narrow demographic, it would just come off as someone writing a story to fulfill their fantasies. While stories about a perfect character have their place in the realm of escapist entertainment, too many muddle the pot, and you get a bland landscape. Diamonds may still lie just below the surface, but if a person didn’t know that, why would they bother to dig?
Anyone who has been on the internet for more than 20 minutes is familiar with Japanese Weirdness™. There’s not much to say. In the West, Japan’s sense of humor tends to be a bit… baffling. The cultural foundation is completely different, so it makes sense that some of the jokes just confuse and scare people. I want to be clear: no one is at fault here. It’s a hard medium to get into, that’s for sure. It takes a bit of work to find cracks in the wall and wiggle yourself in. However, most people don’t want to work for their entertainment. Escapism is hard to enjoy when you have to take notes.
2. Fanservice to the Extreme
Like a disgusting, smelly Santa, Fanservice just keeps giving everyone its “gifts,” whether they want it or not. Entire series are dedicated to being fantasy fuel. The harem genre has gotten popular solely by telling the exact story over and over again. Average Guy meets Cute Girls. Girls love Guy. Guy gets in awkward situation with Girl, gets caught by other Girls. Hijinks. It’s a story manufactured only for viewers to insert themselves into the fantasy, and dream about being adored by women.
Everywhere you look in anime these days, you see the bane of “Moe.” Moe is a term that refers to characters that are specifically designed to be overly cute. Massive eyes, thin limbs, and big, bouncy hair are just a few of the traits that Moe characters usually have. These girls are usually underage, and put into some type of inadvertently sexual situation for the benefit of the audience’s private time. While this fanservice isn’t explicitly sexual (mostly), the scenes come off as voyeuristic and depraved. These moe-blobs seep into everything, and stain anime as a whole.
Between all the pointless, unsubtle fanservice, and the saturation of an almost fetishized aesthetic, anime comes off as softcore porn to new viewers.
Rabid fans kill fun. It’s a fact of the universe. When somebody is so obsessed with something that it engulfs their entire being, they inadvertently become detrimental to the thing they love. Anime is a prime example of this. The small group of hardcore anime fans, called otaku, watch and buy so much product that the production companies pander to their interests in order to make more money. Everything on this list could be attributed to obsessive fans.
Other than their effect on anime, otaku themselves push people away from the medium. They act as walking advertisements for anime, and sadly, their ads don’t look appealing. When a non-anime viewer sees a grown man wearing a t-shirt featuring pre-pubescent girls, or a woman wearing cat ears and an ill-fitting yukata, it tends to evoke a negative reaction. It also doesn’t help that many otaku lack the charisma to expound on what they like in anime to any satisfactory degree, and even then, those reasons may be only good to otaku.
However, I should be clear: most anime fans aren’t these. The otaku I’m referring to are the ones who sleep with a cuddle pillow, plaster their walls with cheesecake photos of anime girls, and form their entire social persona from anime characteristics. If that is you, stop it. You’re making anime look bad.