The Trouble with Anime


People, both Japanese and Westerners, are often surprised when I tell them I am not interested in anime. Usually when I bring up Japan to other Westerners, the first thing they want to talk about is anime (“Oh man, I love watching anime!”). Also, Japanese people assume that all foreigners are anime-fans.

But for some reason, I just never really liked it. There were specific series that I watched and enjoyed in my youth. Akira comes to mind. for example. Yet, by the time I was a college student, I remember meeting other Japanophiles, and all they could talk about was their favorite anime. I even watched a few, but I was bored to death. The stories were flat and predictable, and the characters were mostly just the same tropes over and over. Even now, with my kids, when they talk about their favorite comics and anime, things haven’t changed at all.

So, it puts me in an awkward category sometimes.

I even tried a couple years ago, before Little Guy was born, to watch more anime to improve my Japanese listening. I found some that were pretty good such as Natsume no Yujincho,1 but others such as Attack on Titan were just bizarre and weird. I could only watch 4-5 episodes of that before I finally deleted it from my video queue. Even the ones I liked weren’t that great. They were fun, but I couldn’t really say I was a fan.

And yes, I’ve watched Studio Ghibli too. The films are lovely, and I like Totoro in particular, but I just never really understood what the hype was about. I have only seen two movies total (Totoro and Spirited Away), and I liked them, but I also enjoy movies from the Marvel Comic Universe, 5 out of 6 of the original Star Trek movies, as well as various other random films. Studio Ghibli films are fun, but I guess I’m just not interested in Japanese fantasy things like yōkai (ghosts and monsters) very much.2

On the other hand, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy any Japanese media.3 I have always liked the Final Fantasy series of games a lot, especially Final Fantasy VII and XIII, but I like the stories because they’re deep and meaningful, but also told with excellent Japanese aesthetics. A character like Cloud Strife or Lightning Farron just wouldn’t look the same in an American medium, and the topics regarding religion, mythology and such would be harder to express in politically/religiously charged environment like the US.

I’m sure there’s anime series that are of similar topic and quality, but frankly I don’t care. I don’t have the time or interest to take up another series.

In short, I just never really liked anime as a whole, and I refuse to stereotyped as a fan either.

I guess I am kind of ranting, but I wanted to get this off my chest. 🙂

Since I am going to Japan shortly, people might assume I will go hang out in Akihabara, but truth is, I’ve never been there. I like contemporary Japanese culture in a lot of ways, both the good and the ugly,4 and of course I like visiting Buddhist temples. Hopefully I’ll have some time to do both. We’ll see.

P.S. Double-post today.

1 I liked this one because it wasn’t overly violent, and usually had a happy, though sometimes bittersweet ending.

2 It’s not just Westerners that are interested in yokai; they’re hugely popular among Japanese kids too.

3 Don’t get me started on Japanese pop music though. sigh Kyary pyamu-pyamu is definitely, definitely not my thing.

4 Truth is, I’ve been to Japan so many times over the years, it doesn’t really excite me the way it used to. It’s just sort of become part of my life, and so the exoticness is just gone. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it, but rather it’s become familiar like a well-worn shoe. You’re glad it’s there, but you don’t really think about it much. When my wife and I were younger, we seriously thought about moving to Japan, but we’ve become happy and settled with our life here that we’ve decided to stay instead, especially now that we have two kids.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

One thought on “The Trouble with Anime”

  1. I never understood why people think if you love Japan, you must love anime. While it is true that it is very, very common for non-Japanese people interested in Japan to love anime… it isn’t always. Personally, anime was my gateway into the language. I already loved the country and culture, but I was young enough (and the internet was timed right) that I could dig into the original soundtracks and go from there. Being a young teen in Oklahoma… this was about my only chance to listen and practice. I still do love anime, and have a long list of favorites, but I’m perfectly fine without it. And it never bothers me when someone else doesn’t care for it.

    I feel you on much of the J-Pop too, but I admit I’m a massive fan of the J-Rock scene. I think my first introduction to it was when I heard X-Japan’s “Art of Life” probably… 14 or so years ago? Over the last 6 years or so I’ve delved into it much more than before because I finally REALLY have access to so many bands via YouTube and purchase music from Amazon Japan whenever I have the chance. I even made a special trip to California just for the chance to see VAMPS. (I met Hyde and Kaz. My fangirl heart stopped for a moment. Not a bit ashamed to admit that.) I had really hoped to see one of the bands I listen to, any one of them, when I recently spent a couple of weeks in Japan… but alas, I caught them all taking a break! Can’t blame them. The weather was beautiful and they’d all spent all winter very busy. While I mention VAMPS, I have a pretty wide interest in the J-Rock scene, from pop-rock style like Breakerz to harder bands like VAMPS to the symphonic like Versailles to the wildly visual kei like Kiryu to tiny start ups like Grimoire. I’ve always been a rocker girl at heart, so it’s really not that surprising that I merged my love of the Japanese language with my taste in music. Then it just so happened that I fell in love with dozens of bands and gained a taste for Japanese rock and the way it musically differs from what I usually get from alternative rock here in the States.


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