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.