I hate Anime. I know. I often get looks of shock and awe from people who know me and know I’m a complete pop culture junky but I hate Anime. I hate it in every incarnation and rarely do I ever approve of it. Liking anime is akin to having a tattoo. You grab the most obscure and edgy design imaginable only to discover your next door neighbor who happens to collect potato chips in the shape of Jesus has one and suddenly you realize you’re not really as ahead of the game as you think, and that’s just where anime fans and the anime trend finds itself. Anime fans always pretend they’re ahead of everyone else as if they’re on to something other people aren’t, when in fact all of mainstream has embraced anime as the norm and is transforming every single property it can in to anime from “Spider-Man” to “Cloverfield.” It’s not hip, and the ones that actually are obscure are much too disturbing for anyone to actually indulge in.
There are exceptions, though.
I find Studio Ghibli’s work to be amazing and virtually flawless–but it’s more animation cinema than anime, and they’ve contributed more to film than anything else anime related. I love “Avatar: The Last Airbender”–but that’s Western anime and not technically the genre. I find most of the “Street Fighter” movies to be exciting. And I do love some anime films like the infinitely cool “Vampire Hunter D,” the rare vampire hunter flick “Blood,” the incredible timeless “Akira,” and of course the bad ass underrated “Guyver.” Not to mention little bits and pieces of “Cowboy Bebop” only because it reminds me of “Firefly” and I really love the theme song; and there’s also “Afro Samurai” a wicked little hip hop anime piece.
But normally I hate anime. I literally had to suffer through “Dragon Ball Z” for hours because they wanted to see it and I had no choice but to sit through it. For hours I was like a man going in for a vacation to the Bahamas looking for hot women and waiting to go out to the beach but had to sit through a five hour presentation about a time share first. It was long, dull, tedious, bereft of surprises, and I had to do it or I would have to go home. “Dragon Ball Z” has been that property in America that’s nearly immortal for reasons that vary. For some it’s cool to like the show even if you’ve never seen it, for others they’ve seen the edited versions of it on Cartoon Network here in America and fell in love, and for some Vegeta has become a stylish character to emulate whether you know him or not.
Nevertheless “Dragon Ball Z” is immensely popular and in vogue to this day for many reasons beside the fact that it’s void of story, originality, or any form of coherence whatsoever. And I’m not saying this as someone whose seen two episodes on a Sunday morning while I was on the computer barely paying attention. I’ve seen episodes upon episodes of this series and its incarnations GT, and FX or whatever in god’s name was a reboot. And I hate it. Mostly because it makes no sense and follows a militant routine of storylines that completely eliminate its responsibility to its audience to be creative and the audience’s responsibility to think.
Goku is a super Saiyan (read: Kryptonian) who was sent to Earth to rule over it. Instead he was discovered and raised to be a kind man. Does this sound familiar yet? Hell he even has his own Zod who the story calls Vegeta, a militant Saiyan who appears early in the story to take over the world and kill Goku with two sidekicks–like “Superman II.” Goku grew up to be an extremely powerful warrior with a large jet black coif he can not cut (the series makes note of pointing that out), and a large monkey tale that seems mostly like a useless extra nipple upon first glance. When the moon is full, Goku’s rampage instincts come to play and he turns in to a giant monkey stomping things and roaring. Why? Let us know and we’ll try to pretend we care, thinking about boobs and nodding while you’re laying out the intricacies his monkey powers and why he has no powers during this period.
He has a master (including a talking pig friend) and a dominant (and abusive) wife who watches over her submissive husband, and he has friends with names like Trunks, and Shorts, and Crillin, and Tien who has an eye above his two eyes, all of whom are powerful but never as powerful as he is–because what’s the point of Goku if they can fight the villains without him?
They all want the ultimate Maguffin–Dragon Balls, all of which must be united to bring about the humongous Dragon lord who will grant them a wish. I’m already bored. Still, the story goes on in the same vein: A villain or villains are heading to Earth, Goku and friends learn of this, they train and train and train and train and train (etc., etc.), the villain/s arrive on Earth to fight the heroes one by one. The villain/s always look quite cool but have insanely convoluted back stories and modes including one named Cell who goes through about three stages. This allows for a ton of fight scenes, he dies, and re-emerges again in a new stage allowing a new form of difficulty and more time for padding a story that would rationally take about ten episodes to tell without the repetition and blatant plot devices.
Meanwhile, Goku is put in to a situation where he is the only one who can defeat the villains but can’t somehow manage to get there in time. Either he’s far away from Earth, in Heaven, stuck in a mid-world to become a Super Super Saiyan, or is on a Dragon like road he has to walk and fly through to get back to Earth that has zero purpose other than to suck time and pad the story. Goku makes it just in time along with his son who is also destined to become his replacement as a superior warrior. The villain/s are miraculously killed off after many repetitive quick fight scenes and obligatory gory sequences. All is well in the world. Now imagine that storyline with variations repeated five or six times in succession, how bored would you really be? Imagine having to sit through that while wondering why your cousin can’t get that you hate the show. What’s mind-blowing is that its fans don’t seem to mind at all. The thrive on this.
I’m not saying all Anime is awful, but most of it really is. It’s convoluted, under-whelming, weird for the sake of being weird and void of being anything even remotely coherent. For examples of that, check out “One Piece,” and “Ranma 1/2,” two titles of which just scrape the surface of dreck I’ve had to sit through in spite of my best efforts to enjoy them. Once America discovered this “fad” was actually here to stay they fully engulfed every bit of the genre, while brilliantly dodging the blatant racism (I’m looking at you, Pokemon) and pedophilia (Ugh–“Loveless”) found in just about every title from the East. Plus I could never find the excitement in a samurai anime featuring a big man raping a young girl from behind as she cries out. That’s not fun.
As a result, I had to relatively endure all forms of anime from anime-lite programming (“Dinosaur King,” “Ying-Yang-Yo”), Western Anime which looks like anime but isn’t (“Teen Titans,” “Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi”), horrific anime converted in to American sensibilities (“Yu-Gi-Oh!” and “Winx Club”), and even bear witness in horror to comic books like “X-Men” and “Daredevil” go through a period where they were drawn like anime characters. It was inescapable! Hell, even a once subversive controversial comic strip like “The Boondocks” was turned in to a quasi-anime television series that destroyed all of its social relevance and just became a prop for action set pieces that served no purpose. For every “Death Note” series which is a grim and creepy little take on morality that is actually very entertaining and something of a haunting epic, you’ll get “Naruto.”
“Naruto” is another series I can not fathom why it’s famous at all. It’s appeared on almost every television station imaginable in the last ten years and it’s flooded the cable networks. When I used to hang out at the local DVD store in my neighborhood, it was a hang out spot for high schoolers and about six or seven kids a day would show up to the shop donning the title heroes head band with the metal plate and wonder why people were laughing at them behind their backs. All the while I’d sit and listen to three teens bicker on the latest storyline and why the main hero is bad ass and even sat in on a passionate argument on why “YugiOh” is just a shameless cash grab for fans’ money while “Pokemon” is much more brilliant and noble.
The reasoning behind this argument was enough to make me open fire on them. Another anime title that’s grabbed on to female fans all across the internet is “Inuyasha” another in the ilk of the “Twilight” craze currently sweeping the nation. It’s an epic love story involving magic and fantasy and two characters insanely in love and I can’t comprehend its massive popularity breeding thousands upon thousands of fan fictions and websites across the world. And it’s not as if I’ve ever tried to not get in to it. Like almost every fad I try to indulge in some degree and see if I can get sucked in (ahem–The Big Lebowski), and for others there’s just no point because I see no value in it (ahem–Harry Potter), and “Inuyasha” is a franchise that’s become a mainstay in popular culture for no particular reason other than its soapy back drop that is fed in to starry eyed young girls across the world as they’re indoctrinated willingly.
To this day I’m still not sure what the hell a Saiyan is or how to spell it properly. Is it Saiyan, Saiyajin, or Saiyin? Anyway, core fans don’t even seem to care about the difference. And those who know it are frightening. I went to the interweb and they just describe them as “humanoid extra terrestrials,” but what are they? I’ve seen dozens of episodes of the show and I still can’t figure out why their hair becomes long and jagged and bright candy yellow when they become powered up, and why it becomes longerer and jaggeder when they become even more powered up.
And fans don’t seem to care because around the late nineties the franchise was immensely popular and you couldn’t take a step forward on the internet without crossing some sort of DBZ reference of some kind. And fans revolted when the horrific 2009 “Dragonball: Evolution” arrived in theaters seemingly not even taking the franchise seriously, and all I did was sit back and chortle at angry rants by people declaring the dignity of a series that has talking cats, a zombie Hitler, and a character who destroys the moon without completely demolishing the Earth in the process.
Seriously… if the moon goes, we’re all fucked. Look it up.
While “Dragonball: Evolution” was god awful, we just saw the truest adaptation of this franchise manifested in a story that made zero sense, and we bear witness to the deaths of careers of Chow Yun Fat, Emmy Rossum, Justin Chatwin, Ernie Hudson, and James Marsters. In the same vein as this article, 20th Century Fox just exemplified the intentions of all American companies. To get in, buy a hot anime property, white wash the entire cast, paint them up to give the illusion of a foreign film, make a quick buck from DVD’s, Blu-Rays, and cheap merchandise, and make out like a thief in the night with barely a wink of sleep lost. Because that’s all anime ever is. Merchandise first. Action second. Story? Maybe somewhere down the line.
The Cartoon Network here in America has been no different from many of America’s corporations in playing some of most popular and some of the most uninteresting anime series of all time thanks to 4Kids and Funimation, both of whom take great pride in buying any titles be they top notch or bottom of the barrel from the East, dubbing them poorly, editing them to dumb down already vapid creations, and saturating them as much as humanly possible for kids until you can’t turn a corner without hearing about their newest title that has been around years before its target audience were even born. Junk like “Magical DoReMi” is currently sweet dreck being pumped in to children’s brains treating them to twenty minutes of bright colors and flashing lights without any sense of story of characters.
Some of the titles Cartoon Network has displayed on their Adult Swim line up have been quite terrible while others I’ve given fair shakes. I wasted time on “Witch Hunter Robin” which was so muddled, but visually spectacular with some genuinely interesting supernatural themes, “Hellsing” which was just so dull as day old bread in spite of its inherent nihilism, “Full Metal Alchemist” a series with a narrative that takes great pains in trying to gauge your emotions considering its two main characters is an androgynous young man with a little brother whose soul was transferred in to a giant robot (I groaned writing that sentence), and “Case Closed” a series that is better left without much of an explanation. And it never helped me get in to them since the network would sporadically cancel them, repeat the episodes over and over, and just play them out of continuity.
Nevertheless my point about hating anime is not from someone uninformed. When I first got cable here in America I’d watch “Sailor Moon” every morning, and I watched “Tenchi Muyo!” for a long time. Hell, when “Pokemon” stormed the gates I was sucked in to its vacuum of video games, toys, prizes, card games, and had stacks of VHS tapes with my favorite episodes on it. In spite of the fact my first impression of Ash Ketchum was wondering if he was a boy or a girl. But then that’s about every anime out there. Charmander was my favorite but he became boring when he turned in to Charmeleon and then the equally boring Charizard and then … wait, where was I? There was a period in my life where it was all Pokemon all of the time, and that’s the point of anime. Merchandising. Like the companies in the far East have found the perfect way to strangle the money out of their customers wallets as well as their brain cells and imaginations, Americans have now found the way to do the exact same thing by importing nearly all of their titles to our country and building their own merchandising opportunities to strangle our children out of their own brain cells, money, and attention.
With the economy at an all time low and the world on the verge of utter economic destruction, these companies are looking for more and more ways to save money while making it. So they import these terrible shows and create their own cheap ones, build these massive storylines that depend on the merchandise, make the audience feel they’re not being given the entire experience without the merchandise, and then voila: instant money on such a low price. Hence why “Pokemon,” “Digimon,” and “Yu-Gi-Oh!” continue to be massive moneymakers when it comes to toys, and video games regardless of the quality. “Pokemon” was built like a propaganda machine, it’s an epic commercial with a backdrop of a story. What’s the main catch phrase? “Gotta catch ’em all!” which is basically code for “Buy our shit!” So when they repeat the catchphrase in succession to our audience “Gotta catch ’em all! Gotta catch ’em all!” It’s basically a device using repetition to burn in to their minds that they have to buy their merchandise or else you’re not gaining the entire experience they have to offer.
If you remember Pokemon fever, you’ll remember the feeling of depression when you couldn’t find the right card or toy from your favorite pokemon, you remember the 250 dollar rare Charmander playing card, and you remember the jealousy when someone garnered a wicked cool Pokemon ball with a gold coin you could buy at McDonalds for a high price while you had the cheap pokeball from the happy meals.
It was impossible to escape and pointless to resist. Hell, I wanted to buy Pokemon merchandise just like everyone else. How can you not, when we see these adorable cute and powerful animals blasting things and spouting repetitious dialogue at one another? Even if their pokemon were rip offs of other characters (Snorlax is shockingly similar to Totoro–gasp!) Who wouldn’t want their own pokemon after being drowned in the series? So this rant is coming from someone who has had numerous confrontations with the anime genre and has yet to be fully impressed by its appeal and thus will never fully embrace it when exposed to junk like “Appleseed,” and “Robot Carnival.”
My relationship with anime is like a relationship between a man and a really awful woman. In spite of the fact that she continues to let him down and treat him horribly, he just continues going back to her time and time again and again hoping she’ll surprise him for once. And while she does please him every so often, it’s a relationship that goes nowhere. I expect the same scenario to occur when my beloved show “Supernatural” is turned in to an anime next year. How I weep at the possibilities.