A couple weeks ago, I was talking to my boyfriend about why I sit around writing anime essays for fun. Sometimes, when we hang out, I’ll break off to write a little something-something, or I’ll take down a note about an anime we were watching. He mentioned something to me about it, and before I knew it, I was going on and on about how important I thought anime (and fictional media in general) was, what I wanted to accomplish with my writings in the future, and why I love writing and reading about anime. It’s a conversation that I kiiiinda wish I had taken notes on, actually, because it would have really helped me in writing this particular post…
I mean, what we do here is kind of weird, right? We’re writing analytical posts and reviews and episodic diaries about anime and video games and movies, and many of us aren’t even getting paid to do it. Clearly, we must see some kind of merit in all of this, or else we wouldn’t be doing it in our spare time.
Probably one of the more obvious answers is: because of the community! Anime and games, though they’re growing more popular by the day, are still pretty niche, so we don’t always have anyone IRL to talk about them with. I know plenty of people who watch anime, but they don’t follow the same stuff that I do, so I can’t talk about everything. It’s really nice to be able to write about stuff that I’m into and have some stranger who’s potentially halfway across the world chime in with their own thoughts on the latest episode of Citrus or their favorite shoujo anime.
But, there’s something else going on here, too. What is it that makes us want to talk about these things at all in the first place? Why do we feel it’s important to dissect and analyze individual series? How is it that we have so much to say about some silly cartoons?
It’s because anime and movies and all that are a reflection of humanity. They inform us more about the world and our fellow humans. No matter how stand-offish a person might be, we all have an inherent desire to connect with and learn more about others, and the media we love allows us to do just that.
Okay, I know that sounds a little dramatic, maybe even a little pretentious, but bear with me here. This is a concept than can be applied to any art form, I’m just specifically focusing on anime because, well, that’s my jam and it’s what I usually write about here.
This is probably an obvious point, but different anime tackle different perspectives and different themes, and the reason we watch a certain show is because we either a) see ourselves and our own views reflected in a series or b) we want to learn more about the things being presented in the series. If a show resonates with us enough (or pisses us off enough) that we want to sit down and write a goddamn essay about it, then it probably brought up something personal for us, in some way or another.
I think it’s important to talk about these things because it connects us all and opens us up to new perspectives and new viewpoints. Whether it be a series recommendation, or a ten-page analysis on what Revolutionary Girl Utena has to say about women, you’re opening up new doors for both yourself and others through the creations of someone else. It’s like, a domino effect of new ideas and concepts. It’s really kinda beautiful.
For me personally, a lot of my connection to anime stems from my sexuality and gender. I found that there were generally more female characters in anime, so that drew me to it as a fellow woman, and I found that there were generally more gays in anime, which attracted me as a fellow gay. Whether I was aware of it or not, anime really had an impact on how I viewed myself. It made me feel better about liking girls because I saw other girl characters who also liked girls. It often made me feel like girls were cool and kickass, because I saw other cool kickass girls in anime.
Now that I’m older, I can look at some of these portrayals of women and LGBTQ+ characters with a more critical eye, and think more about what these portayals mean and whether or not they’re actually positive or not. Honestly, when you get down to it, it’s a lot easier to think about myself and society’s views of women and the LGBTQ + community through a TV show than it is to try and look at the news or history, a.k.a. Real World Shit. That Real World Shit gets depressing! I mean, obviously I’m not letting anime influence all of my opinions on these topics, but it factors in and lets me think critically about serious shit in a fun way instead of in a depressing, real life way.
Then, when I see other people taking a similar lens to anime, or when I see other people sharing their own experiences with their sexuality or gender in regards to anime, it makes me feel validated and more connected with the rest of the world. It makes me realize that there are people on my wavelength, and makes me feel less alone.
On another note, I also genuinely believe that a lot more can be conveyed about people through art and fiction than can be conveyed through boring statistics or studies alone. Works that are popular during a certain era, for example, can tell you SO MUCH about what life was like at that time. For example, take a look at some of the older Gundam stuff, and you’ll find some really interesting perspectives on war and humanity from a 1970s Japan point of view that you might not be privy to otherwise. Or, as I like to do, you can look at a particular older yuri work and make inferences about what it was like to be a queer woman in Japan during that time period. Even seemingly innocuous stuff, like kid’s anime, can tell you a whole lot. I heard a saying once that you can tell everything you need to know about a society and their views through their children’s shows..
Not that we’re all sitting around looking at everything through some fancy schmancy sociological lens or anything. Some of us are just having a good time writing about the anime we love. I mean, sheesh, sometimes we’re not even watching things that go deep at all – sometimes I’m just trying to sit back and enjoy a dumb big titty anime or something. Still, even something that seems like it has no depth usually has something to say about something, and it can still end up affecting us. Even if the effect is just us being able to escape reality for a moment, or us getting really pissed off about a stupid plot hole.
If there’s something we stumble across and feel compelled to write about, then there must be something big and deep at play. The things we love are personal, so you’re bringing something unique and human to the table every time you talk about those things. And you were able to tap into that unique, human thing because of the unique human thing someone else made…isn’t that beautiful? And then, you were able to share that in writing with someone else, who might take that and use it to find something new about something they love themselves and…well, there’s that domino effect again.
So, at the end of the day, we’re doing more than just talking about our favorite shows and connecting on something superficial, right? We’re actually informing each other about different corners of the world, different types of people, and different perspectives with our opinions on certain shows, and making each other feel less alone. And hell, maybe we’re even discovering shit about history or society that we never thought about before. It’s awesome. I love it. It’s why I write about it!