Anime Lessons . . .

So many titles to choose from!

I absolutely love anime (Japanese animation). Even before I knew what it was, I gravitated to these kinds of animated shows. Remember G-Force: Guardians of Space? I do, and as a child I would sit fixated on Saturday mornings watching it. I still remember the theme song (theme speech?) even — I won’t sing it too loudly, you can relax.

When I officially knew what anime was, I started watching reverently. Series like Record of Lodoss War, Slayers, Escaflowne, RahXephon and Claymore to name a very small few, have seen hours of my time caught up in their worlds; hours I don’t regret. Fellow anime fans know exactly what I’m talking about and anyone else not willing to believe in the power of this genre, you have five days left to live . . .

Okay, totally kidding! Of course everyone won’t like the same things.

I wanted to touch on anime today, because of the reasons I love it and some of the lessons we as writers can learn from it.

I’m sure we can all identify with this feeling . . .

Lesson 1: Die plot holes, die!

Almost all the anime I’ve seen, movies or series, contain limited, or often no plot-holes. Even when I think I’ve discovered one and  point at the screen triumphantly, the writers clean it up later on. I find this impressive, especially as it’s a pet peeve for me, because plot holes can ruin an entire story. Focus on the little things, I find this really helps to ensure our stories keep on the straight and narrow.

Lesson 2: Speech Therapy.

We have to be so careful when we decide to insert long, drawn-out monologues into our writing. I’ve been guilty of this at times and have had to employ the delete button to save my characters from themselves. Anime — like old Spaghetti Westerns, has a way of doing this without making the viewer want to throw something at the television. If characters must have a long-winded moment before maiming and killing, ensure that it’s relevant and hits the reader for six. (N.B: Hit it for six – cricket term meaning when the ball is knocked beyond the boundary without bouncing.)

Kenshin . . .

Lesson 3: Character Development.

There are so many characters that I’ve fallen in love with, hated, wanted to save, etc, as I’ve watched. The way characters are developed in these shows, is commendable. Even when a character goes against their personality traits, it’s usually done in such a way, that it works. Character development is of course, one of the most important elements to writing. I didn’t love Rurouni Kenshin because he was an amazing swordsman, I loved him because of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s devotion to the character. This same homage must be paid to all our characters.

What anime titles do you love and, have you learnt anything from them?

Have great Mondays!

Amendment: As Sky made me realise, I wasn’t clear on the titles I was referring to. I didn’t mean that all anime is awesome and perfectly done (far from true), I was mainly using those titles that I have labelled personal favourites, because of the qualities shown above. Thanks Sky for pointing this out in your comment :).

4 thoughts on “Anime Lessons . . .

  1. I was gonna call you on some blanket statements there too, but then I figured you were just referring to your favourites. I’ve gotta say on the second lesson; “brevity is the soul of wit” seems to be a statement the Japanese have no concept of lol. Sometimes it works for me, other times it makes me want to carve my eardrums and/or eyeballs out. While reading the Battle Royale Manga (Which I love the hell out of) by the time the main characters made their 73rd speech about “love” and “camaraderie” I was like “I GET IT!!! LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP ARE THE BEST!!! DAMMIT!!!”

    One thing I’d say for sure most anime excels at is tension. I was watching JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure the other day (which is pretty obscure so I dunno if you’ve ever heard of it in passing) and I had totally forgotten what it was like to be so worried sick about whether characters lived or died. Not even because of who they are as people but just how insanely hopeless the situations they ended up in seemed and just the sensation of wondering “how the hell are you going to believably write your characters out of this one?!” Really impressive… especially considering American horror films at large have had no luck doing that to me as of late.

    I’m pretty old school when it comes to anime. Haven’t kept up with it in recent years as much as I used to, so my major influences are still oldie goldies like Princess Mononoke and especially Akira. On the surface if anyone ever asked you what Akira was about, you’d probably just say “psychic fighting children…” or something to that effect but it is layered with subtext like the Japanese’s fear of the atomic bomb, the repercussions of playing God and so on. For me it was more about old friendships; how much we tend to take them for granted and the eventual consequences of that.

    Anywho, interesting read Jackie. You mentioned the Escaflowne series. I’ve actually only seen the movie… Maybe I’ll check that out sometime because I hear some of the characters’ personalities and motivations were changed for the film version. I tend to stick to anime movies though, mostly for animation quality. Pet peeve since I’m an animator, sometimes shoddy art in series bugs me lol makes my eyes constantly try to fix it as I watch lol.

    1. Great insight and yes, I’m unfamiliar with the title you mentioned was obscure.

      Escaflowne resonated with me because of a line one of the characters often goes back to “just fade away” and I watched it at a time where that is exactly what I wanted to do. To this day that anime continues to be as touching as it always was for me.

      Thank you for your interest and yes, I have experienced the ‘ear-drum/eyeball carving’ monologues as well (tip: usually I go do something else – the characters won’t be any wiser ^^.)

  2. Eh… I think this is giving anime too much credit honestly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan, but it’s just a medium and as with all mediums there’s lots of good stuff and lots of bad stuff. To simply say that “all anime is logically consistent, subtle, and has stellar character development,” is flawed in the same way as saying, perhaps, that “all movies are good,” or “all books are good”. It’s simply not true.

    That said, there are a lot of anime that I feel do embody those traits and which I really do love. In terms of logical consistency I really have to admire Puella Magi Madoka Magica, because at the beginning it seems to be littered with plot holes. I won’t name them for fear of spoilers, because, lo and behold they are all addressed. Every single one. I like that.

    Subtlety is perhaps a bit more rare than logical consistency but I’ll always admire Wolf’s Rain for its subtle show-don’t-tell attitude towards its themes. A lot of anime, even ones that I like, are very clear about their themes and the message they want to get across, almost to the point of being like infodumps, (Lain comes to mind.) but Wolf’s Rain is so wonderfully… Ambiguous I guess is the word. It lets the viewer come to their own conclusions and I like that.

    I can’t really pin down a show that I especially commend for character development as there are plenty of shows with wonderful characters that one really sort of gets attached to by the end of the series’ run, but the point is that yes, a lot of anime do possess these positive qualities. A lot of them don’t though. ^^ I think that only makes me love anime even more though. After all, how can you appreciate good anime if you don’t have plenty of bad anime to counterbalance it?

    1. I agree with your comments and I’ve watched ‘bad anime’ as well (couldn’t miss out on all the laughter). However, I should have made it clearer that I was referring to many of the titles that are in my personal favourites stack.

      Thanks so much for your comments, was great coming from a fellow fan and I will be sure to check out that title you mentioned :).

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