So, it’s finally my turn. Let me tell you a story about how I like my pictures.
We share in each other, each and every one of us, a great love for fiction. It’s what draws us to anime; and though our tastes differ, the appeal does not. So perhaps a story of how my taste in anime (and narrative) has changed lately would be entertaining? Hopefully. Well, it’s the New Year, and it’s a time for reflection.
Maybe the perfect starting place for this tale is with Gankutsuou. My first viewing of the show came in 2008, shortly after watching Toradora and Clannad, by recommendation of a close friend. This was during a time when character interaction and development was my foremost interest. “What a beautiful show,” I thought to myself; and then of course, I went on to whatever forums I frequented at the time (nsfw) and spewed its many virtues. Excellent writing, fully developed characters, grand use of subtext. Truly, a tragic tale worth my consideration.
So began my descent into madness.
Enter Birdy the Mighty: Decode 2. It was a pretty natural transition. I’d watched Samurai Champloo right before it. Fight scenes were my thing now, and I’d seen gifs of the show scattered throughout the internet. Surprise! I ended up getting a moving character drama, as well as the eye candy I desired. Once again: excellent writing, fully developed characters, grand use of subtext.
I started blogging about a year after that, about Mawaru Penguindrum. This was an experiment: how well could I apply a thorough analysis to a show ripe with meaning (or, at least, interpretability)? Using a perspective forged from repeated viewings of shows such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Serial Experiments Lain, and other such shows that I felt held deep philosophical virtue at the time, I set about writing. By then, I had come to search for meaning in my anime – a purpose or lesson to be learned.
Eventually, Spring of 2012 came about. I would watch Tsuritama, a fantastical tale of alien fish and comaraderie. Once again, excellent writing, fully developed charact- wait, isn’t this getting a bit repetitive? Yep, it definitely looks like it is.
What did I actually like about Tsuritama, then, one might ask? Exactly those three descriptors. Yet, what did those mean? “A good story, well told” it was, but so are many anime. Oh well. Let’s just settle on that, for now.
What happened to me? How could I enjoy something so trivial as Sengoku Collection, and even more so than Mawaru Penguindrum or Revolutionary Girl Utena? Once an example of the highest taste in children’s cartoons, was I now reduced to a miserable man of simple and plain tastes?
Maybe. To some, quite obviously.
What I found in Sengoku Collection was a series of tales about little truths. Beneath the exaggerated exterior typical of anime, there was a strong love of narrative, of conventions held truly and honestly. In each episode, there was no sense of wanting to dissect or reevaluate narrative- only the desire to tell a story.
Yet, even knowing this, I’m not about to go out and read The Giving Tree, or watch Love Actually. What grasps me about anime is not the story, or the image. It’s the actualization of a moving narrative. The fact that we can identify with these almost alien-like creatures, call them human, write them, draw them, and love them: that is what unifies this list. More than wit, honesty.
Yesterday marked the conclusion of my third viewing of Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko. The first viewing took place around the same time I watched Mawaru Penguindrum. I dismissed the show, wrote off the plot as illogical and characters as flat, and immediately forgot about it. It certainly wasn’t remarkable, what with excellent shows such as Bakemonogatari and Soredemo Machi ga Mawatteiru before it.
A week ago, I decided to run through the body of SHAFT’s anime, and rediscovered the show. What followed was two consecutive viewings.
It’s not that I’ve suddenly come to realize a hidden power in the show, some relic of excellence that escaped my view previously. Rather, I’ve spotted the obvious: the show is overwhelmingly naive. Absent are the metatextual visual compositions of Bakemonogatari and Gankutsuou; ignored are the emotionally charged narratives of Tsuritama or Revolutionary Girl Utena. Romantic in its naivety, I love it.
Or you can just say that my taste has gotten worse, and I’m getting more sentimental over time? Yeah, I suppose.