The Purpose of Anime and Manga (Part V)

[Part IV]

In this ongoing series I explore (along with fellow blogger friends) a concept of watching shows and reading manga for particular purposes, which I find personally more useful than categorizing them in genre lists. Those lists are still useful for award-giving purposes, genre analysis, among others. However from an introspective standpoint there are more interesting ways of doing things. I get weary of arguing whether a show is or is not “slice of life.”

In this issue you’ll find two shows notable for the regard they enjoy from a generation of anime fans (and then some), and then a manga remarkable for its feel-good romantic content.

Purpose 013: Stuff myself in an eat-all-you can smorgasbord of almost everything I want to see in a show, and a lot of what I don’t want to see, and come away puking but happy.

1213420442793

Best-in-class: Code Geass

by ghostlightning

It has the rise of mecha as a game-changing force in warfare. It has geopolitical theater, with an imperial flavor. It has an extremely charismatic protagonist (and I mean that viewers and fans find him compelling if not extremely interesting). It has wild and crazy plot twists. It has emo pilots. It has The Battle of Narita. It has lolimoe DFC fanservice, and teenage gigantic titservice. It has easily slashable male characters. It indulges incest service. It has gratuitous violence and large body counts.

It is also a touching story about love, redemption, and the power of friendship.

Purpose 014: To realize that magic is not the center of the world even though you are supposed to be watching a world with magic.

omanjo doremi

Best-in-class: Ojamajo Doremi

by bluemist

Ojamajo Doremi holds a very special place in my mahou shoujo heart, and that’s not because it’s magical. In fact, despite this anime being a magical girl series, it veers away often from magic being central to a story. These girls don’t save the world, or solve a problem, by using magic. At all. They do it the way normal kids, and normal people do. They live their lives with all its happiness, sadness, complications, and simplicity. The magic about Ojamajo Doremi is how it extends its moral values to more than just using magic to do something special.

I feel that this moral value is beginning to wither with all the flashiness of modern mahou shoujo anime. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. This stuff is primarily aimed at kids – young, delicate and growing minds who need a little boost of unreality to enjoy something because it’s ‘cute’. Ojamajo Doremi is cute too, and it doesn’t dare hide the bright colors and impossible acts of getting something from nothing (magic). What it does differently though is, while some other magical girls are able to learn moral lessons because they use their powers to bring about a solution, Doremi and the others only use it as a tool to lead the way, but the solution is in their true powers – their goodness as persons in life.

Take, for instance, what if an important thing to you (say an ocarina or some other accessory) was thrown in the water? Do some wittity wattitty blah blah magic right? Not Hazuki-chan and her friends. They would wet themselves by the river all afternoon until they find it. This kind of scene makes me go awww every time, and it is a recurring theme in so many of the 200+ episodes of Ojamajo Doremi. That’s why it’s a steady staple anime of mine after all this time. It continues to remind me about humanity even within the context of fantasy.

Purpose 015: To vicariously enjoy the conversations I can never have

hidamari sketch yuno

Best-in-class: Hidamari Sketch

by 21stcenturydigitalboy

This sounds depressing, but I live a lot of my life vicariously through others. Lots of people can’t do that and still be happy or feel like they’re leading a fulfilling life—and a lot of those people don’t believe me when I claim to feel that way.

I don’t have time to be everything in the world that I want to be. For obvious reasons, I can’t become a master author, illustrator, director, freerunner, explorer, musician, psychologist, etc at the same time. I trust the theory that it takes 10,000 hours to master something, and I’m not satisfied with being “passable,” so my best bet is to stick with one thing and master it, while enjoying everything else vicariously.

But besides that, there are things I wish I could be that I just can’t. At the top of that list is a young woman. Maybe it’s not too late for me to become a woman, but it’s too late for me to be young (relatively anyway—I’m still much younger than anyone else who posts on this blog). As a man who enjoys the prospect of having options to be anything I want in life at least once, it bothers me that I have no choice in this matter—I can’t be the little girl. (At least not unless Ghost in the Shell becomes reality in my lifetime.)

That’s a shame because it looks like so much fun—and hey, maybe it isn’t. I’m fine with being wrong in regards to that. When a guy says he wishes he were a woman, a woman will invariably speak up and say that it’s not all fun and games. Whatever, I don’t care about that—the entire point of a fantasy is that it could never happen anyway, and taking the hypothetical situation seriously defeats its purpose.

So, as an anime fan, what do I see? Lots of young girls in cute clothes having fun conversations. I take it in vicariously. I can’t be a young girl, I can’t wear cute clothes (theoretically I could, but I’d have to lose 40 pounds and start shaving regularly, none of which I care to do), and most of all, I can’t be friends with other young girls and talk about young girl things with them (unless I have a daughter, and if she doesn’t hate me).

Since I feel like I have to point it out, there’s nothing sexual about this. There aren’t such powerful emotions behind it. It’s just something that I find interesting, as much as any other thing I find interesting.

I’ll admit, it can be lonely watching Hidamari Sketch, thinking about how close all the girls are and being in a room by myself; but the truth is, I have friends as close as that, at least 2 of which will watch Hidamari Sketch with me so that the experience is instead warm and fulfilling.

I feel like I’ve said this a million times, but I’ve always thought that the woman I marry will be one who can sit with me under a blanket all day and watch Hidamari Sketch and equally understand how the vicarious experience is as fulfilling as a real one if it’s allowed to be. Maybe that woman doesn’t exist—but I can vicariously enjoy the fantasy.

We Remember Love is publishing this post series twice a month – given that I have many purposes for my anime (and manga), just as you might have.

These purposes often occur in hindsight, but in some cases (more often than you think) you figure out your purpose of watching a particular show after a few episodes. So, you can claim purposes when watching ongoing shows, and especially ongoing manga.

Do you watch these shows for a similar purpose? Let me know how these shows work for you?

Also, if you want to contribute an anime purpose write-up for a future post in this series, just leave a comment and I’ll contact you.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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7 Responses to The Purpose of Anime and Manga (Part V)

  1. Reid says:

    First, I’d never thought about your approach to “The Purpose of Anime and Manga” before, but I have thought this way about movies I’ve seen. For me, my No. 013 is “Le Pacte des Loups,” a French film released in…oh, 2001 I think. Anyway, it’s a terrific movie that was translated as “Brotherhood of the Wolf” in English-speaking markets. The point is, it’s got a lot of the stuff I want to see in a cool movie (bear with me, because this is a long list and it might sound crazy being in a live-action film, but trust me, it’s cool and worth your time): period drama (set in 18th century French countryside), horrror (beast thing is killing people), murder mystery (trying to find the beast or who is controlling it), court intrigue (the royalty gets involved), romance of the warm and cuddly (dare I say it?) RomCom variety (hero and heroine banter back and forth in a charming way in almost every scene together), erotica (Monica Bellucci plays an Italian spy posing as a prostitute), incredibly violent martial arts fight sequences (don’t worry about it, just enjoy the spectacle; it KIND OF makes sense in context), fantasy (as if the combination of these elements wasn’t fantastical enough). I think that’s it. Pretty much, it’s got literally everything good about movies in one good movie that is more than the sum of its parts. I wish I could say I felt the same way about Code Geass…

    • Holy crap I think I’ve seen this… on cable. I could never get a proper start or finish since it’s one of those chance viewings… but given the elements you said my eyes would be glued to the TV… can’t. look. away. I’d be so impressed in parts and so WTF in others that I’d keep swearing to find a copy or give a proper viewing then I argue myself out of it until I find it showing on cable again and kind of not want to do anything else but watch what part of it is showing at the time…

      • Reid says:

        It should be available at a fairly low price at any number of online retailers. It’s literally the most original movie I’ve ever seen. Go to youtube and check out the fights at least to see if you remember it. To borrow your line, “Le Pacte des Loups” remembers love for a lot of good movies that came before it without feeling as though it ripped them off (Quentin Tarantino could learn to adopt this approach).

  2. WhatSht says:

    i don’t really have any purpose in watching anime or reading manga, but that code geass picture reminds me of when i was watching code geass, one character(i think it was jeremy gottwald) said “harken!” but the sub showed “IMMA FIRING MAH PEWPEWLAZORS!”, i LOL’d at that.

  3. Huntsman says:

    Most of the time, I seek nothing more than an interesting or entertaining distraction. Provided that happens to be true, everything else is just an extra treat that usually adds instead of detracts from the experience as a whole.

    However, I definitely know the feeling of finding certain anime titles that include many of the elements I actively want to see in a work of fiction…even if they aren’t necessarily used in the ways I would have liked to see them employed…which is where formal criticism comes in, of course, but that’s a different matter. The “best” shows in terms of storytelling and execution aren’t necessarily the most “interesting” in terms of content and themes (and, logically, vice versa).

    The best example, bar none, would be Legend of the Galactic Heroes. It has a very serious if nonetheless dramatic approach to the timeless concerns of war and politics, significant organizational and logistical detail, countless personal stories focusing on developing individual characters, a tale about rising through the ranks of a rotten imperial structure and subverting it for your own ends, the burden of leadership from both a democratic and dictatorial perspective, tactical and strategic detail, etc. The list could literally go on and on all day and night if necessary but the show hardly needs to be recommended here.

    Curiously enough, I’d say Code Geass is also a good example. It has role reversals that subverted many of the audience’s expectations and a few of the mecha genre’s conventions, there’s plenty of thematic foreshadowing from beginning to end, the narrative is a grand melodramatic opera, primarily made use of ground-based mecha (until a certain point in time), the protagonist is simultaneously sympathetic, repugnant and fascinating in a way that a more stable “evil genius” archetype wouldn’t be. There were several things I didn’t care for at all, of course, but overall it was a case where the interesting aspects made up for the questionable ones in my opinion, as opposed to being the other way around in eyes of other viewers.

    • Definitely in my case I have a favorable experience of Code Geass overall, for pretty much the same reasons you’ve articulated.

      As for LotGH, indeed it isn’t necessary to recommend it here in light of my own/WRL’s enthusiasm for the show, but by all means recommend it! I advocate it, as I’m reasonably certain a great many general anime fans have yet to experience it.

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