Outside of gag shows, and slice-of-life shows that enjoy referencing the otaku culture, I often wonder if anime exists in the worlds that are presented to us. I wonder if the heroes we look up to (and most of them fit the otaku age demographic) would actually enjoy anime. Would they look down on us?
Did anime and manga even exist in the Geofront? How come we never saw Shinji or his mates watching or talking about it? Did Amuro miss his shows when he left the colonies to join the crew of the White Base? What shows did Ranka follow in Frontier? Did they make a tv anime adaptation of Do You Remember Love?
While I concede that showing characters watch anything else but news (which is nothing more than an exposition device) is gratuitous, it does seem like anime never exists in ‘serious’ (as in non-comedy) shows. What does that say about anime? It is quite a conspicuous absence.
It could be read this way: our heroes are persons of action. All their acts are filled with consequence. Since we never see them watch any anime nor acknowledge its existence, it is implied that anime (and manga) is of no consequence.
Please read otou-san’s It Takes A Fanboy. It has two theses: the first one being Studio GAINAX wants us to be the best otaku we can be, just like them; to transcend our reality. the other one is that of a cruel angel’s, that humanity, whether otaku or not, is painfully flawed and without hope. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an otaku or not, because transcendence is a lie. There is nothing redeeming about humanity.
I mean, whether it’s Buster Machine #3 or the galaxy-chucking Chougin-Gurren-Lagann, aren’t the repressive enemies really right in the end? Is this an acknowledgment of the self-destructive nature of a hardcore otaku lifestyle?
– otou-san, ‘It Takes a Fanboy‘ (2008)
I had commented in various blogs regarding how the inspiring GAINAX works (most notably Tenggen Toppa Gurren Lagann), despite its call for transcendence beyond the impossible, actually maintain the status quo. The shows become escapist fantasies than blueprints for life. The latter idea is admittedly an idealization of entertainment media, and can sound foolish; but such is the emotional impact of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Its fans may want to relate to it as a sacred text to live life by. But after all this, why do otaku for the most part remain the same? Why do so many feel alone or live isolated existences?
The anime is an escape. It allows the viewer to fantasize being Simon or Kamina. For every viewer who directly or indirectly influenced by the show who goes through life going beyond the impossible, there are many (don’t ask me to quantify this) that I feel who don’t. Maybe someday, hopefully, they tell themselves; just not right now. It would be interesting to see a social study on the behavior of people after viewing TTGL (over a long-term period, assuming that the subjects highly appreciate the show).
The transcendence I imply here isn’t limited to saving the world in some way. There is a plurality of victories; for some it could mean simply putting out a blog when there was little confidence for writing to begin with. It could be a liberation from anonymity, the first comment you post to contribute to discussion. It could be landing your first job, earning your first pay, finally asking out the person you like.
Back on topic: In anime, the characters who get to do these things don’t seem to have anime hobbies, when their characters are implied to have hobbies. Hikaru, Isamu, and Alto from the Macross franchise are so obsessed with flying that they aren’t portrayed with any other interests. Anime and manga don’t seem to exist in the Gundam continuities. I really can’t think of an anime outside high school slice-of-life/comedies where anime and manga exist.
Can the characters we admire stay as awesome if they watch as much anime as we do? I clocked 84.1 hours of anime viewing time (not counting re-watches) according to My Anime List. If they can’t, then what are we doing?
However, if you imagine they do watch anime for whatever reason, what shows would they be watching? Will Kamina get his kicks from Hokuto no Ken or Dragon Ball Z? Will the young Simon prefer Clannad, moving on to Gunbuster as he gets older? The world of Gurren Lagann doesn’t have television, but let’s indulge ourselves. What anime would our anime heroes watch?