I feel younger every day. Seriously. I turned 32 half a year ago, but I feel like a fan a quarter my age. When I was 8 years old, the first run of SDF-Macross was still showing on local TV, and was totally in love with it. As I write this, I feel like that same kid like I’ve never felt in a long time. I mean, I’m writing about anime and manga as an adult, a husband and soon-to-be-father. How wonderful is that? Sure, my writing has a tremendous amount of sophistry (read: indulgent reasoning) but I promise you that a lot of the time, the spirit behind the work is burning youth.
I know a good number of mature (as they see themselves) anime and manga fans bristle at the pervasive notion that cartoons and comics are for kids. I sympathize with their discomfort, truly. I posit that it is the nature of adolescence to wish itself to be taken seriously, and with that, their own pervasive notion that kids aren’t or shouldn’t be taken seriously. I was there too, and have held that attitude well into my 20s. Well, try to think of it this way: many of the creators of our favorite manga and anime, write from their childhood — the experience of their childhood. It’s as if they’re writing a love letter to their younger selves. Yes, I shall indulge myself, they’re remembering love.
There’s this point in Bakuman when Mashiro, the struggling would-be mangaka was troubled at not being able to create a manga character that readers of Shounen Jump would love. He thought about it and realized that many of his rivals were very good at drawing at an early age, just like he was; and that what all of them made up at the time were lots and lots of characters. He was sure that at least one of those characters was someone he truly loved, and got really pumped about when he was a kid. Wisely, he dug up his old sketchbooks and thought of a manga based on that character.
I thought about this real hard. I thought about shows like Space Runaway Ideon, and Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, as well as End of Evangelion, and The Sky Crawlers. I thought about Grave of the Fireflies and Millenium Actress. I thought about Shigurui and I thought about Macross Plus. These shows not only have very mature themes, but also the storytelling and execution is very sophisticated. How can these shows be for kids? They aren’t, in terms of marketing and demographics I suppose. However, I couldn’t deny how they made me felt.
When watching something thought-provoking and mature, especially when it seems so brilliant, the very moment of discovery… when I ‘get it,’ I’m a kid all over again. It’s like being able to lace my shoes for the first time. It’s like discovering balance on a bicycle. It’s like building a robot out of Lego™ bricks. WOW! The A/T Field is also our EGO, the psychological barrier to true or perfect empathy with others? Holy smokes! Evangelion is sooo awesome! (I was 26 when I saw Evangelion in full LOL)
Then I thought about other shows… shows like Kamen no Maid Guy and Oruchuban Ebichu. I thought about shows like Golden Boy and Hatsukoi Limited. I think had I seen these shows at an 8 year old, it’d have been hit-or-miss. Ebichu and Hatsukoi Limited would’ve bored me due to the fanservice often going over my head and how a lot of the comedy and drama would not have been relevant. But for the others, I would’ve laughed my ass off. Kids have crude ideas about sex and I was no different. It would’ve been funny, though not as funny as an awesome guy in a maid’s uniform, and a hotblooded bicycle rider making the world a better place one hot girl at a time. Nonetheless, I probably would’ve tried my damned best to enjoy myself watching them.
I know that manga and anime aren’t just for kids. But is it so bad for them to be perceived as for children’s consumption given how these creators are probably at times (perhaps not often) like kids in a sandbox creating universes with rocks and dirt? Al Izuruha in Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket had to give up something beautiful. The thing is, it was wrenched from him! We, however are acting like we want to throw it away.
I think civilizations, even the great ones were built by telling stories — tall tales and epics, transmitted orally from generation to generation. Stories are great for this, precisely because kids can flat out enjoy them at a very young age. Stories have become primary methodology of education. It’s not that really different now. We have enormous variation in terms of media, but stories perform many of the same purposes: to educate the listener/reader/viewer in language and culture, and to be entertaining while doing so. It’s all fine and dandy to wish for anime and manga to be given the kind of respect given to ‘art,’ to film and sometimes television. I just don’t think that the notion that anime and manga are for kids is necessarily bad, or wrong.
So how does this work in my practice of media appreciation? Well, the WRL blog is my primary example. All the stuff here, from the images, the slideshows, the theoretical and philosophical references, my friends and family… they’re the stuff in my sandbox. I’ve written 3,000 word posts on the phenomenology of language in Eureka SeveN, and 4,000 word posts on sheer mecha faggotry. It’s all play. It’s all games. And I’ve learned that the best way to have fun in games is to play full out and uninhibited.
This perhaps explains the rarity of reviews in the site. I may talk about a show or manga without spoilers, but the purpose is to recommend or endorse the work, not to point out its merits and flaws to be of service of would-be consumers on the fence about it. The game is not to be right about something, but rather to solicit discussion among playmates. Hence, the rarity of coclusions. It’s not as fun for me to show people how right I am, and how wrong others are. Is K-ON! good? Bad? I care less about the consensus, only that I enjoyed it (I must have cancer), and I don’t mind talking about Yui’s retard moe as possibly (gasp) inspiring! You see, THIS BLOG IS MY BUDOKAN!
Omake:Who are my heroes?
Nekki Basara, Macross 7: He’s been my avatar ever since I started blogging. He’s someone who just gets so much out of life. He’s not someone who asks for little and is happy with whatever he has. No, I’m not into asceticsm. I’m more for indulgence and excess. It’s just that Basara demands something very specific, stated plainly in his battle-cry:
Athena Glory, Aria: At first I thought I’d put Mizunashi Akari here, but I realize that Athena shares some of Akari’s qualities (not just the ditziness), though perhaps not quite as attuned to wonder — but then again, who is?! But yes, a predisposition to enjoy wonder, to expect to find it and yet remain surprised when it shows, and a trollish spirit Akari could never have, yes Athena is glorious.
Koiwai Yotsuba, Yotsubato!: Out of control and delightfully charming. She is a child’s child, free and fully self-expressed — an idealization of how I want to be. Her imperative: Enjoy everything! Soooo compelling for me!
Technical concept of ‘remembering love’ [->]
The image of anime is for kids [->]
Blogging anime is FUN [->]
…especially if you play with someone you love [->]
Stupendously long post on philosophy of language in Eureka SeveN [->]
Even longer piece of fiery mecha faggotry (Gundam x Macross) [->]