A Benevolent Spiral: How Media Prepares Me to Appreciate Anime, No Matter Unrelated; and Yeah, ZETMAN.


The last thing I want to suggest is that there is some kind of “required viewing” in order to appreciate particular anime, perhaps the notable classics. No, I don’t believe such exist as necessary requirements.

I do believe however, that my appreciation of some shows is tremendously impacted by my experience of certain other media. Rather than present a theory, I intend to share some examples of how this plays out.


Nodame Cantabile and Legend of the Galactic Heroes

While I always had a healthy appreciation for classical music and own soundtracks of the likes of The Vision of Escaflowne; and I know pieces by Yoko Kanno and Joe Hisaishi, except for a very few examples I do not know classical music pieces. I cannot tell what is a symphony from a concerto. Nodame Cantabile (particularly the live action) changed all this. I started taking my wife to the orchestra. I can distinguish particular movements in the different pieces. I can distinguish musical styles across history to a small degree.


This deepened my appreciation for Legend of the Galactic Heroes, who relies on classical music by the masters to score its 110 episodes. I delighted in hearing the opening bars of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto when Julian comforted Karin after the battle of Iserlohn Corridor. I felt every bit of borrowed pathos when Beethoven’s ‘Pathetique’ played as someone important passed away.


Instead of just the context of the narrative, I brought with me the whole history and context of the musical piece. It is an unnecessary thing, but it fits for such a show that is the very spirit of foppery and whim. I was only able to do this when I watched LotGH for the second time. I already considered it a masterpiece after my initial viewing, but this new appreciation of the score is a new world of feeling.



Perhaps there’s no better example of anime building upon itself to yield a wealth of ‘new’ experience than the Gundam franchise. Outsiders looking in are often misled into thinking that Gundam is this monolith of a franchise filled with exemplary shows that form a pillar of anime itself. No. As someone who watched almost every show in the franchise; many times over in some cases, I can truthfully say that most of it isn’t very good. Great chunks of it are rather awful. And yet the more I watch, each new show becomes a better, fulfilling overall experience. I grow to love Gundam more and more, and by the time Mobile Suit Gundam AGE came along I watch it with the wealth of 30 year worth of context. I can only imagine this existing in a franchise like Star Trek. Not being a trekkie myself I cannot validate this. But yes, when I watch an episode of a Gundam show, any Gundam show, I bring with it that ocean of meaning that makes the experience powerful, even if the episode itself is rubbish.

Heavy Metal & Zetman


I bring us to a contemporary show, which on the surface seems filled with puerile exploitation and false depth via pathos and death. I won’t say that the depth is real, but rather the surface is rich in itself. I do so by relating it to the comics of Heavy Metal magazine (there are two animated movies), that I remember casually reading as a postadolescent. These are dark, puppy science fiction stories that are quite violent and exploitation indeed. There are almost never any happy endings except those that are darkly sneering and cynical.


Zetman reminds me of these works, which doesn’t make it automatically exceptional, but knowing the tradition exists, my experience of the show is enriched. The show isn’t stopped by the red flags of moral taste. If I can bring myself up to a mood for grand pulpy shlock, I think Zetman may just hit that spot.

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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12 Responses to A Benevolent Spiral: How Media Prepares Me to Appreciate Anime, No Matter Unrelated; and Yeah, ZETMAN.

  1. animekritik says:

    The beauty of it is that, as you hinted with the music, you end up bringing a lot of “junk” with you that none of the animators dreamt anyone would bring along, and so your experience can be something wholly unexpected from the creators’ standpoint.

  2. SQA says:

    Zetman is going to be a big question mark for the next few weeks. You’ve got a very deep and very well required Manga that took about 1/2 a year or more to really set up the basics of its world. So, with only a 13 episode run, they’re flying through the setup, so we can get at least 1 story arc. It’ll be… interesting.

    But, I bring in more the concepts of Berzerk & Claymore. There’s going to be a lot of dark violence yet it’s very low on the “exploitation” aspects. Nothing is played for the puerile enjoyment. You don’t get a lot of those types of series, so hopefully the adapters will keep it there.

    I do think episode 1 actually work pretty well. Especially the bath scene. If they can keep that up, it might turn into a gem of an anime, even if it’s weaker than the source material..

    • Violence is also a form of exploitation. An example that comes to mind is the Starz mini-series Spartacus. Take away all the gratuitous nudity and you’ll still find a very exploitative presentation of violence.

      In a narrative sense it’s almost certain that the anime will become weaker than the source material, but as animation it may still prove to be a quality work.

  3. megaroad1 says:

    And don’t forget that it works both ways. On the 3rd of may I’m going to a concert that includes Dvorak’s 9th Symphony, and there’s no way I wont be sitting there during the 4th movement and not picturing the cream of the Alliance forces being destroyed by Reinhardt, and saying “Damn you Andrew Fork!”

    A Good Easter to you and all your distinguished readers.

  4. reidjou4342 says:

    “Zetman”, by its look alone, reminds me of Devilman, that other really twisted work courtesy of Uncle Go, which is to say IT LOOKS LIKE PURE METAL.

  5. As a Star Trek fan who is getting into Gundam who is watching Zetman who is also watching Legend of the Galactic Heroes I can confirm, that yes, although in general individual episodes of Star Trek are not great (especially of the newer series), the wealth of continuity between the universe it creates really does make the experience deeper every time you watch. I can see where you’re coming from with Gundam as well – although technically most of the series have different timelines, they love to borrow from each other all over the place. Especially Gundam SEED, which although it eventually took its own path, started off as a bit of a copy of the original Mobile Suit Gundam.

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