anime: one of life’s guilty pleasures

 

last saturday, my sister, who dropped by to return a book, caught me knee-deep in piles of CDs, VCDs and DVDs. curious, she came over and asked what i was doing.

too caught up in my search, i mumbled distractedly about a misplaced DVD that i particularly wanted to watch that day. casting a glance at some of the titles, she said “Oh,” which spoke volumes, and shook her head. “i see you still haven’t outgrown your phase.”

box

grinning, i replied, “darn right… ah-hah here it is, my precious Slayers disk (vol. 1, ssn 2).” without any further ado, i popped the offending disk to my player and turned back to her. “want a coke? this could take some time.”

she sighed and shook her head, “can’t stay long. honestly though, don’t you ever get sick and tired of watching these things? you must have watched this series twice already.”

it was my fourth viewing actually, but this time i was watching the japanese version (with english subtitles), which as far as i was concerned made a huge difference (because it featured my favorite seiyuu megumi hayashibara as the mercurial and cute sorceress Lina Inverse). not that i bothered to explain though. i doubt if she’d have appreciated my explanations anyway. to a non-anime fan, any explanation or justification would have sounded lame.

which brings me to this interesting question: what makes anime so appealing to some of us?

normally, this sort of behavior is indulged (and half-expected) among children and adolescents. as you move on to your late teens, it’s still somewhat tolerated; in your 20s, the raised eyebrows and the head scratching begin (“what? you’re still into anime? how do you find the time to watch ’em? boy, you must have spent a lot on these suckers.”). as you grow older, it gets worse… not that it has ever bothered me though.

frankly, i can’t explain it myself. i just know that i like them and i’m sure that 5 years from now, i’d still be watching anime. after that, who knows?

still, i believe that this inexplicable fascination can be traced to a few things:

1. anime helps us connect to that irrepressible child within us
2. it deals with universal themes
3. it offers a relatively simple and inexpensive way for us to indulge our “what-ifs” in colorful 2D and 3D formats
4. ready tie-ups with the video gaming community as well as manga and music industry
5. it’s visually appealing!
6. it uhm… offers excellent opportunities for viewers to pick up some nifty nippongo phrases
7. and because its technology-friendly, it has become even more accessible and continues to find a ready supply of converts (thanks to dedicated fandoms, forums and bit torrent sites, and other file-sharing sites like youtube, etc.)

this is all i can think of right now. i’m sure the list goes on for many anime fiends who have been in this roller coaster far longer than i have…

totoro7

it’s easy to dismiss anime as a simplistic, escapist fare. in a way, i suppose it’s true, but it’s much more than that though. some features have surprising depth, complexity and impact — far more that the genre’s detractors would allow. a few have even managed to achieve commercial and critical success internationally — here, hayao miyazaki‘s excellent body of work (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Grave of the Fireflies, etc.) screams to the fore, a fact that has spurred Disney to cash in on this particular niche by producing, releasing and distributing an english version of some of his best works.

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