May 24, 2011

The trouble with recommending anime to friends

***Edit*** Click HERE if you wanna skip the anime discussion and check out our beautiful new kitty cat!!

I have no trouble recommending things like Cowboy Bebop to anyone who'll listen. Or if I know what kind of person you are, I could find things to suit tastes: Crazy and funny? Excel Saga. Playful, cute and a little romantic? Ouran High School Host Club. Enjoyed some of Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli stuff, but want something else? Summer Wars. Weeps with joy at the sight of kittens and fluffy ducklings? Lovely Complex. Enjoys a dark story, with twist and turns? Durarara!!.

I have a problem with recommending anime at large. There's so much wrong with the majority of anime out there. I don't mean any more than the bulk of garbage we're bombarded with from Western studios, but for the uninitiated it'd be easy to be scared off.

I've just finished watching Durarara!! at the recommendation of My Love's workmate's daughter. It was fun. It was (mostly) respectful. It had some scary scenes and violence was treated flippantly, although deaths were few and far between. There was minimal sexualisation (although a particular character's breasts were brought to attention unnecessarily often) and the only time a character was dressed up in a skimpy outfit (in my memory) was when a husband and wife were sharing their sexuality. All good, wholesome stuff.

Now I've moved on to Star Driver. Already I've come across so many of the staples of anime that I no longer flinch at, but could make newcomers a might uncomfortable, and I'm only part way through episode four.

There's been partial nudity (of high schoolers), a character who uses her over-the-top sexuality to get her own way, characters in uniforms which are essentially bondage outfits, a schoolgirl day-dreaming of homosexual encounters between her classmates, a character known as the "Galactic Pretty Boy" who also pilots a giant robot, many characters with giant, colourful hair and a tiny fox whose job is to lick people and act cute. I'm sure I've glossed over other potentially disconcerting phenomena because I've been desensitised to the usual quirks of Japanese animation.

The odd thing is, the whole set-up doesn't seem so bad. When I put down all these things in writing, they sound odd. When I'm watching it- the whole thing seems normal. It's anime.

When did I get to this stage?

I find many Korean dramas to be very refreshing because of their good-natured, charming and sex-free plots. Why am I willing to put up with so much more from a Japanese cartoon? I dislike it when Western cartoons turn to filth and I balk at any American cartoon that tries to hyper-sexualise its characters. Does my brain compartmentalise these things and treat them so very differently?

One thing I find refreshing about many Japanese shows (like Ouran) is the way in which I've seen female sexual fantasies catered to where previously only male fantasies were addressed. Yes, we've had erotic literature for women for ages, but in a society where billboards, TV advertising, shop windows, magazines and bus shelters are very often covered with a merely partially-clothed woman, I find some odd comfort in a TV show about handsome young men swooning over a tom-boyish lass, while trying to cater to the fantasies of their female clients.

I suppose the same could be said for the concept of "host clubs" in Japan. We've had brothels since the dawn of time- why not a place where a woman can go to engage her erotic fantasies on a more intellectual level? I personally don't think brothels are a good idea and I believe God created us for certain kinds of relationship, even though we are tempted by immediate sexual gratification. Although, as I said, there's something oddly comforting about the existence of host clubs- and although I'm sure they fuel sexual desires, it's kind of nice that they don't (always) involve physical sex.

That got off topic. My original idea was a discussion on mainstream oddball occurrences in anime and why I found it very difficult to recommend anime at large.

Long story short: Watch anime. It has much to offer. But be very careful.

And start with Cowboy Bebop, for heaven's sake.

Breaking news: We may have a little bundle of joy on the way, soon! Nope, not a baby. Well, not a baby human.

A kitten!

Picture (probably) coming soon... when we get back from kitten-inspecting!



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