Okay.. I know I haven’t posted for awhile and I have a really good excuse for this. But I’m not going to tell..lol…. Anywho…back to my long winded diatribe about anime, otukuism, culture and life. The topic of discussion this time juxtaposes beautifully with my last entry on the incredibly non-existent, or limited, merits of the superiority of the anime Naruto. If you haven’t read the post, shame on you and fly a kite off a bridge! For those of you who have read my post, this will be a follow up to the last post and will examine the characteristics an anime should manifest in order to be classified as decent or quality anime.
Yeah, the question is pretty vague, but that didn’t stop Aristotle from dissecting drama in the poetics, so why should vagueness stop me now? So what makes for a good anime? Of course, we have to allow for the inclusion of different genres which may skew any serious critique of what makes a good anime. Since it can be reasonably argued that every particular genre of anime should be judged by a separate standardized distinct rubric. But that would just take too long, and I have a life to live!! So how about we just lump all anime together and hash out what makes an anime give you that warm gooey feeling inside.
I mean you would think this is obvious, but from what I’ve seen, tons of animes (and films) do not have a coherent, cohesive, intricate plot that gives to true sophisticated inspection. This is not to mean that all animes should be heavy on sci-f, or philosophy, but it does mean that when you see a typical anmie it’s usually the same ol, “you are the chosen one who must save the world”, or, “I have a crush on so and so because he or she is super cool”, or,” we must defeat the evil blah blah”, or” The power of friendship and love conquers all”,or…you get the picture. For instance, let’s compare two animes and let’s see which one has a plot that is well tuned vs. a plot that seemed like somebody just threw together in a hurry, added spectacular long stylistic battles, and super duper power ups. I’m going to choose *drum roll please* Bleach and Gintama.
Gintama vs Bleach
I’ll confess that I’m completely bias in regard to my general assessment of these two animes. Gintama happens to be one of my favorite animes of all time, and while I do watch Bleach, I probably would never admit it openly. Now, being the sophist that I am, I can always make up reasons for being a shame of Bleach which may, or may not, have any validity, but for this semi-scholarly exercise of wit and humor I will attempt to be as impartial as possible. Let’s begin, Why does the plot for Bleach suck? Yeah, it’s kind of harsh to say the plot of an anime sucks, but words fail me at the moment to properly describe the horrendous excuse for a plot that is Bleach. For those of you who have been living under the proverbial rock, Bleach is one of the most popular animes in otakudom. The plot can be summed up quite simply in that it centers around the main protagonist, Ichiago, who one day saves a shimigami (death god) and then becomes one himself, protecting the world from evil spirits called hollows. The plot “thickens” when Bleach introduces you to a whole new world called soul society, where things like common sense, consistency, and reason doesn’t matter because after all that would mean the writers would have to develop the plot further and that would take away from precious fighting scenes. To put it simply, Ichiago encounters powerful new villains, who have really vague reasons for being villains, and is forced to do battle with these god like beings who usually pummel him the first time around, but when faced with immeasurable odds Ichiago will either save the day some how or get saved by someone else. Cool..eh? I mean think of the depth and complexity involved in the development of this drama..don’t you see it!? If we take a look at Gintama, what we find is an anime that completely goes against the pervasive tendencies of animes to have a plot that centers on the protagonist’s ad hoc development. Instead, what we have with Gintama is a plot that ranges from philosophical introspection to down right zany comedy, allowing for a unique and intriguing viewing experience. You simply don’t know what to expect, and that is the workings of a masterful plot.
If you watch alot of movies these days, you probably encounter a very eire and strange event that left you bewildered and disillusioned. This is what probably happened: you went to go see the most recent head lined blockbuster filled with CGI, A-List actors and all the hollywood fixings and the strangest thing occurred to you at the end of the film. What occurred, you may ask? Well, you realized that you didn’t care. The main protagonist could of died and you would of cared less. Feeling empty and cheated you probably left the theaters vowing never to return. This scenario plays out time and time again in film as well as animes, because writers forget a crucial facet of creating compelling works of imaginative lure. Which is, “That you must create characters who people buy into and care about”
Example #1 -Bad Character Development
Take a character like Naruto for instance. Sure, in the beginning you sympathize with underdog who wants to prove his ninja coolness. You root for him and hope he can do at least something right. But after awhile, and i mean 150 episodes later, it becomes quite apparent that Naruto is as shallow as a curb side pond on a hot summer day. Why do I say this? Because his maturity is stagnant, his understanding is simple and vague, and depth of perception is quite limited especially in regards to ascertaining a complete over view of any situation.
Example# 2: Good character Development
Death Note’s L had such stunning character development that it left audiences mystified long after the anime has been completed. I mean its to the point that they’re creating a live action movie featuring L as the main protagonist. Now why is L so fascinating? Well, consider his allure: he is enigmatic, shockingly insightful, unpredictable, strange, charming, and yet still retains a hidden depth to him unbeknown to us all. When the audience get just a glimpse into what’s behind his dumb founded gaze, we’re met with an individual who exceeds our typical classifications of mere introverted emodom, no L is a dude with purpose and passion. Sadly, L dies by the hand of the only person he considered a friend, and what compounds the situation is that he knew all a long that he would die by the hand of his “so-called” friend…damn you L! I can’t quit you!!
In order for a plot to really have legs and start moving, there should always be riveting conflict. The kind of conflict that makes audiences lean to the edge of their sits with captivation, obsessively staring to see what happens next. The most tired and true way to create such conflict, is through the creation of a compelling antagonist. What many people seem to forget is that the antagonist tends to be the alter-ego or antithesis of the protagonist. But this should in no way negate the attention and care that should be taken to forging a solid character for your antagonist. I mean take Othello’s Iago, this guy obviously had some deep seated issues! But his treachery was so deep, refined, and unsettling, that it has immortalized his shrewed villainy for all time.
Example#1: Good Antagonist Development
In the manga/anime Monster, readers/viewers are introduced to a antagonist that simply boggles the mind. Johan, the anatagonist, is not just your average sociopath with deep seated issues caused by his mother (I kid..its always the mother), in fact, he’s a brilliant master mind that has completely lost faith in human kind and wants nothing more but to end it all. Though on the set it sounds tripe, I mean a villain who goes crazy and wants to destroy everything isn’t the greatest example of character innovation. But what we do discover as Monster‘s story develops and plot thickens, is that Johan when viewed consistently with the information you receive from the manga/anime is understandably irate and is a complex individual who grapples with the confusion as to life’s purpose and meaning , in addition to dealing with resentment and inferiority complex caused by the acts of others who were instrumental in his childhood. A brilliant mind like Johan is undoubtedly sensitive to the information it receives, and interprets them quite differently then a normal mental process would otherwise be engaged, resulting in what may very well be the creation of a villain who is indeed marred by the acts of others, and though is still responsible for his/her acts, becomes an object of pity instead of contempt. That’s some good bad guy development….
I believe we anime viewers as a community should demand more from the products we choose to consume. Of course I know this isn’t possible since many otakus are content with enjoying sub-par anime franchises. So why write this article? Well, for starters, to vent at the absurdities I see in animes on a regular basis and to encourage others to support higher quality media outlets in hopes that some change may occur in the entertainment landscape. Until then, there’s always Gintama!!
I am G-man!!!