24 Nov 2014

The Dancil Anime Guide

What is anime?
P: What is anime? That’s kinda simple I guess. It’s Japanese animation, usually presented as hand-drawn scenarios. In other words, they’re cartoons but with the Japanese zeal injected into them. Sometimes anime comes as computer animation, but it’s usually hand-drawn stuff.
D: Couldn’t have said it better, bro. Simply put, anime is Japanese animation, as in Japanese cartoons, while most cartoons/animation that comes out of America/Europe etc. is known as Western animation. Anime is iconic because its spirit is infused with that particular Japanese culture and charm that can't help but be compelling to the rest of the viewing world.

P: And now we’ve established that basic fact, the next step is to know what types of anime are available for viewing pleasure.

 What are the types of anime?
D: As with any form of entertainment out there, anime has its own illustrious cornucopia of genres and subgenres, some more popular than others. In a broad spectrum, anime genres include: Mecha, Shonen, Magical Girl, Card Battle, Harem, Idol, Yaoi, Yuri and Hentai. Of course keep in mind these are anime specific genres, and most of them usually fall into these AND have a few Western-familiar genres thrown into the mix, so you can have a Mecha anime, with elements of romance, thriller, action comedy etc, you grab the punch.
P: Well… Detanfy seriously punched a hole through that one. There’s little for me to add to this. Of course, there can be a mix of types every now and then, and it’s not an abnormal thing to happen. Even 3 types can get mixed in the same pot. Some clarification though, hentai and ecchi don’t have any particular demographic that responds to them. Hentai’s hardcore animated pornography while ecchi is the softcore version. Just decided to place this here because of an earlier discussion with someone.
D: Yup! We wouldn’t want you to get mixed up and see something you don’t wanna (or do wanna?) see. So we’ll spell it out just a little bit for you:

  • Mecha: Usually deals with giant robots, piloted by humans (example, Gundam)
  • Shonen: Is action oriented, usually intended for younger males between ages 12-17 (example One Piece)
  • Magical Girl: You can take the name literally, but usually the girls have to deal with everyday life in high school, boy drama etc., all while fighting demons and what-not after school with their magical powers (example Sailor Moon)
  • Card Battle: usually about a bunch of folks playing a card game where the monsters are real (example Yu-Gi-Oh)
  • Monster Battle: As above, except no cards, just creatures! (example Pokemon)
  • Harem: usually centers on one lucky fellow, surrounded by a load of girls. (example Infinite Stratos)
  • Idol: take the name literally, usually follows an idol of some sort, and peoples obsession with them. (example Hatsune Miku)
  • Yaoi/Yuri: usually deals with a very close male relationship, bordering on homosexuality, usually with strong undertones, in the case of Yoai and the Yuri takes the cake for the female perspective, usually focusing on 2 girls relationship at its core.
P: What a mouthful.

Why is anime popular
P: Honestly? I’d say there are several reasons anime is popular. For starters, it’s foreign, and when it comes to foreign things we know how to absorb them. There’s also the fact that Japan has such rich culture that permeates through their anime that we can’t help but feel a certain connection to the Land of the Rising Sun whenever we watch anime. Plus, anime has the added effect of being different; characters, story, scenarios, language and even music. It’s colourful richness all around.

D: Here, here! My partner spelled it out perfectly for you. Basically, anime is popular because it’s a rip roaring fun time. For the Japanese, it’s a representation of their culture, and values and ideas, while for us foreigners, it’s a pretty fun peek into Japanese culture. We all get to experience the culture of an entire country through beloved animated characters.

What are the more popular anime?
P: Let’s shoot some right off the bat.
  • Dragon Ball Z
  • Naruto/Naruto Shippuden
  • Bleach
  • One Piece
Those are, at best, the most popular among Nigerian viewers. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Samurai X, as that paved the way for so many of us to get onboard the anime train even if we didn’t stay on it after Samurai X went away. Another that should be on the list is Sailor Moon, though I’m not very sure how common that one is. But as it is, those are the most popular. Recently, Hunter X Hunter slowly entered the fold. This is by no means an exhaustive list of anime that are very interesting to watch, though.
D: Walk into a bar, walk into a restaurant, walk into a mausoleum, walk into anywhere with people who are even remotely familiar with anime and they would at the very least know Dragon Ball Z or Samurai X aka Rurouni Kenshin. The younger ones will definitely know the anime/manga known collectively as the “Big 3” (most commercially acclaimed) in Japan: Naruto, Bleach and One Piece. These are some of the long running anime that have stood the test of time and are generally popular both in Japan and in the west. They are as ubiquitous as a pair of jeans.
P: Yep. One Piece and Naruto have been running since the 1990s. That’s something.

What separates anime from traditional animation?
D: Well, there's a lot that gives anime its distinction from other forms of animation. The most obvious aspect of course is visual style: Most anime tends to be stylized in a specific manner, of course, various animation studios tend to employ diverse and distinctive visual styles, but anime has a bunch in common, mostly in the character design and cinematography department. It’s usually more complex than majority of Western Animation, and the character models are a bit more realistic (except for those huge eyes of course). That is to say, anime follows a distinct blueprint, but with each anime production company, injecting their own style and flair into things.
P: Yep yep. One thing with anime is that the art stays relatively the same. While Western animation has different art style for each show (a comparative example would be Adventure Time and Dexter’s Laboratory) anime tends to follow a pre-existing pattern (examples, of course, would be Naruto, Bleach and One Piece). This in itself is not limiting, as artists have found ways to create distinctive markings in their styles. Tite Kubo draws the manga Bleach and Ryūhei Tamura draws Beelzebub. Each has similar character looks, but the art styles are distinctive in their own nature. Another thing to note about anime is the season-by-season phase. While traditional animation would have a pause in between seasons, or just jump right into them because pre-production of the episodes was done, anime sometimes makes use of episodes called ‘fillers’, especially if the anime is a direct adaptation of a manga (examples of this are Bleach and Naruto). Fillers tend to move without the original writer’s watch, so sometimes they can be annoying to go through. And one last thing I’d like to point out is how anime makes use of different opening themes and closing themes (animation and music) for their various seasons/arcs while traditional animation goes with the same sequence over and over (Rick and Morty, Adventure Time, Dexter’s Laboratory are good examples).
For clarity purpose, we’re going to be referring to Bleach, Naruto and One Piece as the Big 3 (kinda like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo).
D: Round of applause goes to Phylix for the detailed analysis. Now you guys have no excuse not to identify anime ever again! Also that MS, Sony, Ninty comparison is A+ material. Good show! Besides the obvious influences of Japanese culture, when you think of anime, it’s usually held with a bit more gravity than Western Animation. Most Western Animated shows tend to be more for amusement value and thus, are episodic in nature-that is to say, you don’t have to catch every episode, just pop in, watch a random episode of Adventure Time or Family Guy or what have you, laugh, be amused and come back a few episodes later, cuz there is only a loose continuity between events in most episodes. Majority of Japanese animation, on the other hand tends to be more serialized, with continuity between each episode, season long story arcs, character development etc.

Who are prominent anime makers?
P: I give Detanfy the floor here; let him spit some knowledge on this game.

D: *grabs mic* don’t worry, I won’t rap or anything, just share a list of popular and extremely prominent anime makers that you should be aware of. By the end, you should be dishing out all this knowledge at all those fancy cocktail parties or impressing the cute girl standing in line next to you at the grocery store with your immersive knowledge of anime producers, directors and studios. 

Before I do anything else, I must first mention Hayao Miyazaki, head of Studio Ghibli: You might know him as the gentleman behind popular animated movies such as Spirited Away, Ponyo and Princess Mononoke. Miyazaki has been compared to Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg for his contributions to the anime industry. He is essentially the modern day Godfather of anime.
Besides Miyazaki, we have

  • Hideaki Anno, creator of infamous, legendary anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion.
  • Yoshiyuki Tomino, who-along with companions at their production outfit Studio Sunrise- blessed us with the concept and idea for the long running Gundam Series
  • Masahiko Minami, Hiroshi Osaka (RIP), and Toshihiro Kawamoto, 3 former members of Sunrise, who left to start their own production company called Studio Bones.
  • Shinichiro Watanabe, who blessed us with groundbreaking series Cowboy Bebop
  • Then we have the brains behind the Big 3: Masashi Kishimoto, Tite Kubo and Eiichiro Oda who brought Naruto, Bleach and One Piece respectively into the world.
  • Some anime studios/production companies you should at least be familiar with: Production IG, Studio Bones, Sunrise, Studio Ghibli, Studio 4o C, Trigger, Toei Animation, Shaft, Pierrot, Madhouse, Clamp, Bandai Namco, Aniplex, Gonzo and Gainax.

What are some legendary anime to check out?
P: Ah… now this is a place that Detanfy has been looking forward to. But let’s do some clarification first. By legendary, we’re not necessarily talking about old anime or stuff that has reached the end of its run, we’re talking more on the level of really successful and/or very entertaining and inspiring. With that in mind, let’s give you a to-do list. This is arranged in no order of importance.

  1. Dragon Ball Z (duh)
  2. Samurai X (duh again)
  3. Bleach
  4. Naruto
  5. One Piece
  6. Neon Genesis Evangelion
  7. Full Metal Alchemist
  8. Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood
  9. Darker Than Black
  10. Kingdom
  11. Hunter X Hunter
  12. Sailor Moon
  13. Fairy Tail
  14. Katekyō Hitman Reborn!
  15. Gundam series
  16. Digimon
  17. Akira
  18. Cowboy Bebop
  19. Code Geass
  20. Death Note
  21. Fist of the North Star
  22. Appleseed
  23. Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex

D: Hats off to Phylix for supplying a pretty excellent, diverse list of some of the most notable anime out there. You can take your pick and you’ll be in safe hands, but let me give you some concentrated listings:
  • If you’re looking for a good, low-investing entry level anime: Cowboy Bebop. Excellent episodic storylines, 26 episodes, with an overarching plot, phenomenal animation, setting, characters and a particularly outstanding soundtrack. It will warp you into its world and you won’t wanna leave. Engrossing and highly fun. You can’t go wrong.
  • Same as above, but high investment: Bleach would be my pick out of the Big 3, over 300 episodes, although you can skip the pesky filler. It’s a pretty fun show, great fights, characters with actual depth, and super good production values, especially for a long running Shonen.
  • If you’re looking for an all-around great anime to watch: FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I’d go as far as saying FMA:B is the benchmark for modern day anime in terms of striking a balance between commercial and critical acclaim and it terms of being just plain freaking awesome! It’s the one anime I’d recommend to anyone who has never watched anime before. 64 episodes, exceptional storyline, characters, and production values. You literally can’t go wrong with this one.
  • If you enjoy Political Intrigue/megalomania/mind games/mysteries: I’d check out Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion and Death Note. Both shows have this in droves. Think of it like House of Cards, where you find yourself rooting for the villain/anti-hero, cuz you can’t help but be so enamored by his machinations and Machiavellian schemes.
  • Psychological/mind bending/Turn your brain into chicken noodle soup: Really the choice is Neon Genesis Evangelion. I’d warn you to watch and complete at least 5 anime series before diving into this though. NGE will break you, remake you and break you again. Definitely not for the inexperienced, but if you’re a fan of going in raw, I’d say go ahead, and stick it out, cuz NGE can be pretty emotionally draining and exhausting to watch, but it will all be worth it for that “WTF did I just watch?!” look on your face after every episode.
  • Anime Movies: Akira is first and foremost. It’s a legend of a movie and should be seen by any anime fan at least once. I watch it once every year as a tradition. Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli movies are also highly engaging and a complete delight to watch. They will take you on a journey that covers most of the emotional spectrum. You will cry, you will laugh, you will love, you will be sad, you will be angry but you know what?  You will come out of the movie feeling happy, grateful and fulfilled.

That’s just a bit of a specific guide, but as mentioned, any show from our list is a sure thing.

P: And that’s about a wrap for the basics of anime surfing! It’s Detanfy and Phylix, and we’re going off the radar so you can use your newfound knowledge to enjoy the many joys that anime can bring! Sayonara!

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