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Anime’s Surge In Popularity, and Why You Should Watch It

Anime is generally defined as any animation that is produced in the country of Japan. It has a rich history, going back as far as 1910-1917, when the first animators had their start, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that it exploded onto the scene with the rise of shows like Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon. Although it declined a bit during the 2000s, in the last few years, anime has seen a massive resurgence in popularity. Shows like My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) are now mainstream to Western culture and have become deeply ingrained in anime culture. But what is it about anime that has gained it a large following? There are many different factors, but here are some of the top ten reasons why you should be watching anime, if you aren’t already (in no particular order).

10. Storytelling

On a whole, anime boasts some of the best storytelling that the animation medium has to offer. It has some of the most complex and creative storylines, worlds, and lines. And because anime storylines are told over a sequence of interconnected episodes, or “arcs”, each episode is plot-oriented, refreshing, and unpredictable. Anime narratives are intellectually challenging and stimulating, gaining great emotional involvement from the viewer. Examples of this statement would be the series Code Geass, Kino’s Travels, and Fairy Tail.

9. Relatable Characters

Another reason that anime is popular is that it has a whole host of characters that just about anybody can relate to. An example of this would be Clannad’s Tomoya Okazaki, who becomes a parent in the second season. While his circumstances aren’t common, anyone who is a young parent can easily empathize with him. It doesn’t matter what the anime is, or how emotional it is, almost all of the time we can find a character or two we can relate to who shares life experiences and characteristics with us, whether it be personality traits, hardships, sense of humor, or painful losses.

8. You Learn A Lot Of Lessons

Dragon Ball teaches about the importance of hard work. And You Thought There Is Never A Girl Online? teaches about the importance of self-confidence. Barakamon! teaches about personal growth. Kokoro Connect! teaches about dealing with hardships. No matter what the anime is, chances are that you’ll find a life lesson in there somewhere. Even comedy anime tends to have some sort of hidden lesson in there somewhere (they are just more subtle about it).

7. Fan Service

Ah yes, this is a widely contested topic. The use of fanservice – aka material used to please the fans – has often been a hot topic so to speak, given its controversial nature. Often sexual in nature, it is often used to entice people into wanting to stick around to see more (though there is fan service of the nonsexual variety as well). Fan service is not bad, per se (hence the name!), it should just be used when appropriate. There are even successful anime without fanservice (the Fate series and Natsume’s Book of Friends).

6. You Learn About Japanese Culture

This is obvious, given where anime comes from. Since anime mainly comes from Japan, many a time you will see anime reflect Japanese customs and beliefs. This is because it creatively interprets many different aspects of life in Japan (e.g. locations and institutions, historical and cultural references, social practices, even small things like body language and gestures) that don’t quite translate the same to other media. You get to learn about Japanese foods, learn what life in a Japanese city is like, etc. In a later article, I may possibly discuss some unintended effects of anime that you may not have noticed.

5. Visually Appealing Art Style

Admit it, most of the time the art in anime look simply gorgeous. Compare that to any other animation from around the world, and you will soon realize that compared to anime, other animation for the most part tends to be:

  • More cartoonish
  • Childish
  • Simple drawings
  • Unrealistic designs with weird body proportions
  • Simple backgrounds

Compare My Hero Academia with the American series Ed, Edd n’ Eddy. Which of these looks more visually appealing and more “realistic”? If you say My Hero Academia, then I wouldn’t be surprised.

4. Badass Female Characters

Anime has a whole host of badass female characters. Very rarely are females just there for eye candy or damsels in distress. Instead, a lot of them are independent badasses in their own right. When it comes to anime, women occupy a whole host of roles, from supercop to soldier to a vampire hunter. For every strong male archetype, there is a female who occupies that role as well. Examples include Rebecca “Revy” Chang from Black Lagoon, Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail, Sailor Moon from her titular series, and Riza Hawkeye from Fullmetal Alchemist and its more manga-faithful adaptation Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

3. Its Increasing Influence on Western Culture

Whether you realize it or not, the anime industry has become increasingly influential on its western counterpart. It is very likely that the western animation industry would not be as successful without its oriental bother. It is thanks to the success of anime that anime conventions started popping up in the west.  In addition, a lot of popular animated shows take significant cues from anime, the most prominent of which are Avatar: The Last Airbender, its sequel series The Legend Of Korra, the original Teen Titans, and The Boondocks.

2. Well Fleshed Out Characters

Anime is well known for giving us a lot of memorable characters with many different backstories, origins, and narratives that have the potential to go anywhere. The end result is a lot of unpredictable stories and some of the most iconic characters of all time in fiction, up to and including villains. Some examples include Tanjiro Kamado from Demon Slayer, Light from Death Note, and Aizen from Bleach.

1. There Is Something For Everyone

Anime is like a candy store: You can spend as much time as you want to search through it, and you are bound to find something that you like. The choices of subject matter are infinite, so whether you are into action, romance, fantasy, or just a plain slice of life, there is bound to be something you can enjoy. You can select a series based on genre, demographics, or series length, and you are bound to find satisfaction in it. In my next article, I’ll go over a rundown of the many genres of anime and few examples to go along with them.

So what do you think? Are you ready to give anime a chance?

Bibliography:

Ellis, Theo J. What Makes Anime So Popular On An International Level? (animemotivation.com). Publication Date Unknown. Accessed 29 May 2021.

Ellis, Theo J. The 10 Most Educational Lessons You Can Learn By Watching Anime (animemotivation.com). Publication Date Unknown. Accessed 1 June 2021.

Ellis, Theo J. Want To Know Why People Like Anime So Much? Here’s The Answer (animemotivation.com). Publication Date Unknown. Accessed 2 June 2021.

Sato, Yuu. Why Is Anime So Popular? – The Rising Of Japanese Cartoons (questionjapan.com) Published 27 September 2020. Accessed 2 June 2021.

“Top 10 Reasons Why Anime Deserves Respect.” YouTube, Watchmojo.com, 28 February 2016. Top 10 Reasons Why Anime Deserves Respect – YouTube

Amsferedo. How Has Japanese Anime Influenced the World? | Japan Info (jpninfo.com). Published 17 November 2015. Accessed 4 June 2021.

Aumen, Adriana. Japanese anime characters help teach language, culture skills | WSU Insider | Washington State University. Published  21 December 2018. Accessed 4 June 2021.

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