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The real beauty and the greatest downfall of anime as a whole is that it has something for everyone, and I do mean everyone. It has the school-themed Shoujo romance for the dreamy bookworm, the sports anime for the cheerleader, the punch-fest shonen anime for the young men, and the fanservice ecchi show for that creepy guy down the street who calls you sweetums when you’re at work (or for your average guy. Remember, no kink-shaming!)
It’s quite the accomplishment, worth a gold sticky star and a fresh spot on grandma’s fridge. But hold your horses, my gentle audience: why does anime have this pristine ability to pander to a wide and varied populace. Is it the vast amount of quality material? Not likely, given Sturgeon’s law. Perhaps it’s because anime is, in the simplest terms possible, balls-to-the-wall weird. The weirder, the more kinds of people you can convince to hop on the train to Crazy-Happy-Fun town.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Anime is the ultimate playground for stories because it isn’t afraid to go the extra mile in absurdity. The sky isn’t even the limit, you can fly right past that atmosphere and land on planet Xeno if you’re doing an anime.
If you can get past the different language and style of drawing, you’ll find that anime’s strange stories are experimental by nature, flexing the old’ creative muscles. Think of it like a mad science lab for stories, where bits and body parts of different kinds of narratives get stitched together to create some awesome Frankenstein abomination, and you, my lucky viewer, get to sit back and watch the carnage. The more body parts, the better the story usually gets.
Take One Piece for example. On the surface, we see a shonen anime, with plucky (and one-track minded) Luffy on his way to find the mother of all pirate treasures and become the King of the Pirates. But O.P’s claim to fame extends to the flashy, superhero-style powers of select characters: Luffy has Mr. Fantastic limbs, Buggy the Clown can disassemble his body, Alvida is super slippery, and so on and so forth. This, combined with a few sprinkles of drama and tragedy here and there, provides a character-driven, well written Pirate Story that reads like a soap opera and a superhero movie.
For another example, what do you get when taking a shonen skeleton, the flesh of a gothic horror story, some steam-punk arms, and legs, and give it some biblical robes? You get the awesome and strange story of Allen Walker in D. Gray Man, where exorcists use magical machines weapons to destroy evil demon-machines created by Noah’s descendants (totally serious.
So it would seem it’s just one more weird thing to come out of the land of the rising sun, right? Wrong. Most of what we find weird is a cultural lesson in disguise and an example of what happens when two very different countries try to cross their wires. If given a moment of examination, you’ll find that most of the weird can be translated back to an artistic (or parodic) part of Japanese society, an elegant form of art representing life. That’s not to say that every single one is something to be hung in a museum somewhere, but it’s worth the time to stew over if you really wanna understand what’s in front of you.
And, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and weird is just weird. Sometimes there is no significance behind the bizarre, and it’s just there for fun. One Punch Man features an average joe who can knock out giant monsters with one punch while G-Gundam routinely makes its protagonist yell “Shining Finger” at the top of his lungs every episode. They may/may not have some significance behind them, but I can tell you one thing: They’re both real fun to watch.
It’s just silly/weird for the sake of being strange, but that hardly makes it any less delicious. Much like the fun several of us had singing along to G.I Joe, buying oodles of violent toys, we’re having the time of our lives watching a Big O, where a hostage negotiator breaks out the giant robot when the chips hit the fan; or seeing a space alien enter earth through the forehead of a teenage boy, ala Fooly Cooly. If you aren’t having the time of your life, you’re taking it way too serious.
To draw my ramblings to a close, where would the true flavor of anime be without the strange stories that populate it? While it means that the creep at the mall can have ample access for female breasts to ogle, it also means that anyone can come forward and tell almost any story, opening the floodgates to limitless possibilities. So go ahead, wade the water and dive right in. You’ll be shocked to find there’s a unique piece with your name on it somewhere.
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