Rupturing the stigma of anime

Anime is a potent medium. Sadly, however, it is one of the most misunderstood media there are. I believe this primarily stems from how it is introduced to most people. Often, casual anime fans introduce anime to their friends by inviting them to watch Naruto or Bleach. They will probably say that the fight scenes are awesome and well-crafted. Later on, however, a lot of these people will equate anime primarily to well-choreographed and astounding action as well as a medium that is incomparable to those recognized by many people to be at the pinnacle, such as literature, drama, poetry, and the like. Most of them will also quip that this medium is only focused only on kids, and thus appreciating or enjoying this medium is roughly equivalent to being retarded or puerile. I find that there are a lot of detractors of anime series primarily because of this.

It cannot be helped; what is often seen during morning shows are series targeted to kids, like Pokemon, Digimon, Naruto, Bleach, and their ilk. Most people disconnected with the anime medium often jump to conclusions, and therefore vehemently disapprove of their older sons and daughters appreciating the medium.

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Yes, because all anime are cute and cuddly shows.

I do believe the reason for this stigma with anime in relation to the different media is the fact that people introduce the anime that are already well-known. In fact, I do not find anything introductory when I speak of Naruto or Bleach to others, because they are primarily familiar with both series already. Most people just invite those who do not watch these series to watch these series so as to ‘introduce’ themselves to the anime world. Even before these people watch the series, however, they have a general idea that anime is supposed to be only action, supposed to be only for kids, or supposed to be puerile. The stigma forms.

It fails to be an introduction. Merely, what most people do is a review. They simply view again (and confirm) what was there on their minds.

The stigma builds up.

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HAI GAYZ LOOK AT TEH AKSHUN

What do I propose, then, to dispel this stigma with regard to anime being an inferior medium? I propose that a defamiliarization be in lieu of the ‘introduction.’ What do I mean by this? Those who plan to introduce anime into other people’s, or other friends’ lives must not show what can be commonly seen. This would merely act as confirmation to the inchoate ideas regarding anime these people already possess in their minds. Those who shall introduce anime must show a definition of anime that has not lodged itself on many people’s minds: anime as concept must be entirely novel. Instead of showing Naruto, or Bleach, or any other anime aired in the networks, truly introduce anime by showing Elfen Lied.

I am not kidding.

I did this to my classmates. Most of them are veritable anime fans, even until now, three or so years after my introduction. Instead of seeing cute characters acting cute, they saw a visceral beheading the very first scene. Instead of being overcome with a saccharine happiness, they were pervaded upon by a pathetic disgust and anger. Instead of seeing characters smile at the very end of the show, they saw a tragedy with the hope of redemption for those who remained.

Robots were not the focal point; ninjas, or superheroes were not the focal point; cutesy characters were not the focal point. Human characters were entrenched within a tragic chain of events, and the violence, while visceral and bloody, was not cartoonish in nature. Some of my squeamish classmates could not take it: some of them puked. Some of them cried, or turned away from some scenes with revulsion.

All of them, however, finished the series with me. Up to this day, all of them are still anime fans, and not merely casual ones at that.

P.S. Images were borrowed (stolen) from Maya’s post on Elfen Lied. Come back, Maya~

14 Responses to “Rupturing the stigma of anime”

  1. westbluef Says:

    I agree with your post.

    The problem with how people are introduced to anime is that fans will often use the shows that are popular in hopes that the people they are trying to convince will be swayed.
    Instead of using those that are really intended for children why not use the person’s genre of interest.
    Those who like horror should be introduced to Higurashi and/or Elfen Lied
    Those who like comedy, (well, that’s a long list)
    and so on, and so forth.

  2. Kljigen Says:

    Isn’t introducing Elfen Lied a little too extreme. For me, I don’t introduce any anime to my friends since i have no idea what they liked. Well, I’m also tired of people asking me to pass them anime when they can get it themselves so i usually tend to avoid introduction of anime at all. Even if i do, I would just say the popular titles like bleach or naruto, or even inuyasha to avoid them giving me a ‘huh?’ face.

  3. IKnight Says:

    Shock treatment is certainly a useful tool in ‘anime evangelism’, though I must admit that my own introduction to anime was the Cowboy Bebop movie (the action scenes were pretty good, even if it was a piece of well-animated fluff). I know a couple of guys who are big Naruto fans, but who came to the medium through (IIRC) GitS:SAC and Gundam (in some form).

  4. meganeshounen Says:

    Shock treatment, huh?

    Hasn’t anyone tried initiating people into anime by using more… “subtle” shows like anything that Studio Ghibli did? (Like Spirited Away….)

  5. Cameron Probert Says:

    I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad idea, but I think it depends on the person. I do agree that the popularity of a Pokemon, a Naruto or a Bleach just reaffirms the more negative opinion. But honestly, I’d rather start with something like a Cowboy Beebop or a GitS: Standalone Complex because it’s both immedeately accesible, intelligent and not the same old stuff.

    I do tend to find that there are other shows that cross over into a mass audience well, like Fullmetal Alchemist or even Witch Hunter Robin.

  6. Smashingtofu Says:

    I think that may be a little extreme, but whatever works I guess

    My biggest complaint with the mainstream manga turning into anime is the inconsistency that comes with it or any other show thats similarly inconsistent in the long run

    that to me, is the biggest deciding factor for the audience

    and is probably why Avatar is pretty successful (I tried to be a little biased against the show for personal reasons, still thought it was incredibly consistent and enjoyable)

    Well, except for pokemon, that series is just plain silly and is like a equivalent to Barney or something by Japanese standards probably : d

    Anyway, as far as defamiliarization goes, I’d prefer showing something else that doesn’t indulge too much into its own anime subculture, but like what Cameron says: it really depends on the person.

  7. Michael Says:

    Cowboy Bebop would have been an awesome introduction or defamiliarization to anime. The bad thing is, Philippine television immensely censored it and cut too many scenes that what was supposedly a 26-episode series practically ended in about 15. The show has already been stigmatized in Philippine television, but indeed, were it an introduction to people outside this country, I would agree, it’s a good start. 🙂

    I tried Elfen Lied, then. I guess it worked.

  8. westbluef Says:

    @Michael Well, we can always blame the MTRCB for it. I mean their standard for censorship really needs a little cleaning up because it has too many restrictions. (Those are the complaints from most of the film makers, directors, producers, etc. etc. etc. )
    So as you can see one of the reasons behind these “cuts” on Cowboy Bebop is because of the censorship standard imposed by said organization and the Network not wanting to get into trouble with it.(that’s why I did not get interested at it at first).
    Oh, and one last thing to note this organization is one of the 2 reasons why our media and local entertainment is bad really really bad (i.e. Zaido)

  9. Michael Says:

    westbluef,

    I agree, it has too many restrictions. While I know of this, I did not think it was relevant enough to be placed on the post. Cowboy Bebop was a sad loss to the prospective anime community of the Philippines.

    Now they want to destroy the name of Shaider, too. They already did it with Lupin and Sailor Moon. We are in a sad state of affairs.

  10. westbluef Says:

    ah well, the topic opened up my distress with our country >_

  11. westbluef Says:

    sorry about the double post (damn error)

    trying to convince others that there is more to anime than meets the eye is really impossible since the general idea of is just for kids. So unless the one your trying to convince is open minded and has some free time it will be almost impossible to tell them about such masterpieces.

  12. Michael Says:

    Best if you don’t use greater than or less than symbols to end the statement. It cuts it off. I’m glad someone still cares about the perception regarding anime in our country, though. 🙂

  13. Mike H Says:

    Actually Elfen Lied is the anime I first showed one of my roommates because I figured he’d dig the action in the first scene. We were both religious studies majors too so I knew he’d enjoy the opening song.

    I wouldn’t show it to anyone who I thought would throw up though… that just seems cruel.

  14. Michael Says:

    I started it off as a dare, because they were spouting nonsense about anime.
    Some of them couldn’t take it at times, but they kept on.

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