On liking shallow anime


Over here in anime fandom, we’re fond of reminding outsiders that anime is “more than cartoons.”

Sure, it was a little more difficult to discern that back in the days that Blockbuster grouped anime for kids, anime for teens, and sometimes even hentai together all in the same ANIME category. But today, it’s generally accepted that there are varied shows for every audience, whether you’re into science fiction or you’re five years old.

And some anime can be really deep. People write actual theses on what happened in Evangelion. It’s easy to see why an anime that tackles theology is “more than cartoons.”

However, confession time. Like many of my readers who happen to be attracted to man abs, I am really into Free! right now. I can’t wait until later today when I get to see Anime Ryan Gosling, Shota, and the rest splash and frolic in the water.

It might be premature to say this, but I don’t think anyone’s going to write a book on the symbolism and sociological insights in Free! It’s just manservice.

From Lucky Star to K-On, anime without depth is nothing new. Within the anime community, we all admit we watch it and love it. But outside our group, it kind of puts us on the defensive. “That’s not what ALL anime is like!”

I got the idea to write a post about liking “bad” or “flawed” anime from Anime Yume, and she in turn got the idea to write about it from Froggykun. It’s a popular topic because we all feel a little bad. After all the progress we’ve made highlighting the creative and intellectual gems to come out of anime, it feels like a betrayal to indulge in anything else.

From a big picture perspective, shallow anime doesn’t negate the whole genre. I mean, just because the Western world is responsible for the likes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo doesn’t eclipse modern classics like Donnie Darko. And while that argument seems obvious now that I’ve written it down, it feels a little less defensible when I’m trying to promote a fandom that outsiders already know I’m really passionate about.

What is your favorite “bad” anime and do you ever feel guilty for enjoying it?

  • manubibi

    I feel like Free! is getting too much unnecessary criticism. After all, “shallow” anime or better, anime with lots of fanservice have always existed. And actually, once anime were just made for entertainment, or were mostly watched for entertainment. And sure, Evangelion and Madoka Magica are my faves because they’re really deep but one cannot possibly always watch shows like that, because ultimately people need to just relax sometimes. K-On was a really decent show, and speaking as a girl I wasn’t bothered by the yuri subtext and fanservice because it was actually a good show, with good animation. Why is it that when guys watch stuff with lots of fanservice it’s okay but when girls get one title out of hundreds that caters to them suddenly they’re criticized because it’s shallow or whatever? This fact speaks volumes. And I don’t necessarily wanna get into feminism or any of that, but why girls should be judged for ogling over almost naked guys? Men do that all the time, and actually most of the times they pick shows based on the tits factor and if there are no tits they’ll just ignore the shows.
    It’s hypocritical to criticize Free! for being shallow when probably all the people complaining now have praised and rewatched K-On dozens of times since it came out. And I think that most of the people who watched Evangelion didn’t understand it even slightly if they still act like they’re entitled to decide what producers should do.

    • gundamguy

      A lot of what you said had merit. However I can not help but completely disagree with this statement.

      “Men do that all the time, and actually most of the times they pick shows based on the tits factor and if there are no tits they’ll just ignore the shows.”

      You’re doing a disservice to men (and women) everywhere by making such generalizations. Maybe some men do that… but not all men, and not all the time.

    • http://www.otakujournalist.com Lauren Orsini

      @manubibi I’m glad you enjoyed K-On! I love a good yuri romance, but in the four episodes of K-On I watched, they hadn’t established very strong relationships between the characters (that I could tell). Much like with Free! it seems like subtext and you “see what you want to see!”

  • http://www.patrickhogan.net phogan

    Going back even farther, there was a time when the 5-6 anime VHS tapes Blockbuster had were in the “Special Interest” section along with Jane Fonda workout tapes, video instruction on resanding your deck and other things that didn’t fit anywhere else.

    I watch a lot less anime now then I did when I was younger. These days I tend to get that kind of guilty pleasure feeling anytime I watch anime. I recently caught up on Attack on Titan, which was probably the first anime series I’ve seen since Fullmetal Alchemist:Brotherhood, and I find myself sighing anytime there’s an extreme closeup of an eyeball oozing tears like puss, or a character makes some declaration about their goals and ideals and everyone watches in awe, jaws agape. But I still enjoy it in spite of these things.

  • http://www.genjipress.com Serdar

    From what I can tell, the only people bagging on “Free!” are the people who feel like they wouldn’t want to be caught dead watching (let alone enjoying) it. Most of them male.

  • scottfrye

    I think its great that women have a show where they can ogle at the male characters. Men have had this stuff for years so it’s about time women can enjoy the things us men have taken for granted. There should be more made.

    I think its perfectly fine for women to enjoy shallow anime. Don’t be scared to say you do. (I sure am not.) Enjoy away and ignore the hypocritical men because, as you may know, they’re idiots.

    This all being said, I don’t plan on watching Free. It doesn’t look like something I would enjoy. The manservice is a part of the reason but not the only one. I’m limiting myself to just 5 shows this season so I can tackle my backlog. It is gigantic.

  • Zoe Le Loir

    I get a kick out of guys who rage against Free! as they’ve had the same fan service for a long time and often in rather large quantities.

    I greatly enjoyed Lucky Star and K-ON! a great deal. Heck, the playlist I listen to most of the time has all the songs that came out of it.

    As manubibi said, there was some yuri subtext in K-ON! but it didn’t bother me… Then again (and here is my guilty pleasure) I’ve watched and greatly enjoyed Strawberry Panic…

    I’ve had times where I’ve been put a bit on the defensive about watching anime. It always throws me a bit off balance doing so when talking to someone. However, when getting to know someone I eventually mention that I watch anime.

    LOL The oddest defense of anime situation I ran into was about four weeks ago. A friend had started a thread about something or other. I think animated movie recommendations. I mentioned Spirited Away and one of my friend’s friends jumped on me for it. I said what’s the problem with anime. He started going off on how he didn’t want his children to “learn about anal from a cartoon!” He never did answer me when I asked him just what the hell anime had he seen in the past. LOL

    • http://www.otakujournalist.com Lauren Orsini

      @Zoe, I’ve luckily managed to avoid the corners of the Internet where men are raging against Free!, so far! My pressure is mostly internal. After years of trying to convince people that anime isn’t all unsavory stuff like your friend believed, I worry I’ll look like a hypocrite for enjoying this pointless manservice.

      I would love the know WTF your friend was doing to think Spirited Away isn’t OK for kids!

      • Zoe Le Loir

        @Lauren: I’ve mainly seen the rage on 4chan’s anime section. Every so often there are interesting comments, but I really just browse it looking for images to download of anime I like.

        I’m a hoarder, but at least my hoarding only takes up hard drive space. :)

        I have no idea what that guy was thinking. Th e only thing I can figure is that he saw some hentai crap and now thinks *all* anime consists of that stuff. Otherwise I have no idea. Heck, I posted a link to info on Spirited Away…

  • gundamguy

    A male perspective on Free!

    I think it’s great.

    I also think that the debate about Fanservice is all wrong.

    Fanservice over time became the acceptable thing to do. It’s sort of like an standard practice at this point. But I didn’t see guys saying. Geeze I would have liked this show more if it had more Fanservice and people clamoring for it… Would Batman the Animated Series be a better show if it had more fanservice?

    The question should be why did such overt sexuality become acceptable and how do we change it.

    I’d love to see more shows that stand on their own artistic merits and not on sex appeal.

    • Zoe Le Loir

      @gundamguy: Well said. :)

  • Rowango

    I’m a shameless Dragonball Z fan. I will tell people “I know it’s poorly written, has terrible animation in places, and has glacial pacing in parts, but you know what? I still love it.”

    Having said that, it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate great anime like Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Dennou Coil or FMA:BH. I also love these shows, but for completely different reasons.