It’s not exactly that my love of anime has always been tied to a more academic examination of the medium, but it’s fair to say the development of my interest in the art of good critique and analysis of themes and cultural influences have developed concurrently with my exploration of the world of anime. Through reading Moe Sucks and some of The Patches articles I gained an appreciation of the subtler portrayal of gender roles and the implications that follow. From further readings of Altair and Vega I got a better understanding of the use of symbolism and more abstract techniques of storytelling.
Nothing really exemplifies this trend more than my recent reading of Azuma’s ‘Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals’. As well as taking analysis of cultural-historical influences a step further than I was used to, I learned a great deal about post-modernism and this, in turn, helped me take a huge step forward in understanding some eccentric elements of Otaku culture and generally gaining a much larger appreciation and understanding for the layers of meta-commentary and reference laced throughout many of the more recent shows.
It’s exciting, but it’s also been extremely surreal, delving deeper into, what is in the majority, a bunch of extremely silly cartoons. The thing is that the individual quality of the show has little bearing on the influences and ideas it expresses, and even the stupid manner in which it expresses its ideas can often be formed by a fascinating mix of influences and intentions.
I guess at the end of the day I just find it kind of funny. Not that I haven’t enjoyed deconstruction of classic literature or the like, but these bizarre tropey, often amateurish cartoons are what have given me the drive, the passion, to want to understand fiction in a more academic manner, and in many ways I’ve learned more about interpretation, intentionality, lenses and schools of thought than I ever did studying Dickens or Shakespeare.
Great stuff. I can say I’ve also gone through a similar transformation in thought as you did. Applying literary analysis to anime was something I discovered through blogs, but it wasn’t until I started reading academic literature about the subject that I really started to think clearly about anime as a medium. I’d always been simultaneously attracted to and repelled by otaku subculture, and even now I’m still very ambivalent about it, but it wasn’t until this year that I began to appreciate just how fascinating some of those poorly written cartoons could be.
I’m still trying to work out how to separate my intellectual curiosity from my critical thought, because right now I’m still going through that phase where everything seems really fresh and exciting again. Even anime I once thought were terrible have lustre to me, just from a simple change in perspective. I’d like to keep evolving and learning more about various things from anime, so perhaps it’s not such a bad thing that I’m not as concerned about separating the “good” from the “bad” in my mind.
One weird side effect (for me) is that I get a little frustrated these days with reviews that say something like “this anime is good because it doesn’t have the usual anime tropes”. It’s never struck me as good reviewing practice to define something’s merits by what it’s not, and I personally tired quickly of shows like Samurai Flamenco and White Album 2. They just didn’t strike me as well-written for what they were, in terms of their own goals. I think it’s refreshing that you’re critical of shows even the elitists seem to like, because an anime not feeling like anime is not a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card when it comes to applying critical standards.
With all that said, you seem to be updating your blog again so I will now promptly add you to my blogroll.
If I could like comments, I would like this one a few times over. Really, really agreed.
Re: updating, actually, wasn’t sure how active I’d be after Christmas, but actually this sounds like the kind of pressure I need. I won’t let you down Frog-kun!
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