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.