Anime and Sturgeon’s Law

Crunchyroll, I want you to know that you are entirely to blame for both this and the following article. Curse you and your app for providing easy, free and legal access to the source of my latest woes.

Well, this is almost as unexpected for me as it is for you. Suffice to say that my consumption of a recent show has awakened somewhat of a fury in me, and that I’m putting my already late review process on hold for the next day or two so I can get this off my plate.

Like I did with music, I will begin with a blanket statement and qualify it from there. Statement: I hate Anime. Qualifier: Most of it. It’s a bit of a simpler affair than the previous round, and in fact it’s not as ultimate an indictment of the whole genre as it may seem. I put “Sturgeon’s Law” right in the title for a reason. If you don’t know Sturgeon’s Law, it is this: “Ninety percent of everything is crap”. That’s it. Anime’s not a unique snowflake when it comes to percentage of awful tripe. If I had access to television, I’m sure I could switch it on right now and be repulsed by almost every show I catch sight of. The difference is simply the nature of the annoying habits that explain an awful lot of that ninety percent. We have that whole “different culture” thing going on, after all.

Whenever I refer to these habits, it’s usually some variation on “Idiotic Anime Crap”. But, thanks to this article allowing me to get my think on, I’ve just come up with an acronym to serve my purposes henceforth.

Juvenile
Asinine
Pandering
Anime
Nonsense

Don’t take this as me saying that everything that comes out of Japan is JAPAN. Japan comes out with some amazing things, but the vast majority of Anime comes with varying degrees of JAPAN.

I’ll first elaborate on one of the minor offenders. I shall dub it “budget animation comedy”. This is the practice of presenting an emotion or action in a simple but very exaggerated fashion, usually with the intent of providing humour, often with bombastic sound effects. If you’ve ever seen a giant, single sweat drop lurking around a character’s head, you’ve seen an example of budget animation comedy. It’s an incredibly prevalent device -it rears its head in some of the best shows Anime has to offer- and it’s not hard to understand why it’s so common. It’s cheap and easy to animate, and it gives a lot of room for slapstick gags. Shock horror, it can even be done well.

Regardless, I don’t like it. It cheapens almost everything it touches- metaphorically as well as literally. It’s the kind of thing you find perfectly acceptable watching Pokemon while you grow up. That’s just the thing: the shows that people outside of Japan associate with budget animation comedy are shows targeted towards children. And yet even when you move the age bracket up several years, budget animation comedy is every bit as common. In these cases, it can be incredibly jarring; for example, picture a scene in which a shady underground group have kidnapped a character’s brother and are pressing him for information. The leader of this group is essentially a monster in the shape of a human that can regenerate and recover from any bodily damage. Minutes before, he had a cohort prove this by smashing his head with a hammer. The aforementioned character has tracked down this group and is confronting them. Then the group leader calls this character short and he responds by losing most of his facial detail and screaming “WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT”. This is an actual thing that happens in one of my favourite shows of all time, and I wish it would just go away. It may be a minor level of JAPAN, but abolishing it entirely would sure make a lot of otherwise good shows easy to recommend.

Seeing as I’ve already spent way too much time on this, I will only give one other example for today. This one’s much further up the JAPAN scale, and can be summarised in a word that I regard as a complete misnomer. That word is “fanservice”. Although it can be used in other contexts, most often this “fanservice” applies to the practice of appealing to your audience’s baser instincts. Clothing design geared towards titillation rather than practicality, camera angles that seem juuust a little invasive, the occasional “hilariously” compromising situation – such examples are as common as dirt in all forms of media, and women are almost always the butt of the joke… Goodness gracious, I deserve to be shot for making that pun, unintentional or not. I will have to settle with just leaving it there, that’s punishment enough.

You may call me conservative (as long as you’re not referring to the American political party), but I utterly despise fanservice. I imagine it like a businessman being paid to stand in front of me at the cinema, waving pornographic magazines in my face while screaming “YOU LIKE THIS, DON’T YOU! THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME HERE FOR!”

Now, in some ways your average Anime is less explicit than a lot of stuff broadcast on the telly every day over here. At the same time, some fanservice goes along paths that would be expressly frowned upon here. For instance, there an overwhelmingly creepy tendency towards using underage characters as a source of fanservice. Here’s a question: how much anime is focused entirely around schoolgirls? I’d really like a percentage on that one. I’m sure a lot of it is perfectly innocuous. I know from what I’ve seen and read that a considerable amount is not. And to be clear, High School age is not the lower limit. This isn’t even boxed into a separate category from the rest of Anime; it can rear its head in shows that have nothing whatsoever to do with any manner of school. Sometimes it’s justified with a bit of convenient wizardry: “No see, she may look ten but she’s actually ten thousand so it’s OKAY to-” You know what, I am going to cut off right there. This is a dark place. I don’t want to be here any more.

In summary. Yes, Anime thoroughly adheres to Sturgeon’s Law. I hate maybe just a little over ninety percent of it. I hate the Juvenile Asinine Pandering Anime Nonsense that fills that ninety percent (and taints much of the ten percent) with an even greater intensity than Soap Operas and “Reality” TV. And tomorrow, I will hopefully finish a feature on an anime that has drawn my special ire, for all of its JAPAN and more. This article was originally intended to be that feature, but I had enough to say about Anime as a whole to warrant this spin-off. Watch this space.

-Jesse

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