Latest posts by Ray Nichols (see all)
- Anime Attic – Your Name (Kimi No Na Wa) (2016) Review - 23rd April 2017
- Anime Attic: Lights, Camera, Live Action! - 29th March 2017
- Anime Attic: Getting On The Same Page - 23rd February 2017
Welcome everyone to the all-new column Anime Attic! Every month, we’re going to delve into subjects ranging from the rise of anime in the U.S. to drilling deep on themes in specific titles. (Just wait until the story on Midori-Shōjo Tsubaki, that’s a doozy!)
So to kick it all off, let’s do a little history lesson. Wait. Scratch that. To really get us all going in the same direction, let’s get some terminology specific to anime out of the way. However, if you’re an Otaku or Weeaboo with your own borderline Hentai doujinshi, then you probably think I’m baka for rehashing this. If that’s the case, please skip down for a bit of my personal history with anime. For everyone else, welcome to a whole new world!
Anime – This is a real blanket term for almost any kind of Asian animation. TV series, movies, mini-series.
Baka – Basically it means “stupid”. This comes up often on comment threads. Be aware.
Bento – The best way to serve lunch! (My opinion of course) Basically a box lunch. This comes up a lot!
Chibi – This can also be defined as super-deformed. Small, child-like. Big heads, small bodies.
Doujinshi – We all know this one already as fan-made stuff, slash fiction, fan-films, etc. Typically this refers specifically to fan-made manga.
Ecchi – This is a big one. It’s kind of like, the Three’s Company of the anime world. Funny with heavy sexual overtones without getting too graphic. Others would call it a tease, or Hentai-Lite.
Fan Service – Remember the infamous scene in Basic Instinct with Sharon Stone? The crotch shot? You didn’t really see anything, and it really didn’t need to happen for the story to move forward, but damn did it get attention. Yeah, it’s kind of like that. Something stuck in there that really didn’t need to be, but gets fans’ tongues wagging. In anime it’s panty shots or boob physics most of the time.
Fan Subs – Bless the fan subs! Without this there would be many anime lingering in the native language, while us non-native speakers have to speculate at conversation. It can lead to some funny interpretations for the sub-titles, but that’s ok. Thank you fan subbers!
Harem – A real sub-genre here. One person is inundated with the opposite sex. Romantically or otherwise. Usually has three or more ganging up on one. Can be any combination of sexes as well.
Hentai – Hoo boy. Here we go. This is literally the porn of anime. You think regular anime is crazy? Throw in incredibly insane sexual action, and yeah. Tentacle porn. ‘Nuff said.
Lolita – Western sensibilities tend to associate Lolita with underage shenanigans. While not unwarranted, this actually refers to a style of dress. Victorian era dress to be precise. Like an old fashioned doll. Not to be confused with Lolicon (Google that one at your own risk).
Magical Girl – Sort of self-explanatory. A genre dealing with magic that focuses on young girls or sorceresses.
Manga – This is truly where it all began. Bottom line is a manga is a comic. The formatting is a bit different. They are more like pocket digests and generally don’t come out nearly as often as an American comic. Manga is to anime as comics are to cartoons. The rich history and story of so many anime can be traced to their manga roots. Of course the manga almost always has more depth and character than the anime, but that’s expected. So if you see an anime you are really into, take the time to track down the manga. Totally worth it.
Mecha – Oh baby! Now we’re talking! Giant Battling Robots!! This is definitely one of my favorite genres. Transformers is the obvious analogue here, but it can encompass so much more.
Otaku – A super fan, a fanatic. The term can be applied to any fandom really, like fanboy or girl. Otaku is usually reserved for anime, manga or Asian culture though.
OVA(Original Video Animation) – OVA’s are an interesting facet of anime. They really don’t have any hard and fast rules. They can be supplemental episodes for a series, or a series themselves. OVA’s can be episode length or movie length. It’s just another type of anime, kind of.
Seinen – A genre dealing with young people mostly. We’re talking college age or new employee young. Not young adults as in teenagers, but that’s not out of the question. Typically deals with darker themes and tropes.
Shinigami – Contemporarily it means a “God of Death”. It’s always been the personification of death, more or less. Basically, nothing you want to tangle with.
Weeaboo – Similar to Otaku. Weeaboo is a person obsessed with Japanese culture. Definitely a negative term.
Yaoi/Yuri – These are genres that deal specifically with homosexual relationships. Yaoi for male and Yuri for female.
This is really a short, condensed list. There is a huge amount of terminology surrounding anime, I just tried to get a few of the more common ones to break the newbies in. Please feel free to drop some of your favorite terms in the comment section!
Now, come with me!
I struggled for a bit with what this first column should be. The first reaction was to make a reference guide to the different genres of anime. That quickly became an overwhelming list. 30 years ago anime was much easier to categorize. Back in the 80s you had things like Robotech, Macross, Mobile Suit Gundam, Vampire Hunter D, Fist of the North Star, Wicked City, Neo Tokyo, Akira, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Dragon Ball, Violence Jack, Bubblegum Crisis, Demon City Shinjuku, and so much more. This sampling is a lot easier to categorize, as it was back then. Action, magic, comedy. Easy.
Now though – the genres are as diverse as any other medium out there, possibly even more so! Do you remember the first time you got cable and were overwhelmed with the insane amount of choices that were available? That’s kind of what it’s like diving into anime nowadays. Action, Gore, Kids, Adult, Drama, Horror, Comedy, and every single combination you can think of – and many you could never imagine!
The thing is, the list above isn’t too far off from what was available here 30 years ago. Maybe if you lived in a bigger city with a more healthy import store, you could find some more. People might look back now and think that so much of it was around, but in the moment there really wasn’t.
My first exposure was to Robotech. It was broadcast at 6am over UHF weekdays. So if I got up early enough I could catch an episode before school. We were pretty fortunate here to get that. However, we also had a kick ass comic shop locally. They had a huge selection of import films on VHS you could rent for a few days at a time. They had lots of Hong Kong Cinema, and a quite a few anime. Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING was dubbed though. Everything was subtitled. Back then it was still the beginning of the anime invasion. Really horrid dubs could be found, but good lord they were bad. The talent of the voice actor was far less important than just getting some English voice-overs done for a release. Those were dark days.
I honestly think it was around the time that Ninja Scroll came out that things kicked into high gear. What an amazing film! Still, to this day, it is considered a triumph of animation. Great story, damn good artwork, and blood. Oh the blood! Sure there were other series that had plenty of gore, but Ninja Scroll found a perfect balance of gore and story that had a wide appeal. Now the imports really started rolling in – El Hazard, Neon Genesis Evangelion (there will be a whole column on this one!), Tenchi Muyo!, Ghost in the Shell, it just blew up!
Then in the late ’90s anime really started to enter the mainstream. It started to become much more common. The voice talents started shaping up, the subtitles were a whole lot better, and anime started seeing a wider distribution. Large cable channels like Cartoon Network started airing various animes, the selection at the video store broadened dramatically, and the internet pushed availability to astounding new highs. In the 2000’s it became virtually impossible to keep up with the flood coming from Japan. Every property became hot. Dragon Ball, Naruto, Pokemon, Bleach, One Piece, all of the Studio Ghibli films.
Now, in the 2010s, you can stream damn near everything ever made through the provider of your choice. Hulu,
Netflix, YouTube, take your pick. CrunchyRoll is the place to go for the largest selection,but it’s not really for beginners. Get some Death Note or Trigun in. Maybe catch Perfect Blue if you’re looking for a mind-bender. Once you get a feel for what you are into and have gotten a bunch of series’ under your belt, then it’s CrunchyRoll time.
OK. So have I pushed it enough how mind-boggling large the marketplace is for anime? Good. Now we can move forward. Where do we go from here you ask? Well I have a few ideas of course, but what would you, the readers, like? What will float your anime boat? Leave some comments below and let’s wander off together into a vision created in a child’s mind. Or in a tentacle monster’s mind. I’m open like that.
Until next time!