My Love Affair with Anime
My introduction to anime was quite possibly the worst introduction a person could have. I was in my 20s and someone told me about Legend of the Overfiend. My roommate and I watched it in horrified fascination…it was my first introduction to tentacle porn and exploding rape victims. The story made zero sense to me except that *spoiler alert* it was about cleansing the world. I’m not sure why they needed a demon to rape a bunch of women and have them explode when he came to make that happen, but it was a critical plot device and don’t question it. They made 2 sequels to that shit. My friend loved the first one so I tried to watch part 2 with her but when the third woman exploded on a giant tentacle penis, I was past done.
A few years later, a friend introduced me to Appleseed. The story held my attention but I was never compelled to watch it again, which means it was only okay. After that, I didn’t watch much of anything. In fact, I’m pretty open about my anime non-watching, so much so that people feel compelled to try to convert me into an anime fan.
Please stop. I’ll watch Hayao Miyazaki when I feel like it and not a moment sooner. Seriously.
For the uninitiated, there are five basic types of anime: shonen (young boys under age 15), shojo (young girls age 10-18), seinen (men age 15-24), josei (adult women), and kodomomuke (children) (Source: Kotaku, accessed March 28, 2016). I’ll be honest – until today I never knew these categories existed, and they are highly sexist, which is just more reason to ignore their existence. Now, the subcategories…
Thanks to Legend of the Overfiend, I was familiar with hentai, or erotic/porn anime. What I didn’t know was that anime came in the same subgenres as movies. So there are action, romance, sci fi, fantasy, thriller, westerns…there are as many types of anime as there are of books and movies. I’m almost ashamed of my ignorance of this. And then there are subcategories of the sub categories…and all I’m going to say is that hentai shit is transformative – I had no idea that tentacle porn was a thing and I’m still haunted by that knowledge.
What put anime actively on my radar was Attack on Titan. I know this series has been hyped to death, but it deserves it. If you like action stories with a ton of violence and a little bit of mystery, Attack on Titan is the business. I ended up watching it twice, and still occasionally pop back in for my favorite episodes. After that, I started asking for anime recommendations. I received a lot for Nana and was warned about “the feels”. At the time, I didn’t know what “the feels” were, and had no idea what to expect. In fact, I spent the first episode waiting for an attack, a fight, or some kind of mystical element. Instead, I found myself watching my first anime romance drama. Who knew?
After learning that I was ignorant as fuck about anime, I started really taking a look. Now, here’s where things got kinda fucked up for me. A lot of anime have some shitty ass tropes. If they have brown skinned people, they are racist caricatures or villains. The women are often damsels needing protection and rescue. There’s a lot of gratuitous nudity and panty shots. Also, incest is a thing. A big thing. An almost normal thing. Yeah, yeah, not all anime but that shit will punch you in the jaw and floor you because it will be very out of place. You will honestly think you missed an episode or three, it’s that out of place.
Unfortunately, that’s just the environment for Black people and women in most mass media and pop culture. Embrace the pain, folks. I cannot count the number if times I’ve ejected from an anime because some bullshit went down. One Punch Man, an anime I really enjoyed, broke my heart when they introduced Superalloy Darkshine. RWBY has maybe four brown people, only two speak, and the one with the most dialogue is a villain…not even the leader. She’s a badass, but a baddie badass who’ll probably get killed.
I tried watching Elfin Lied but the gratuitous nudity and weird incestuous relationship were wearing me out. Sword Art Online just fucking betrayed me in the middle of season one. I plan to deep dive into that sometime in the future. Tokyo Ghoul…Tokyo Ghoul was good. I love stories of duality and battling inner demons. The end kinda left me hanging, but overall it held my attention and made me thing. Plus, it lacked a lot of the previously mentioned problematic tropes. Of course, there are no brown folks, but if my only options for brown people are bad guys or Sambo characters, I think I’d rather not see any at all.
And that’s where I am with anime. Sometimes I compromise and continue watching problematic shit because I enjoy other aspects too much. Sometimes I outright eject from a series because I’ll be damned if I’ll willingly accept large quantities of oppressive imagery and characterization. Fuck THAT noise.
All I can do is choose things that sound interesting, recognize when my buttons are being pushed, and know that I have a choice. I can also keep my eyes open for those creators making inclusive anime that I enjoy. Fortunately, I’ve been keying in to some sites that report on that kind of thing as I search for things that represent people like me a bit more in pop culture.