When you are a kid and are trying to escape from real-life problems, the first thing you tend to do is to watch cartoons. Cartoons put a smile on your face and make you forget about your troubles, even if it is for a short amount of time. As we have grown up, for most of us another form of entertainment is providing us with those same feelings, and it is none other than anime.
The first question that comes to mind is...how has anime immersed itself into popular culture? To understand this, it is important to know the first animes that came into the States.
Anime first made its way into our television screens as early as 1964 with the introduction of Astro Boy, followed by Gigantor, Kimba the White Lion, Speed Racers, and more. While the aforementioned shows were popular, it wasn’t until Toonami that anime really took off in the United States. The holy trinity that played a part in this were Pokemon, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball Z. The positive reception of these three shows led to the arrival of other shows of a similar nature like Cowboy Bebop, Yu Yu Hakusho, Inuyasha, Naruto, One Piece, and more.
Pretty soon, anime carved a fan base in the States, creating a new community, which then lead to the rise of anime conventions and cosplay culture. Convention culture was already in existence because of Star Wars and Star Trek. However, one can make an argument that the growing popularity of anime conventions has put them on equal footing with classics like Star Wars and Star Trek, including entities in the DC and Marvel Universe.
Why is anime so attractive to people? There are many reasons, but the first is because animes tell stories that you are not likely to find in American animated shows, as most of them are made for young children.
Examples of three shows that I think tell interesting stories are:
Sword Art Online - Explores the idea of gaming and virtual reality, including the psychological impact it can have on people.
Sound! Euphonium - Deals with a struggling high school concert band club and how, with the arrival of a new advisor, the members of the club readily improve their skill sets and begin competing in national tournaments.
Shirobako – Explores how anime gets created and what some of the different roles and aspects are that go into putting together a show--whether it is the recording process, storyboarding, key animation, etc.
The second reason why anime is appealing to people is because there is always something for everyone. Anime is referred to as a genre, but I would argue that it is a medium that can be used to tell stories that appeal to all demographics. You can find horror shows, romantic comedies, action, drama, and more under anime. Every individual is likely to find something that they will enjoy.
Anime has become so ingrained into popular culture that it goes to show that when you keep an open mind and give things a chance, you are likely to find hidden gems that will positively enrich your life.
Photo credit: Dex Ezekiel