A Response To Miyazaki: The Dark Side of Anime
“Anime Was A Mistake”
Every fandom has a dark side. This is nothing new. For every aspect of fandom where people can demonstrate a passion for their medium, there is always something negative that can take hold. Recently, influential director Hayao Miyazaki, made a claim that “anime was a mistake” which has been met with a wide variety of responses for anime fans and detractors alike. However, as things often are, this quote has been taken out of context and overly generalized. This article will explore the ramifications of the quote in more detail to promote better understanding of the controversy. We shall also delve into the possible ramifications this statement may create as a reflection on the anime industry and fandom.
In truth, this quote has been created to generalize what Miyazaki stated in early 2014. His specific concerns were with “otaku” and hardcore fans being reflective of the creative process of anime. He felt that many of the creators were pandering only to hardcore fan bases and not using reality as a basis for many series. This could be suggesting that many series feature characters who lack many basic human characteristics such as the ability to change and develop.
Miyazaki is one of the most influential people in Japanese animation. His work is so popular that it has even found mainstream success outside of Japan. This is rare among many creators of anime and manga. Even audiences with little knowledge or interest in anime tend to enjoy his work. This is due to his unique style. Though much of his work is fantastical in nature, he often draws directly from his own personal life experiences to create his characters. His stories are very grounded in the human experience. This may be why his work is more accessible to Western audiences. His comments suggest that he considers himself separate from the general anime industry.
In a sense this is true, as his work is more distinctive than most. However, his statement is naturally generalized. While there may be some problems with some anime produced, many of the series vary in audience, style and general quality. Statements like this could create an overly simplistic generalization of what anime is. It’s not that Miyazaki’s concerns were totally invalid, it’s just that the context has been rather overblown.
The Extreme End of the Spectrum
The concerns regarding pandering to hardcore fans are relevant to some extent. Still, this type of concept could be applied to any fandom. There are always going to be people on the most extreme section of the spectrum. Some fans may become obsessed with the properties they enjoy. It may go beyond collecting merchandise and attending conventions. Perhaps some fans will become so enthralled with certain shows or comics or games that they tend to socialize less directly with people. This is where Miyazaki may be suggesting that anime has some of these sociological symptoms. One significant example is the portrayal of women in many of these shows. They are often drawn in hyper stylized and unrealistic proportions. This may create image issues for young women who may start to emulate anime characters as the template for a healthy body. This is more common than one would think and potentially dangerous. In addition, these characters are often simplified and overly objectified. For some young viewers, this may create unrealistic views on personal interaction. If a fan allows their interests to take the place of normal social interaction, it could potentially interfere with a well rounded social life. This type of issue could be applied to any extreme in any fandom.
These types of series can also create a negative view on what anime is to those who aren’t aware of the vast varieties available. While some viewers may keep an open mind, the risk of a bad first impression is rather possible. It’s these types of issues which have constantly prevented anime from gaining more of a mainstream following. Though the medium has grown more popular in the west, there is still a major image correlated with focus on underdeveloped characters and too much focus on the pornographic. It’s important to understand that since anime contains a massive variety of series appealing to many viewers, that things such as hentai or only a small part of the industry. It would be like lumping in pornography with mainstream film in Hollywood. They are only related by the vaguest of general concepts and are seen as separate entities. Unfortunately, different types of sexual fan service (often with young girls) seems to appear in many series outside of Japanese animated pornography. These elements are placed in many series to help boost the appeal of the lowest common commentator. These elements may not be overly harmful in and of themselves, but the constant use of them helps create an image of all anime being associated with these tropes.
Looking to the Past to Understand the Future
Anime is a fantastic medium comparable to many others. Many fantastic stories have been told aiming at different genres, themes and demographics. There are so many different films and series that the assumption of putting it under one general definition associated with perversion is laughable. Unfortunately, anime is just another type of medium within geek culture to fall under such scrutiny. The media will often glorify the negative aspects to get a strong reaction from the public. The same could be said of comics in the 1950’s when it was implied that superheroes influenced vigilante behavior and homosexuality in youth. This has mostly been debunked. Table top role-playing games such as dungeons and dragons were once the subject of fear regarding the occult and satanic worship among teens. This was also blown out of proportion. Off and on, video games have been blamed for an increase in violence among the youth. This has been viewed as debatable at best. Miyazaki’s statement, which was taken out of context in any case, has some minor degree of truth to it. However, any medium has a few negative aspects that take the spotlight. Art, much like life, goes through cycles. There is always going to be some despicable stuff.
Ultimately, this was one man’s opinion on the industry. Though it does encourage anime fans to consider how their medium is perceived and the methods of production on various shows they enjoy.
What do you think? Leave a comment.