So being bored out of my mind being a first class NEET, a tweet from ImperialX with a picture regarding someone on watching anime for the plot came up.
What follows is a small exchange from me trying to defend my way of enjoying anime. Or rather, maybe trying to not hate it constantly. :P
Now, looking back at some of the shows that I love for being plot driven, there’s actually very few that is solely plot-driven, in the sense that it’s deep and thought provoking. The more I look, the more that I see what I find “good” compared to slice of life anime and its companions is some degree of over-the-topness and/or progression. The keyword here I think is progression.
Before that though, lets go on a history lesson: me.
Truth be told, I can’t remember what show made me fall for anime. Maybe if you torture me in some way, but by then I would be flooded by adrenaline and other kinds of hormones and shitting brix that I might still not remember. But if I had to guess though, it could be something Gensomaden Saiyuki and Vandread. After that, all manner of other shows at that time, at least those that aired on that small section of anime on AXN on Saturday morning, before it expands into Animax Asia.
I still honestly can’t remember what I watched, other than that I stopped for watching too much of the same thing on most new anime. It could be that K-On! was the last straw, or at least the trigger that made me bored afterwards. Either way, I was forced away from anime for a forgotten length of time.
Fate has it though that I somehow stumbled upon Sayonara, Zetsubou sensei somehow, which currently my only anime that’s truly close to my heart. And then it’s all history; I was hooked for some reason, seeing it as something very new, very different. Very edgy, I might say.
Somehow that translate to me looking for plot-driven anime. Maybe I tried looking for anime that’s not plot driven that’s edgy in some way, and failed. And honestly, looking at my MAL anime list, and sorting it by airing season also doesn’t help much in gleaning my changed interest. Gundam SEED and Destiny obviously aired earlier that SZS, but by my memories, I think I watched SEED first while it was airing on local TV station (complete with funky local dubbing) and Destiny kind of parellel with SZS maybe. Both Vandread seasons obviously aired during the early Animax period, that I can remember fairly well, but that was before I stopped watching for the first time. And even more compounding is of course that, yes K-On! started 2 years later after SZS originally aired.
It’s all a mess really, but if disregarded for a bit, I could see a pattern. I traveled back in anime time, watching shows that I missed when I stopped watching. Eureka Seven, FMA, Serial Experiment Lain. These were I assume the shows that convinced me to watch anime for the plot.
But apparently, I was wrong. I grew frustrated trying to do so, what with the focus Japan has is always somehow not something that I want. I would want to blame on some harem anime or moe something, but honestly, it’s probably my expectations that are wrong. As seen in my tweets, I was enamoured with Japan’s style of animation. Western animation, for whatever reason at that time, tend to be kids-focused. Of course, I do have fond memories of some of the shows that aired during the 90s and 00s, but somehow, I see something in anime that I don’t in Western animation.
I come to realise that anime is probably not fit for what I want it to be: a sci-fi, deep and thought provoking, sometimes headache inducing medium. Yes there are some that fit bits of what I wanted but never like that. I start abandoning, while not fully, that notion and go for plot. It works, I think, to an extend. Shangri La, FMA:Brohood, Katanagatari, Bakemonogatari; just look for “plot” driven anime from 2009 onwards. Those are probably some that I came back too in 2010 or something, but still. Sure, I’d argue; not that I would if you pressed me though; that some of the shows there are good plot driven anime, but mainly I feel that the characters, story or something other didn’t remain stagnant, which is why I dropped anime once. Something always progress. And that I may have convinced myself to believe that progression in a show is plot in some eldritch way.
Parallel to all this though, ”over the top” came to view. This is probably where Code Geass and Seto no Hanayome, and *gasp* Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann very later on. And as they say, after that it’s history.
So how does this all ties up? How does this relate to ImperialX’s point in the first place? My rambling suggests that solely watching anime for plot is ultimately frustrating. I don’t watch a lot of western media because of anime and manga; although I do dabble in some novel-reading, but that’s hardly anything if all I’ve done is Harry Potter series, Starcraft and Halo novels, Warhammer 40K fluff and some other science/fantasy fiction novels. Also all those blockbuster movies like LotR, and uh… some other stuff. Gah!
Right, anime is bad for solely plot, sure. Occasionally there will come an anime that some people take risks by going against the grain of safe mediocrity, but that’s hardly good enough since those don’t sell enough that it’s a deterrent for others to try. Not worth holding your breath for that. My solution, apparently, is to go crazy, or at least for the crazy. Epitomized, I think, by my worshipping of SZS, and further strengthen by my other top rated shows (9 and 10). It doesn’t have to make sense most of the time (Madoka Magica maybe?, Jinrui fits too I guess), it doesn’t have to have plot or progress apparently (Nichibros, Symphogear). Crazy is the go to thing now.
Lets go with some examples. Madoka Magica,
a deconstruction of the magical girl genr- huehuehue I’m not going that way. It’s very simple really, magical girls are suffering, and constantly. That’s different enough, crazy enough in my eyes, to be enjoyable, damn the plot and all. Humanity Has Declined is something more straight forward: very diabetic looking but contrasted with dark humour. A trait shared by my beloved SZS so up it goes on the altar. Nichibros: I don’t know why its humour works but it just does; while some of its episodes does fall flat, others are enough for me, all equally carried on the backs of over the top honestly one-note characters and their over the top reactions. Symphogear is honestly a mystery. I disliked the first season, somehow loved the music from it, even though is just electronic flavoured J-Pop, and now I’m in love with the second season… Crazy disregard for plot logic is all I can say, on top of the somehow delectable J-Pop.
How about, JJBA 2012, the most awesomest and most deserved manga adaptation since I first laid my eyes on it. I loved JJBA before it was cool, from the ridiculously horrendous Phantom Blood art style era, to the holy-shit-WTFOMGBBQ “plot” of Steel Ball Run. Provided though that I haven’t watched any of the old OVAs, but why? I loved the source.
More now-mainstream would obviously be Shingeki no Kyojin. You’d be blind or your head up your ass being too elitist if you can’t see how I won’t love this. Over the top is plastered all over it. Same goes for Kill La Kill albeit that it didn’t receive normobs’ acclaim as Shingeki did.
Having said all of the above though, and considering that I recounted all these as isolated as I managed from other external forces, I guess I finally can come to peace with my internal conflict now regarding my anime watching habits. Will this be enough? Who knows. Maybe there will be another Winter 2013 or Fall 2013, where over the top silliness almost reigned supreme. Maybe I will drop following current anime and travel back in time again (realize that NGE isn’t in my completed list on MAL). Whatever the case though, craziness is my guiding light from now on, and my anime world may finally be at peace.
Thanks too to ImperialX for being the trigger. Wish he could write more.