On the Pleasures of Anime


(AZUMANGA Daio) Hilarious hijinks in a half hour. (Picture sourced from Google.)

It’s strange that it’s taken me all this time to finally post an entry about anime. I’ve wanted to for a long time, but never quite knew how to begin (where, after all, can one intelligibly start when it comes to a subject that exercises one’s passions?).

I first discovered anime when I was in high school, and since then I’ve come to believe that a correlation exists between a person’s introspective tendencies and their preference for this Japanese art form. (Okay fine, there’s much of it that doesn’t qualify as art, but the minority that does arguably redeems the lot). It takes a genre of mind-bending elasticity to satisfy the imaginative excesses of people who spend an inordinate amount of time in their heads, and anime fits the bill with its usual abandonment of film’s default adherence to the conventions of realism. (Where else, for instance, would you find a teardrop used so effectively as an emotional barometer?)

I’m far from being an expert on the genre, however, having neither the time nor the resources to keep myself up to date on its voluminous releases. But when I do indulge in watching a series or two, I can spend two days straight watching back-to-back episodes, and another two days straight expelling the story’s psychic residues from my system. (I wonder if this happens to other people too: getting so caught up in a narrative’s characters and setting that they’re all you can think and dream about for days.)

In any case, because it seems rather anticlimactic to talk about anime without mentioning specific favorites within the genre, here are a few of mine:

Azumanga Daio. Originally a manga created by Kiyohiko Azuma, Azumanga Daio was adapted and released as an anime series in 2002. An endearingly eccentric cast combined with an episodic storyline marked by frequent forays into the absurd makes this my favorite anime series of all time. It’s just so . . . silly. And so cute! (Chiyo-chan, kawaii!!!)

Mushishi. Originally a manga written and illustrated by Yuki Urushibara, Mushishi was adapted and released as an anime series in 2005. Absolutely gorgeous visuals, a melancholic air and stories rooted in the supernatural make this a classic in my list.

Nodame Cantabile. Originally a manga written by Tomoko Ninomiya, Nodame Cantabile was adapted and released as an anime series in 2007. An eccentric love story combined with enough classical music to put Fantasia to shame makes this one of my top anime series ever.

Samurai Champloo. Created and directed by Shinichirō Watanabe, the maker of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo makes my list on the basis of sheer style alone. It doesn’t have the charm of Azumanga Daio, the atmosphere of Mushishi or the humor of Nodame Cantabile, but it’s very pretty to look at all the same.

Anything by Hayao Miyazaki. Hayao Miyazaki is God—and his creations transcend the genre of anime itself. I’m not even talking about his blockbuster successes here (an impressive collection that includes Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle). If all Miyazaki did was to produce My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro in Japanese), he would have already bequeathed a sizeable legacy.

I’ll let you know if I think of anything else.

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