Hello my fellow Millenials, long time no post, sorry for that but i’m sure as you all know the world is continually going to Hell in a handbasket! But we’re not here for a geo-political rant today. No, just animation! Fun right!? Well yes and no. You see today we will be discussing how a specific genre of animation and comics has negatively effected many’s understanding of the mediums. So without further ado let’s get this controversial topic underway!
Animation at its core as the name implies is visual medium. It is the culmination of sound, color, music and movement on the screen to create a scene. It is an idea given life! A medium that can lead to infinite possibilities for creativity! But what happens when someone merely looks at animation through a narrow lense? Well you get Shonen anime.
Now if you’ll put down those pitchforks and allow me to explain I shall. Obviously as I just pointed out this is not a slight against Japanese animation as a whole but merely one genre. And this is solely based on how it has presented itself for decades and how it executes its narrative. So let’s dissect the problems with this particular pop-culture phenomenon.
First off, and the largest offense by far is the overabundance of exposistion. One of the great things about animation and comics is that you can use a multitude of tools to tell a story or set a scene. For many animations things like visual ques, music ques or a characters facial expressions & body language can say a mouthful without saying anything at all in both animation and comics. This is something that has been used in animated films and series from around the world for decades! Shonen anime and manga however forgo this by excessively narrating every little thing which is the equivalent to holding the audiences hand the entire way through. Of course in any narrative there can be a place for exposition but when the majority of your series is filled to the brim with it, it does become rather problematic and down right insulting to the audiance.
Another problem with this approach is that this narriration in part seems to be some pale attempt to justify the ridiculousness of what is going on in the panels or on the screen, which in itself is a ludicrous notion as animation and comics are supposed to be ridiculous! Trying to add some form of seriousness through excessive exposition only showcases the insecurities you have in your work. Animation is supposed to be whimsical and flat out insane. That is something that should be worn as a badge of honor. Not something you awkwardly try to justify! As Grant Morrison once wrote “an adult will ask why a crab is talking but a child will simply tell them because it’s a cartoon.”
This approach is also dangerous because it can dull viewers ability to pick up important moments brought on by by music or the importance of characters facial expressions and body language as was previously mentioned.
Then of course there’s the lack of proper symbolism. Look in contrast to series like Utena or even the much beloved FLCL or Evangelion which do weave important visual symbolism into the overall narrative. This is near absent in shonen and is not a good thing.
And of course the final offense is the fact most shonen anime are based on shonen comics which follow very rigid structures in how the narratives flow and play out. Moving from one story-arc to the next. Thus when an animated adaption does any story not directly adapted from that material it is considered “filler” and unimportant. This has led to a wider misconception that any episode of any animated series that doesn’t focus on an overarching narrative is “filler” which is innacurate and untrue as filler is not something that exist in Western or European animation. This narrow view on how stories can progress is more harmful to animation and comics is more harmful then helpful overall and shows a general lack of understanding of how animation and comics work as a medium as a whole.
Then of course there is how your typical shonen anime gets much less accomplished in its run time then most cartoons do in their 3-12 minutes, but that’s another rant for another time.
To end on a positive note however actual content creators today seem to do a good job of integrating the elements from anime *cough magical girl* cough and other mediums comics, cartoons, literature, film, etc. That fit their style of animating and storytelling quite well!
I should probably go deeper into animation theory as a whole, but I’m typing this on my phone and i’m sure you could find some books on the subject at your local library, so happy hunting!
In closing remember, you have every right to like whatever you wish, but it is important to acknowledge the faults and potentially dangerous flaws in the media we consume. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful rest of your weekend!