(Why, if I love anime so much, don't I read the manga? Isn't the book always better than the movie? Well, I just don't like the graphic novel format compared to the animated series format. And anyway, by all reports, anime tend to follow their manga far, far more closely than any movie ever followed a book.)
InuYasha, a story about 15 year-old Japanese school girl Kagome who goes through a magic well and finds herself in the Feudal Era where she meets and teams up with a half demon called Inuyasha to find all the shards of the Shikon jewel before the evil demon Naraku can use it it make himself more powerful. In one sense it's a pretty straightforward action/adventure fantasy story. There's lots of fighting and lots of people with cool powers. (After watching and loving nearly 200 episodes of InuYasha I still cannot bring myself to swing a sword without shouting the name of Inuyasha's signature move: "Wind Scar!!") But on another level it's the very emotional journey of a group of people whose lives have been irreparably altered by the power of the Shikon jewel which inspires terrible acts of hatred and greed wherever it is found, even just a piece of it. (I highly recommend it.)
That's the great thing about manga/anime. There are always multiple levels.
On the surface anime is generally flashy and fun, down and dirty storytelling. It doesn't mess around. It knows what it is and it isn't afraid to play by its own rules. Those are: 1. all fights are liable to take place over the course of several episodes because all the participants do a lot of talking in between actions. 2. all characters who get into violent conflicts on a regular basis have at least 10x the amount of blood that normal people have. 3. whenever possible, do everything with style. 4. the phrase "less is more" has no meaning here. More is always more. 5. drama and comedy go hand in hand. 6. anything can happen. 7. there tend to be a lot of very, very pretty men and boys and very, very well endowed women and girls.
|Eye candy from InuYasha: Sesshomaru|
(There are more principles of anime, I'm sure. But that's what I can think of off the top of my head.)
But despite all the style and flashiness, excitement and fun that makes up the top layer of anime, there are many, many other layers to explore. But for heaven's sake let's be simplistic and only talk about a couple of layers today. Let's talk about story in general.
I can no longer think of many movies made by Hollywood in recent years that weren't entirely willing to kick good storytelling to the curb in favor of flashy special effects and stylistic flair. Anime is not. The animes that I have watched so far have all been incredibly well rounded in the story department. Superb visualization and conceptualization of the setting, deep and meaningful characterization, forward moving and compelling plot, and thematically rich.
Over and over again I have been continually amazed to find that the best new stories I have experienced over the last couple of years have been in anime format. I think manga/anime is getting a lot of things right that a lot of people over here in the west have forgotten. I'd like to do some posts where I highlight my favorite animes and the aspects of storytelling that they excel in.
Have you watched any anime? If so, what are your favorites and what do like best about their storytelling?