Whether its mecha, moe, fantasy, ecchi, action, or slice-of-life, many of us enjoy watching one type of anime or another. While updating my anime list one day, I noticed that the number of series that I’ve completed probably outnumbers everything that the members of my high school anime club had watched, combined. That got me thinking, what is it about anime that appeals to me and others?
I started watching anime at a young age with series such as Dragonball, Sailor Moon, and Rurouni Kenshin. What caught my interest back then were fanciful ideas of fighting evil and becoming a hero. In my teenage years, I started watching “harem” anime such as To Heart and Love Hina. Now I find myself grasping for series that offer anything new, exciting, or different (Mawaru Penguindrum, for example). What do all of the anime spanning my lifetime have in common? They provided a dream world that had what my world was lacking.
What child wouldn’t want to fight evil and be admired by his peers? What more could a teenage boy want than the exclusive attention of a group of pretty girls? What more could an office worker want than a little burst of something weird and wonderful? Heroes are in no short supply within western cartoons, which is probably why children don’t tend to show a preference for either western or Japanese shows. From reading the replies I got back from the “My History with Anime” project, it seems clear that while many anime fans are exposed to the medium as children, they don’t fully immerse themselves in it until their teenage years. Indeed, you won’t find any harem shows outside of anime or teenagers suddenly faced with the burden of saving the world/universe (a continuation of the hero complex). This makes the medium very attractive to an audience that is bombarded with school drama both in real life and in television.
Now, a teenager watching anime is relatively normal, they’re the target audience of most series after all, but what about people who are 20- or 30-something, what is there for us? I’m still a long time away from 30, but its been a few years since I was a teenager and almost all of my friends have stopped watching anime, so what keeps me coming back for more? Quite simply, my life is dull and boring and I need some entertainment. There are shows directed at people like me (Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and The Office come to mind), but they all lack a certain level of surrealism. This is where anime comes in. Series like Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Mawaru Penguindrum are so shocking and over-the-top that they offer a welcome change to my daily activities. I don’t see myself giving up this hobby for a long time.
That leads me to wonder, why do people stop watching anime? Do they just have too many real life commitments, or do they simply lose interest in the dream worlds that anime offers? If you’ve ever thought of or have given up on anime, I’d like to hear your thoughts.