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Escaping the Chains of Reality – The Dream of Anime

July 16, 2011 By: Nopy Category: Anime


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.

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23 Comments to “Escaping the Chains of Reality – The Dream of Anime”

  1. Can’t really say why people stop watching anime. I assume everyone has their own personal reasons but many probably are similar to one another. I’m creeping up on 30 myself, being in my late 20s but I don’t like reminding myself. As you said, anime brings something that snaps me out of the mundane real world in front of me. It brings me back that imagination where anything is possible and it keeps the child inside me alive and well. I like being emotionally affected, as well as mentally stimulated by anime, and more often than not anime does it better than anything else in the media medium. I question myself every so often, just when will I wake up from this dream? I’ve come to terms that I might never grow too old for anime, even if I outgrow other things like figures one day. There’s something in it for every age group and every state of mind.

  2. After my high school years which were one of the most entertaing times of my life so far, life got somehow boring. That was around the time where I started to watch anime in a regular manner and Im happy that I found such interest in this kind of entertainment.

    Anime brought me something back I’ve lost after my high school years.
    To put it exactly into words would take too long. In short I like the creative settings, the entertaining character interactions and of course the cute girls of anime :D

    Nowadays I rarely watch shows from television because in comparison with the exciting worlds and characters which anime can deliver they are too plain and boring. For me there are only a few western shows that can compete with anime, like being Erica, Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock, Bones and maybe a few more.

    I don’t think I will be bored by anime in the near future, Im loving it ^_^

  3. syunrii says:

    As an artist, I think I can say that sometimes I’ve watched anime for the amazing animation it offers. Whether it’s something simple like K-ON! or out of this world dynamic like the Evangelion movies. Of course, the stories anime offer also gives me something that you can’t really seem to find in Western entertainment.

    I think whether or not people stick to anime is just a change in their preferences. Of course, living in a Western society, I’d say more people are more likely to move on from anime to other things than not. Eastern and Western culture offers different types of entertainment, much of which is influenced by history. We just happen to prefer the more outlandish, fantasy stories rather than the realistic style that Western entertainment offers (hence ‘reality’ shows lol).

    Ahahah No idea if that made ANY sense whatsoever, but regardless, I can see myself watching and drawing anime for many years from now :)

  4. As a college student, I find myself thinking about the time when I’ll “stop being interested” in anime quite a lot. It’s a little scary to think about; as anime has been such a big part of my life since I was a kid of around eight to ten years old. Growing older, I’ve found that my interests have expanded a little bit beyond anime, and I’m a lot pickier with what series I watch than when I was younger. Overall, though; I’d say I am still a big fan of anime.

    I think there’ll eventually be a time when I just don’t care for anime anymore. But for now, I think I’ll just enjoy the ride.

  5. Why do people stop watching Anime? Maybe they simply got burned out or lost the happy bright atmosphere they entered Anime with. The happy “we can do anything” light showing everything in positive light. Or, the community they were once in probably changed and they can no longer stay hooked to Anime due to their habits, or they can’t justify watching Anime anymore when comparing their lives to others? Peer pressure? Asch conformity? Or something as simple as being burned out?

    The closest I got to wanting to stop watching Anime was watching too many shows. I got burnt out from watching 2-4 hours a night. I also witnessed people taking better images of figures than me that I just didn’t take many at times, or seeing slightly insulting comments that weren’t meant as such. Could be the same for those people, if altering the scenario here and there.

    Anime brings something that North American mediums have serious trouble bringing to the table. I can watch, but in a troubled manner. Anime manages to express itself freely without much worry, the worlds that are created tend to be vast, the unique and awesome characters to befriend in that “realm” appear real, and the creations (i.e mechas, weapons, and vehicles) that are possible mostly in that world look as if they can actually function realistically (mostly). Even little objects that the characters own have a life of their own and transition from one episode/movie to the next.
    The funny thing is, you can also carry over those vehicles roughly to our world in a life-size manner. The music is also a nice booster to the experience.

    I actually try and bring Anime into the real world because it’s one of those few mediums (slice-of-life) where you can safely bring stuff back into our world. Ideals, sayings, authors hidden thoughts, and etc can be brought over. The experiences can as well. I gave an example with creations, but you can do the same with carefully and professionally done characters (not 100% same, but close enough), and same through photography and video editing.

    The closest I got to watching from North America was “Heroes”. It was a neat show mostly up until the constant romance causing me and my friend to drop it. There needs to be more freedom, less romance, and an actual desire to express one’s self without holding onto a cookie cutter. More slice-of-life, more depth to the character, and an actual desire to explore and experience. That is what Anime is to me.

    It’s hard to say, but Anime seems to still be holding strong so I might still be with Anime for many years to come…..unless something drastic and dramatic happens somewhere.

    I apologize if this was too long or if I missed any points…it’s truly hard to keep such posts short.

  6. I think some people stop watching anime because

    1)Real life does get in the way
    2)Society around you
    3)Anime quality

    The last one could be a reflection on animes in general. There are so many animes exposed to people nowadays that most hardly know what would be good unless they got word of mouth, and even then, they’d might just watch without really liking the anime. There’s also a chance that because there’s so much anime, a person might not want to know what to watch and decide to not watch anything at all.

    Overall, overarching themes (Like anime is for kids/ its all porn), societal norms, and real life worries (Job, house, maybe kids) is probably a factor as to why people stop watching anime. But that’s just a thought…

  7. I believe the immersion of anime fandom depends on your environment and preferences. For most part, like what you mentioned, people tend to watch anime at a young age. However, nobody stays young forever and change is something inevitable that’s why for some, getting over with anime and exploring something else is a rite of passage. And as real life calls, schedule can be so demanding. I can truly understand students who don’t have time to relax and office workers who rather do something else e.g. shopping or going on a vacation whenever they have free time rather than checking the newest anime. The availability and airing anime is also a big factor. But of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone, for sure everybody has his/her own reason.

  8. I’ve never even thought about giving anime…not even the times that I hate what I’m watching. All that does is get me excited for the next GOOD series I’ll end up watching.

    But really, for why people give it up, I’d say it’s probably two big things.

    1) A loss of interest, because they’ll get to an age where there isn’t really anime geared toward that age range.

    2) Lack of time. Real life. It happens. It’s what caused me to take my recent hiatus, though it didn’t keep me from anime in general. For a lot of people though, real life is a big time consumer and you have to make a choice between what hobbies you actually have the time to stick with when you’re also busy with work, kids, etc.

    I’m aiming to avoid these issues by making sure my kids are watching anime basically from the time I have them. Nyanpire, that’s where it’s at, haha.

  9. The reason I suppose people stop watching is different for everyone. Lost of interest, real life, experiences of life, etc. Being a little pragmatic and candid, If I do stop it will be due to other things going on or I just can not seem to enjoy it. It is understandable that anime is a demanding of time, but is not like you can not watch when you want, so might be a mixture of reasons rather than one. Enjoyment reasons just depends on what type of person you are and what you like.

    Who knows….I never thought about it much.

  10. @Persocom:
    While anime largely focuses on the younger audiences, you’re right that it does have something for everyone. When I was younger, I used to scoff at people that praised anime for a more mature viewer, now I find myself watching and enjoying those anime.

    High school was one of the best times of my life too, which is probably why I enjoyed slice-of-life school anime for a while. The other options that anime offers are also entertaining to watch, especially since you won’t see it in any western series.

    The animation is definitely a factor when it comes to certain series. I have trouble finding western animation with the same level of art and quality.

    The difference in cultures could play a role in why someone doesn’t watch anime any more, but I’m sure people in Japan go through the same thing. How often do you see a 50 year old of any background watching anime :)

    Anime has been a part of my life since that age as well. I think I got pickier with which anime to watch around 2007, but now that I have more free time I’ve been watching more series that I normally wouldn’t have. It’s like I gained an even bigger interest in anime.

    You may be on to something with peer/societal pressure. From my own experience I can tell you that people have been trying to get me to stop watching it as early as 8 years old. Most of the reasons why have been “you’re too old for that” and “you don’t want to be a creepy anime fan”. It’s true that anime has a greater level of freedom of expression than western shows. They’ve had homosexual characters and taboo relationships for ages, whereas we’re only starting to see that stuff now with shows like Glee. Like you, I think that I’ll continue watching anime unless something big happens.

    I agree with the first two points, real life commitments and the people around you do play a large role in what you can and can’t enjoy. Regarding anime quality, I think that’s just a matter of perception. Ask just about any old anime fan and they’ll tell you that the best anime are from the time they started watching and most things after that aren’t as good.

    Everybody does have their own reason, but sometimes I wonder about the people who still have lots of free time but simply stop watching anime. I don’t think it’s like a rite of passage because if you enjoy watching something, why would you stop?

    @Arianna Sterling:
    Getting your kids hooked sounds like a good way to keep watching anime after starting a family, but I wonder how much you would have to spend buying anime goodies for them. I’ve gone through the whole lack of time thing a lot of times before, but somehow I’ve managed to stay in the loop.

    A mixture of things is probably what causes people to stop. I know I’ve gone through both lack of interest and lack of time, but not at the same time. If I had no interest or time for anime I wonder if I would still watch it in the future.

  11. I think the reason why anime is so appealing to teenagers and not so much to little kids is because–as you said–all the drama teens go through. They can relate to the romance seen in harems or other personal struggles that most protagonists go through. Not only that, but anime contains much more “mature” plots than typical Saturday morning cartoons, so it would take a matured mind to grasp what’s going on. Or maybe the appeal simply lies in the fan service, probably something you weren’t ever exposed to much as a kid. XD

    I almost stoppepd watching anime once…well, twice actually when I had a temporary change of hobbies. Anime felt stale, like it was the same thing over and over, but that’s when I decided to stretch my horizon, and it’s those strange oddities like Angel Beats! and Panty & Stocking that remind me why I keep watching.

  12. @MkMiku:
    Perhaps the stale feeling of anime was because there were no good shows at the time? I have a backlog of old anime that I turn to whenever there’s nothing good airing during a particular season. That way I never have a lack of good anime to watch.

  13. I’m fairly sure that I’ll eventually stop watching anime once I get a little older. I think the disconnect is just going to be too great. I’m already starting to feel like I can’t quite relate to the mass number of titles focused on high school life and their… silly worries about emo things. Well, at least there are still things like Usagi Drops around, I suppose.

    We’ll see what happens in a few years though. I’m not just going to give anime up, I think.

  14. @Yi:
    The “silly worries” that you mention do get a bit repetitive and dull after a while, but I find it reminds me of my high school days when I’m feeling like an old geezer. I probably would have despised the thought of more anime like Usagi Drop back then, but now I’m hoping for more like it too.

  15. It’s as you said, I started to watch animes simply to escape life and pour boredom. Had I been doing something that kept me busy, I wouldn’t have gone down this road. But I am glad I sure did! I wouldn’t trade the time I’ve spent watching anime doing anything else but then that’s just my opinion.

  16. @Dreaming artemis:
    I don’t think I would trade my time watching anime with anything else either, except maybe getting a girlfriend, but that’s a whole other issue.

  17. Though the line-up of the anime series that I’ve watched is not as comprehensive as most of you guys, I don’t see myself giving up the hobby anytime soon. I sometimes take a ‘break’ from anime because of a busy schedule but I still watch the series that I find interesting when I have some free time. ^^

  18. @Xine:
    I’m amazed you still have time for anime with having to take care of Little Toypusher now. If I ever have a kid, I don’t think I’d have any time for anime.

  19. We sometimes watch before we go to bed and sometimes while playing with the Little TP. Multi-tasking is something that we’re trying to master after the baby arrived. ^^

  20. @Xine:
    I see, multi-tasking is a good plan.

  21. Life commitments: work and friends. I try not to watch too much anime though.


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