Animation in our small little town of Shillong has come a long way with the release of the film “U Syiem” by Desmond Sunn depicting the life of Tirot Sing and his fight against the British Rule in the land of the Hynniewtrep. The Anime Culture which comprises of people who follow anime mainly from Japan, Korea and China is a growing trend that can be seeing all over the world and slowly but surely touching even in this part of the world especially in Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh. Different organisations like Project Z.E.R.O, Nagaland Anime Junkies, NEOtakus, etc are slowly spreading this new culture through different events such as Cosplay Competitions, Anime Meets, Anime Cons, Comic cons, etc. For those who are already keen followers of this new cultures must have had experiences where they are shunned by friends, society and even their own parents for simply spending too much time on these ‘kids’ show but I say why not? This is not a review of each anime or Director as that would take more than just one article to do justice to each of them but just a gist of what each has to offer to its viewers.
Anime is much more than just Pokemon and Dragon Ballz which are mainly aimed at kids but watched by even adults. Anime evolved over time as a different way to express unique ideas, philosophies, stories, etc. People would benefit a lot by watching these shows as they are an entertaining way to learn more about this world, having a different perspective, being creative, etc. Looking past the usual commercial anime which serves nothing more than a voyeuristic gratification for the viewers, we find that anime is much deeper than what meets the eye.
Anime has opened windows to the viewers to contemplate on various things like the future, past, philosophies, even themselves, etc.
Everyone has gone through a time where they feel like they aren’t going anywhere in life, where their self-confidence hit rock bottom. Evangelion directed by Hideaki Anno which became one of the most influential show to have ever been produced, questions the viewers themselves on topics like depression, helplessness, self-confidence, etc. The anime is made in such a way that it begins like any other mecha anime where the main protagonists controls a robot against aliens to protect humanity. But as the story goes on, the characters are fleshed out in certain ways to relate with the viewers to create a connection between the two. Towards the end, these characters are questioned using different beautiful animation techniques, words on the screen, voices, etc in such a way that the viewers almost feels like they are being questioned as well and not only these characters from the show.
A question frequently asked in this day and age is about what makes a person ‘human’. If one were to replace every single cell in his body with a mechanical body but still retains his consciousness, does he cease being human and the right to be treated as a human? Famous award winning films like Matrix and Terminator speaks about the grim future and human’s interaction with technology in a pessimistic viewpoint as though there will be a war between humans and robots which is very much a possibility. There are also anime which looks at the advancement of technologies and what might happen in the future.
Ghost in the Shell (1995) by Mamoru Oshii is one anime which almost celebrates the advancement of technology in the sense that it provides humans with a means to actually become robots while retaining their human self. It stresses on the concept that we have evolved to a point where we can control our own deaths, lives, etc and also that humans are creatures that stands out because of their consciousness and not on their physical bodies. It also opens up the idea where we feel that the emotion of sympathy, love, hate, etc falls only upon anything with intelligence. An example would be if one were to make a robot which can function just like a human in every sense of the word, do we have the right to destroy it? Even though it is pleading for its life just like a normal human would.
“When you entrust so much of your everyday life to those electronic devices, the argument that you aren’t a cyborg isn’t very convincing” – Psycho Pass
Coming to the age of Internet, anime like Serial Experiment Lain by Ryutaro Nakamura also questions the idea of reality in connection to the internet. Like the movie Inception blurring the lines between reality and dreams, Serial Experiment Lain blurs the line between analog and digital. The beauty of the internet is the fact that most people can remain anonymous and that it exercise pure democracy and this means full freedom. This creates the question on who is the real person, the person on the internet or the physical person. The anime puts out that question using the dual personality of the protagonists and how can one say the internet is democratic when at the end of the day, search engines, browsers, etc can still be programmed to show sites that adhere to its rules and not show the ones it feels shouldn’t be shown.
Then we have anime like that of Hayao Miyazaki, Makato Shinkai, Isao Takahata, etc., which are just spectacular to watch and a hundred ways to interpret. Grave of the Fireflies, 5cm per second, Spirited Away, etc. are some of the few which heavily contributed to the anime scene and still continue enthralling viewers regardless of age. Grave of the Fireflies by Isao Takahata is probably one of the most well known anime movie to have ever come out from Japan. Based on a story of a boy and his sister living through the world war era where both their parents died in the war leaving them both to fend for themselves. After leaving their aunt’s place, they decided to live in the bomb shelters where they regain a small amount of happiness only to be brought back to reality with the sickness of the sister and eventually her death. This anime brings about a whole different perspective of anime where they used animations to tell a story which can happen or has happened in reality and with it a number of emotions towards these characters going through these predicaments.
Hayao Miyazaki who is known as the father of animations produced a number of movies which are the classics. Being a feminist himself, unlike his westerner counterparts, most of his main female leads are seen to be these strong independent girls. According to him, “Many of my movies have strong female leads- brave, self-sufficient girls who don’t think twice about fighting for what they believe in with all their hearts. They’ll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a saviour. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.” If you are tired of the same old ‘damsel in distress’ stories where the main female lead just waits for her prince to save her and fall in love, then you should definitely try watching a few of Hayao Miyazazki’s films.
The anime mentioned above barely scratches the surface of what anime really has to offer to the viewers. Anime still continues to push the limits of what can be done on the screen, bringing different concepts and philosophies to live, play with our emotions in ways one can’t even imagine, and the list goes on and on and on.