Anime, the Japanese form of animation, is no longer an unfamiliar word. Despite its popularity across the globe, there are still many who only have a vague understanding of the term. One of the most common misconceptions that people have of anime is that it is only meant for kids.
I was among the majority who had a very limited understanding of the medium, until I truly discovered anime. Since then, there has been no turning back.
Unlike popular belief, anime is not a genre of entertainment but rather a medium which comprises shows and movies from drama, comedy, sci-fi, romance and much more. It is so diverse in how each individual show/movie plots out its story, portrays its characters, creates entire worlds and designs new species and landscapes.
Those who don’t have a proper understanding of the word, may argue that anime is only for children. However, keeping such a closed mind will only keep people from enjoying what is arguably the golden age of animation. Different anime cater to different age groups and all of them can be cherished regardless of your age. These are just some of the things which make anime so special.
Also, contrary to popular belief, anime is not a short form of ‘animation’ but is rather the Japanese translation of ‘animated cartoon’. Therefore in Japan, anime refers to any form of animated cartoon regardless of its origin or genre or type. However, outside of the country, anime generally refers to animation which originates from Japan.
Anime in the West
Although it has been around since the 1950s, anime truly made leaps in the West towards the end of the 20th century. Releases like 'Akira' (1988), 'Princess Mononoke' (1997), 'Dragon Ball' (1989-1996), 'Sailor Moon' (1992-1997), among others contributed to popularizing anime in countries like the US and UK.
The animation styles and themes of these shows/movies later went on to influence numerous shows in later years like 'Batman Beyond', 'Avatar:The Last Airbender', 'Voltron: Legendary Defender' and the 'Boondocks'. And by the start of the 21st century, anime established itself as one of the most popular mediums in the world.
The themes explored in them are relatable to a wide range of audiences making it all the more watchable. Each scene incites several emotions because of how invested you become in the shows. An action scene will have you jumping off the couch while the loss of a character will leave you in tears.
Anime in India
Indian youth who grew up in the 2000s would be quite accustomed to anime, thanks to popular shows like 'Crayon Shin-chan' and Doraemon'. As the cartoon-like shenanigans displayed childish behaviour, many falsely believed these shows were cartoons. Infact, both these shows are anime which were dubbed in Hindi.
So, how did these shows become popular here? Both shows made their way onto Indian screens due to the fact that many national channels then did not want to invest in any new Indian animated shows and neither did they have the funds to buy the rights to currently airing American cartoons. Therefore they bought the rights to the reruns of these shows which ran in Japan in the 90s and dubbed them over. Shin-chan and Doraemon slowly became household names and icons for children over India due to the weird and wacky situations in which the characters would get into in an average episode.
‘Dragon Ball’ and its successor ‘Dragon Ball Z’, were also two shows which were very popular among Indian audiences in the early 2000s. The story of Son Goku and his quest to become stronger has probably influenced kids all over the country. His endless determination and aversion to back down, as well as his constant need to improve himself, has been a source of constant entertainment and probably had many kids screaming the show’s signature catchphrase of ‘KAMEHAMEHA’ as they gestured with their hands in their houses.
Though anime had never been a stranger to India, its fanbase started growing exponentially only after the pandemic hit in 2020. Better internet accessibility and free availability of anime would have contributed to the industry’s growth in India. During the lockdown, it became a means of escape from the boredom. Each show or movie was different and their genres and settings varied from a show about ninjas to pirates to a sad romance to a light-hearted comedy about a samurai and much much more. The plethora of options available ensure that there is something for everyone and even people with the most niche interests will have a show catered just for them.
There are usually two ways to watch anime-- either with sub or dub. Sub means watching the original Japanese versions of the shows with subtitles in whichever language you prefer, while dub means watching a version which dubs over the original audio with the audio of your language which negates the need of subtitles. Both these options ensure that nobody is missing out on anything due to a language barrier. The dub versions, which some might argue are slightly inferior to sub due to the absence of the original audio, open the gate for people who were unwilling to give anime a try due to their stigma regarding the difference in language.
After the pandemic, shows like ‘Naruto’, ‘Attack on Titan’, ‘One Punch-Man’ and ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ among others, have become very popular and India is becoming one of the larger markets for anime in the world. The rise in popularity of anime has also reportedly led to a rise in interest for Japan, with many fans expressing their desire to visit the country.
To all those who are willing to overlook the stigmas and popular myths regarding the medium, anime will open up the door to a whole universe of entertainment, the size of which one can’t even begin to fathom.
Some Popular Shows for Anime Beginners
‘Death Note’: Probably the most popular show for newcomers, the story revolves around a brilliant bored high-schooler named Yagami Light whose life changes after he comes into possession of a book allowing him to kill anyone, by entering their name in it. What follows is an insane cat and mouse story, which raises questions about right and wrong and about the idea of playing god.
‘Naruto’: This coming of age story about a young orphan ninja, whose dream is to become the Hokage (the leader) of his village, is a very popular show due to its colourful characters, its mystical world of ninjas and most importantly the underdog story at the heart of it all.
‘One Punch Man’: The name literally gives away the plot line of the entire series as it is about a man who can defeat anyone with one punch. While this might sound silly, One Punch Man’s lighthearted and original approach to the superhero genre as well as the brilliance of the main character Saitama (who has an existential crisis because of how strong he becomes) made the series beloved by all.
‘Attack on Titan’: With one of the best plots in the history of fiction across all genres, ‘Attack on Titan’ turned a simple story about fighting some large monsters into a masterpiece about politics, racism, religion and much more. It is widely considered one of the best crafted TV shows due to its intricately crafted storyline.
‘Haikyuu!’: A show about volleyball might not seem that interesting but ‘Haikyuu’ has managed to capture the hearts of anime fans across the globe. The high stakes intensity of the matches, the humour and the relatable nature of both the plot and the characters are what make ‘Haikyuu’ such a fun watch.