A giant iron sits at the end of a typical town, now and then releasing steam in great jets. A frightened young boy looks into the face of a giant machine, a wounded girl lying in a hospital bed beside him. A would-be she-prince draws an enchanted sword from a subservient girl, and prepares to enter a ritualistic dual.
Why do I enjoy anime? That is a question I have found myself asking. With animation taking a new foothold in the U.S., why am I turning overseas for entertainment? God knows the media would rather I watch cable. After all, the have done vast research to find what shows will keep me there to watch the advertisements they sell the. Instead, I find myself again and again looking to the stylized pictures drawn around the globe, and sent into my computer via the information superhighway.
In Futurama, Fry once said 'Clever things make people feel dumb, and new things scare them.' This tongue in cheek line lands home, for who hasn't predicted the ending to damn near every show network television has to offer. However, when I receive that packet of bliss from across the sea, I never know what I am about to behold. Maybe, the cute girl is really a wind up robot on a test run, or maybe the will of the universe is about to ensure our heroine lives to see another episode. Even if I end up hating an anime series, finding out that I hate it is more fun than watching the same rehashed trash on cable.
But there is something more. Every once in a while, I will start a series, and be completely absorbed by it. Perhaps, like Higurashi no naku koro ni, it challenges my ideas of existence and sentience. Perhaps, like Death Note, it forces me to recognize that we are all anti-heroes at heart. Perhaps, like Chobits, it reasserts in me the beauty of human relationships. Whatever the appeal, these series share a common theme- they transcend whatever formula or genre they appear and, and step by step deliver entertainment on a level that network television can rarely even approach.
Animation, much like comics, is a medium that depends greatly on the imagination of the viewer. It takes a subconscious leap to accept that those characters are people- but once you make that leap, the characters are more personal because there is an aspect of you inside them. The personal investment reaps personal rewards, as you can empathize with the characters at a deeper level because you share part of their experience now, and are not just a passive bystander. I'll admit it- I cried at the end of AIR and Utawarerumono, because I had invested part of my self in those characters. I have heard it expressed as a sense of loss when a great series ends- the same reasons apply.
I am an Anime Fangirl, and damn proud of it. I have chosen for myself an entertainment medium that can make me think, as opposed to a medium that leaves me devoid of thought. My entertainment allows me to be introspective, instead of escapist. I allow myself to be entertained intellectually, and that sets me and those like me in a class apart.