Amidst the hustle’n’bustle of getting ready for Christmas and the happiness, joy, and good cheer that infuse the season, I am often reminded of the true, root reason for this season. It’s not good enough to stop at Jesus is the reason or that He was born. Why was He born? Because He was going to sacrifice Himself to save our souls. Why would He do that? Because He loves us. So, the reason for the season is that He loves us to the point that He was willing to die for us so that we could be saved.
In the spirit of this, I wanted to pick a moment from anime for today that echoed this depth of love. Love enough to sacrifice one’s life for another. The problem with picking one is that I’ll pass over many others from this year. Instead, I’m picking three.
Shinsekai Yori was many things but one thing it wasn’t was a lightweight, fluff piece. Rarely do I see science fiction in a visual format, anime or otherwise, that can match the best of it’s print brethren. Shinsekai Yori was just such a work. After feeding the viewers a constant stream of secrets, reveals, and reversals-of-fortune, I was ready for a simple, straight forward final episode where the bad guys would get theirs and the good guys would heal their wounds and look forward to a better tomorrow. That was not to be; silly me, I’d forgotten I was watching Shinsekai Yori.
Just like last year, as we get nearer to Christmas, I’m surprised that I’ve gone from worrying about finding 12 moments worthy of being written about to worrying about how to cut things down to only 12 moments with the minimum of anguish about what had to be cut.
I’m tempted to pass this moment over. I don’t have the type of ego that needs or wants the attention (from all 30-50 people who will read this); however, I am proud of how well I was able to intuit the results based on everything I knew about the songs and the voters. So, since I feel being authentic about my personal experiences with anime this year is important, I’m mentioning it today.
Today’s moment is the moment I realized that I had, in fact, won Omo’s Animusic Tournament Bracket Contest. I never actually win contests or competitions. I sometimes place close like when I finished 12th out of more than 12000 high school juniors and seniors who competed in a yearly statewide test on American History. (Which helps explain why I’m a sucker for a good historical anime.) So, I’d be lying if I said winning didn’t feel good.
I won’t gloat though, therefore, I’ll end today’s moment here.
It’s often said that an anime (or any show/book) needs to have a character that is a stand-in for the audience – someone that’s familiar and they can relate to. Hence all the loser high school male characters.
I’ve never understood this.
One of the reasons to create a work of entertainment is to create a sense of escapism and what better way to escape then to inhabit another point of view. This is what I try to do with each anime I watch; I try to walk a mile in the character’s shoes and see the story from their standpoint. (A side effect of this is my tolerance for bad writing forcing a character to act contrary to character is very, very low.)
This probably helps explain some of my preferences in anime and why I believe creating a cast of interesting characters is a fundamental first step to building good anime.
No maxim is applicable 100% of the time, however. It is possible to create a good anime without creating an appealing cast of characters and sometimes I like to see someone who understands me.
The animation studio Bones and I have had a rocky relationship from the start. It began while I was just starting to consider myself an anime fan with the broadcast of Full Metal Alchemist on Toonami. I was thrilled with the story, animation, and characters enough that I began snapping the DVDs up even while it was still airing. In hindsight this became a mistake because the story of the second half just unraveled itself into incoherency and ended with a thud. Next came Eureka Seven and in a near exact repeat there was the great beginning, music, and animation that once again saw it all fall apart at the end.
Not every series from Bones suffered this problem – Soul Eater’s ending was “acceptable” for an ongoing manga adaptation, for example, and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood had the manga’s ending to crib from, so it was hard to screw that up – but, many other series like Daughter of Twenty Faces, X’amd, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, and No.6 fell apart at the end. (And let’s just pretend Heroman never happened.)
I still give them the benefit of trying their series because they do have such nice animation. Of late, I’ve noticed a new thawing in our relationship. It began with the Un-Go OVA. I had actually liked the main series despite the problems with the story; however, the OVA worked as a prequel and filled in and explained the story enough that I came away really liking the series. Next came Eureka Seven AO. I found myself liking it despite the fans of the original series doing their best to tear it down. Most recently was their series Zetsuen no Tempest: The Civilization Blaster. Once again, I ended up liking it.
This actually puts me into the position of looking forward to their next work – Space Dandy – but that’s not the topic for today.
The reasons to start watching and continuing watching an anime are many and various. If it’s a good anime, the reasons are normally pretty self-evident. If it’s not a particularly good anime the reasons could be the strangest thing.
Earlier this year I decided to start watching an anime series because it was being subbed by the group that had done Milky Holmes and they’d earned enough points, feels, props, etc. in my book that I was willing to watch what they wanted to sub themselves.
That series is Lime-iro Ryuukitan X Cross and it’s not a particularly good series. I, however, continue watching because it’s only one cour, the subbers still deserve the time, and I find the setting – very early 20th century – to be interesting.
Those were my reasons to continuing to watch until the ninth episode.