Anime and Escapism: Down the Rabbit Hole

So, why do I watch anime, anyway?

First off, I’d just like to let you guys know that this post is in response to the first round of the All-Girls Round Robin’s prompt, which basically boiled down to asking why any of us watch anime (although itsubun phrased it much better than I am).

Initially, my response to this was really quite simple: I have no idea! ‘Cause I like it? But clearly this response is inadequate in an extreme – after all, what’s the point of participating in the R-R if I’m just going to give a one-note response like that? So I rolled up my sleeves and started to think.

I have always been a fan of animation, not just of the Japanese variety. While I do feel that anime presents a lot greater variety than do American cartoons, I still love to sit down and watch American cartoons… and not necessarily the ones that are deemed “acceptable” for adults to view (e.g. Finding Nemo, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Futurama, etc.) – I’ll admit I’m still pretty addicted to Nickelodeon’s cartoons, although I’ll also admit I think the ones I watched as a youth were a bit better (was it really necessary for them to have canceled Hey Arnold! and The Angry Beavers?!). And, yes, I own Avatar: The Last Airbender DVD’s. And I was totally pissed when the animated version of Teen Titans was canned. So, given that animation = love to me, it is unsurprising that I enjoy anime.

Ok, but that doesn’t explain why I branched out to anime in addition to American animation, does it?

I watch anime because of the plethora of plotlines, the sheer amount of options it presents. True, much of anime is recycled from other shows, but even amongst all the junk there is something to be found. Also, even if some of its recycled, they sometimes put a new, fresh spin on it which draws the viewer in. One of my favorite shows is Outlaw Star, which no one would ever argue was groundbreaking. But the characters were fun, the whole show was fun, to watch it was to escape to a fast-paced world where space was no longer the final frontier.

Is it escapism? To an extent. My middle school years brought me very little joy, but at least I could look forward to the newest CardCaptor Sakura DVD every month. I was a bit of an outcast, and my love for anime probably made me even more so, but even if my day sucked I could try to squeeze in an episode after I got home from my sport’s practice (which in and of itself was an escape for me). High school was better, but I found myself in the final two years burrowing further into my hobby as I got sicker and sicker of my small sphere of existence. I had never considered this escapism before, having considered my voracious reading habits (which picked up in my lonelier high school years after having slackened a bit during my first two years of high school) to be my escapist action. But it it clear to me, looking back, that anime was escapist for me.

Anime also brought Depth and I closer – we’ve lived next door for ages, and we had played together as children, but we drifted a little while in middle school. For some reason Depth got into anime, too, though (you’d have to ask Depth how, because I’m not really sure), and wandered over one day while I was about to throw on Haunted Junction to watch for the three-hundredth time. And we sat down and watched it, laughed a lot, and started hanging out more. Years later, we ended up at the same college.

Anime also gave me a variety of escapism that I feel not many have it for. The society in which I grew up in is a society which does not value open emotion, unless its a show of anger. I’m not bitter about it or anything, I don’t blame my parents because it was a wider cultural phenomena, but as a result I’m not too good about expressing emotion, at least honestly – I have more in common with a character like Maron (Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne) than I do a character like Miharu (Nabari no Ou) in that I’ll keep acting fine even if I feel rotten. As a result, my public persona has a narrow range of emotion, and a not entirely honest range of emotion. So, how does anime fit into this?

I by and large watch and have always watched anime alone. Yeah, Depth and I will sit down to watch stuff together sometimes, but usually those are movies. So anime watching to me is a private affair; therefore, I don’t have to keep up a certain act while watching it. Anime gives me a venue where I can actually honestly express my emotions. I’m mortified to admit it, but I bawled my eyes out during the final episode of Tactics. I grinned like a fool when Nagisa and Tomoya finally got together at the end of the Clannad TV series. I was angry when social forces forced Emma away from William in Victorian Romance Emma. And I got all pumped up when Akari came from behind to qualify for University Satellite halfway through Battle Athletes Victory.

So, in the end, I do watch anime for its escapist qualities, although I suspect we all do to an extent.

Other R-R Members’ Responses to Prompt:

Please note that, while some post title appear multiple times, they are separate responses from each other, not the same response over and over.

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12 Responses to Anime and Escapism: Down the Rabbit Hole

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  6. issa-sa says:

    *misses Hey Arnold – and Pepper Ann XD – as well*
    I like how you make watching anime in private a time when you naturally express yourself honestly without the pretenses you might have to put up when watching with someone else, that’s something I can relate to wholeheartedly. At the same time, having anime as something that brought you closer to others is great as well 😀

  7. ‘Cause I like it

    . . . is my usual answer. I wouldn’t have an excuse for watching what I do if I justified it on the grounds of actual quality. That might not be an issue for you, though – you probably have better taste than me.

  8. itsubun says:

    This line:

    “So anime watching to me is a private affair; therefore, I don’t have to keep up a certain act while watching it.”

    Is beautiful. That whole last paragraph is perfect in its bluntness and bare-bones honesty. I love and envy how you can just write your points so simply and still say so much all at once. I’m the same way towards anime as far as misplaced emotions go. I can empathize on a deep level with how hard it is to not have a place to express all of the things that boil up inside of you, all the feelings that you’re forced to repress because it’s not “proper” or “acceptable” to display them in public. Hm… in this entry, I think anime is less of an escape for you than it is a medium through which you are able to release some of those potent emotions. I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in emoting through anime like some kind of weirdo =D I agree that we all do this to some level, which is why anime can mean so many different things to each of us.

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  10. adaywithoutme says:

    @ The Animanachronism – I dunno about that, I’ve sat through and enjoyed some pretty crappy stuff – Myself; Yourself being the worst I can think of that I actually liked.

    @ itsubun – Ah, you flatter me on writing skills… Actually, I sort of wondered after typing it if anime serves such a purpose in Japan itself for viewers, given that Japanese society isn’t exactly keen on public displays of emotion.

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