Why I Fell Out of Love with Anime (And How I Managed to Like it Again)

Why I Fell Out of Love with Anime (And How I Learned to Like it Again)

 

I’ve been an anime watcher all of my life. As a kid, I enjoyed Toonami after school, looking forward to new episodes of Sailor Moon and Tenchi Muyo. I adored Pokemon, Digimon, and Cardcaptor Sakura as well, also delighting in the fact that many anime had corresponding video games and trading cards. But sometime in my early adulthood, after the days when I was addicted to Naruto, Bleach, Kimi Ni Todoke, Death Note, and had to have a new anime to watch at all times, I fell out of love with anime and stopped watching it altogether, preferring to watch K-Dramas.

 

So what happened to make me stop watching anime? I got really, really sick of the ubiquitous perversion and objectification of women in a lot of anime, which added absolutely nothing to the storylines. Once I recognized how rampant it was, I couldn’t look past it anymore. I found myself groaning and rolling my eyes every time I picked up a new anime, which for some reason repeatedly mistook perversion as comedy. One shoujo anime I tried to watch and immediately dropped, even had an “innocent” girl crawling on top of a sleeping male roommate, becoming entranced, and proclaiming “this is what a boy feels like.” Of course, he woke up, was shocked to find his female roommate who didn’t really care for him on top of him, and she became super flustered and embarrassed for her behavior (more like for getting caught), which is somehow portrayed as comedy and not at all problematic. Oy vey.

 

Likewise, I grew extremely disillusioned with the lacking character development of heroines. Many anime, especially shounen, show female characters needing a man to save them every time they run into trouble, despite the show telling us repeatedly how strong or capable they actually are. Of course one of the most famous examples of this is Haruno Sakura, who has been trained by a legendary kunoichi, Tsunade, one of the three sannin, but still makes horrible decisions, chokes in battle, and needs her teammates to save her. This is despite her having more brute strength than almost the entire cast of characters combined, healing capabilities, and having training on the same level as her always more powerful and capable teammates, Naruto and Sasuke. But this is the kind of lacking character growth women get stuck with a lot in anime. But hey, at least they’re pretty, right?

 

Despite my ever growing fatigue with these kinds of tropes, after years of an anime drought and refusing to watch any of them, I felt ready to watch again. I think this renewed interest was in large part due to my recent obsession with webtoons, which brought back memories of reading manga, and my continued playing of JRPGs. With my love of Persona 5 Royal, Genshin Impact, and Trails of Cold Steel (the latter of which still makes me roll my eyes at literally every character being attracted to main character Rean and the constant perversion for comedy). I sort of came to realize that no JRPG or anime is perfect, and a lot of this objectification of women and perversion as comedy is in large part due to Japan’s culture, but I can still enjoy the shows and be annoyed by the parts I don’t agree with or are unnecessary, as I definitely do with books and Western films that are fond of the male gaze.

 

Heck, even Persona 5 Royal, one of my favorite games of all time, constantly objectifies one of it’s female main characters, Ann. The game even gives her character an absolutely ridiculous knocked out position, with her butt in the air and her face smooshed into the ground. I hate that objectification for her, but I also recognize that though the game treats her as a sex object, it also gives her some pretty solid character development and a place as a main character in an excellent and truly unique story, and that’s the kind of thing I don’t want to miss out on just because I’m disgusted that the game makes it continually known that she’s an attractive female (in admittedly often and inappropriate ways).

 

So knowing that I would most likely encounter these same frustrating tropes again and determining that I would look past them, I hesitantly fired up Netflix and dove back into the anime world. And to my surprise, I found myself enjoying it again. So what was the show that finally rekindled my (sometimes begrudging), love of anime? Fate/Zero.

 

I had heard of the Fate series for years, had certainly recognized Saber as being from “that show I had never watched,” and grew interested when I learned that Saber was actually a female King Arthur. As I’ve stated many times on this blog, I’m a huge King Arthur nerd, so I just had to see how the show pulled off a female King Arthur and what she was like. Plus, it didn’t hurt that Saber definitely reminded me of one of my favorite playable characters in Genshin Impact, Jean.

 

To my surprise, Saber being King Arthur was probably my least favorite part of the show. I didn’t really think it added much to her being a great swordsman, or that even that Fate/Zero did a remotely good job tying in with the legends of King Arthur. Instead, it was more of an afterthought to a supposedly super powerful female character that seems to lack a lot of the decisiveness, like most female leads. I was also dismayed when I read the only reason the creators made her a female King Arthur was because they didn’t think that their male audience would enjoy seeing a female main character having a powerful male servant. This sexist reasoning annoys me with every fiber of my being, but was at least there was an attempt at rectifying this belief in Fate/Stay Night : Unlimited Blade Works, so I’ll let it slide.

 

Despite finding that Saber falls prey to a lot of the same lack of character development as other female leads, I loved the other characters of Fate/Zero and their struggles, both personal and physical, for the Holy Grail. I particularly loved the themes of everyone fighting for this wish granting device for different reasons, and more importantly, with different methods. Characters like Saber are devoted to the principles of chivalry, and unwilling to do anything that might sacrifice that moral high ground in their quest, unless ordered otherwise for their masters. Unfortunately for many of these servants, who are all the spirits of legendary heroes, their masters often don’t share their antiquated belief systems of honor. For Saber, her master Kiritsugu is the worst possible fit for her, willing to resort to any underhanded tactics to win the grail, and their ill-fitting ideals makes for excellent entertainment.

 

And if that weren’t interesting enough, all of the other master-servant teams are also very dramatic. There’s a serial killer duo who care more for offing children then gaining the Grail, a powerful head of a mage clan and Gilgamesh, an ex-magic student who is in way over his head with his King of Conquerors servant and their entire quest for the Grail, a former member of a dying clan who enters the battle only to save someone, and a priest who doesn’t appear to believe in anything. This clash of goals and belief systems is interesting, and often heartbreaking enough on its own, but there are also spectacular fights, cliffhangers, and foreshadowing for follow up shows, like Fate/Stay Night : Unlimited Blade Works, which is also on Netflix.

 

So with just one watch of Fate/Zero, my anime drought had come to an end. Fate/Zero had the unique story, drama, and beautiful art that I loved about anime. Sure, parts of it, like Saber’s development and King Arthur roots weren’t as well executed, but the distinctive anime premise was there and I loved the show as a whole. It didn’t shy away from tough subjects, presented interesting themes, and all in a beautiful art style. It’s truly an example of the best of what anime has to offer. I immediately picked up watching a sequel to it (the Fate series is a bit complicated with watching order), Fate/Stay Night : Unlimited Blade Works, and even another anime after that, called Yona of the Dawn.

 

I’m happy to be able to find joy in anime again, something that used to be a really big part of my life. I am now more selective about the shows I attempt to watch, not wanting to set myself up for frustration at the portrayals of its female characters and comedy. Hopefully, I will find more anime out there in the future with solid stories that treat its female characters right.

 

 

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Why I Fell out of Love with Anime (And How I managed to like it again) - Blogging with Dragons

Posted April 30, 2021 in Anime, Watch

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