A Cross-Cultural Comparison of TV: Why Anime May Not Be for Everybody

Last month, I wrote about how my anime journey began. My point then was to show how anime is a conscious choice of visual entertainment for me, rather than a product of childhood association, as with the case with others, anime hence forming a part of self-identity or a nostalgic sanctuary of dreams and innocence. Today, I attempt to evaluate the general stance of anime as an objectively more attractive choice among all story-telling mediums through a cross-cultural comparison across different types of TV series and dramas (excluding written fiction and movies, story-telling mediums that share lesser similarities with anime.) Through this, I hope to highlight how different anime is from its contemporaries, but also explain why and how anime may not be for everybody.

*Disclaimer: This post is mostly based on 80% personal experience and opinion, and 20% research.  What is written is, to the best of my ability, knowledge, and experience, objectively representative of their respective genres. Please be aware that there may be exceptions.*

The Western vs Asian TV Debate – Comparing Genres

It can be rather difficult to pin down the exact differences between Western and Asian TV series without over-generalising. However, it is probably unanimous that the most striking differences in terms of content derive foremost from cultural differences, which shape our perceptions of what is entertaining and what is not. After all, TV is hugely catered to consumption tastes and preferences, targeting the weakest forms of the human emotional and intellectual psyche and any other subconscious forms of human needs, desires and wants for an extended time. Evidently, these would differ across cultural chasms of the East versus the West.

Having said that, it is imperative to first acknowledge that there are commonalities between Western and Asian TV. Both sides of the world can be largely seen to graze similar genres, from an obsession with targeted professions or groups of individuals who lead relatively more interesting lives together, with other fictional genres like fantasy, romance, comedy (family, neighbourhood, or just about a group of friends), historical settings, or some combination of these. In terms of the range of content offered, it appears that globally, TV tends to gravitate towards the same genres, or would fall under similar conceptions of these genres.

However, even if they can be categorised loosely under the same genre, there are intrinsic differences in its cultural content that point towards a need for further sub-classification or stratification. Naturally, the historical genre would spell divergences along nationalistic lines, as it is impossible to compare the Japanese ‘Shogun’ era to Chinese imperial dynasties or European medieval and Renaissance eras, for instance. Ideas of ‘fantasy’ also deviate due to similar historical and cultural dissimilarities, where American’s obsession with the supernatural is merely one sub-genre within Japanese TV, and is substantively different from the Chinese’ wuxia genre and its ideas of gods and spirits in celestial-earth interactions, or the Japanese’ expansive interpretation and development of alternate worlds to produce vibrantly imaginative pseudo-realities.

Yet, the above-mentioned differences barely graze the fundamental peculiarities of these forms of entertainment, which affect what we ultimately gain from it, other than the basic characteristic of TV to engage our brains in a story other than our own. This has some bearing, or may very well be ultimately determinative of what form(s) of entertainment we choose to stick with.

The Western vs Asian TV Debate – The Differences that Matter

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Undeniably, Western TV series span a wide range of content. One apparent targeted focus is on the lives of interesting professionals like politicians, lawyers, medical professionals, research scientists and crime investigators. It is in such series where the quality of its intellectual rigour tends to stands out the most among other dramas that utilise similar concepts. Infused with relevant professional knowledge that its audience can seldom find fault with, the veracity of any scientific or technical information about the profession that is showcased is guaranteed. Even though this can be influenced by how dramatic the series aims to be, one can at least be sure to be rid of some of the informational inconsistencies that plague some, though not all, of Asian ‘professional’ dramas (which really is a reflection of the respective TV drama industries’ dearth of good scriptwriters – a product of them being lesser-paid jobs). Of course, one cannot simply waltz into a series blindly believing that all knowledge contained is true and accurate. However, Western series are generally better at least in impressing the audience with its aura of professionalism in content deliverance and inducing a sense of self-satisfaction at the consumption of a rather show that ‘imparts real-world knowledge’.

The popularity of Western TV generally also lies with in its supernatural fantasy genres (or the ‘superhero’ genre), those with gritty realities, and its teenage-targeted shows. However, even with such available range, there is an emptiness associated with exclusive consumption of these shows. The lack of emotional sensitivity and time for self-reflection that comes with rationality, its fast-paced nature, and drama created on high-tension points and resolved through some external outburst or action, tend to forcefully drive home a prescriptive ideal of the person – one with a self – confident, self-assured demeanour. One’s problems are seen mostly as external ones and the only conflict or stress management tactic seems either to be resorting to vices without any sense of remorse or physically manifested outwards. Even shows that supposedly portray certain less dominant stereotypes like geeks and outcasts ooze an ultimate sense of self-assurance in the self without showing any form of thought process or psychological progress or growth which leads to that newfound sense of confidence, hence indirectly creating a form of emotional disconnect with the audience, making them harder to empathise with.

Relatedly, one of the other most common complaints about Western TV series is its tendency to side-step or completely disregard any form of emotional nuance in its portrayals of romantic relationships. Relationships tend to be portrayed with a large emphasis on aspects of sexual intimacy, enlarging the importance of physical attraction and hammering home the ultimate transition into sex. At the same time, it overlooks the equally essential, if not more important in the long-term, aspects of a healthy relationship, such as emotional connection.

The greatest contrast with Asian TV arguably lies here, as relationship progression in the latter focuses on more relatively nuanced character interaction with a slow buildup of drama revolving around clashes of values due to societal or familial constraints. Acts of physical intimacy are tinted with romanticism, especially with the predominant construction of ‘perfect’ male characters that pander to female imaginations of the ideal romantic partner. These elicit the female viewer’s desire to put themselves into the shoes of the main character. It is probably no surprise that the majority of Asian drama’s audience consist predominantly of the female demographic. Vastly growing in popularity in Western countries, where the other main alternative of fictional romance portrayal does not pander to their needs as much as Asian dramas do, these dramas provide the breath of fresh air much needed.

However, even so, there are definitely more subliminal differences between different Asian countries’ TV series that speak to different needs of modern entertainment.

Subcategories of Asian TV

Japanese Doramas

What are now known as the almost exclusive ‘romance-centered’ Asian dramas actually originated from the earlier part of the ‘trendy drama’ era of Japanese live action television in the 1990s, which targeted women in their 20s. Prior to the 1990s, Japanese dramas either targeted housewives in their 40s and 50s and centered on the home, or were merely mediums of self-expression for scriptwriters and directors. which in turn mostly took their material from then shoujo manga or published fictional novels.

The first of one of the known classics was Tokyo Love Story. Aired in 1991, it was a live-action adaptation of a manga of written by  Saimon Fumi, which was a melodramatic, tearjerking coming-of-age drama which featured a group of childhood friends, whose obstacles are mainly internal struggles. According to an interview with Ota Toru in 2001, its producer among other iconic titles in the early 1990s (101st Marriage Proposal and Under One Roof), it still retained its cult popularity even more than 10 years later due to its novel introduction of the ‘tearjerking factor’ and its ability to enable the audience to be emotionally absorbed (termed hanmaru) in the character’s plight. Then, unrequited romances and tragic ends were identified as the surefire formula for successful TV ratings due to the grounded realities of women’s place in the household which led to their preference of characters suffer more tragic plights in ways they could relate to.

Kou Kou Kyoushi (High School Teacher), 2003, which I highly recommend to psychological & romance fans

Hanzawa Naoki (2015)

However, after the economic bubble deflated, the direction of Japanese doramas gradually infused more elements of social commentary and introduced darker themes, such as Kou Kou Kyoushi, a heartbreaking taboo romance between a high school teacher diagnosed with cancer and a high school girl, where the focus was really more on the darker sides of humanity and issues of rape, parental neglect, loneliness, and loss of self-identity than romance. However, as more Western notions of entertainment became known, modern Japanese doramas have developed a diversity in themes – some still targeting young women, but most focusing on newly emerged societal phenomenon like the unmarried, high-salaried and fashionable femme fatale (Watashi Kekkon, Spring 2016). With the proliferation of manga and anime adaptations, dorama genres also expanded in parallel with anime genres like urban fantasy and high school drama. These genres even go as far as to encompass series which do not involve romance, that manage to enjoy widely nationally acclaimed success like Hanzawa Naoki (exclusively focusing on the banking industry) and The Great White Tower (hospital politics and human nature), a far throw from the ‘winning formula’ employed in the early 1990s.

Korean Dramas

Korean drama series are the most recognised ambassadors and forerunners of the arguably most successful examples of cultural exportation to date, alongside with K-pop. Part of this has to do with the widespread availability of its entertainment on various legal online platforms such as YouTube as a clever marketing ploy (as compared to Japan’s more obstinate inward focus on its domestic market). The other part is how Korean dramas appeal to the Western female demographic by filling the gaps left by Western TV series.

As shown by the overwhelming focus on romance, Korean dramas are famous for their portrayal of love as a slower, transitional process of courtship, and the ability of love to transcend overcome all odds, which include obstacles such as class differences and/or familial objections. With fairytale depictions of romance and the notion of love as an ultimate end in itself, K-dramas are fodder for romanticised ideals and perfect for females eager to escape from the dreary realities of relationships and vicissitudes of everyday life into a dream. The dramatic complications of its plots also mostly center around romance – whether it is the second male lead losing the race to get the girl, or losing his memory, or being involved in a car accident at the most opportune moment – and are usually dealt with by emotional outbursts of crying, ‘lover-quarrels’, walking away and running. Emotions are displayed blatantly, showing love-induced emotional weakness melodramatically, a stark contrast from Western depictions.

Yet, the majority of such qualities are not new, given that the Japanese were already critically acclaimed in Asian circles to be producing dramas of such characteristics a decade and a half earlier. The early Korean dramas like Winter Sonata and Autumn of my Heart were more blatant in mirroring the Japanese early formula, but ultimately reverted to idealistic notions of romance while retaining the construction of character formulas in shoujo manga. Most of all, Korean dramas mainly appeal to those looking for ideal, dreamier versions of romance and romantic partners.

Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong dramas

Hana Kimi (Taiwanese version)

While less known in the international arena, these sub categories of dramas are popular choices among Asian forms of entertainment due to their cultural and contextual similarities to one another. Taiwanese idol dramas gained popularity with their adaptations of shoujo manga (like Hana Kimi, and Hana Yori Dango) and using it a base formula for subsequent shows. Their casting of up-and-coming pop idols (who are more known for their better looking faces and in the musical scene rather than established actors and actresses) in the early 2000s ensured their place among tweens and teenagers. However, this was mostly overtaken by the K-wave with their strategy of spending on stylistic packaging, fashion choices and beautiful stage settings, while also taking a leaf out of Taiwan’s book by using selecting good-looking faces to create visual allure.

In comparison, Hong Kong dramas generally adopted genre ranges that were similar to Western TV series, combining dramas exclusively focused on surgeons, lawyers, crime investigation, gang wars together with the Asian family favourite of family-focused dramas that espoused communal values of familial ties and/or inheritance disputes in sprawling families of deceased (or about to be deceased) rich tycoons.

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Meanwhile, Chinese dramas were a fledgling smidgen on the global radar until the adaptations of time-travelling novels, where female protagonists traveled to the past and fell in love with princes, future emperors of Imperial Dynasties. Such themes were relatively novel (and still are) due to its interwoven nature with the Chinese’s extensively documented rich cultural heritage, and tend to place equal focus on both historical political intrigue at the time and romance development. However, the quality of scriptwriting and production mostly still cannot compare to its regional peers, except its pre-1911 historical series that mainly reproduce the history of the peak of military strategy employment prior to and in subsequent imperial China.

Where Anime Fits … Or Doesn’t

After looking at almost all other TV series, the question that follows is where anime fits into this sprawling network of veins – is it merely a more holistic version of entertainment that we know, or  does it address a totally different spectrum of needs when it comes to entertainment? Starting from  a broad comparison of genres, while it is clear that content that anime has touched on and is known to encompass is indeed wide-ranging, it is, stripped down to its core, a relatively niche industry as compared to conventional norms and their evolutional pathways in live-action television.

Similarities with Western television would be mainly superficial in terms of their forays into fantasy, high school drama, and the feature of romance, which overlaps with some of modern anime’s favourite story settings. This surface-level overlap is compounded by the larger than life cultural differentiation that result in an almost 180 degree difference in the way human relations are portrayed. If a Venn diagram were to be drawn in comparison, there would only be minimal overlaps of anime with live action TV series of both Western and Asian culture, with the possible exception of Japanese doramas. In fact, I would go as far as to state that any similarity would only be the ability to weave tightly constructed narratives, well written plots and dialogue, which really is not any characteristic specific to either medium, and is only true for the best titles of each. Meanwhile, only shoujo anime share commonalities with the majority of most prolific Asian TV series, with the exception of Hong Kong dramas (which catered to a more unisex target audience centered on social practicalities) and Japanese doramas. Even so, the sheer lack of number of shoujo anime titles make it a relatively poor representation of their original source (shoujo manga), and hence a relatively poorer contender in this area as compared to the now established Korean dramas, that make use of and expand upon the surrealism of shoujo tropes.

Anime’s uniqueness firstly lies in its ability as a story-telling medium to transcend the circumscribed boundaries of 3D live action series and to introduce made-up, fantastical worlds without seeming out of place. Its inherent characteristic of being hand-drawn and animated removes the need to bear any realistic resemblance to real life visual experiences, and hence is a more effective candidate of providing the much needed ‘escape valve from reality’ which us anime fans mostly rely on than 3D live action. Through this, it is also easier to fall head over heels in love with characters because in live action, a division between the actor and the character subconsciously exists even as we consume the story, a barrier that is less likely to be overcome unless all reins to commonsense are thrown away. Since the character only exists in the context of the story, it is up to the viewer’s imagination to combine, contort, distort or extend their interpretations of the characters in any way they want within the ‘logic and reason’ of their own interpretation of directorial and authorial intent. This in turn reinforces one’s attachment to the animated story and its characters as a whole.

NGE is a good example in showing how anime is unique – sensitivity, questions of self-identity, world destruction, symbolism, and struggling teenagers.

The Japanese tendency to focus on the human psyche and to foreshadow social realities in its post-apocalpytic scenarios of world destruction that feature largely in anime’s plot material also acts to an introspective dimension of self-reflection on humanity’s destructive role and a gradual realisation that is built into the story’s development, and emotional connection that is unparalleled in most other media. (Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Parasyte, Attack on Titan are just few of the various e.g.s). In this sense, it provides the increased layer of depth to these scenarios, tying it back to the individual’s behaviour and its more indirect consequences. Though seemingly negative, this is used as a plot device to make any blissful, happy, and positive moments all the more tender and precious. Admittedly, such hidden social commentary and use of symbolism to bring such messages across is not unique to anime but is often used in Japanese doramas as well, though the latter contemplates more grounded societal problems. Meanwhile, anime tends to choose to question more abstract problems, sense of self-identity, the meaning of life, social problems related to hikkomori and otaku, and the larger problems that plague humanity. This is only natural due to anime’s target audience of teenagers and young adults.

Such focus on the self not only shows through such macro themes, but are seen to surface in any anime series of ‘shallower romance’ genres that provide a more serious, albeit negative and melancholic outlook. Examples of these can range from josei anime like NANA to controversial ones like Koi Kaze. The frequent use of tying romances or teases thereof to larger scales of ‘the fate of the world’ like Tsubaki Reservoir Chronicle, Munto TVZetsuen no Tempest also strikingly contrasts most other common notions of romance portrayed in TV as an affair only between the two individuals involved, but rather something that demonstrates a community and societal based outlook, where ‘your life is not merely your own.’

The other more outstanding aspect of anime is that it truly demonstrates diversity in content, though not in approach. What is meant by the former is summarised, for example, by the emergence of the love for moe characters and the burgeoning boom of unique subgenres like yaoi and yuri – all these address (or arguably, create) subconscious needs that are close to non-existence in any other forms of media, making it a very niche market. It is, however, also due to the specificity of its cultural references that creates a very divisive reception among newcomers to the genre. Those who find comfort in the cultural familiarity of their primary source of entertainment, be it Western TV or Asian romance ‘soap operas’, may be turned off by how different the cultural ‘rules’ are in anime. (One common misgiving cited for romance lovers is how the romance in shoujo is never resolved satisfactorily with one big fat bow and a happy ending – this has only very recently started to show signs of change.) Those who are drawn to it, however, do so due to the fascinating idea of ‘fanservice in cartoons’, or to its hot-blooded shounen fights revolving around friendship where sometimes, winning happens on a reasonable basis (‘reason’ being defined by the rules of the world the story takes place in). Those who however, choose to stay as fans in the long term – are not just drawn in by the novelty of anime’s approach. They tend to be more appreciative of anime’s subtlety and introspection, its alternating use of silence and noise – silence in introspection, in internal struggle, in lack of self-consciousness; noise in fanfare, its comedy and its theatrics which produces a sense of beauty and balance that simply is not achieved elsewhere.

However, what is meant by a lack of diversity in approach is the fact that anime, while recreating one’s self-assurance in taking time to reflect, creates a bubble of its own that is removed from the real world – where it revolves around similar ideas and themes. This may not be very obvious unless parallels are drawn to other options for visual entertainment. In other live action TV, there is a stronger presence of social realities. In the Asian context for example, this is more obviously shown in Japanese doramas and Hong Kong dramas. No matter the content, its dialogues and character backgrounds frequently draw reference to how bills are to be paid, how one’s parents can actually provide strong opposition of one’s chosen partners in Asian societies, how people need to earn as much as possible to be able to keep up with egregiously increasing standards of living. Anime, while staying true to its main purpose as an ‘escape option’, naturally sweeps these issues under the carpet. The corollary of the fact that anime appeals to those who are still struggling to find themselves or like to contemplate the larger meaning of humanity’s existence also means that it simply does not appeal very much those who simply do not think of such issues or accord much importance to them in their lives.

So who are these people? They tend to be those who subscribe to traditional notions of success and happiness – good grades, a high-paying job, a large social network, meaningful relationships with family, friends, and loved ones and seeing the world with one’s two feet. (These people are unlikely to become long-term fans of anime, and are also more likely to say things like ‘I grew out of anime. Yes, anime, not just Naruto and bleach, but anime in general.’) Bluntly speaking, these are the logical, rational, sensible people who do not have the time to dream, and are content in reaching out to familiar, albeit seemingly more vacuous choices of entertainment, rather than merely choosing to not watch anime simply because they have no time to. While not necessarily unintelligent people, their idea of entertainment, however, is to watch something brainless and laugh throughout it, then forgetting about it after the length of the show. Some of these people include those that were past anime fans, and include those that do not necessarily quit anime entirely because they may merely reduce their consumption of it, but as the daunting realities of life surround them, any previous love and feelings for anime inevitably change in substance. By recognising that they either no longer ponder about abstract questions or struggle to find themselves, and instead throw themselves into the overwhelming rhythm of everyday life, they became ‘adults’, and they left their childhood behind.

But before we as an anime fanbase jump on this and lambaste these people for reasons like poor taste, people who don’t live their lives as it should be, it must be acknowledged, that such worldviews are not inherently wrong. Our conflicts only arise because of differences and failure to reach a mutual understanding – but this can be remedied by simply acknowledging that there are people who have different worldviews. Perhaps these people are afraid to question or lose themselves again entirely when they think they know their way, or perhaps they just genuinely dislike any story that takes them too far away from the ground they feel beneath their feet. But who are we to question such worldviews, especially when feeling the ground beneath their feet includes responsibilities that come with age – as a parent, as a child (then again, more for Asian societies), as a spouse, or as an adult?

Conclusion

Looking from a macro perspective, there are plenty of choices for TV entertainment that are available, arguably addressing all possible consumer tastes and preferences there are in existence. This is especially true for dwellers in Asian countries like my own, where there is a literally a vast choice out there. Each form of medium adopts some of their own stylistic identities and can provide vastly different consumption experiences for all. Therefore it can only depend, essentially, on what one seeks in their source of entertainment.

While anime may hold one of the most diverse ranges of content in all television, it is also the innate nature of anime that ultimately circumscribes the boundaries of its appeal even, and especially to, rational, conventional thinkers. Such sentiments may be more prevalent and may be occur more speedily for viewers whose other choices include the aforementioned other Asian TV choices, but in reality, one thing for sure is that material things in life and the ability to procure them loom larger, and this struggle only increases with age. Ultimately, what sort of balance do you seek to strike? Does watching anime make you truly happy, or is it a mere stand-in for living vicariously through the lives of its characters because it makes you feel emotions that have long dried up in dealing with real-life, its people and its situations? I personally venture the idea that one’s long-term relationship with anime would be possible only with a genuine, timeless appreciation and love of the culture that it represents  – but then again, its not something we would necessarily know now. This is why, it is still a generalisation to state that anime is for everybody – or at the very least, anime still has some way to go to reach that ideal state of unanimous appeal and appreciation.

I thank all the people who have patiently read through this without wanting to bite my head off. Even if you are,  whether you are merely brimming with anger or just sheer impatience at the length of this post, I would like to reiterate that this is merely an carefully thought through opinion which I have attempted to substantiate, and I humbly welcome any enlightening comment that serves to educate me on how similarly or differently you think. However, due to the nature of this post, I will strictly enforce a zero-tolerance policy for any personal attacks, obscenities, or hate-speech.  Thank you 🙂

References:

Ota Toru, “Producing ‘Post-Trendy’ Japanese TV Dramas”, Feeling Asian Modernities: Transnational Consumption of Japanese TV Dramas (Hong Kong University Press, 2004)

Yukiko Tanaka, Contemporary Portraits of Japanese Women (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995)

“South Korea’s Soft Power: Soap, Sparkle and Pop” (Aug 9th 2014), The Economist 

 

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30 thoughts on “A Cross-Cultural Comparison of TV: Why Anime May Not Be for Everybody

  1. There are bound to be differences and though it started in my childhood it s not why I still watch. For some weird reason it is hard to explain. Why I love it.

    Watching Anime you see them in very western settings and though I do not like to think much of it there is always a question. Unanswered I watch and leave it at that. the moment a setting that (for a majority of people who do not clearly know Anime) It is in Japan. Unless they are the punks still wearing diapers and watch pokomon. SO to speak.

    I think it is also to mention that it clearly depends on who you ask what the difference is. As a Westerner I could argue that Anime is not afraid to tip topics that include brotherly/sisterly love, or the idea of rape in a show. Western might touch the subjects but not as often. Touching dark souls and themes also seems easer in an Anime, this may have to do with the art.

    As for live shows I have no comparison. Sure I seen live action films of anime but it was not something to write home about. Due to my age think Sin city (I believe it was)

    I cannot un-love Anime it just draws me into it. The love of the cultural aspects as you mentioned might b just that. And it is certainly not for everyone. Even among people who love cartoons (talking drawing and computer art and compare) have some dislikes for reasons they can’t put into words.

    It was a long read but if anything you might have just touched the tip of needle on an iceberg.

    Last might also be that Anime reaches less people nlke other TV shows. I know the US has lots of Anime these days. and with Crunch you can it a home easy with a small fee. If one does not know about it, nobody will even try and compare or know what Anime truly is like.

    Okay just some thoughts penned down.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yeah, you touched on certain points in your comment that I agree on. Certainly, the reason why anime draws each of us in is a little different, and it may be pretty hard to explain because I have always thought its a very personal experience.

      Exactly, I also find that Western shows like to touch lesser on moral grey areas. I believe its because anime is also a form of subculture in Japan, hence there aren’t as many restrictions in Japan based on its content. Hence anime is accorded more freedom in terms of how questionable its content can be, but that doesn’t mean it degrades into moral debauchery. On the contrary, it provides insights into topics that have never been broached in other media.

      Oh I see, I assumed that anime has indeed already reached a substantial amount of people in the Western, but now I understand that may very well just be a relatively recent phenomenon.

      Thanks for your thoughts! I really appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • My pleasure.

        As for Anime reaching the western continent. It has been a trickle. More so In the US than Europe.
        We had Robotech(US Version of Macross was it) 30 odd years ago. 20 odd years ago I again came in contact with Anime through import VHS.
        Titles Like Devilman, Oh my goddess Angel cop, battle angel alita, roujin Z
        Before that it were import games US translated I was able to find through gameshops
        It was hard to come by and since the Inet I can go back years again. I am a happy camper.

        Anime if we consider pokomon, Yu-Gy-Oh and even dragonball Z part of that than those have succeeded quite well and established a phenomenon but only that kind. The card, animal, beadamon selector.
        I remember myself watching HunterXHunter and saying I seen it before. The older series.

        So not every western country has knowledge of it being there.
        It has been hard for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, I see. So it has only been the series that have been commonly associated with kids that have been widely available, and only recently, huh? That would probably explain the prevalent way of thinking that anime = cartoons = for kids.

        Yep, before the Internet, it was really very hard to find sources >< I guess its the same everywhere where the more notable titles are lesser known to the masses. I hope this would change now that legal anime streaming services are more widely available.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The adults side or more deeper meaning side of Anime is never seen or hardly seen.
        Europe is a step behind for sure and through the streaming it does become better but it keeps me from owning what I love. I can watch and that is that.
        From the VHS time I still have a collection in boxes.

        Even today there is but a trickle coming in through shops and though growing, it is for me than only the US Dubbed for example and with a bit of luck just subbed.

        The culture that way is being westernised and almost controlled to the extend of what we can buy.

        It becomes even worse in Europe when you talk Manga (translated)

        You can imagine how thankful I am for all the fansubbers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah that is true. And shipping internationally is still very very expensive so its hard to get the DVDs. Especially if you prefer the subs instead of the dubs.

        Partly its also because Japan still doesn’t see overseas markets as lucrative and makes it hard for DVDs/Blu-rays of their stuff to be exported or sold at cheaper bulk prices.

        I have the exact same sentiments. Fansubbers really save us all lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. First, let me say, Wow! I can really tell that you put a great deal of energy and thought into this piece, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word of it! You hit a lot of great points when discussing each specific type of media be it western or eastern. I know you said this was 80% opinion, but you can clearly tell that you really did your research with this post! Personally I watch both Western and Eastern television, and I have seen just about every different genre you mentioned in this post.

    When I was younger I watched considerably more anime than I did Western TV, but as time passed that balance seemed to shift in the other direction. So that now I watch considerably more Western shows, with the addition of J-and K-Dramas. I guess it has something to do with my tastes, as a teen, anime was a means of escape, from everyday teen issues, but when I went away to college my world opened up and the issues of the past were not nearly as troubling as they were before. So I didn’t need my anime crutch as much as I once did, and I began exploring different things like dramas and western TV.

    I haven’t “outgrown” anime no more so than I’ve outgrown Pokemon, but my tastes in the types of anime I consume have changed a lot! Before I could watch anything without getting bored, but now I find that I’ve become more picky with my anime choices. Now, I go for anime with more substance overall, relateable characters and more mature themes, while I avoid anime repetitive plots and immature characters.

    One thing that wasn’t touch on in this post were western cartoons…I wonder how that would have fit in to this post, as western cartoons, for the most part, have become more engaging. Some Western cartoons can even be put on the same level as some of the anime I have seen.

    Sorry for the long comment, this ended up being way longer than I originally anticipated.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for reading it! I can’t express my gratitude enough to people who read my post, especially this one when it is very long and may be very off-putting. 🙂 I actually did minimal research on this except for the history of J-dramas, and everything is based on my own opinion from watching all the types of drama I have seen. That is why I haven’t touched on Western cartoons – its because I haven’t seen any as of now. But what you said about Western cartoons was interesting. What titles were you thinking of, to say they are on par with anime? 🙂

      Wow, you have seen almost every genre? Even the Taiwanese/Hong Kong/Chinese ones? That’s very impressive for someone who doesn’t reside in an Asian country, mainly because I always thought that access to such dramas are extremely limited outside Asia. I learnt something new today!

      Interesting, I understand how anime can be something to rely on in times of struggle and especially in teenage years when we are battling all sorts of emotions, puberty and things. 🙂 In fact, I think I would have experienced the same transition – only if I had encountered more anime in my teenage years xD

      Yep, exactly! That’s my anime journey in a nutshell too. At the start, I also believed I could watch any anime without being bored, but now I realised my tolerance for the more ‘common’ themes has decreased by a lot. I find it harder to stick through an anime, and I drop titles way more often at the start. For me, I too want relatable characters and interesting plot hehe :3

      Ohh ohh you’re welcome! In fact, I like long comments – the longer the better! Thank you for this comment and sharing your experience hehe :3

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hmmm as for cartoons the one that comes to mind most is Avatar the Last Airbender. Many fans already consider it an anime, based on its complex plot and characters. It’s really good and I highly suggest it if you haven’t seen it already!

        To answer your question, yes, I have seen a few of the Taiwanese and Hong Kong ones. They’re super hard to come by, but I had a friend back when I was an undergrad who always seemed to find stuff like that and share them with me lol. She’s the reason I even watch dramas now!

        It’s great to hear that we had similar anime journeys! I read the post you wrote about it awhile ago and I kept thinking towards the end this is exactly what I’m going through!

        Thank you for taking the time to respond and again, this is an excellent post!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah okay, I did hear of Avatar the Last Airbender – it seems to be the only title that is repeatedly mentioned so I’d think perhaps there’s some fair amount of merit there. I’ll check it out whenever I feel in the mood for dubs! xD

        Wow, yeah they are! I have never heard of Taiwanese and even less, Hong Kong dramas being available outside Asia. Thanks to your friend xD They must have been pretty hard to find haha xD

        Oooh nice, I am glad that somebody feels somewhat the same way. It can get a little lonely here being the only one with a different background, and especially when it kind of affects what I choose to watch and what I like, a lot!

        No problem, and thank you 🙂 I love responding to comments like these haha 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a very enlightening post, I had no idea about how dramas varied between, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, China and the Western. I definitely agree with what you said about television in the west in regards to superhero series, which I think is the case with a lot of series where they’ll focus on some kind of action.

    I definitely watch more anime than dramas because I found that anime was the first really immersive experience I had in terms of television. I watch both for different reasons, I feel that anime encourages deeper thinking and I’m someone who likes to ask a lot of questions where as dramas and general western television helps me keep in touch with pop culture as well as being a nice way to relax as there’s not much to take in. I try to keep a balance between the way that I watch the two so I’ll usually have periods where I only watch anime, followed by periods of where I only watch live action with the anime periods being longer.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the description of who is more likely to watch anime and who isn’t. Personally I’d also say that those who decide whether they want to watch anime or are heavily influenced by those that they are around as well as their attitude towards life. I’ve found that in most cases people that watched anime will stop if they’re around people who don’t watch it and vice versa.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hear, hear! Anime has a way of introducing these silent, hidden questions in its way of presentation, and of course the themes they tend to focus on are also very thought-provoking ones. We think more when we watch anime, don’t we? Having said that, I believe your way of balancing between live action and anime is a pretty sustainable one, because that’s how I do it too xD Except that my periods are devoted to more of the different types of entertainment – Western TV series, some of the Asian ones, movies, anime, manga etc. quite often. I find that each type addresses different entertainment needs and helps to provide balance 🙂

      And I agree with you on the ‘peer influence’ factor as well. In fact, part of why I wrote this post was because I find that, through observation, anime was a fad in my country when most people were watching it, but it ‘fell out of favour’ so to speak when people stopped. I personally cannot understand it (like why, when anime has so much to offer?) but I realised that people do really influence others in terms of what they choose to watch.

      Thanks for the enlightening comment yourself, and I am glad you enjoyed this post! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Anime isn’t for everyone as conservative viewers get scared off by the weird shows or the ones with excessive fan service. Many westerners also refuse to watch cartoons, as they associate the medium with stuff for children.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, so its also really about how open-minded the viewers are to concepts that are very different from how they have been taught from national TV. I forgot to at least include a one-liner for the number one reason for refusing to watch anime – thinking they are merely ‘kids’ stuff’ – which I didn’t really expand on because it has been repeatedly argued about. Your comment reminded me about it, so thanks 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So THIS is what you were tweeting about the other day. Well, I was not disappointed, I’ll give you that! Just the topic of looking at the tropes and attributes of anime and its similar mediums through their respective cultural contexts is an extremely interesting topic, and I think you’ve brought up a lot of great points.

    First off, I’m completely unfamiliar with Asian dramas of all sorts, so that subject was as informative as fascinating to read about – especially how the changing tropes of its various subcategories paralleled with cultural trends and societal changes. It was also super interesting to read how Asian dramas normally gravitate towards a female rather than a male audience, and how that has lead to an increasing popularity for the medium in the West, filling in the gap created by the western TV-market’s typically male dominated target audience.

    As for the topic of where anime stands in relation to Asian and western TV, I strongly agree that it has a lot more unique experiences to offer compared to its counterparts, and that that is one of its ultimate strengths. I think some of the factors for this are the points you brought up – such as the possibilities of world building and character designs provided by the animated medium, as well as anime’s focus towards teenagers and young adults leading to more introspective subject matters – but another major factor I think is its consumerist context.

    As a selling product, anime works very differently from, let’s say, western TV-series. While the latter goes in the tradition of view ratings and therefore tries to appeal to as broad an amount of people as possible, the former is a niche market largely driven by pandering towards specific audience groups. This I think has a lot to do with otaku culture being a thing; a social group defined by a passionate interest for everything anime- and manga-related, and that ultimately make up the majority of anime consumerism. Instead of getting its profit from the broader general public, anime does so from a specific group of people who are passionate enough about the medium to spend an extreme amount of money on it. The anime market is thus (similar to the institutional art world) sort of a serf-generating one in that sense, with the medium being consumed by and catering towards people specifically interested in that medium.

    The result of this self-generation is that the products of the anime market are inherently unique for that market. Whereas TV-series all follow (as you brought up) pre-established and recognized genres such as drama, comedy, sci-fi or fantasy, anime often embodies genres that are exclusive for its medium – mecha, slice of life, moe, etc. Since the medium isn’t reliant on appealing to the broadest audience possible, it is able to tell unique and imaginative stories that couldn’t fit anywhere else. However, this also comes with another more negative dimension, namely that part of otaku culture that largely surrounds its bad reputation. I’m referring to the otaku viewer whose anime consumption is that of a rather fetishistic obsession, and whose fetishes consequently fill up the industry’s production.

    Ultimately, I feel like anime’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness; on one hand, you get unique and genre-defying stories that are unlike anything else out there, but on the other you get shows that does nothing but abundantly and formulaicly pander towards a very specific type of otaku audience. Some may argue that the anime industry has currently reached a point where the latter of these is gradually taking over, which I personally disagree with, but that’s for another time.

    All in all, this was a fantastic read that was both in-depth and informative, and evoked a lot of thoughts and reflections. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Firstly, thank you for your very long comment! I love it when what I write is able to generate discussion, so I appreciate the effort to both read and write something like this!

      To look at the anime consumerist context as a self-reinforcing cycle in resulting in very niche, unique content that target a specific audience is really quite an interesting perspective. Personally, I think that explains anime’s formulaic approach because those generate the most consumer revenue. However, as to the other anime – the ones with deeper themes and are generally more thought-provoking – these are also different from other dramas and its possible the consumerist factor doesn’t apply very much to them. With the exception of the ones that straddle both ‘deeper’ topics but produce tons of merchandise, DVD sales at the same time (like NGE), is the rest of such anime not exactly otaku-pandering? There may be very well be a difference between the two types of target audience. I am just extrapolating here mainly because I think there are people who don’t display conventional otaku habits in consuming anime, and who constitute a substantial part of the target audience as well. I guess I was trying to address both types of audience in my post (though it was probably more implicit because I didn’t explicitly state anything). But ultimately, I agree with your conclusion – anime gives us a wide array of content that is enough to include the deep stuff, as well as the otaku-pandering stuff.

      Thank you! I find myself constantly moving on to other lines of discussion in the comments thus far, which makes me really happy. ^^

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well yeah, I completely agree. Maybe I mis-phrased my point.

    What I meant with ”otaku culture” isn’t just the pandered, self-indulgent otaku audience that is most commonly synonymous with the term, but rather the anime consumerist culture at large – including the target audience of the ”deeper” stuff. My main point was that anime, being the niche-oriented medium that it is, revolves around a consumer basis that doesn’t consist of the general public, but a specific social group that are “the anime fans”. Anime’s uniqueness compared to other similar mediums is hence due to that the market surrounding it is contained within this subcultural, self-generated bubble.

    However, this all may very well be just me pulling speculations out of my ass. Maybe the anime market is much more mainstream over in Japan than what I’m making it out to be (although considering the extremely poor working conditions for anime staff positions, I doubt it). And there certainly are a lot more factors involved in the equation, such as the financial relationship between adaptations and their source materials for example, or the fact that the industry hasn’t adapted to the internet age yet (for some reason) and is still getting its money through Bluray- and DVD-sales. Another interesting point in this is also the medium’s increasing popularity in the west, and the effects on the market as a whole that that may cause.

    Anyway, I’m just rambling at this point. I really feel like this topic deserves an entire post for itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah okay, I see, looks like I missed your main point earlier. That is an extremely interesting thesis, and it would make sense if anime directors are largely anime otaku themselves. I have always thought of the anime industry as mostly thriving based on DVD and Bluray sales of the fetish-pandering stuff, and then with any economic or financial room to breathe, then comes the ‘deeper’ stuff which really mainly serve as their outlet of self-expression. But even so, I see that what I think may not be mutually exclusive with your way of thinking.

      Either way, I think unfortunately there is a lack of research and information on anime’s sales and market access in Japan that is widely reported anyway (except perhaps in academic papers, but even so it is not a very well researched topic). It certainly deserves a separate post, if only there’s the information!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It felt like this topic can be a good research topic for majoring in television culture in a cross cultural setting. Yes, I need patience to read this long. Haha! I can see your effort of getting facts from your references. Bravo!~

    The question in the beginning is why anime is not for everybody?
    Culture is a factor. yes. a big factor. Also, I get the point of anime has a specific niche to cater. Yes, it’s true. Not everyone will be on that niche. But you know what excites me about watching anime is making possible the impossible things to happen. The fantasy genre perhaps. 🙂

    What common among these different mediums tv series or anime is its relevance to real life and targeting human emotions. When people see themselves in the character. I watched lots of koreanovelas. That’s how I felt.

    I want to process /reflect upon this blog because I am always claiming that I am a film, tv series and anime blogger. So yeah! This one is a real good insight to deal with.

    Nice Shiroyuni! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately, I don’t study anything of the sort so my ‘effort’ is pretty wasted isn’t it? 😉 I got references mainly for the J-drama part of the essay, the rest of it is based on my own experience actually 🙂

      Yep I agree with you. Cultural differences are a huge factor, and how anime tends to twist and turn stories is also a large factor for me as well. For fantasy in particular, I like how each fantasy world has its own rules and I like to see the MC do all sorts of things to achieve his/her objectives haha.

      To be honest, I always felt detached from the characters in every single tv series I watched, no matter Western or Asian. It was only through anime that I got to like and love characters, so that’s how special anime is to me.

      Glad that what I wrote is useful to you! Haha. Thanks for taking the time to read it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh wow. What a thoroughly insightful post. Indeed, you’re exactly correct that we have a wide variety of choices when it comes to TV entertainment. Culture matters a lot, whether we like it or not. Many anime shows may transcend the cultural barriers of storytelling,but ultimately it’s still considered a “Japanese” medium of entertainment. Sure there are people like us all over the world who are huge fans of anime, but we still gravitate towards the “Japanese” aspects of it. I’m not going to talk too much about live-action dramas (although you put a lot of effort into writing about them in this post), but you did an excellent job in pointing out the differences between the types of drama made in different countries. Another intelligent post as always, Shiro. I always delight in reading these posts of yours. Keep them comin’! Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha yes, that is basically what most people sum it up as. Cultural differences are important, and Japanese media are different enough by combining elements of Western storytelling and their specific cultural aspects to make things refreshing to us as viewers. The difficulty really lies in articulating what exactly those ‘Japanese’ aspects are, and its still something I am working on.
      Thank you for reading it, Arria! I really appreciate it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed, you’re right. What makes a specific anime “Japanese”? I read this article (somewhere, I think it was RocketNews, I’m not even sure) that discusses the question “Are anime characters Japanese?” Many of us fans become furious whenever we watch a “failed” live-action film adaptation of an anime. We accuse the filmmakers of “Westernizing” the story we so love. However, if really think about it, depending on the story, anime characters are NOT all Japanese. So what makes anime Japanese? Is it the story? But you can find similar stories from another culture. Is it the type of animation? The people who made it? Is anime “anime” because it’s made in Japan? We have all of these questions, and I don’t think there is a single correct answer. I think it’s different depending on the situation and the person answering. Anyway, excellent post as always. Keep it up, Shiro. Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, I agree with that perspective. I have actually thought about that topic at length – about what makes anime inherently ‘Japanese’ – as in – different from other forms of entertainment, and I thought that the only answer it could be is – cultural values, communal-ways of thinking that are portrayed in anime. Therein lies the fundamental difference, I personally believe. But I am aware that of course I may not be correct, and it does depend to some extent on the person answering.
        Thanks! Cheers to you as well 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly! Anime like Fullmetal Alchemist have characters that aren’t “Japanese” story-wise so I think it’s more acceptable to be “Westernized” than, say, that horrid Dragon Ball live-action film adaptation.

        Like

  9. If you hadn’t already said it, then these wholesome comments definitely have. With all of my thoughts on the matter basically mirroring the comments made (and of course, the post itself), I am only delighted that I could see my Eva reference for the day.

    An enlightening write up, that’s for sure. The controversy never ceases to amaze me!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Way Cool Wednesday – 13 July 2016 – MATT DOYLE MEDIA

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