Worthless Guide to Anime (Redux) - Part 1


“What is anime!?” Someone screams from a nearby rooftop, catching my attention as I pass by on the street. The wind whisks the words away before they reach my ears, forcing me to guess at his question. “7:36!” I shout back. Flustered, the man cups his hands to his mouth and tries again, “WHAT! IS! ANIME!” Unfortunately I do not hear this, as I have wandered into a nearby deli in order that I might purchase some pastrami. The man begins to shake his head sadly, tears pooling in his eyes. His family will go hungry once again. But what if you, like this misguided man, would inexplicably like to know what anime is? This guide might just help.

An Uncomfortable Burning Sensation

BusinessmanAnime is a style of animation which originated in Japan in the 70’s. The date is a complete guess, but I’m certainly not going to look it up, so yeah it was the 70’s. One day a bunch of old Japanese guys in baby blue pant suits sat in a dank theater watching some animated Disney movies. One of them said (probably in Japanese) “Ooh! This animation is quite pleasing to me; Hmm? let us make some of our own; ha-ha; Mm. Ooohhhhh...” The others nodded solemnly in agreement, except for the guy who was leaving to use the bathroom because he didn't hear it.

The businessmen formulated a plan right then and there to create a vast empire of Japanese animation. Once they had finished, they stood up and filed out the emergency exit at the rear of the theater. A few minutes later, the man who went to the bathroom came back into the theater, wiping his hands on his pants. He noticed that the others had left without him, became quite ashamed, and began searching for an object with which to commit ritual suicide. He didn’t find one, but did find a half-finished box of junior mints behind one of the seats. He then ate them, finding them to be quite delicious.

For a secondary definition, I decided to head over to Wikipedia (an online “encyclopedia” which is controlled by the people most committed to spraying the internet with haphazard libel), which defined anime as follows:
Anime (square square square question mark) is a medium of animated cartoons originating in Japan, with distinctive character and background aesthetics that visually set it apart from other forms of animation.

Again, since this comes straight from Wikipedia, we must assume that this is the official definition which has been agreed upon by a supergroup of the world’s finest intellectuals and linguists. I agree with this definition I suppose, except for the three squares and a small blue question mark which come after the word anime. What was the meaning of this? Were these the the sinister remnants of some untranslatable elder glyphs? Coded assassination instructions from the Underground Anime Consortium?

I popped a few more pills to steady my shaking hands and poked out a quick internet search for “square square square question mark”, hoping to find my answer. What I discovered was a jewelry website which claims to sell what they suspiciously call “Square Question Marks”. Here are the features of these alleged baubles:Question
  • Slide bracelet component, gold-plated, square question mark. Sold per package of 6.
  • Slide bracelet components make personal expression fun. Easily slides onto slide bracelet straps, sold separately, for quick changes to suit your many moods.
  • Slide bracelet components have a depth of 3.5mm. Components come in reclosable plastic boxes that are easy to store and stack.
I find this to be highly irregular. Why a highly-esteemed web destination like Wikipedia would be advertising such a worthless trinket is beyond comprehension. And to force you to buy six at once? Highway robbery. I shall close the book on this case for now, while my sanity is still intact. I dare not delve any deeper, lest I expose my mind to cosmic truths too horrifying to fathom.

Anime Basic Training

There are three main principles that all Japanese animation must conform to if the creator is to be allowed to live:

Visuals should be grotesque (if not outright terrifying).

FreakshowWhen creating anime, you must create a visual Freakshow in order to distract the viewer from shortcomings in all other areas of production. Just don't go too far. Most anime fans are set in their ways, and if you make things too original a lot of people won't be able to handle it. Try to go with: 90% familiar to 10% weird.

 If this rule is followed, other objectionable elements of your anime such as poor voice acting, ignorance of basic color theory, absurd J-Pop soundtrack, poor writing, and nonexistent character development will be missed or ignored by fans because they are too busy drooling over the cat girl with big jugs to notice.

Animate with the least amount of effort possible

PreteensFor example, let’s say you’re animating the climactic battle in which the ill-proportioned, red-leather-clad, motorcycle-riding protagonist takes on the antagonist (a giant-headed manbaby who inexplicably grows into a frightening and not so vaguely sexual   conglomeration of throbbing veins and phalli).

Instead of animating a scene like this in its entirety (which would take a lot of skill and time and effort) you can save time by drawing one large picture and then panning around or cutting away to different parts of it while playing some early 80s rock music and muffled Sergio Leone gun firing sound effects in the background. You can also be spice things up by adding in some static images of characters jumping (or walking) against streaked background while shouting. This goes a long way in conveying to the viewer that you were either too lazy or not skillful enough to animate a character moving in a realistic or purposeful fashion.

You might think viewers wouldn’t stand for this kind of cheap cop-out technique, but that’s where you underestimate people who have stubbornly decided they are fans of things. Not only will they stand for these techniques, but they will actually go out of their way to DEFEND them as stylistic choices on the animator’s part. Strange world ‘innit?

Offensively convoluted and overly complex storylines are key.

ThrawnOvercomplication the most common crutch of a poor writer (If you need an example: You're Reading One), and this the area in which most anime excels above all else. Hey, if you don’t know how to tell an interesting story, just choose a random half-considered idea or dull cliché (one with which you would normally have trouble sustaining interest through a single 23 minute block), and then stretch it out over 500 or more episodes. Why not? People with no standards will sit through anything, as long as you put in a few good child rape scenes.

Adding thousands of pointless peripheral characters, sprinkling in pointless plot cul-de-sacs, and stealing liberally from classical literature which the script writer doesn’t quite understand are also common techniques, as they are easy and efficient way to cause tightening in the loins of pseudo-pseudointellectuals. Remember: It's not about creating actual depth (that's hard work!), it's about achieving the illusion of depth with as little effort as is possible. And having a rabbitgirl solemnly recite lines from Thus Spoke Zarathustra in your anime script is as easy as pressing Ctrl-V in your wordprocessor.

Part 2: HERE