What kind of teacher never asks his students questions? A very strange one, to say the least. (That’s enough giggling, Shiraishi-kun.) So just to change things up, today we’ll pretend we’re in Soviet Russia. Because in Soviet Russia, you do not ask Sensei. Sensei ask you!
One question I’ve always wanted to ask about anime is exactly why we so easily “buy into” anime characters. Granted that there is a multitude of variations on “the anime style,” some of which are significantly more realistic than others, we must still admit that there is more to this black box called “anatomy” than meets the eye. Whether it’s the ten-heads-tall characters of Code Geass that I always said looked like spiders with four of their legs removed, or the dinner plate eyes and dot noses of the characters in Clannad, or the body-distorting superpowers of so many One Piece and Naruto and Bleach characters, one thing seems to hold true. That is the willingness, even the ease with which we as anime fans accept these drawings as if they were flesh-and-blood actors. I wonder why this is?
Of course, a lot of it has to do with the talent (for better or worse) of the voice actors. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that many Japanese seiyuu, with 70 years or more of anime history behind them, are particularly skilled at “entering” these cell-shaded representations and “bringing them to life” as it were. Not only that, but another thing I’m fond of saying is that especially well-loved characters transcend their black enclosure lines and become concepts which lose none of their power over time, in spite of being disembodied.
Then again, this is hardly unique to anime. Could not the same be said of Frodo Baggins, or Oliver Swift? We bought into those characters while they were disembodied from the start, mere words on a page. In a movie, a character such as Arnold Schwarzenegger plays in Total Recall is a different thing from both a book character and an anime character. He is not Arnold himself (for he could exist without Arnold in a book, just like Oliver Swift), but it is especially through Arnold that we get to meet him. Or perhaps I’m contradicting myself? For if you glance at the long and impressive voice-acting resume of a seiyuu such as Morikubo Shoutarou, you will see a lot of characters whom you also know, who certainly exist in a sense apart from Morikubo-san, but who just as well owe a large part of such existence as they have to his considerable talent.
I suppose what I’m asking is what you think might be special about anime characters that, often in spite of their appearance, enables us to buy into them so readily. For extra credit, compare and contrast them to book characters, movie characters, and/or characters in American animation. I particularly wonder what parallels there are, if any, between Naruto and Woody, or Aladdin, or Roger Rabbit. Or even Bugs Bunny for that matter. No need to worry about your grade, because everyone passes this class.
Except perhaps for Shiraishi-kun.