TangleCast 36: A Philosophy of Anime

The TangleCast returns, and kicking our new rotational format off is Team Trinity, featuring @vintageinmyveins and her partners, Aric and London!

In the first episode of the relaunched TangleCast, the group jumps right into the most basic question of all: what is anime? As they dig into all that question entails, both on the surface and “beneath the tangles,” Team Trinity touches on the challenges of anime movies versus series, the problems of time travel plots, hard magic v. soft magic, and the philosophy of anime.

And we want your feedback as well! Each week we’ll ask a question on the podcast and feature your answers the next time that team rolls around.

Here’s this weeks CQ (Cast Question): What makes something anime (or alternatively, disqualifies it from being anime)?

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Beneath the Tangles » TangleCast
Beneath the Tangles » TangleCast
TangleCast 36: A Philosophy of Anime

11 thoughts on “TangleCast 36: A Philosophy of Anime

  1. In my mind, “anime” is Japanese cartoons. Of course, that dodges the question of what makes a cartoon “Japanese,” which I’d attribute to the cultural background of the creators (rather than to geographic locale in which the show is made, or a specific visual style). Anime, at least as I’m familiar with it (starting with occasional glimpses of these really bizarre shows called Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z back in the ’90s) does follow a broadly similar art style, but that art style is not what makes it “anime.”

    I know, it’s not a rigorous, art history-esque, scholarly definition, and it probably leaks like a sieve. Oh well. I only do art-free history. ;P

    Non-anime animated works can be anime-inspired, but when a show is made in China or America, it can’t quite replicate the *cultural* aesthetic of actual Japanese works. Such shows can draw inspiration from the visual and thematic style of anime, but they never have the Japanese-ness of anime. (This doesn’t mean such shows are bad, by the way – e.g., I love RWBY.)

  2. Some other responses:

    @findingmeemo (IG): No matter how you try to argue, anime is just Japanese cartoons. Their art style is completely different from cartoons here in the USA. You can’t take a show like Adventure Time and call it an anime. // I feel like I have more to say but I can’t word it right now. Hmph.

  3. Will you be putting this out in a format that can be subscribed to using podcast players (i.e. RSS)? I’d like to listen but that’s the only way it’s going to happen for me…

  4. Fun! What was the name of that old anime one of the hosts was saying we should watch? It sounded intriguing.

    Just a word of caution when it comes to theorizing about “Japanese” motivations/opinions regarding philosophy and psychology of anime…as a gaijin living in Japan for 7 years now, I have frequently been disabused of my notions when they come up against real living human beings. I don’t think it’s wrong to speculate and theorize, but it is important to hold those thoughts lightly and to recognize that real people and cultures are often much more complicated and foreign than we often give them credit for. Also…don’t forget the reality of the sinful nature and it’s corrupting influence.

    Thanks for starting up the podcast, I shall enjoy listening.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! And certainly well said—I think some of our writers who have lived (and are currently living) in Japan would likely say the same.

      The show is called “Eon Kid,” btw! It’s a Korean program.

  5. I’ve haven’t been in the anime zeitgeist for a few months, so my experience regarding anime is a bit rusty. But yeah, exploration of war themes were a big thing in the previous generation of japanese people in the anime industry. Miyazaki and Takahata had their fair amount of things to say about the impact of world war 2, growing up and evaluating the cultural impact of Hiroshima.

    Although, looking at the current anime scene, it seems to me like Japan is moving on from that phrase of questioning their own values and showing what they have to deal with, now that there’s far enough time between the end of world war 2 and now, what does the creative people of Japan explore now?

    We generally don’t see much war stories nowadays, the cultural trend is now isakeis, which are fantasies for otakus (and any other person) to escape their own dreadful lives for at least 22 minutes per episode, and self insert themselves into a generic protagonist who knows how to wield a sword and be attractive to multiple members of the opposite sex.

    This hedonistic and lazy attitude Japanese writers are taking are disappointing to me as a whole. The greater appeal of anime is exploring the cultural narrative, which the podcast did touch on about exploring the extisalism of the war.

    I believed that phrase truly started with Matsumoto Leiji’s space opera shows, and then the cultural narrative really blew up with the cinematic trilogy of Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 films being released in theatres.

    What I believe anime is, is a connected network of shows where Japanese creators are influenced by each other in creating their own style of show. E.g. Ikuhara’s Revolutionary Girl Utena influenced by Anno’s earlier work Neon Genesis Evangelion.

    Sure, anime has a rougher time expressing significant stories due to being water down by the state of the economy, with fewer people taking risks and making shows to pleasure either the boardest amount of people possible (popular manga adaptations), or the niche groups that will buy enough BD’s to make a profit of (little sister shows and iseikai shows).

    But I do believe that in the darkest times, God does come through, and even though Japan is an unlikely society for God to have any hand in it, we all express themselves through a natural law. So it comes through in the more genuine anime.

    I’m thankful you decide to continue the podcast, now I feel inspired to get back into watching anime more, and writing about it.

  6. When I’m introducing someone to anime – which doesn’t happen too often, I try to follow along with what the person likes and roll from there. For kids? It’s easy to use things like My Neighbor Totoro as a good starter introduction. It feels like a Disney film, but has a lot of Japanese cultural references and the art style is very different. Another good starter is Bananya. It’s silly, it’s short form, and it only has one season. Also, my kids love it.

    For adults? Again, you need to know the person. If you are looking for a more western-esque feel, then I’d consider Cowboy Bebop. It’s an excellent show with adventurous episodes. If they are looking for comedy, Tonari no Seki-kun. One season, short-form series that is hilarious. It’s excellent.

    1. I was reminded of the whole generation gap thing, too, when I once recommended Cowboy Bebop for a friend (actually, my co-admin at the IG account). I thought she would love it, but she just didn’t have the 80’s/90’s background to really “get” the series. So many things to consider when recommending anime! 😛

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