The Sailor Scout Gods (which I guess are just the Roman gods right?) have finally heard my prayers — Sailor Moon is back! A new anime adaptation of the Sailor Moon manga, Sailor Moon Crystal, debuted July 5 online — available for English audiences on Hulu, Crunchyroll, and Neon Alley. The return of the Queen of the Magical Girl trope — at least the most recognizable Magical Girl for American audiences — has me thinking about my on-and-off relationship with anime. For the purposes of this post, by anime, I mean anime TV series — episodic Japanese animated shows as opposed to films.
For most of my elementary days, my after school ritual was pretty much set into stone — Pokemon at 3, Card Captors at 3:30 (until it was replaced by the inferior Yu Gi Oh which I still begrudgingly watched), Sailor Moon at 4, Dragonball Z at 4:30, and homework during the commercials. I was hooked — the fantastical adventures, the cute creatures, and the heartwarming friendships were more entertaining and complex than most Western children’s television. Then I was old enough to stay up late to watch InuYasha and The Big O on the weekend. That’s when the paradigm shift occurred. I officially loved anime or at least almost all of the anime available to an eleven-year-old American girl in the early 2000s.
The older I got, the more anime I discovered. The more anime I discovered, the more I marvelled at the stories shared in those series. The more I marveled at the stories, the more perplexed I became at just what exactly those stories included. There are certain tropes I chalk up to cultural differences — demons, Japanese school systems, preoccupation on apocalyptic imagery — but some are more difficult to explain away.
What’s up with the super short skirts on practically every female student character?
If there are Caucasian and Asian characters, where are the other characters of color (that don’t look and act like racist stereotypes)?
Are unwarranted sexual advances really all that funny? Must series endings always be so ambiguous that they’re opaque? (Lookin’ at you, The Big O.) As a result of my frustrations, I stopped actively watching anime shows for several years. Every so often, I’d watch some old school Sailor Moon or even the saccharine-yet-addicting Fruits Basket. But I could never really get over my qualms with certain recurring features in the medium. Observing popular anime series from afar, I expected Fullmetal Alchemist to be a kiddie faux European Pokemon knockoff, Death Note to be an emo teen melodrama, and Hetalia to be…well, to be frank, I thought it was hentai.
The premiere of Sailor Moon Crystal — and my younger cousin’s insistence that I watch Fullmetal Alchemist — inspired me to give anime another try. I can’t condemn a broad medium from problematic genre tropes, after all.
Re-exploring the genre has opened my eyes for now I recognize how vast and diverse anime really is. Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are anything but a Pokemon knockoff — they’re both heartfelt, action-packed series that are screaming for a Game of Thrones-style live adaptation. Death Note is a taut thriller and masterclass in creating an engrossing protagonist that is by no means a “good guy.” Hetalia…I still don’t really “get” Hetalia but it makes me laugh (and it’s not porn)!
Do I still have strong criticisms and aversions for certain aspects of the anime series I watch? Absolutely. That being said, when do I not have strong criticisms and aversions for certain aspects of any series that I watch? For instance, shows like Oreimo still freak me out and not in the same way as the Titans of Attack on Titan.
Next on my Re-discovering the Anime Medium List are Cowboy Bebop (I know, I know! I still haven’t seen it. Sorry!), Spice and Wolf (the economics lesson anime), and Saint Young Men (sacrilegious comedy is my favorite comedy). Now if you’ll excuse, I’m going to binge-watch the English dub of InuYasha: The Final Act I just discovered on Hulu and squee/cry like the flip-flopping fangirl I am.