"Anime For Adults" attitude is harmful

by Justin Sevakis, Apr 29th 1999
It's kind of odd being one of the only members of the newsmedia that isn't covering that big shooting/bombing at that high school in Denver last week. While it's nice not having to be a part of the media frenzy, it's more disturbing to see how America copes with such a situation. Frankly, I'm not sure what the bigger tragedy is: the kids who got killed, or what is happening in the common sense-deprived minds in charge of things as a result.

Those two boys that went nuts with the guns and the pipe bombs were obviously not right in the head, and some things simply can't be prevented. Of course, the mainstream media is reveling in disecting every little part in their lives. Their AOL web space included snippets of lyrics from the German industrial band KMFDM. THERE'S a culprit!

Well, I happen to like KMFDM, thank you very much. In fact, I discovered them in part thanks to Manga Video's use of their song "Ultra" on one of their previews. It's pathetic to see an entire great band get steamrolled just because two fans happen to go nuts. (Smartly, they released a statement sometime later, and so now the media has moved on to attacking guns and Howard Stern... figure THAT one out!)

While the rest of America searches for someone or something to be the scapegoat for the loss of life, this band that preached NONVIOLENCE (albeit nihilistic nonviolence, but nonviolence nonetheless) is having their reputation smeared. But that's just one band, and one incredibly small piece of a fairly large genre. What worries me more is that those KMFDM CD's could just have easily been a dubbed copy of Urotsukidoji. Then the entire country would be all up in arms over this pornographic anime and we'd pretty much all be labeled psycopaths.

Public perception is IMMENSELY important to any business, anime included. In a society based on Puritan morals, however, even the comparitively tame Ghost in the Shell is considered unsuitable by some. While anime is quickly gaining a reputation among the American public for being just as lewd as it is cutting-edge, there is a conservative backlash here, just waiting to happen, just as it did for Rock and Roll.

As any idiot who even remembers high school can figure out, those teenage years are the most insecure years of anyone's life. With the frenetic pace of the information age, instability in today's young people are more and more common. Bullying is and always has been part of the experience. In Japan, they don't have guns, so they just commit suicide. Here, they take as many people as they can with them. Heck, I'd be willing to bet that at least 60% of high school kids dream about doing things like that. I know *I* sure did when I was in high school.

Considering the fragile emotional state of so many high school aged kids, the tragedy we saw last week is bouned to happen again, and again. Considering the genre's growning appeal to high school kids, it's only a matter of time before one of them is an otaku. Let's face it... it's not the star quarterbacks that are the hardcore anime fans. It's not just nerds that are anymore, but more often than not, they aren't exactly the "in" crowd.

Rather than see the obvious lapse in parenting and society in general, the flocks of the uneducated and the unthinking are busy thinking of a quick fix. With anime's placement in society right now, it's an easy target... and the arguments don't have to make sense for the staunch critics to start coming out of the woodwork. What needs to be done now is to get anime out of this "cult" and "trendy" status and into something more tightly integrated into society.

There was a very brief period (i.e. one or two days) where the internet was being attacked as being a source for information on terrorism. The attacks were quickly written off as being alarmist and technophobic, simply because the internet has grown to become too much a part of everyday life to be accepted as the cause for such a problem. This is anime's next challenge.

With the advent of such American programming as South Park, The Simpsons, and several others, animation is losing the reputation of being just for kids. This season there are more animated prime-time shows on American television than ever before. Even Disney films are growing increasingly violent and dark. We've just about conquered the "animation is for kids" barrier. Now it's time to conquer the "anime is violent and oversexed" barrier. With the release of Princess Mononoke this year, we have a step in the right direction, with the introduction of a slightly gory, albeit socially redeeming film into the public perception. Perfect Blue, however, may be a step back.

What we need is Macross Plus the Movie to see a mainstream theatrical release. We need Vision of Escaflowne to play on prime time TV. Nurse Angel Ririka needs to be marketed to kids. Onisama e... needs to be advertised to rich society women in the New Yorker. It might be the end of our little circle of fandom, but if it means myself and the anime I love not being pigeonholed as psychopathic, it's a price I'm willing to pay.


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