Monday, March 21, 2005

Anime Has, NO Plot

This is a post I wrote over a year ago, but I realised yesterday that I hadn't posted it on here, so here it is, my analysis of Anime Vs Western story telling methods (well a brief introduction to anyway). If you are one of those people that are still struggling to appreciate Anime, this rant might help.

When it comes to a film the three main elements that I look for are Plot, Story And Character Development.
Plot is the direction the story takes. The story is the general scripting of everything and the character development is the changing moods and desires of the characters.

With Anime in general the emphasis isn't on plot, but instead on character development. A lot of Animes don't even have any kind of plot at all. I know this is hard to imagine with western cultured eyes, but then the oodles of character development that takes it's place, easily makes up for it.

Looking back on the amount of character development I see in comparison with Hollywood films, the characters can be quite wooden and a lot of the time are the same people at the end of the film as they where before the film even started.

If I take The Matrix for example. Neo is still the same person he was when the first film started. His circumstances might have changed, but he is still the same person.

American History X, shows the change a hardened Nazi goes through to become racially accepting. Its a great film, but the character transition happens too easily to be believable.

Unfortunately the only Anime we get in the UK is stuff with action, because they don't think we can stomach the deep character development with no plot thing.

An excellent Anime is one called Angelic Layer it's the story of a girl that move to the city to live with her auntie and to look for her mom. Through this she gets interested in Angelic Layer (a sport with little fighting toy dolls). She gets quite good and enters the Angelic Layer championship and through that finds her mum.
And that's it!
The entire plot laid out for you, in less than a whole paragraph!

And yet that's ten hours of on screen action, because it is the character development that takes precedence over the plot. So if we look at just the character development elements, we have a story about a timid girl venturing to the city, to try and find her long lost mother. When she arrives she watches some people playing Angelic Layer and she gets interested, creates her own doll and enters a few tournaments. Enemies become friends and in the proses she discoverers her true self.

About mid way through the story she has a birthday where all her friends arrive and they throw her an amazing party. It's at this point the timid girl we once knew realises she actually does have friends in this new place and she knows she can call this city her home.
While the party is happening (yes there is cake), her mother tries to visit her, but she gets scared and goes away, because her mother lost the use of her legs years ago and that traumatised her into thinking she couldn't be a good mum. So she has been hiding from her daughter.

Lots more happens that has no relevance to the plot, but I don't want to spoil it. Just know that I cried at the end.
Shame it will never get shown outside of Japan.

So to my point. When you watch anime don't go looking for a plot because you won't find one, instead immerse yourself into the characters and just enjoy it from moment to moment, second guessing the whole story is pointless because characters in anime always have more backstory than what is shown. And In the west we use animation for comedy and kids entertainment only, so there is much to learn from anime.