księżycowy wrote:It's been years but I know there are plenty of religious themes in both Trigun and Evangelion.
It seems to me like Eva is using Jewish and Christian imagery in the same way Marvel movies use random elements from Icelandic religion
The influence of Japan's own culture seems to be underestimated sometimes when discussing it, though
I really really like it, but it doesn't have to do with the use of such imagery.
When it comes to Evangelion, those religious imageries are still more of a cosmetic part than anything else... I'll get a bit off tangent because why not. It feels like other "Western" viewers of Evangelion who focus on the religious themes are watching it very differently from what I see. This is going to be a long rambling because I see Eva as responsible for a lot of things that are both right and wrong about contemporary anime.
Let's divide the robot animations into generations, with noting that superrobots are basically the Japanese equivalents of superheroes.
The first generation. Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, Combattler V, Dan Cougar...
The superrobots are usually huge, and they are often the last hopes of the humanity against enemies that are irredeemably evil or at least inimical beyond any hope of making peace. The most notable characteristic common theme among the pilots is the unrelenting and burning passion -- the "hotbloodedness (熱血)" This generation goes from 70s to 80s.
The second generation is best represented by Gundam
and all its spinoffs forming the larger Gundam universe. The enemies are not some Dr. Hell or or Dinosaurians or other one-sided space monsters, but now just as human as the protagonists. In fact, Amuro Rei and Char Aznable of Gundam are just as protagonists, with even today fans supporting the cause of one or the other... but they are not unquestionable paragons of justice anymore. They became more like war heroes. Lasting from 80s to 90s.
The anime has moved from the tales of the mythical heroes combatting evil to the modernist tales of traumatised war heroes. What next.
. The plot involves space aliens who were thought to be aliens, but turned out to be a group of humans lost contact in the past. These Jupiterians only have one certain piece of Earth cultural artifact that they preserved after all the time -- a super-robot anime called Gekiganga
, which became something of religious canonicity among them. The absolute zeal for justice and hotbloodedness pervade their culture. And on the Terran side, Gekiganga
is but a curious piece of retro anime except with a certain Terran character called Daidouji Gai, who aspires to embody it. Daidouji Gai is everything that the superrobot pilots of the past embodied and he wants to be a hero just like them - but he dies in Episode 4, in the most trivial nature, not even while piloting his mecha.
In a way, Daidouji's death and the rest of the plot is but strangling the throat of the superrobots as a genre, as the series made it more than clear that "life doesn't work that way." Jupiterians have their failures, Terrans can't provide an alternative, and the main protagonist is stuck between the reality and the memories of Daidouji and Gekiganga
The final blow came with Evangelion,
from which Anime as a whole is yet to recover some 20 years now. What are the Eva units, what are the Angels? What are they even fighting? There is far too much to nitpick in detail, starting from Shinji's initial refusal to pilot Eva, that throws a wrench to what the genre was supposed to be like. But most important of all, in my opinion, is that Eva was the turning point when the enemy became not even other humans, but ourselves. Or more like, our uncertainty about ourselves.
All that was established was broken. Anime's entered postmodern. I don't feel like making this far too long, but the same kind of parallel development can be seen with the magical girls subgenre as well, with Cardcaptor Sakura
as the turning point where the main protagonist is the root of all evil in the first place, and to culminate in Madoka Magica
as the fatal blow to the genre structure.
There is no plot to write anymore, all the plot was dissected. Re-hashing any would feel old. What else can we do with Anime at this point? Why not shift the focus on.. something that is not plot. How about characters? Enter the Harem.
There have been proto-Harem manga series like Ah! My Goddess
and one may argue for Maison Ikkoku
as the genre-defining work for all romantic comedy anime, but I'll raise Love Hina
for what it did in the historical context.
Previously, when anime or games depended on the appeal of multiple female characters, they used stereotypical images -- school club membership, occupation, nationality -- and the traces of it can be found in Love Hina
, but I think this is when the personality types started getting defined and becoming cliche, the most notable of which is of course tsundere. This started a whole new trend of moe to follow, not only in anime but everywhere within the subculture.
Let's fast-forward another decade, we're 2006 and there enter Suzumiya Haruhi
and Death Note
. They look like two very different works, but there is one thing that the protagonists Suzumiya Haruhi and Yagami Light have in common: they're bored
. Haruhi desires fantastic things to happen, which even stopped happening in the world of anime; Light wants to fight evil, and in turn becomes evil himself. Anime is looking back at what it used to be, but can't quite return to that state anymore.
Anime has entered post-postmodern. We're in 2010s now.
No grand story is happening anymore, all the character cliches have come and got overused. Still, the moe appeal of the characters on the forefront might be the last thing anime can linger on, but harem fell out of favor. Even for the otakus. And when there are elements of Harem, it cannot escape the same postmodern deconstruction: Haganai
and The World Only God Knows
are good examples.
Enter "everyday life" (nichijo) as a genre. Pioneered by Azumanga Daioh
and followed by the likes of Lucky Star, K-On!
, there's no story taking place, just characters doing what they do in their daily lives and making jokes. The most striking piece of this trend, in my opinion, is Seitokai no Ichizon
, where 90% of it is just the characters sitting on a table and talking, sometimes even going meta about the anime medium itself. And well, as expected, even nichijo has gotten a bit dry recently.
Moe loses its productivity as well of course. Character traits are now defined, and new characters are built around how to combine the existing traits, to an extent that many characters can be explained away by listing a few keywords. Blond sister bracon tsundere otaku
pretty much sums up the heroine of Oreimo
. And if you resort to otaku
as a moe trait, you're really running out of ideas. I believe otaku
as a moe trait appeared on the scene with Izumi Konata of Lucky Star
Is there any more story left for Anime to tell? I'm not sure. And I know I'm cutting off a whole shitload of footnotes for the sake of oversimplification, but anime has faded away as a creative medium by this point.
At times, Anime doesn't even try, but instead tries to broaden its subject matter. Girls und Panzer
pretty repeats the 70-80s sports anime plotline with no alteration whatsoever, and the characters are built around the moe building blocks just like anything else, but gained attention for their uncompromising fetish-like attention to details of armored tanks. Are we watching anime or are we watching videos about tanks? I'm not criticizing it, it's a great anime, but still questionable. How much more novelty can you bring in without alienating the audiences by being too unfamiliar? A lot of the anthropomorphisation
that many people find weird is made to bridge the gap between the subject matter to an average otaku.
The number of anime works that originated as an anime (or even manga) has seen a very sharp decline. Almost everything is an adaptation of something else, meaning anime has become more or less of extra cutscenes for video games or a long advertisement trailer to get people into a certain franchise -- such was the case of Idolm@ster
(2011) which brought new fans to a languishing franchise, successfully revitalizing it. Again, it's a great anime, one of my absolute favorites -- but it is not a self-contained work by itself, but is meant to serve the franchise as a whole.
Good examples of anime that seem to defy its age by being thoroughly heroic or modernist tend to be adapted from something else from a different medium. After all, there being an animated series has become like a measure of a franchise's popularity in the otaku subculture, and anime is what they releash when a franchise becomes a bit stale, with the hopes that they serve as an advertisement to bring in new fans, like Idolm@ster
Anime is not the cornerstone of the otaku culture anymore, that role was divided up by light novels (which allow much more daring experiments due to lower production cost), doujin and of course video games. Can anime do anything to bring itself back up to the former glory? ...I'd like to see it, but I doubt it.