If you haven’t noticed by now, I am an anime fan. Throughout this journey I’ve had my fair share of online debates, silly squabbles, waifu wars, and toxic fandoms. However like many of us who have stepped into the world of anime during our childhood, I’ve had the chance to watch award-winning titles from the captain of Studio Ghibli himself; Hayao Miyazaki. Anyone that’s heard of him already knows what titles he’s known for; Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, need I go on? He’s one of the most respected individuals in the anime industry to this day, but at the same time he’s also the most critical of what the industry has become. While many in the anime community may discredit his opinions about the state of the industry, others just might understand where he’s coming from. For me of course I’m not one to pick sides when it comes to controversial topics, but Miyazaki’s ‘anime was a mistake’ statement really got me thinking of what he thought would happen to this industry…
Several months to maybe a year ago I talked about unpopular opinions about anime, and how easy it is to get into online arguments over little details about shows where the outcome wasn’t in favor of its fans. Lately it appears that the balance in the overall quality of anime, has shifted into an overproduced quantity of it in the last couple decades. I feel like if some fans took the time to read between the lines of what Miyazaki really meant, they would actually discover that his ‘anime was a mistake’ statement, wasn’t EXACTLY what he said; but rather he feels like with what anime has become in the modern age, Miyazaki thinks that the industry is full of creators who never had any real world experience when creating their characters. One of the things that drew me in to Miyazaki’s films is his way of storytelling and worldbuilding, that was different from what you’d find in most modern anime.
Honestly, Miyazaki was on a whole other level with his plot and character development; and actually took his audience on a journey that felt both heartwarming and realistic – based on the character’s personalities and traits. With modern anime its different; while there are some titles that do in fact have good plot and character development, there’s about ten others that do the complete opposite. I will say however there are some titles out there that take a page out of Miyazaki’s playbook in terms of characters with ‘real world’ personalities, issues, and how to overcome them.
When it comes to character creation and how Miyazaki goes about doing it, he’s all the way old school. No amount of begging and pleading for him to try and use the modern anime method, will get him to consider it. Everything was hand-drawn; from the characters to the setting of the story itself. Miyazaki wanted his characters to be relatable; through their personalities, behaviors, and how they act and react in certain situations throughout the plot of the story. Now when it comes to how female characters are portrayed in anime, that’s where a lot of Miyazaki’s issues with the industry come from.
The biggest issue being anime tropes.
How many women have you seen in the real world just drop kick a guy for no apparent reason when he makes an honest mistake? Well, that’s one of the issues that Miyazaki has with female characters being portrayed in certain anime genres; especially the ecchi/harem ones. (Isekai, you aren’t safe either.) Its not just that though; as bland male leads, weak women, OP protagonists, panty shots, fan service, lolicons, complex characters, and airheaded male/female characters, are also big offenders in these titles. The list can go on but that’s the basis of what Miyazaki believes that anime has become, and guess what…it has.
Most anime fans would actually agree with what Miyazaki is getting at in terms with what the industry (as well as the fandom) has become. It all leads back to the word ‘Otaku’, and why Western fans have embraced the word as something positive rather than the original meaning from the Japanese. So why have we created an entire culture around a word that is viewed negatively among the country’s inhabitants? Why have we excepted the origins of this word as part of our society; even though its a derogatory term for ‘basement dwelling’ incels who obsess over fictional anime characters, and send love or hate letters to manga artists or anime voice actors? Now that I think about it; Miyazaki doesn’t truly have a problem with the anime industry as a whole, he just doesn’t like weeaboos. (Neither does most of the general public to some degree.)
Hayao Miyazaki is from a different generation of anime directors, creators, and producers. He’s by-the-book old school in terms of his style, and how he captures the beauty of his art. To him; anime is an artform that is meant to capture its audience visually and emotionally with its breathtaking scenes, relatable characters, and well put together plots. None of his movies had ‘one-note characters’, tsunderes, senpai chicks, 2D thots, bland MC’s, or over-powered saiyans (sorry DBZ fans). To some fans it feels like Miyazaki’s living in the ‘dark ages’ with his world and political views, and regardless of how the community feels about his criticism on what anime and its industry has become, fans are still passionate about the medium as a whole.
Sure its not perfect, and that fact that so many ‘wars’ and debates still find a way to rear their ugly heads from time to time (Sub v. Dub, waifu wars, etc.) is an ongoing issue, anime fans continue to show their dedication to the medium and the industry; whether they agree with Miyazaki’s criticisms, or not. As stupid as some of these tropes are, they somehow manage to find a way to crack a smile on the faces of fans from all around the West. While it took nearly 20 years for anime to become widely accepted among mainstream audiences, it still feels like it has a bit more of a way to go. Anime, its fandom(s), and the industry are always going to have issues to sort out, but when it comes to Western fans; we’re ALWAYS going to be overexcited about our favorite titles getting renewed, who best girl or best boy is, cosplaying at anime conventions, and enjoying Studio Ghibli films.
Do I personally believe anime was a mistake? No. I think if more artists and creators took the time to go out and draw inspiration from people in the real world, they would be able to tell stories with real-world influence and make their characters relatable. With the way the community is now, some fans are starting to go back and watch more Ghibli films and older anime titles that didn’t have all the crazy tropes you’d see in modern titles. I think, with the direction that the anime industry is going and what anime has become, has allowed it to ascend from the depths of being an ‘underground’ niche medium; becoming accepted from others all around the world and even among mainstream audiences. To reach its final form however, anime creators have to ditch the ‘Otaku mindset’ and get inspired by the beauty of the people and places in the outside world around them.
Until next post, stay nerdy my friends! 😉