How Japanese Animation Changed My Life

As a visual person, I have always been intrigued with animation and cartoons from a very young age. However, there is one particular medium that changed everything for me at the age of four. My grandpa introduced me to my very first anime series, which was the 1967 shonen anime Speed Racer. This was the beginning of my journey of what I now call a dedicated love and appreciation for Japanese animation. 

For me, growing up watching Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli films such as Spirited Away or Castle in the Sky was like being transported into an entirely different immersive experience. I could escape all of the real world problems and enjoy the story for what it is. I could see the vivid colors, hand-drawn frames and fleshed out characters all together with the film’s beauty. However, there is a lot more that has impacted me than just these films.

Japanese animation has allowed me to broaden my perspective about the world. I once didn’t know that life experiences from different animators are often interwoven within their work. As a general audience member, you don’t really know what goes on behind the scenes unless you take the time to research it yourself. Well, I sure did. The plethora of storyboards, production, writing, art, countless deadlines and collaborative team effort I found really allowed me to come to terms with how much labor goes into just one project. Whether it’s a full length anime series, an original video animation (OVA) or a feature length film, there’s always something new that peaks my interest. 

As a writer, I often attempt to analyze stories from a wide lens and tend to relate with characters in many Japanese animated mediums because of their unique qualities. One particular character I particularly find fascinating is Ken Kaneki from Sui Ishida’s anime/manga series Tokyo Ghoul. He lives in a world where humans live in fear of man-eating creatures called ghouls. After an unexpected accident, he finds himself split between the human world he always has known and this new unknown world of ghouls. As a mixed individual who has never felt completely invited into one community and was often lost in life, I found Kaneki to be quite refreshing. Here we have a realistic character who expresses his struggles, emotions and psychological trauma to the changing environment surrounding him. Many characters indeed have struggles, but this journey is one that truly is on a different level. Kaneki learning to gradually accept who he has become rather than focusing on the loss of his past self is something I believe we all can learn from. 

Unsplash Additionally, I don’t have to be judged for who I am as a person to enjoy Japanese animation and can connect with a wide variety of people who also share the common interest. Going to my first anime convention back in fall of 2018 with one of my friends was probably one of the most exciting events I had ever experienced. Seeing such a variety of cosplayers gave me inspiration to cosplay in the future and reassurance that I had finally joined a community that understood the quirks of Japanese animation as a whole. If there is anything I have taken away from this overall experience, it’s to put yourself out there and not be afraid to explore something completely new. I never imagined I would be cosplaying two years down the line as Nezuko from the now popular anime/manga series Demon Slayer. 

In essence, Japanese animation provided a gateway for me to thrive in creative and engaging ways and look forward to the constantly changing landscape of the industry entirely. I have grown to love something that has been a part of me since childhood and continue to find the wonderful aspects about it that I like to call my “special insights”.