Anime, Japanese Animation, or in Japan, just animation. When it comes down to it, the Anime fan community is extraordinarily large and diverse. There are multiple fandoms from Naruto fans, to Gundam fans, to fans of old school obscure anime. Yet, we have to ask ourselves: What defines good anime?
I’m sure you’ve heard of anime elitists. These are people who seem to be a bit snooty in the comment sections of Facebook and Youtube posts where they voice that Naruto and Sword Art Online are horrible anime that lack plot and development. Then there are those who consider anime like Mushishi to be works of art compared to Dragon Ball Z. These elitists rile up the community; they are frustrated, upset and basically say, “Oh that’s not really an anime.” They are sick and tired of fan service, storylines that were dragged out too long, and over-hyped series that just don’t quite fulfill their taste. They voice their opinions and will throw in anime that they feel have better story plots, visual appeal, and overall mix of character development and striking climaxes. All in all, whether you like an anime or not is subjective and it’s really your opinion about it that matters.
I’d like to take a look at three different anime in order to understand what the anime elitists may or may not consider to be a good anime and why. I chose Attack on Titan, Cowboy Bebop and Puella Magi Madoka Magica as the three anime to discuss. The reason I chose Attack on Titan is because the general fandom of this anime is quite large and popular but to me personally there is no reason for it to be. Secondly, I chose Cowboy Bebop since it is a great classic and yet still just as innovative as it was 18 years ago. Lastly, I chose Madoka Magica because it has developed a good fan base, and is quite popular, but has complete reason to be. Let me go ahead and start with Attack on Titan.
Now personally, I despise Attack on Titan. The problem with this series is that there is a lack of character development, and the characters remain cry babies throughout the entire season. The lack of emotional growth in the characters really bothers me, and Levi is just the poster child for the broody characters we see in other works of anime. I feel like the fans talked a bit too highly about this anime without truly thinking about its world building and storytelling, and blew it out of proportion. Yet, this doesn’t define Attack on Titan as bad anime, it just defines it as something that was just good enough. What truly bothers me about this particular series is that it just had too many fans that took over too many cons, creating a huge expectation that never gets fulfilled. To an Anime Elitist (and, no, I am not calling myself one), this is frustrating. There are so many other anime that are worth the hype and can fulfill someone’s taste buds for a great plot, visual and musical appeal, and overall story. What’s even a bigger let down? Popular anime tend to not be the best anime.
What does it take to make a great anime? In all honesty, these anime elitists aren’t really elitists; but people voicing unpopular opinions (sometimes in a rude way). They consider different credentials like story and world building, character development, visual art work, and even soundtrack, to be what defines the overall worth of the anime. A good example would be Cowboy Bebop. This series came out in 1998, and to this day, is as enjoyable as it ever was. The characters are easily identifiable and relatable, and the series basically invented the western, sci-fi, and jazz combination. Yet what makes this anime even more incredible, is that it’s diverse enough to have episodes that everyone can enjoy. The storyline has no jagged edges as it has a great direction and focus. Overall the best part of this anime is it’s soundtrack. The music is mostly jazz and is incredible. You can watch the series on Hulu if you’re interested.
Fortunately the fans aren’t always wrong when it comes to identifying a good anime. The girls of anime fandom have quickly identified Puella Magi Madoka Magica as a favorite, becoming what I truly believe to be this generation’s Sailor Moon. Madoka Magica has a visually striking appeal to it that makes it stand out from other anime. The storyline goes in a bit of a dark direction, but really tells a story that touches on the ideas of friendship, self sacrifice, and the greatness of humanity. The best part about this series is that it doesn’t seclude the audience into its own box, but instead allows the audience to venture forth deep into its wonderland while staying on the outskirts for open interpretation. Each fan of Modaka Magica can identify different reasons they love the series without really over hyping or overshadowing others. It’s truly a nice work of art, and you just have to see it and take a chance. This series is available on Netflix, Hulu and Crunchyroll.
So what’s the conclusion? What defines good anime is really subjective. Do you really just want to watch battle shounens like Naruto and Dragon Ball Z? Go ahead. However, if you’re looking for something with more depth, horror, or visual candy, there’s plenty of it out there for you. What makes anime “good” is whatever you like.