Sick of the Same Old Anime

Being the ponderous artist that I am, I feel I possess a collection of deeply philosophical thoughts that are in dire need of relinquishing. Though I usually try to express them through comics, sometimes the uneven balance of sparse words and heavy images just isn’t enough to do them justice. Good thing I have a column.

My most recent ponder takes me down memory lane — or, more specifically, to that corner of Library Walk where a little shack of Japanese knickknacks and cell phone accessories stands every other week. I don’t make a habit of visiting this shop, but sometimes, I find myself in a terrible bout of nostalgia that forces me to take a peek. You see, I — like a sizable handful of other nerds on this campus — was one of those kids who grew up most identifying with the weird Japanese action figures, comics and television shows that populated hobby shops and the Internet.

Luckily, these days, I’m strong enough to walk past a window display of action figures and not experience an overwhelming urge to buy them all — though all that restraint is probably what led me to take a look around the shack. What I found most interesting this time around weren’t the accessories, but the stacks of anime DVDs on display. To my surprise, I recognized every single one — some of them dating back two decades. What should have been a heartwarming observation — that the shows I adored growing up are still somehow relevant — actually struck me with a pang of sadness. I agree that these animes are classics to keep around, but where are all the new ones?

I grew up in a sort of golden age of anime. The shows that typified my childhood were dense and highly sophisticated sociological and philosophical commentaries: romantic transvestite martial-arts comedies laced with bestiality and robot apocalypses, centered on religion, life and death. Today, the most popular animes are typified by conflicts between the same old badasses and newbie-with-hidden-potential protagonists — an tried-and-true conceit, but without any depth to keep my eyes open. What happened to the nuances? It’s as if all the new shows are mashups of old formulas.

Perhaps I’m just giving them a hard time, or becoming that old guy who doesn’t get it and has a hard time adapting to generational change. Perhaps anime has always been like this: every new show simply a revision of a previous one. Perhaps all media follows this pattern, and I’m in denial.

But come on — does it all have to be so terrible? I’m all for re-introducing old concepts in new shells, but only when they’ve got some sort of fresh idea involved. I can’t be the only one moping over the complete rut of creativity and progress in which an industry I once adored has recently been stuck.

Guess I’ll just go take my place in the hall of purists, where hip-hop heads scowl at the new school of sameness and grandparents spit on anything fancier than the phonograph.

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