What makes a good anime?

7 Feb

I’ve watched quite a bit of anime, read many books, and watched many shows over the course of the last few years. However, it wasn’t until recently that I had been able to sufficiently quantify what it was about a story that made me enjoy it. After all, I’ve enjoyed things with very rich and elaborate fantasy worlds such as Lord of the Rings. I’ve also enjoyed guilty pleasures like Dragonball Z, which is extremely light on the storytelling, has shallow characters, and has elaborate fight scenes involving grown men throwing each other through mountains. I’ve also enjoyed show that make almost no sense what so ever and have little or no character development such as FLCL.

It wasn’t thinking about shows that I have enjoyed that allowed me to finally come up with my preferred category of show. Instead, I had to turn to the shows which gave me nearly no enjoyment. The most recent show that comes to mind is Noir. This anime has some decent action sequences, a unique style that fits the feel of the show, great music, and a decently complex plot that only suffers from some pacing issues in the early episodes. That being said, I loathed this anime. I forced myself to finish it just to make sure that I gave it a fair chance. By the last episode my attention for the plot was gone, and I honestly couldn’t tell you how it ended. The reason for this confusing dichotomy of highly praising many of its attributes while not appreciating the overall experience is the show’s characters.

Noir’s cast of characters are completely lacking in emotion save for about 4 scenes in the entire show. Each one looks more like an android than a human being in almost every scene. There is very little back story given for any of them, and only one of the main characters ever evolves over the course of the show. I may have been able to overlook the poor characters, but the style that the show oozes rubs me the wrong way. I got the same feeling from watching .hack//SIGN, which made perfect sense after I found out that the same company produced both anime.

If I had only enjoyed the style of Noir, as many people do, then I probably would have genuinely enjoyed the show. An example of somewhere where that was the case would be Hellsing. This show exuded a style that resonated with me to my very core (I exaggerate slightly for effect, but you get the point). That was matched by great music and good character design. The characters were very thin and underdeveloped, just like in Noir. However, simply because I enjoyed the style so much, I came to love this anime despite its characterization short comings.

Original style, excellent animation, and good music can make all the difference in the success of a show in my book. After all, half the reason I watch anime is because I enjoy the style and the skillful animation. Anyone who frequents this site and has perused my scrapbook can tell that I’m trying to learn to draw in an anime-like style. FLCL is a perfect example of an anime that’s all flash and no substance. However, the flash is so fantastic that you don’t care if the plot makes no sense (all right… who am I kidding… there isn’t really a cohesive plot…), and that there isn’t time to develop the characters.

So what’s my conclusion? A good anime will probably fall into one of three categories:

  1. Story/character driven – This is a show that has a complex, twisting plot and/or deep characters that I can relate to. They also need to grow and evolve over the course of the show. The animation, music, and style aren’t as important here, but they shouldn’t be of an inferior quality that would distract from the story. Ex) BECK

  2. All flash – This is a show that oozes a style I get get into. The character designs need to be good, even if their development isn’t complete. The animation and music in anime of this type should be outstanding. Nothing can ruin a good drawing style like sub par music and sloppy animation. Ex) Hellsing, Cowboy Bebop, and of course FLCL

  3. The elite – This is a show that is able to combine both excellent story/characters and is very stylish. This will obviously be the most entertaining type of anime you can watch. Ex) Fullmetal Alchemist, Read Or Die (TV), Trigun, and One Piece.

2 Responses to “What makes a good anime?”

  1. Mouse February 8, 2006 at 11:28 am #

    Mark, you need a job to take up your time. 😛

  2. Mouse March 16, 2006 at 9:07 pm #

    You didn’t make a post for pi day your birthday!

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