John Crews helped me out a little with this question of anime just because he seems to think it's a pretty valid thing, and I respect his opinion. Like a lot of people, I suspect, I consider anime and scifi a bunch of stuff that geeky people indulge themselves with. I can see myself watching the stuff only at a distance because it's so damn weird. Like so many other things, forced examination of these topics in a classroom setting made me think about why I didn't like the stuff.
Anime does a lot of things that keep the snooty intellectual me away. Anime does indeed deal with weighty issues, such as what it means to be human. However, it's animated, and to an extent, that means Bugs Bunny to me. More than just being animated, pieces such as Bubblegum Crisis really play up certain elements of imagery, plot, and language that seem to deliberately hold the weighty issues at arm's length while simultaneously dealing with them. In Ghost in the Shell the issue of human identity is dumbed down by means of a sex kitten cyborg who speaks Japanese through a face which is Asian in color but European in shape. Entertainment value aside, I have problems with such contradictory and diversionary tactics. It seems as though the producers trust neither their ability to entertain nor their ability to be intellectual, as the construction of each of these elements practically preclude each other. The result strikes me in the same way that most of the science fiction I have read strikes me: a forced pastiche of alternately insightful theory and campy crap.
So where did the intellectual content go? I lost it somewhere, to be honest. The weighty issues side of the anime films I saw only really surfaced when I was guffawing at it all. Then, it bugged me because it wasn't funny.
[To other discussions of this topic by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]