Why Slice-of-Life Anime?

Ever since I started watching anime, I’ve always loved the ones set in supernatural and fantastical worlds. I like losing myself in them, and basically giving reality a break for a few hours while I watch it, which is quite often – I’m not gonna lie, are you gonna lie? Come on, we’re all friends here, you know why you’re here – to read about anime. Which is great, because anime is great.

I often lose track of time when I watch something really immersing, especially when I want to catch up on the new episodes of my favorite anime series that I didn’t get the time to watch when they’d been released. I usually do this on the weekends when I have more free time so I don’t need to look at my watch at all, even though it’s a great watch.

Anyways, I was talking to my friends a couple of months ago and one of them started telling us about how he got into an argument with someone on Reddit over what genres of anime were the best, and he wanted to know our opinion. He’s actually a big advocate for slice-of-life anime and it got me interested in this genre.

I definitely know what it is, but I’d never given it a second thought until my friend said that watching someone else’s life unfold before his eyes helped him get a perspective of his own. Being relieved of heroes and villains, and epic storylines with intricate characters and thousands of pages of backstory, slice-of-life anime is pretty chill and mellow.

This might turn some people off, as it did me, but now I proudly declare myself a convert. Why? Because of what my friend said, that’s why! But, in all seriousness, his argument meant much more than that. It meant that the lack of action can make you appreciate the little things, like cooking rice, or sitting by the river, or even cleaning your home.

The lack of conflict will stimulate you in a different way, it’ll give you a different perspective of many things about your own life, but also about the life of the people around you. You may gain a better understanding of human relationships and mellow yourself down a little bit.

Now, I’m not saying it’ll make you an enlightened individual, because it has its own kind of escapism, but judging from what I’ve experienced watching it, it’s definitely going to change your attitude towards stuff you hadn’t thought about before!

Plumbing, Manga-style

I want to try my hand at some anime drawings that illustrate my ordinary life around the house. It will be a kind of self-revelation or autobiography. I want to uncover the character and magic in the normal and the mundane. Those fellow travelers who watch it know there are various genres, such as action, drama, horror, etc. I have to decide how I am going to craft my tale of replacing a toilet in the guest room. Now that’s an odd subject, but I am doing it on a dare. Someone told me arrogantly that anime is limited. I took the challenge and started watching some YouTube videos on how to do my handyman chore and discovered http://www.ratemytoilet.net/. I figured I would get some ideas looking at anime in different genres to see what would work best. I am dedicated to this project to show this fool how wrong he is.

Armed with some basic knowledge of toilet installation and having borrowed a few key tools, I set about depicting the process in anime style to prepare me for the actual job. The art work became transformed as I tackled the subject and the group of basic how-to illustrations looked above all like an action sequence. It surely wasn’t adventure or comedy. There were demons, however, so my efforts were a kind of hybrid production. You no doubt are thinking that putting in a new toilet is hardly conducive to high-intensity action. Where are the thrilling battles and action-packed fight scenes? Wait, there’s more. In my wild imagination, the old and new toilets morphed into monsters, taking each other on for dominance in the bathroom. Each one was hideous in its own way, drawn in unmistakable anime fashion. Grotesque eyes and gaping maws were frightening indeed. I got a rush of excitement just witnessing the porcelain war. I can just see it in my mind’s eye done in animation. Maybe I won’t win any awards, but it will amuse me.

I accomplished my plumbing, Manga-style. The drawings set me on the right track and I tamed the toilets, each in turn. The old one bit the dust in a trash bin in the garage. The new one is glowing with pride. He is the hero of a devastating battle while the old boy was clearly a sore loser. He looked pathetic and helpless in the bin, hardly the warrior he had become on paper. The replacement experience was great fun given its multiple dimensions. Art led the way and taught me a new craft. Now what else shall I tackle in the house. Do I need a new stove or refrigerator? Will my small appliances in the kitchen rebel and form an army? I have a sudden interest in home renovation. How odd. The anime made all the difference between success and failure. I can’t go wrong if I go the same route. My environment is going to be freshened up. Plus, my drawing skills have improved.

It’s Party Time!

Are you in love with the world of anime? I am. There are more of us sprouting up around the world all the time. It has been decades since the art form was invented and we never tire of the characters and their antics. They are symbolic and live at a mythical level of imaginary life. We love to talk endlessly about our favorites. We also like to dress up for parties. I have a closet full of possibilities of which I am very proud. It takes time and effort to collect just the right pieces to be an authentic persona. One of the girls in my anime group is having a birthday. I don’t know her well but have met her and I have offered to do her makeup as a gesture of impending friendship. It’s party time.

It is nice to meet one on one instead of always with a bunch of anime lovers. When we all talk at once, it is chaos. If you want to learn something new, you better listen carefully. Meanwhile, I am preparing a gift for the birthday girl that will be special. Because makeup is something that is going to bring us together, I want to get something she won’t have—a heated eyelash curler so that she can have Eyelashes to Die For. A what? you ask. Yes, they come heated. Sure, this contraption has been around forever without changing a bit. It is about four or five inches long and maybe two inches wide. The bottom has two openings so you can insert your fingers. At the top is the curling mechanism which has a detachable rubber refill. You open the curler and insert your lashes carefully so you don’t pinch your eyelid skin. You close the curler with your fingers and press hard for ten seconds to get a proper curl. You can do it over again if you aren’t satisfied. With the new heating unit, the degree of bend in the lashes will be greater and the curl will last longer. When you put on mascara, the effect is to really open the eyes. Some people’s lashes droop downward and this device is the perfect solution. Women worldwide depend on eyelash curlers to look better. If you wear glasses, you will want to accentuate your eyes this way. Without this extra cosmetic touch, you may look bland.

You can get eyelash curlers most anywhere. There are cheaper models in the drugstore and more expensive designer types in cosmetic specialty shops and department stores. This is not a rare item that takes hours to find. I know women who have been using them for years and years. They wouldn’t be caught dead without one in their purse. The curl is said to last all day so you only have to do a touchup job at night if you are going out. Women have so much to worry about these days. If you are a busy bee like me, the curler is a time saver for sure. You get a finished look in seconds.

Resistance Isn’t Futile, it’s Fun

Watching anime on TV doesn’t have to be a pastime you do once in a while. For me, it’s main time. But even then, we all need a break from what we regularly do. Today’s rest period from my favorite activity is actually the reverse. It is exercise for fitness. It’s about moving and pumping iron (small ones). I have all the right gear at home in my bedroom, including some 8 pound weights, a large plastic ball, a small heavy ball, a yoga mat, a mini trampoline, a stretching strap, blue and pink resistance bands, and stacking blocks I use to step up and down. They are really handy. I do sit-ups, squats, lunges down the hallway, jumping jacks, a bunch of bouncing, curls, lifts, and so on. I read up and looked at the illustrations, so I am my own coach and trainer. It’s my own version of circuit training and it works quite well. That is, if I do it consistently, and I am really trying.

Most gyms have big wall-mounted TVs, so I hardly feel guilty. Who doesn’t watch a game, some old sit com, or the news? (Eventually everyone unless they prefer music.) If not, you end up talking to people and wasting a lot of time. It’s too intensely social! Or you get on your smart phone and text away to at least ten people, letting everyone know where you are and what you are about to do, as always. You get started working out late and finishing early. It’s best to keep to yourself, focus on one thing, and go for it. Make it a routine habit, like anime.

At first it was a bit of a drag. When you are relaxed watching TV, it’s hard to get up and start to run around. It feels so good to sit or lie there…keeping the blood pressure even…maybe munching on some snacks. But seriously, I want to keep fit and I know there is only one way! So resistance bands here I come. Their pretty colors beckon me and I can’t resist. Ha ha! With all this talk about motivation, I have to tell you a secret. I can do this part of the routine, in fact most of the routine, watching TV. It is not a contradiction. It’s fun. It works for me quite well.

I would highly recommend it. It is painless which is hard to believe. You get two great things done at the same time. You also do more for a longer period of time this way. Put on a few extra videos and prolong your exercise ecstasy. You hardly notice the minutes slip by. You can credit your favorite characters for getting you in shape. Fitness is a big concept these days and you have to find a way to fit it into your life. I have. Why not you!

So join me in a few leg lifts and watch the animated show.

When Anime Comes to Life…Feel the Magic

Is it crazy that I get more emotional over an anime cartoon than I do about a movie with live actors?  I find myself getting all teary eyed when an anime character is hurt or sad much more often than with a human actor.  Is that normal?

Why does anime pull on my heartstrings so?  Even manga can make me laugh or cry at the drop of a dime.  Maybe it’s the magical effect of those huge emotion-filled eyes that gets me.  Or, even the psychological impact of the dark, emotionless blank stares that sets the stage for my dislike for a character.  How in the world can anime cause such a stir in me?

In a live actor movie when the action gets wild or really daring, I often think, “Now that couldn’t really happen”.  In anime or animation in general, it’s easier to pull off the impossible and make it seem real.  There are no stunt man doubles or scenes you know are not real.  None of it is real yet it all seems so real…to me.

When they’ve killed off my favorite character, I know in real life, he or she is fine.  Not so with anime though.  I may never see that character again and it breaks my heart or brings me pure joy, depending on if I like him or her or not.

For me, it’s easier to relate to an anime or manga character.  I’m not sure why but, it is.  A character that is sweating drops of blood gets my emotions flowing much easier than a human actor who is pretending to be scared.  A human crying just doesn’t have the same effect on me as an anime who is.

And it’s all planned that way.  Animated effects are much more dramatic.  The actions and expressions are exaggerated for the purpose of making the viewer react with emotions.  I mean, think of Disney movies.  “Dumbo” is a great example.  I grab a Kleenex each time I watch it even thought I know the plot by heart.

So is it safe to say that anime and manga have an upper edge and that they don’t have to work as hard at filling the audience with emotion?  I don’t think so.  I think more burden may be on them to achieve the effects.  But, I think they have more resources available to them.  They have the options of using manipulations like eyes that glow to indicate an intense stare or a nosebleed to convey being in love.  But the trick is, they have to pull those manipulations off and have to do it in a way that works.

Oh there’s an art to anime alright.  It’s not a “hands down” that the cartoons will cause the emotional response they are supposed to.  When they don’t, its disaster.  But when properly pulled off and it all falls into place, when mere illustrated cartoons can make you laugh, cry, or fume with anger, they have come to life. And when anime comes to life…it is pure magic.

Anime and the Captive Audience

Anime and the Captive Audience

Anime characters are most known for their huge emotion filled eyes and dramatic expressions.  Have you ever wondered how that ever came to be?  I mean, whose bright idea was it to create such crazy eyes and exaggerated expressions anyway?

Anime actually started as manga years and years ago.  Manga was first and anime was adapted to put the characters into motion for an animated story just like comic books were around in America before cartoon animated shows were.  For sure there are differences between anime and manga, but the emotional basis of the anime characters are for sure an evolved form of manga.

Some people say that manga first began in the 12th century and that remnants exist of where they were drawn on scrolls.  Others stick to believing it dates back to the 18th century.  No matter when it began, it did originate in Japan and has become a big part of the culture just like cartoons are for the Western World, but even more so.

There is psychology behind the emotional illustrations.  Big eyes have been proven to make a character more likeable and easier to relate to.  Childlike features on an adult character are believed to make them more attractive and appealing.  I have actually began to pay attention to how I feel about a character with huge eyes and exaggerated features and I am finding I am more drawn to them in a loving way.

Characters with stern, harsh marks like lines across their foreheads indicate anger.  With the stroke of a pen, emotions flow.  Just the difference between large eyes and small eyes can make us like or dislike a character.

No matter who invented manga and how it evolved into anime, the fact remains…it is genius!  There is so much potential and power an artist has when creating the characters and the storylines.  I think it tugs at the artist’s heartstrings too and most likely leaves the creator spent after drawing them.  It has to.

I wonder what goes on in the mind of the artist as he or she gives the character a good personality or a bad and a life or a death?  I guess it’s just like writing a story.  I write a lot and there are times I hate killing someone off but I have to in order to fulfill the plot I am creating.  Anime and manga stories are written not only on the page or on the screen but in the illustrations as well, even more so than Western cartoons.

Anime is emotionally fast paced with each character bringing an emotion to the audience.  We hate the villain and root for the protagonist.  I wonder if huge eyes and desirable features were given to the ones we love to hate if we would hate them at all or if our psyche would tell us we liked them instead.  I am willing to bet that happens without us even being aware of it.  I think we, as the audience, would be surprised to learn the magnitude that we are swayed with manipulations and psychological effects we have no clue are taking a grip on us.

That is what makes anime so wonderful to me.  It’s the way it can take me where it wants me to go.  When I am watching, I am, in no uncertain terms, a captive audience and…I like it that way.

We Love Hi Tech Japan

Japan was once the home of the world’s supply of schlock. They excelled in things you never thought you wanted, but they were everywhere. You may not remember miniature paper umbrellas for drinks and little wooden toys like yoyos or blocks—all “made in Japan.” There was a lot of this stuff, and it put the country on the export map for a long time, engendering major revenues. Now Japan is the home of hi tech innovation at its very best. The transformation in image has been astounding, and people look to the advanced country for the latest and greatest digital devices and technological advancements. You can count on Japan to be on the forefront of computers, phones, printers, and the like; but did you know they are also on the cutting edge of the design of everyday appliances from automated state-of-the-art toilets to computerized bathroom scales.

For the most mundane of purposes, manufacturing in Japan has produced ways for people to keep tabs on their weight and personal hygiene—all in one small room of their home. They have set a new standard and the world is barely catching up. You can get every measurement possible on your bathroom scale including BMI and body fat. There is also a composition analyzer. Your personal porcelain throne adjacent to the scale will satisfy the seated with a system of hoses and nozzles that massage as they clean and dry. No degree of comfort is sacrificed with the new generation of toilets.

Who doesn’t love Japanese hi tech! Its bullet trains levitate off the ground and its robotics are mind-bending in their extraordinary practicality. (Watch for facsimiles in anime.) They invented the compact disc player and the portable CD. Cameras, pocket calculators, the electric rice cooker, and the videocassette recorder go to Japan’s credit. Where would we be without Blu-ray, flash memory, and the quartz wrist watch?

The Japanese are also video game inventors of the first order—witness Sony PlayStation and Nintendo. Their industry dominates in sales and popularity. In another vein, their animation reflects a modern world gone mad with martial arts, military machinations, witches and monsters, and magical realms. There is nothing as clever or enticing. Everything else pales or is a poor second sister. You should pay attention to Manga Movies like Spirited Away, Akira, and Howl’s Moving Castle. You should know about Porco Rosso, Ponyo, and the Animatrix. You have hours of enjoyment in store. More and more people in the US are getting on board with Japanese anime and its fantasy stories that appeal to young and old alike. If you are a newbie fan, you will need months to catch up.

It all comes down to an extraordinary culture that has permeated the world with marvelous entertainment opportunities as well as utilitarian devices. Japanese inventions have become staples of modern life. I cannot imagine the world without them. We can only look forward to another round of items that will become necessary tools of our lives.

Anime Therapy: A Real Eye Opener

If you want to take a deep look within yourself, I can certainly tell you how.  Recently, I set out to put together an anime production with myself as the main character.  It was to be a “just for fun” creation and “just for me”.

I wrote my storyline in true anime form without the restraints of a good vs. bad plot.  It leaned toward fantasy but had some real life connotations too as most of my stories do.  Writing the story was no big deal.  I have written plenty of fiction with my own story or character as a basis.

It was the anime illustrations that got me.  It was making my eyes huge and full of wonder and making myself sweat tear drops of blood when I was hurting on the inside and not just a few drops, but a bucket full.

It was uncomfortable when it came to really bringing emotions to life and that is when it really hit home just how much goes into the art of anime.  The characters are definitely brought to life.  They wear their hearts on their sleeves.

So, here’s a little self-analyzation exercise I put together based on the one I accidentally did on myself.  Put together some notes on your “time-line” which is, in short, a brief story of your life.  Note the highlights, not neglecting the negative impacts you have encountered.

Then, draw yourself in anime form.  You will need a separate drawing for each of the main events of your life.  For times you were feeling happy or powerful, large eyes and a pleasant smile are in order.  For worried times, you can mark your forehead with harsh marks and furrow your eyebrows as well.  Squinty eyes portray less than ideal situations and for times that you shut the world off, your eyes can relay that message too.  Make them dark and black or…even blank.

Don’t stop there.  If you are sad, illustrate the tears.  Scared?  Drops of sweat will tell the tale.  If you are in love, well, a nose bleed is the general way in which anime communicates that emotion. If you were physically hurt, be sure to exaggerate the injury like a basketball size bump or add a signature white cross bandage to the affected spot.  Feel free to create your own symbols too.

You can put your story into animation form or even into manga, or comic book style.  Or, you can just add the cartoons to your timeline if you please.  The main thing is that you give every important event in your life an anime creation.  Bring it to life and don’t hold back.

For me, it was a real experience to draw myself.  I felt a little naked as I drew my life in anime.  I guess I had never thought how creating anime could be so emotional to the artist as they birth the character.  Even to give a character a negative emotional status is emotional, maybe more so than giving them a pleasant or happy one.  And to make one blank…that takes a lot as well.

I learned so much from my personal creations that it did, indeed, take me by surprise.  If you want to really get in touch with your inner self, I assure you, an honest anime or manga of your own life will certainly reveal more than any trip to a psychologist.  So grab a pencil and paper, if you dare, and let it all out.  There’s nothing that will open your eyes and your heart like a little Anime therapy.

Anime: The Joy of Creating Your Own

The Joy of Creating Your Own

One of the most challenging yet rewarding anime creations I have done were from a recent story I wrote that was not originally intended to be anime at all.  I decided to put an anime spin on both illustrating the characters and the storyline itself.  It turned out to be very spontaneous and amazing.

The thought came to me as I sat down to draw the characters I had just written about.  Each of them had such strong personalities and emotions, it just seemed fitting to make their expressions come to life through anime-type drawings.  Illustrations just don’t get more emotion packed that they do in anime productions.

As the characters began to take their form, I decided to put the animation production in full anime style as well.  That meant changing the storyline a bit.  I didn’t want to put a big American spin on anime.  That just didn’t seem right.  So I made the plot a little more twisted and lightened up on the predictableness of it.  Would my characters live?  Would good triumph over evil?  Hum…that was no longer a given.  I was lost in the haphazard freedom in the world of anime.

I may have created a better anime-based story had I originally gone for that but I’m not so sure.  Anime is raw and quirky and not bound by rules and regulations so I think I was freer to create first and then go back and recreate.  Regardless, it was fun to do it this way.

Rory, in my original cast of characters, was in love with Penelope.  He was, however, shy and under-confident.  As an anime, his heart sweated tear drops and when he was around Penelope, he became small, literally.  I loved the freedom of making him a tiny guy.  It really allowed me to show how he felt on the inside and I think that most of us can relate to feeling small at times.

Penelope, on the other hand, was a very beautiful and popular girl.  Although she could appear to be stuck up and uncaring, she was not really that way at all.  But because she lived the life of such a debutant, she got wrapped up in all the activities of that her popularity brought such as being homecoming queen.  When she was around Rory, she realized how she came across.  During these times, I was able to shrink her down to size, Rory size.  Then and only then did she communicate with him and other characters that were not in her lofty social class.

It was quite a feat to write the story, illustrate my anime characters and then change the story to fit the new plot-less plot.  Then, the actual animation was not easy either.  Then end product though, was the closest I have ever gotten to a “masterpiece” and I am happy to say that for one of the first times ever, I am truly pleased with my work.  I think I will be doing much more anime in the future.

Eating Japanese

More westerners partake of Japanese culture, but they get rooted in what they already know. Not adventurous for the most part, they miss wonderful opportunities to broaden their horizons. Yeah, our cartoons and movies have reached the American and European markets and a lot has been translated and regurgitated for new audiences. It still skims the surface of what the country has to offer which goes way beyond stereotypes. I appreciate it, but there is also much more to the blithe Japanese spirit. Take cuisine. Exceptional dishes with incomparable native ingredients grace the table of families and restaurant diners. Tokyo citizens eat out a lot. There are great foods to savor and share on both the street and behind closed doors.

Japanese fare in the US is more or less authentic, unlike Chinese which has undergone a massive transformation. There are dishes that were invented in New York that have spread to the hinterlands. With our well-known tradition of fresh, even exotic, sushi, fans have been building worldwide and are now on the level of fanatics. They have developed a taste for the very best that we confect. Everyone loves to watch the knife-wielding pros create delightful, elegant fantasies for the taste buds of aficionados. They do understand that it is an art in every respect. No cuisine emphasizes presentation as much as the Japanese. It always looks as good as it tastes, maybe better. Curlicues of fragrant ginger, elongated sprouts, and wedges of orange are par for the course. This is no formula production but a parade of whimsical and appealing culinary fabrications.

It’s all about rice with sashimi and sushi, not to mention teriyaki beef or chicken. You get this staple with every order. It is consumed as part of a typical meal. A rice cooker is an essential appliance in a professional or amateur kitchen, and it gets used a lot. Every chef has a good one in tow. Making rice is simple, but has to be done just right to adorn the delicacies for which the local cuisine is known. Yes, you can just boil it in a pot, but if you have a state-of-the-art cooker, you can set it for perfect texture and consistency every time—and fast. It is easy to measure everything (after the rice has been washed). It has to be made fresh and not sit on the counter for hours congealing. Whether ready-polished or brown (increasingly popular in the west), it is the perennial accompaniment of choice.

Eating Japanese therefore entails time-honored tempura preparation, very particular vegetables, and wasabi mustard in sufficient quantities. It implies plenty of white rice that is fluffy, and not too moist. It is a side dish, of course, but it counts as more. Wash it down with hot green tea and you are in heaven. Put a dollop alongside succulent beef sukiyaki (using only the very best cuts) and your mouth will water. Eat it with chopsticks right from the bowl. Get down with eating Japanese!

Anime: Animation Without Limits

When I first heard the term “anime”, I had no clue what it was.  Then, I mistakenly thought it was any clip art or animation that had huge eyes and adorable faces.  Boy, was I wrong!

I have since discovered that it is unique and intriguing Japanese animation.  The genuine work is done in Japan by the Japanese but some, myself included, accept anime from any nation and as created by an artist of any nationality, as long as it looks and feels genuine.

I must not be the only one who has a misconception of what anime is.  When I mention that I am working on an anime project or that I like anime, I get some crazy looks.  It took a while to figure out why.  Finally, I asked.

As it turns out, many are under the belief that not only is anime from Japan, it is sexual in content.  And…not just sexual but a bit raw and sometimes perverted as well.  Ha!  No wonder I have been getting such reactions.

Anime is actually made for a wide variety of genres and in all sorts of niches.  A good bit is erotica and sells like hot cakes.  But there is also a lot of anime productions for children and for more conservative adults.

In Japan, many popular movies are in anime.  While Americans are more apt to tune in to a drama or action movie with human characters, the Japanese are as likely, if not more likely, to watch an animated version.  It is part of the culture.  Anime has been around as a mainstream form of entertainment in Japan since around 1917 but the manga, or Japanese comics that are often in anime go back much further in history.

The more I learn about anime, the more interested I become in it.  It amazes me.  The artists of the illustrations are so talented to create such emotion-filled characters and the stories in the productions are amazing as well.

While the Western World tends to stick to certain plots such as good vs. evil or “happily ever after”, such is not the case with anime movies.  You really never know what is going to happen or how they may end and often the end is really just the beginning as the next episode may take up where that one left off.

There is some form of anime that will interest most everyone.  There is anime for children, anime for tweens, anime for females and anime that is geared for guys.  Some anime is sexual while other anime have complicated plots.

Anime movies are full of imagination.  You can find everything from complete fiction and fantasy to situations that relate to real life.  There are no rules in anime.

Anime is definitely not limited to cartoon porn flicks.  Anime, in my estimation, is not limited to animations that are made in Japan by a Japanese.  Anime is not limited…at all and that is one of the things I love most about it.