DR ASHA PEMBERTON
Most parents of tweens and teens are now well aware of Japanese animé, a popular multimedia art. Young people of this generation have demonstrated significant and growing interest in animé series and movies, making it a now multi-billion dollar industry. The name “animé” is derived from the English word "animation" and describes the artform which is rooted in the history of Japan. For decades, it referred primarily to hand-drawn or computer-generated images, but now includes a combination of graphic art, complex characters, cinematography, and other creative methods, all with a distinct style, language and character profile.
The origins of animé in Japan date back to 1917. Since then, the world has witnessed its dramatic leap in the international market with the rise of multi-language dubbing of series and movies. As of 2016, animé accounted for 60 per cent of the world’s animated television shows. Now in 2021 animé can be found on practically every streaming service as well as on dedicated online sites at little to no cost. This significant increase in access, plus its seeming almost universal appeal explains what we now witness. Young people will spend hours and hours watching endless episodes of an animé series. Although difficult to measure, we can deduce that animé has become a major driving in the animation industry but also has the potential to influence aspects of adolescent life.
Animé is further sorted into various genres directed to a diverse range of audience. Some programmes focus on themes for children and teens including sci-fi, fantasy, comedy and action-heroes. Equally, there are many programmes which infuse violence, suffering, sexuality, pain, and death elements into storylines. Animé can include love-stories or horror themes and just about everything in between. As such, parents should be aware of this variability in content of these “cartoon-like” programmes.
Another reason for the current popularity of animé is the connection of characters in movies or series to the gaming industry. There has been a significant rise in the popularity of animé-inspired games since the beginning of the 20th century and onward. Young people are able to view their favourite gaming characters in movies which show their unfolding lives and exploits. This makes it natural for them to seamlessly move from playing the game of a character to watching their movie or series. Very often there are multi-part movies depicting the early life, current battles and even future experiences of characters. Once captivated, young people can go deeper and deeper into this world of fantasy and entertainment.
Perhaps the most significant appeal of animé is the use of graphics, music and plot to build an incredible world of stories with psychological depth and rich visuals. Simply, animé is pleasant to watch and easy to follow. Its producers and writers use a mix of comedy, action and romance within most plots and have pushed the boundaries of what was typically expected in an animated feature. The way stories are told, the cultural expressions of characters and sometimes the topics explored, altogether make animé different and appealing.
Like all other forms of creativity and expression, parents must always be mindful of the content to which their teens and tweens especially are exposed. Some animé movies or series weave deep tapestries of stories and plots, which are engaging and also connect life-lessons and morals. Others, however, can be quite violent, graphic and depict images of death and despair. Each parent simply needs to take the time to understand and explore the range of exposures in the programmes their young people are viewing and decide what is appropriate. The entire genre of animé cannot be branded as being harmful or destructive, but simply like all else – music, Western movies or Netflix series – some things are suitable for more mature audiences, and others appropriate for all. Take time this weekend to have conversations with your young person about their favourite choices in television and movies. Dig deeper to explore what about them are appealing and overall ensure that that their exposure is in line with your family values.