I am addicted to stories. I love reading them, I love writing them, and I also love to watch them. Beyond going to the movies and seeing the big screen, beyond watching the Disney princesses and televised competitions – there is anime.
I have been a fan of anime since I was a child, though I would not openly admit to it for quite some time. It all began with Pokémon, which opened the doors to Yu-Gi-Oh! and Beyblade. In high school, I was introduced to what is still one of my favorite anime: Fruits Basket, the story of an orphan girl who is taken in by a family cursed by the spirits of the Chinese zodiac. I didn’t watch much anime beyond that until college, where I was introduced to Cowboy Bebop – bounty hunters in space – and after college, anime became my go-to medium to watch. From there, I watched Death Note, Samurai Champloo, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Black Butler (one of my favorites), Ouran High School Host Club, Sword Art Online (would be a favorite of mine if it were not for the second season), Princess Jellyfish, Hetalia, Mushi-Shi, and Soul Eater.
The stories of these shows transcend Western animation in their essence of the sublime. With Western cartoons, there is a general understanding that characters won’t die on screen, gore will be kept to a minimum, and the stakes are only held so high for so long. The West sees cartoons as a medium for children; anime is made for anyone to appreciate the story.
For anime, emotions run deep, beyond true love or the episode’s main plot. Characters may die after the viewer gets attached, plotlines may stretch longer than the usual 26 episodes of a season, and there are less boundaries between the story and the audience. Sometimes, plots aren’t settled at all, and it’s left up to the imagination of the viewer to decide the fates of the characters.
My heart has been ripped out of my chest in so many metaphorical ways from the shows I listed here. I have sobbed my heart out at plots that hold nothing back, or pull on my heartstrings just right.
In anime, some scenes can tell entire stories when all that happens is a character looking out to the sea. In this way, I try to incorporate such metaphorical themes in my own work. As a writer, I pay attention to what works in these stories. I look at what makes these stories and characters so memorable and heart-wrenching, and I incorporate those aspects in my own writing.
Visualizing the story through anime helps me visualize my own story as I write (and I may or may not have a not-so-secret fantasy of my own stories becoming anime, but I digress). An idea that might sound too fantastical to be a novel suddenly becomes reasonable when I imagine it in the context of anime. Death-demons that control notebooks of death? Completely normal for anime. Zodiac spirits, cowboys in space, demonic butlers, and alchemy? Check, check, check, and check.
Paying attention to any story can help a writer with their craft. Anime, in particular, shows me that no idea is “too weird” enough not to write. And I find that endlessly inspiring.