If you know me in real life or follow me on social media, you know that I am a big anime fan. I have been watching anime since I was young, actually one of my first memories is watching “Hamtaro.” Also fun fact I low key cried when I read the last Naruto (Shippuden) manga chapter and cried again during the anime like I didn’t know what was gonna happen.
Anime is really popular in Italy, and is mainly what is shown on TV for kids, so I basically grew up watching it. I would say my love for this form of art/entertainment started due to mere exposure, however it did slowly develop into genuine interest. I think it is because I started to see in anime some important messages towards self esteem, inspiration, understanding to life, that I was not getting in other visual media at that age.
No one has to explain why they like something, you like what you what like. Nonetheless, you can still freely talk about it, but for a while I did not really share my love for anime past my close friends because:
- Non anime fans can be very judgmental and tend to put anime fans into a certain label ( and I kind of really dislike labels; No one fits one label)
- The anime community itself is incredibly critical of Black (especially female) fans and that has kind of turned me off from joining fandoms.
- For a long time I was the only person that looked like me, that liked anime. Yea, I have guy friends who are big fans but guys can be so…guys. I knew there were Black girls who liked anime, but I couldn’t find them and they couldn’t find me.
- Elitism and gate keeping in the anime community. Sometimes it’s like you either know everything or you’re not a true fan. There’s a constant competition to prove that you’re a fan. Like sir, I have to remember the structures of the 21 common amino acids for my BioChem class, I don’t have time to remember what Luffy did in episode 5 of season 13…
But I love anime and it seems weird to me that I hadn’t shared one of my favorite hobbies on my blog. So I’m getting over of all that, and let’s dive in!
The most popular genre for many, including myself, is Shonen anime (defined as “generally marketed towards young teen males between the ages of 12 and 18”), which I will speak more on later. However Shojo (“japanese word for young girl”) particularly “Magical Girl Anime” is what made me truly transition from “I don’t mind watching this” to “I want to watch more of this”. (I do have to say though the definitions for Shojo and Shonen in terms of target audience are definitely outdated, anyone can watch these!)
Shojo was for me, as a child and teen, where I got the message that girls could be as badass as boys, if not even more. With female protagonists who had special powers and fought crazy villains, or were striving for their purpose and worked hard to achieved their goals, I got the message that girls can save the world and decide their own paths. We are no lesser than boys, and even sometimes a bit better, not so egocentric, willing to teamwork, and still enjoy some love at the side.
Watching many, mostly 80s & 90s Shojo anime, I understood that it’s not a man’s world, we have the freedom live the life we want, we can be our own “prince” (for ourselves and other women) or whatever we like.
In the shojo genre, female characters are less likely to be that “useless” female character, that can often define female characters in shonen anime, and also are less likely to be at the end of sexist stereotypes. In shojo you are more likely to find female characters whose storyline is developed past screaming the name of the main character, or being a voice of guidance for the main hero or being in love with them.
With shojo we are the main entree, not the side dish honey.
With magical girl anime,as well, I get the best of both worlds: action packed fights with kickass outfits. Magical Girl anime taught me as a young girl that I’m the protagonist in (my) life. I can be fierce for myself and even though there might be a love interest, they are a side character, who I don’t have to dictate my life around. To love love, but not a man (if that makes sense). My first inspiration or realization of “girl power” and female solidarity definitely came from Magical girl anime and still influences me to this day. I deeply cherish my friendship with my girlfriends have been a source of unmatched strength, support,happiness, inspiration… my partners in crime. In other media, I often found the narrative that kind of dished on female friendships, presenting them in a more trivial way or basically a “a men’s discussion group”. Shojo showed me that there’s so much more love, strength and support to be found among girls.
Now some of my favorite animes are still Shonen. I mean the content there is just top tier, binge material. The first shonen I watched was yes, Dragon Ball. I feel like that’s a universal experience. Dragon Ball changed the game, even though I did have to ignore some racist and sexist portrayals to enjoy it.
My favorite anime is Naruto, I grew up watching it since it came out and when it ended I felt that was like a message saying my childhood was over. (I will do a post just dedicated to Naruto!)
I do have a high preference for 80s/90s shonen anime, and they get extra points if they have tournaments. I just love the dramatics and excitement from them. I mean you know the protagonist is going to win but it’s about the journey. During tournaments is when you get to see how much your favorite character has grown, they get to show the fruits of their hard work. Sometimes you get a backstory to the villain or get long speeches on the pursuit of justice etc. I love HunterxHunter just because it feels like a continuous show of various “tournaments”/“games”. Character development is truly evident is shonen anime, and even though there are similar tropes among many animes (i.e. dead parent or loved one) each individual has a unique storyline that truly defines them. You get diversity in the characters within one anime and each is given his own time to shine numerous times (well…for male characters most times).
Similar messages on the importance of friendships, resilience, overcoming hardships can be found in shonen anime as well.My experience with this type is that they are genuinely more captivating and with long complex arcs. Whereas shojo can focus sometimes be romance or sort of characterized as very girly and that can limit the kind of stories made in that genre, with shonen there is a bit more variety. (I have a lot to say on this, because why is that much more substance, focus & therefore funds goes into things dedicated to “male” audiences?)
Lately I have been exploring more of the adult animation of anime (not that you nasty!). More like Akira, Cowboy Bebop, Black Lagoon,Berserk…etc which have darker and more mature themes; and I’m truly enjoying it.
Looking to expand into more specific types of anime, for example cyberpunk anime is kind of lit, I want to watch more of that.
There’s literally an anime for everyone. Find your niche and enjoy.
Happy Attack on Titan Premiere!!!
Posts to Read: “Is Anime a Safe Place for Women?” by Sonny Joachim; If you’re new and looking for a place to start with some recommendations (divided by genre) with “A Crush Course in Japanese Anime” by James Gates
Video to watch: I miss Demon Slayer, and recently rewatched How Can You Not Love Demon Slayer by Get In The Robot on Youtube. If you haven’t watched Demon Slayer,well… get into it.
P.S. I don’t own the copyright of any images included.