I love anime and I’m 50, I have a job, and I don’t live in my mother’s basement! I’m a jock, I can actually talk to women, I’ve had a few long term relationships, and I still love anime and manga.
Astonishing, isn’t it.
So, you may be asking yourself, WTF does this have to do with writing a book?
Great question, glad you asked. Well let be take you all the way back to 1985, back in a dark ages of television. I grew up watching your average, violence filled cartoons like Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones, Bugs Bunny, and so on. One day on channel 13 (we only had, I think 16 channels at the time) I stumbled upon Robotech.
Robotech enlightened my young mind!
Now, I grew up watching Wile E. Coyote chase around the Roadrunner only to fall off a thousand foot cliff. He would hit bottom with a small puff of dust and that was it. He would stand up, looking disheveled, dust himself off and all was good in the world. The furry dude must have been made of the same stuff Superman was made of.
Robotech was different, much different then any cartoon I had ever watched. First, people died. A lot of people died and this was a shocking new experience for me. Hell, I watched Bugs get blasted by a double barrel shot gun and just walk it off. Robotech was so different that I drank it up!
The second major change was the art of the story and the anime itself. Robotech’s artwork was refreshing to see. I was use to bubbly, cartoony characters that resembled humans but there was still a huge disconnect between the art and the real. The artwork in Robotech had humans that looked like humans.
The third major change was a story arc. In cartoons from back in the day, (I can say that because, well, I’m old(ish)) they were mostly what we would call, one-offs, or stand alone episodes. Robotech had three major arcs in its storyline. Each storyline having to deal with how to save Earth, and how to defeat the Zentraeni (The bad guys who wanted to destroy Earth.) The one arc I remember the most was the Minmay Defense from The Super Dimension Fortress Macross. Lynn Minmay was a singer and her songs caused confusion amongst the Zentrdi soldiers. (Ref. Wikipedia, Lynn Minmay). That’s right, straight from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, a song that confuses the enemy and helps the humans killed them. (BTW, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is one of the funniest movies ever made!)
Story arcs in a cartoon! (We did not start calling them ‘anime’ until the mid 1990’s) It was unheard of!
In 1990, one of the best if not the best anime movies came out and it was a game changer, Akira. This epic movie opened my eye further to what could be done with story telling and art. The was the first cyber-punk movie I had ever seen, other then Blade Runner, released in 1982. The story is about two young street bike gang members, one gets psychic powers and the other has to stop him. Please, watch this movie or go to the Wiki page to read about it. The story is complex, action filled and the art is amazing. This movie was also a the story of love, sacrifice, friendship and loyalty. The writing was excellent, building on a post apocalyptic Toyoko after the U.S. drops a nuke on it. The story strays into mind control with one of the main characters being an esper, or a person with the ability to use their mind in ways beyond that of a ‘normal’ human being, telekinesis.
This movie was so influential on me that I still remember it, 30 years later.
In the mid-90’s, my anime thirst could not be filled until Ghost in the Shell came out. The 1995 movie, still is one of my favorite movies of all time. The mix of cyber punk, philosophy, mind warping art, incredible sound track and a kick ass, strong female main character puts this movie at a solid #1 ranking in my book. The story is set in 2029 Toyoko. Major Motoko Kusanagi or just Major leads a police special group, called Section 9. The story is barrows heavily from the 1982 film, Blade Runner in questioning what is a sentient being? Can a computer become sentient? What is life? Can a computer have free will and thoughts?
Ghost in the Shell, much like Blade Runner paints a dark, dirty, gritty, bleak future that is controlled by mega companies and crime syndicates. The movie is beautiful in the way that it sets up the story, the character arc, and how, for the time, it showed a female character whos only link to humanity was a human brain. Her body is completely synthetic or robotic, but yet very human. I cannot say enough about the screenplay written by Kazunori Ito or the manga written by Masamune Shirow.
I have written about two movies, well one movie, Akira and one movie that was later adapted into two anime series, Ghost in the Shell. Now it’s time to talk about two of my favorite anime series, Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo.
Cowboy Bebop, not only is a great anime series, but has an awesome soundtrack. The story follows Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Fey Valentine, a genetically-engineered dog, Ein and the greatest hacker to ever live, Edward Wong Hau Peperu Tivrusku IV, a girl who may or may not be one of the best side characters ever created for an anime series. All these characters come together to form a bounty hunting group that is not very good at bounty hunting.
The story is about Spike, an ex-yakuza gang member searching for his true love, Julia, who just happens to be the girlfriend of the most ruthless and powerful yakuza boss in the area, Vicious. (Most epic name for the bad guy ever!) It seems like a simple love story, but not so fast there cowboy. This series has many plot variations between the stand alone episodes the main arc of Spikes story.
The writing, the action and the alternate plots that stem from Fey’s search to find out who she is and where she came from due to an accident that left her without a memory. Jet’s or when he was on the police force, “Black Dog”, need to find justice no matter if it leads to his ex-wife being captured for a crime. Or, Edwards search for her father. All these arcs are masterfully blended into the Spikes main plot line. The dialogue and interactions between characters drive the story forward. There is not one episode that I can see that stagnates the story arc from moving forward.
Samurai Champloo is yet another masterpiece of anime art and story telling. The story revolves around a ronin, Jin, a crazy, freedom loving swordsman, Mugan, and girl on a quest to find “the samurai that smells like sunflowers,” Fuu. These series set in the Edo period of Japan but the music is total hip hop. The story is about Fuu’s quest to find the samurai, Jin’s quest to avenge his murdered master and Mugan’s promise to be the one that kills Jin. (It’s complicated)
The writing in this series, as one site wrote about the series, (www.cbr.com), “Samurai Champloo is 70% comedy, 20% action, and 10% drama for most of the series.” The writing, the story arc and the character growth are the main focus of the series. The quests and how these three become traveling partners, Jin’s and Fuu’s back stories and how it plays out throughout the series is masterful.
The one element that sets this anime apart is the music (I have a blog on writing and music) and how the art, not only plays off the music but how modern hip hop is written into an Edo period time piece. It’s just f-ing so cool how the writers molded the characters and the music together.
Anime has affected now I write. Fooly Cooly or FLCL (2000) is one of the most bazar, fun and different anime and manga’s that I had every watched and read. When I waded through all the craziness, it come out to be a beautiful love story. The writing, the wordsmithing is so good that it works with all the madness that happens around the main character, Naota Nandaba. The writing for this six episode anima and three chapter manga is above all else, like reading a poetry.
Okay, I’m going to conclude this blog.
These anime has influenced my writing in many ways. Robotech and Akira, both showed me at a young age that masterful storytelling can also be in anime form. Both of these anime shown how to blend story into visual art. Ghost in the Shell allowed me to think about the anime that is being presented to me. The premise of AI, that a computer can has consciousness, feelings, and longing to be alive, blew my mind at the time. Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and FLCL showed me that writing can be fun but also that I could develop complex story arcs and characters while not sacrificing humor in the process.
Thank you for reading this blog