One of Japanese animation’s biggest appeals without a doubt is how it expresses the imagination. This can be seen through many of its biggest hits, such as Dragon Ball Z with how crazy it can get with its hair designs, power ups and explosive action sequences. For decades, anime has managed to find popularity around the world for reasons that were never expected, let alone intended. Saint Seiya became a hit in Western Europe and Latin America, where it still maintains a solid fan base. Voltes V was seen as a symbol of resistance to Ferdinand Marcos’ reign in the Philippines between the 1970s and 1980s. Considering anime’s international influence both artistically and in society, there are numerous reasons as to why anime needs to explore more cultures.
The Educational Value
If you have seen our Top 10 Educational Anime list, there are a lot of things that anime can factually teach you. Moyashimon teaches you about the micro-organisms living in your body, Food Wars has a lot about food from around the world, Yakitate Japan exposes you to a lot about making bread, and a large majority of sports anime do a great job of teaching its audience the rules and methods of the sport it portrays. Then there are historical related anime such as Grave of the Fireflies and Rurouni Kenshin that do highlight and depict actual events.
Within our list, one that sticks out that makes our case is Nodame Cantabile. As the story progresses, Megumi and Shinichi get to study abroad in France. Through this anime, not only viewer can learn about France, but are given exposure to classic orchestra tracks, most notably Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. We are also given a taste of the motivation behind the songs and the feelings you need to put into it. Since many musicians and fans believe that music is universal, music is one way anime can explore other cultures. Maybe in the future, we can get an anime of America’s hip hop scene, or Germany’s rock culture, or maybe about K-Pop? Japan has always made an animation about something, so those ideas are not out of the ordinary. With the right research and experience, anime certainly has that kind of future.
International Artistic Influence
For the last 30 years, anime has made more of an impact on other forms of entertainment than anyone could ever acknowledge. Say what you want about Kanye, but you got to give him props for paying homage to Akira in his video to his cover of Daft Punk’s Stronger. In recent years, lots of international celebrities and athletes have expressed their fandom of anime and manga. A lot of American based MMA fighters openly admit to being fans of Dragon Ball Z, and French pop singer Alizée has a tattoo of Sailor Moon. As some of us have enjoyed, a Russian figure skater did a routine to the Sailor Moon theme song cosplaying as Sailor Moon. Michael B. Jodran’s armor in Black Panther takes influence from Vegeta’s in Dragon Ball Z! Last, let’s not forget that the late great Robin Williams was a huge fan of Evangelion.
In recent years, anime and manga have progressively entered the mainstream. Regardless of how you feel about Hollywood adaptations of anime and manga, it does show how powerful brand names such as Dragon Ball and Ghost in the Shell have become (but not enough to get a faithful adaptation). In the last decade, Nickelodeon broadcasted Avatar: The Last Airbender, which was largely influenced by anime and Eastern culture as a whole. Manga artists such as Kia Asamiya even contributed to four issues of Marvel’s X-Men. Seeing how anime and manga have become a gateway to Japanese culture for some, anime can possibly do that for other cultures.
An International Japan
With Japan’s declining birth rate and population, if anime is going to stay alive, it’s going to need to appeal to an international audience. As opposed to stimulating tourism, if Shinzo Abe can’t get the nation’s birth rate up, Japan is going to need to increase its population by allowing more immigrants. Through those immigrants, anime can then continue to have an audience. Considering that some franchises already have a strong international audience in some regions, studios and animators should definitely capitalize on that. By collaborating with other international investors, it’s possible to do more to appeal to a worldwide audience.
If there’s one reason why they should explore more cultures, it’s because it already has, but can do more and a lot better. G Gundam has a very diverse cast, but we’ll admit the novelty and the downside to how many characters of particular nations were portrayed wasn’t the best. We’re not trying to force a politically correct agenda, but when you take account many factors with anime and manga’s present position both domestically and internationally, it would be nice for the industry to do more to appeal to an international audience.
Legend of Galactic Heroes has done an excellent job of portraying pre-20th century European empires in space. Kingdom and Fushigi Yuugi excellently explore the atmosphere of pre-unified China, and Saint Seiya largely takes from Greek mythology with a twist. Last, even Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball have their shares of international influences. Dragon Ball was influenced by one of China’s greatest fairy tales, Journey to the West, while Sailor Moon also has its share of mixing Japanese and Greek mythology. In the eighties, there was Taiyou no Ko Esteban, which portrayed South America, and The Flying House and Superbook provided stories about Abrahamic religions. Considering that anime has a history of exploring other cultures, maybe it would be nice to see a more now that anime can reach a wider audience thanks to modern day technology.