Anime is associated with a grand variety of products, stereotypes, and feelings. Throughout the years, anime has transitioned from a stigmatized, bootlegged form of entertainment to a common sight within the world of television. The Super Dimension Series Macross and Space Battleship Yamato were among the very first anime that migrated to America in the early 1960s. When the classic Japanese art style first arrived, it was extremely difficult to find. Due to low consumer demand, “there was just no distribution,” explains David Stroup, a Franklin High School science teacher. Stroup was among the few Americans who were immediately drawn in by anime’s “new style” and the care that had been taken by the artists to create quality content. “I was impressed by it, and I wanted more,” recalls Stroup. Even though anime was surrounded by assumptions of sleaziness, problematic gender roles, hyper-sexualized content, or the idea that it was just another children’s cartoon, Stroup was not put off. He continued to seek out new series, and was continually impressed with what he saw.
Although anime is becoming more and more widely accepted since its arrival to the United States, some stereotypes still ring with familiar claims left over from the early 1960s. Ben Weber, a high school student from Eugene, says, “There are a lot of good series, and then there’s hentai.” As the Oxford English Dictionary defines it, hentai is “a subgenre of the Japanese genres of manga and anime, characterized by overtly sexualized characters and sexually explicit images and plots.” The connection between sexualized characters and anime characters in general is a fairly common, but a false association. “If you go looking for the good stuff, it’s there,” Stroup comments. While less than appropriate content does exist, it is a subgenre of the larger animation style and does not dominate all of anime. Stroup acknowledges that “there is a tendency to portray female characters very poorly. But you also see, for example in Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away, strong, interesting female characters right on the forefront of the story.” He recommends any movie by Studio Ghibli as an introduction to anime across the board, no matter what genres of television people are interested in.
In contrast, anime is often thought to be targeting youthful audiences. The sentiment that all animations are cartoons, and therefore are made only for children is not unheard of in modern society. The majority of people today are no longer severely phased by the art style, as they were when it first reached the country. However, “[a] lot of Americans still do think cartoons are for kids. I think that’s gone down a lot in recent years, but some people do still have that impression,” remarks Stroup. He does not allow this presumption to interfere with his fandom. Stroup has been a lifelong fan of cartoons, science fiction, and fantasy despite the social stigmas around animated entertainment. When anime first arrived in the United States, he was ecstatic to see animations with in-depth plot lines and characters that were written specifically for adults.
Stroup explains that people are often uninterested in anime after experiencing a very limited facet of the genre as a whole. Shows such as Pokémon are specifically tailored towards younger people, and do not resonate with everyone. “Anime is as big a genre as ‘television shows’ or ‘movies,’” says Stroup. Additionally, some people view anime as a trend, and want to be included in it because it has grown in popularity. “I don’t watch it because the style bugs me, but I kind of want to get into it so I don’t feel left out,” says Sherwood High School student Victoria Hosmer. Anime is beginning to gather a fandom comparable to that of Doctor Who or The Great British Baking Show. Nearly everyone has heard of these hit series, and most have seen enough of them to develop at least the basic level of familiarity necessary to be included in all the latest trends.
Whether they have been an anime lover since the early days, hold a newfound love for the unique television style, or take a neutral position, more and more people today are leaving their negative opinions behind. Younger generations have grown up in a much more accepting environment where anime has been widely normalized. Julianna Fay, a student at Sherwood High School, is not a fan of anime. However, she does not judge anyone who is. “It’s cool if other people like it, but it’s not for me,” says Fay. As the world changes, so does the culture and values of the all people who live in it. Anime has evolved in countless different directions, and there are shows to appease nearly any interests. Stroup says, “There is lots of good work being done, and a lot of great stories being told.” He believes that if one looks for the right thing, anyone will find anime that are palatable to their tastes.