Sander Cohen May 25, 2007
The news of my death was greatly exaggerated
Naruto, love it or hate it, its big and its loud. Even living under a rock won’t stop you from hearing about it. However, if you walk out under the naked sun then both sides of the fence have no choice but to agree on one point, there is, at best, one ninja in the entire show.
What, don’t believe me? Try actually watching the show for once and you’ll see what I mean. All the so called ninjas are really just oddly dressed Asian mages. Good now I’ve gone and lost my objectivity. Its time to really rip the show a new one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just going to whine. Theres actually a good meaning to this rant (more then the show ever had).
Heard of the Naruto movie coming out? Of course you have. Now, if I hear one more person say this is the first anime to come to American theaters I swear I will set there entire dvd collection on fire. Just a short off-the-top-of-my-head list for you, Pokemon (they had like three or four), many of the best studio Ghibli films (most recently Spirited Away), Digimon even had its own movie! Bam! Stonebear one, Forces of stupid zero!
Wow, I’ve barely started and I’m already off the point. Time to get back to the blasted title of this article. Alright I have a theory, I like to call it the Gaara effect. Theres two big art styles in modern anime that dominate the field of popularity in the United States. I can not apply this theory to whats popular in Japan simple because they get some much more then us and I do not live there to be an observer of there trends. Now, I know I’m generalizing, but I’m talking about popularity which is a very generalized subject. So anyways there is the “OMFG Tetsuo just killed Yamagata and Kaisuke!”. this style is amazing, but the casual fan may have a hard time finding a good example of it. The other is my “Gaara Effect”. its what makes up a large portion of the anime that makes it to the States.
Akira style is the mind blowing anime that leaves you shattered into tiny pieces on your couch when its over. Good examples of these anime that have made it to American television are Ghost in a Shell and Cowboy Bebob. The “problem” with these animes is that they take a large commitment from the viewer and they can be difficult to find.
Casual viewers often are not willing, or do not know how to find, these masterpieces and turn to their tv guides for aid. This is the path of madness for it leads to Cartoon Network. These casuals then end up believing shows like Dragon Ball Z and Bo bobobo bo (or however thats spelled) are the best anime has to offer.
Now on to the Gaara effect. Naruto isn’t the only show to use this, but is the big one right now. Rather then take the time to develop back stories for the characters that both add to the shows message and are interesting, the writers take the road more traveled. They give the characters cheap emotional trigger stories and that has made all the difference. If the character cries enough the viewer will be guilted into watching more episodes.
There are a potpourri of characters in Naruto that emphasize this and thats the reason I choose to name my theory after this particular show. In fact almost every character in the show is an animal who would take there hand out of the box before the pain even started. There’s Naruto, Gaara, Rock Lee, Sasuke, and Negi. Theres probably more, but I do not know them. Naruto and Gaara are practically the same story with different endings. As children they are lonely and ignored because they have been ostracized to the very edges of the community. Then rather then go travel to a new community that is not aware they are demons they stay so that viewers can feel bad for them. Next up to bat are Negi and Rock Lee. These two are not demons and therefore should be tried like all the normal kids, right? Wrong! Apparently due to extremely unlikely circumstances lightning strikes twice and there lives are made more difficult by an advantage. Rock Lee has no mana so hes “forced” to uses his hands. Wait, isn’t that what REAL ninjas do?! So to make up for the fact that he is human and not some crazy demon who has the power to breath fire and summon frogs his childhood is spent in difficult training. I approve of this, Bruce Lee spent his life training too, however Bruce Lee didn’t cry because of his shortcomings (did he even have any?). Negi is born to the warrior parent instead of the ruling parent. Seems right to me, he has a very belligerent personality so why is that a problem that we should feel bad for him? I will give you this, I do feel bad for Negi because of his eminent brain aneurism from those bulging veins in his head. Last to bat we have Sasuke. Who’s on first to tag him out? I don’t give a darn because I’m playing shortstop. Alright so apparently Sasuke’s tribe was killed by his older brother. Now the ONLY thing he can think about how its his duty to kill his brother. Apparently this Batman wanna be is supposed to be dark. I do not see it. I could go on for hours more, but my point is pretty obvious now.
Alright to those of you who made it this far. Yes, I do dislike Naruto, but if you do like it and are now mad at me, well you chose to keep reading the article. However, you should try to look past Naruto and see may main point. To many people in the west are introduced to anime by shows like this. These low barrel animes give the whole genre a bad name and contribute to a negative view of anime by individuals who think that this is the best it has to offer. Even worse, younger generations (such as my five year old brother) watch these low quality shows on television and some how actually enjoy them. By like these shows and consuming products from them they invariably lead to more shows of lower quality making onto television.
Also theres a little game in this post. I’ve littered the article with subtle (and not so subtle) references. See if you can find them all. The winner just may receive a prize.
Category: Rants & Raves