PSA: Believe it or Not, Anime has Genres

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are purely my own, and are based on my own personal experiences. Your experiences and views may differ from mine.

Back around 2007, I first discovered anime properly. Yeah I'd seen Pokémon, Digimon, Dragon Ball Z and Tenchi Muyo as a kid back in the late 90s/early 2000s, but it wasn't until many years later that I discovered there was a whole world of Japanese animation goodness beyond those few series. During high school not a lot of people shared my love for anime and manga. The quite common response I'd receive when I was seen reading manga on my lunch break or when I'd bring anime up in conversation was one of misunderstanding. It was animation for geeks, virgins, weirdos, perverts (because everyone who likes anime enjoys hentai by default, apparently). While the initial manga boom of the early 2000s filled UK bookstores with hundreds of manga volumes, by the end of the decade, going into my local Waterstones and seeking out the manga section would reward me with nothing more than two tiny shelves tucked away in a dusty corner, with an inconsistent collection on offer. The seventh volume of something next to the third of something else, then a shit tonne of Shonen Jump books. Luckily my local library had an extensive archive of the best Tokyopop books, so I'd read them from there, but every time I'd walk into Waterstones and witness the decreasing size of the manga section, I realised it wasn't just the kids at school who didn't get it, it was the masses. It soon became apparent to me that Anime and manga was niché as hell. Nowadays, anime is huge. Ordinary people are watching Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online on Netflix at the weekend. Every other rapper has referenced Goku in at least one of their raps. Anime conventions are big events, with massive venues struggling to pack thousands into halls filled to the brim with anime merchandise. Kids these days don't know how lucky they are (God, I sound old).

While anime is more popular than ever, it seems to oddly retain that same niché quality about it. People growing up away from the exposure to this kind of thing (through comic shops, conventions close by) may find themselves out of the loop, and upon discovering it, will probably find that there's not many others in their circles who share or are willing to share their love for anime. I felt like this once, and I know more than anyone how great it is to finally find someone who shares or is willing to share your love for this exciting Japanese animation style. Problem is, people forget anime is exactly that, an animation style, and like any other type of cartoon, it isn't synonymous with a single genre. There's anime shows that focus on comedy, romance, horror and action. There are shows for kids, and shows for adults. You name your preference, and there's undoubtedly an anime for you. There's even shows for adults, if you know what I mean. This seems obvious, right? Problem is, I find that when discussing anime, people frequently talk about it as if it is one single genre: anime.

I for one don't consume anime like that. I like anime that focuses on romance, drama or comedy plots and not much else. I sometimes dip into the horror and thriller genres too, but I very rarely venture outside of my comfort zone because I've figured out what I like and I'm sticking to it. There are anime fans who like many different genres, and stretch their anime watching all across the board, which is awesome, but there are just as many who are close-minded to a wide amount of genres too. Years ago when I was at college, a friendship group I was part of formed an after-class anime club. We would all meet up in one of the classrooms after lessons to watch and discuss anime. One of the main problems we ran into however, was that the group was made up of people who were into completely different types of anime. The leader of the club had his personal tastes, while the members had theirs. Many shared tastes, but not everyone. When the leader of the club would put on something he recommended, half the room would be engaged, while the other half would be disinterested and just end up talking among themselves. One week I managed to convince them to play the first episode of the romance anime Air on the big screen, and the exact same thing occurred, the room's engagement was split down the middle. The leader seemed to take the lack of engagement from either side as a sign that his club sucked. Myself and some others eventually stopped caring about the club for many reasons, but one of my main reasons was because subjecting myself to watching anime I had no interest in just wasn't that fun.

While it's great to remain open-minded and love all anime regardless of its genre, for many people, categorising things is important. My Aunt absolutely hates horror. She wouldn't watch a horror movie no matter how much you try to convince her. When I tried to tell her that the 2017 remake of It was worth a watch, and that it is more of a character based piece than straight up horror, she wasn't even beginning to consider giving it a chance. But that's her preference, and she likes to watch what she likes to watch and knowing which genres movies fall under make her aware of what to avoid. Same with my Girlfriend, who is a fan of country and pop rock music. She doesn't care for Hip-Hop music. It does nothing for her. When we met, I, a fan of hip-hop, didn't go "oh you like music? me too! Have you heard of Del the Funky Homosapien?" No. The first thing I asked her about music was "what type do you like?" The same thing would be asked if I was talking movies with a movie buff too, because a lot of them hate the kind of hipster rom coms I binge. While I enjoy discussing anime for the most part, I often find myself being recommended shows that I have no interest in due to them being in a completely different genres to the anime I prefer. The worst part is that people sometimes take it personally when you don't express at least some interest in something they're vocally passionate about. It's like the part of the conversation about genre gets left at the door when it comes to anime discussions, maybe due to the meeting of two anime fans seeming like such a rare, elusive occurrence. Also, while anime is popular, excessive love of anime still seems to be mocked quite a lot, with the word "weeb" being thrown around left, right and centre, so finding someone who also shares that excessive love for anime can feel like an absolute gift. But for the reasons I've discussed, it isn't as simple as just liking anime, as the scope of anime is much more huge and complex than it seems at first glance. While it's great for us anime fans to stick together, just stating the genres of the anime we like up front can go a long way and can even go as far as to help us bridge the gap between differing genres. Maybe you watched something in your preferred genre that somehow crosses over to another? Maybe you took a chance once and watched something out of your genre bubble, and it's been sat at the back of your mind, just waiting for someone into that same genre to come along so you can recommended it to them. You never know what might happen. Just remember that simply stating you like anime is not enough, because your tastes are exclusive to you. They are a testament to who you are as a person and tell people something about you, and what makes you an individual. Declare them proudly.

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