In the past three months, I’ve noticed that my viewing and reading habits have shifted, and it’s caused me to think about a subject I’ve never really spent much time on: the ways in which we consume our stories.
One part of life that I’m trying to get better at is to only spend time doing the things that I love (as much as possible – changing diapers usually isn’t much fun – but still altogether necessary). Those who know me know that I’m a notorious completionist. No matter how much I don’t like a movie or a book, I’ll keep going. It’s a practice I’m trying to change, and because of that, I’ve been eliminating shows and books from my life that I don’t love.
Along with this trimming, I’ve been adding as well. Thanks to the influence of a wonderful editor, I’ve discovered a love of comics that I’d never realized, and I’ve gotten back into thrillers as well.
When everything is put together, what I realized is that the majority of what I’m currently consuming is anime and graphic novels/comic books. Those mediums aren’t everything I’m consuming, but they are a substantial portion.
Leaving aside the question of what my entertainment choices says about me, I’ve been thinking about the place these mediums have in our society. Both are mediums that are frequently judged by many, and I’ll confess that I used to fall into that camp. I used to consider both anime and comic books lesser forms of entertainment, even though I based that judgment on nothing more than feelings and cultural bias.
What I have discovered, as I dig deeper into these mediums, is that there is an incredible breadth and depth to both anime and comic books. Like any other medium, there will always be shows and stories that are better than others, or those that we are drawn to more. But I don’t think that’s any indictment of the medium.
As I thought about this question, I asked a number of people why they did or didn’t like the mediums, and I think there’s some good answers. For both anime and comic books, there seems to be a general feeling that they are products for children, and not for adults. I can see this argument, but after experiencing these stories, I think its very safe to say that many of these stories are intended only for adults.
A second reason I encountered, which specifically applies to anime, is that the cultural differences can make a show difficult to watch. There’s no doubt Japanese culture is fundamentally different than American culture, and if you don’t have at least a decent understanding of how Japanese culture functions, it can be difficult to enjoy an anime show.
The final reason people gave is that the subject matter is too different or fantastic for them. And I suppose I can see their point. If the limit of your fantasy is the latest Marvel movie, or perhaps The Lord of the Rings, then yes, anime and comics can go into some pretty strange territory. But I’d argue this is actually one of their strengths. I think some of the most imaginative work is coming out of these mediums. It may not be for everyone, but for some, it’s powerful work.
Perhaps my argument could be summed up like this: there are worthwhile stories everywhere. I don’t think I have the authority to say any one show or story is good and another bad. That can only be up to you. But I do believe we should have some courage and be willing to experiment with different mediums. Try an anime show, or a comic book, or a graphic novel. If you read romance, try a thriller. If you only read novels, try a short story. Let’s not let the medium of the story prevent us from discovering and enjoying them.