I know that, lately, I’ve been all ‘fandom, yay!’ and ‘let’s remember the joys of fandom!’ But sometimes, we all need a bit of a moan.
This isn’t so much a serious deconstruction of the failings of the format as a little list of minor irritations – things that make me roll my eyes and sigh when they crop up, even if they crop up in something I love.
Again, no particular order, and while I’m happy to hear your moans and complaints on the topic, please don’t give me an essay about why I’m wrong and a bad fan. I love anime. I just wish some things were better.
1. Animated lens flare
Tasteful lens flare is now a Thing in cinema. From an aesthetic point of view, it looks wonderful. But from a story-telling perspective, it’s a big no-no for me. Lens flare is a reminder that we’re watching the story through a lens rather than being immersed in it.
When animators go to the effort of drawing in a fake lens flare, it really distances me from the story. The effect is more about emulating live-action film than appreciating the format itself. It makes me think that the production team are more interested in aesthetics than story-telling. I love it when an anime looks impressive, but I’d take solid story-telling over flashy animation any day.
It’s like when people buy distressed jeans to copy ’90s grunge fashion without appreciating that ’90s grunge fashion actually came from people being too poor to buy new jeans. Please, think about why you’re copying a thing before copying it to look cool.
2. Reaction noises
I’ve done my fair share of am-dram acting and radio sketch comedy, so while I’m not an expert, I do appreciate the importance of reaction acting. But when a scene takes a solid ten seconds to give everyone present a shot and a reaction noise, it feels like such a waste of time and acting!
I’ve recently been watching ‘Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha’ with a friend who has a thing for magical girl shows, and I swear about half of that show is just reaction noises.
Imagine being the poor seiyuu who has to stand in a booth just making those noises. How is it even written in the script?
Magical girl: Alright, we did it!
Friend one: affirmative reaction noise!
Cute animal mascot: squeaky affirmative reaction noise!
Friend two: uncertain reaction noise?
Magical girl: reassuring reaction noise!
Friend two: accepting reaction noise.
Use your words, please!
3. Fat voices
The first time I watched ‘Steins:Gate’, I watched the English dub. I’d been told it would make the plot easier to follow (true) and that J Michael Tatum’s performance as Okabe was possibly the pinnacle of anime voice acting (also true). Imagine my shock and disappointment when I watched it in Japanese and heard Daru’s voice. His seiyuu, Tomokazu Seki, sounds nothing like that in his other roles. And it’s not a ‘dumb’ character voice, given the character’s intelligence. That’s a ‘fat’ voice.
Same goes for Serinuma in ‘Kiss Him, Not Me!’ Her weight loss comes with not just a flood of male attention but also a whole new voice! She even regains the ‘fat’ voice when she temporarily gains weight again mid-season.
It’s bugging me about Angela’s mother in ‘Carole & Tuesday’. There was some brief mention of ‘Martian androgyny’ that I need to hear more about, because all I’m seeing now is a fat female character with a ‘manly’ voice, and until someone explains the reasons to me, I’m going to keep being annoyed by this.
I get that this is a Japan thing; that fat is so much more of a stigma there than it is in the UK or US. But it still makes me sad to think that’s how fat people are viewed.
4. No homo
This one is slightly more of a seiyuu thing than an anime character thing. As much as I love watching seiyuu events and listening to seiyuu radio shows, it really disappoints me each time I hear grown men teasing each other with ‘implied gayness’. Or hearing female seiyuu describe two male actors hugging or sitting in each other’s laps as ‘gross’.
Ugh. Get better, Japan!
5. Lack of female body diversity
I wrote about this on Tumblr not too long ago, with regards to ‘My Hero Academia’ and how male characters in that world come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but female characters only get slight variations on ‘slim and busty’. It’s noticeable too in the current Monster Association arc of ‘One Punch Man’, where male-coded monsters range from ‘mostly human but big’ to ‘giant beefcake with animal tendencies’ to ‘basically not human at all’, whereas the two female-coded monsters are, once again, slim and busty.
The only time we see female characters who deviate from this ‘slim and busty’ body type is when they’re intended to be an unlikable character. See the above example of Angela’s mother in ‘Carole & Tuesday’. Or the Witch of the Waste in ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, whose visible grotesqueness is intended as part of her evil nature.
Western animation isn’t entirely immune to this, but at least shows like ‘Steven Universe’ and the recent ‘She-Ra’ reboot have given us a more realistic and inclusive range of female body types.
6. Lack of female vocal diversity
This one is mostly a personal pet peeve, and I know some of you will disagree entirely, but for me, it’s kind of irritating only hearing the same high-pitched vocal range in female characters.
I get that this is in part down to the focus on teenage girl characters rather than older female characters, and it’s not the case in every single show. ‘My Hero Academia’ actually does a decent enough job, and I can easily tell the female characters apart by the voices. But in something like ‘Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha’, if I’m not looking at the screen, I honestly struggle to tell one voice from another.
7. Lack of male vocal diversity
I’m stuck on this theme, apparently! But this is mostly down to one specific English dub studio.
The English dub cast for ‘Osomatsu-san’ was announced earlier this year, and when I saw the cast list, my honest reaction was…meh. I can barely remember what most of those guys sound like. Max Mittelman was the only good thing about the ‘One Punch Man’ dub, and I only recognise Chris Niosi now from his performance as Reigen in ‘Mob Psycho 100’. At least with Funimation dubs, I can recognise practically all their big-name actors instantly, and if I see a cast list I can get a pretty good idea of how they’ll sound before I’ve watched a dubbed episode. But Viz dubs? All six actors cast as the Matsuno brothers sound the same to me. Which is entirely the opposite of the original Japanese cast. It’s a dub I’m not looking forward to.
8. Under-utilising a top actor
Since we’re on the theme of actors, you may know from previous posts that I have a bit of a thing for Suwabe Junichi. He has a thoroughly impressive vocal range as an actor, from serious action roles such as Archer in ‘Fate/Stay Night’ to suave idol-types like Victor Nikiforov and even all-out comedy roles such as in ‘Cuticle Detective Inaba’. So hearing him playing characters who get nothing more than a dull monotone like Aizawa Shouta honestly feels like a waste of talent. Don’t get me wrong, he does well with the role, but what’s the point of casting such a versatile actor if they rarely get a chance to show what they can do?
9. Sibling complexes
You’d think that outright incestuous relationships were largely reserved for anime porn and Ikuhara Kunihiko works (don’t get me started) but even mainstream shows seem to dabble with sibling infatuation sometimes, and it’s honestly icky. ‘Free!’ had Gou’s obsession with her older brother’s muscles. ‘The Morose Mononokean’ has the Legislator apparently in love with his little sister. If you’re feeling brave, just check out the tvtrops.org list of anime with sibling incest. Or don’t. Yeah, probably best if you don’t.
10. Live-action adaptations
Just…stop. No more, please.
Animation lets a creator get away with things that are unrealistic. I will suspend a lot more of my disbelief for something animated than I will for something with actual whole humans in it. I’m not just talking about sci-fi stuff or magical effects. I’m talking anime hairstyles. Hero costumes. Adults playing children. The live-action ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’ attempt wasn’t awkward because stand battles look odd in real-life, but because those hairstyles and costumes look so ridiculous in real life that you’re turned off even before a stand manages a single “ora”.
Anime generally does a good enough job of telling a story that it doesn’t need transferring to live-action. If someone is interested enough in the story, they’ll seek out the anime. If you sell a story to a non-anime fan on the basis of it being ‘adapted from an anime’, that alone would probably put them off.
Just…stop it. Please.
Think I missed something off my list? What are your anime pet-peeves? Tell me in the comments!