Last week Chris and Dan debated which was the best animation style and now they bring that debate to you in word form.

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Chris:East vs West. Anime vs Not-Anime. I was really surprised with this one, not only in the decision within the episode, but also with the livid reaction we stirred in fans. And I’m disappointed, so very much, that one of Dan’s core arguments against anime, an argument he was kind enough to leave out of this debate because he wanted to stay above the belt, was proven all too well:

Anime fans, when pushed to their extreme, cancel out any good will the medium has whatsoever.

Yes, I’m outwardly stating there that if Dan had been ballsy enough to just say that because of the fans anime breeds it makes it vastly inferior to anything produced in the West next to perhaps Family Guy diehards, then I wouldn’t have had any real ammo to fire back with. I’m not even being cruel here, just look at our comments and see how fans on my side of the debate (the one saying anime is valid) chastised me for not going far enough (and in true anime-fan style, I take one or two negative comments as a full-blown attack on my person because that’s just the deal).

Elitism is not a term I like to pull out ever, and it’s one that Dan again held back on, but that’s what we can see in any forum relating to anime. And to explain this, think of the most popular animated pieces from both sides of this argument. On Dan’s side you have everything by Disney, everything by Don Bluth, most of Nick’s cartoons in the 90’s, a handful of Cartoon Network’s late 90’s and early 2000’s cartoons, The Simpsons and Futurama. On my side, the most popular, well-known examples are Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Naruto, One Piece, and thankfully Miyazaki’s work. Whatever you may say, there’s a lot less at fault with the popular choices in the western side than the popular choices on anime’s side. My grandmother can tell me why Disney movies are amazing. She’ll look at me like I’m possessed if I mention Dragon Ball. The elitism shows up with anime fans pull in obscure films as examples of the medium. False, anime is defined by the world as Toonami and Speed Racer. Get over that. I hate it, too.

Furthermore, Dan had the ultimate showstopper: Anime owes everything to Disney. Hackles raised, I know, but I took enough abuse last Thursday that I might as well endure some more. Any anime fan worth their salt can point to much of anime’s big break at the hands of Astro Boy, an anime based on a manga that really, really loved Disney’s work and style. Since then, anime characters consistently have large, expressive, western-style eyes and look, for lack of a better term, white. Goku may be a Saiyan, but come on, he’s not a Japanese Saiyan. Respect where it’s due, and anime has been emulating the Western (read: Disney) style of things since the early days.

Let me sympathize here, guys. I thought I had Dan with my argument that he just assumes that anime is perceived as “lesser” because the popular stuff in the US is not the best example of the medium, but it didn’t sway Kyle as the judge or faze Dan as my opponent nearly as much. I thought I had a sure-fire winner with that, but for whatever reason it didn’t land as hard as I assumed it would, and Kyle went the other way with the final decision. I didn’t expect that and I instantly wished I’d had a chance to come back with more big points.

And the sad part is, if he had sided with me, I promise you that 90% of those angry comments would have said everything was right with the world. I blew this debate, plain and simple, because I thought I had Dan in the end. I didn’t. The world kept on spinning anyway, and oddly enough, the sun still decided to rise in the East. Funny how that happened.

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Kyle:While I didn’t assign the points this week, I did my duty as final judge and decided that Dan earned a win.

While this may be considered an unfair and outrageous decision to some, I find it justified because of the nature of the arguments at hand. Chris made valid arguments about Western animation’s lack of originality and innovation, but this just shows that at it’s worst Western animation is mundane and innocuous.

Dan, on the other hand, highlighted the number of weird, unnecessary, goofy and/or sickening aspects of Eastern animation. This does not say to me that all Eastern animation is weird or crappy. What it says is this: at it’s worst, it is weird for the mere sake of being weird. And it alienates potential audiences needlessly. Don’t try convincing me that there is an artistic point to the things Dan hated. There’s a reason why there is a niche audience for it … it’s the type of entertainment that you are hooked on, or couldn’t care less about. Frankly, I just don’t get it. I’m the first to admit it.

I’m not saying I sided with Western animation because it holds my hand. I sided with it because it contributes more to animation at large, and because it doesn’t insist on making me question it every five minutes.

And if there’s one thing that helps me side with Western animation, it’s that there is no pretentious bunch of whackjobs ready to cut my head off merely because I don’t like it.

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Dan:Holy balls, do I have a lot of explaining to do! No time to explain about the points, just assume points were awarded based on solar flares.

First off, between the metric ton of comments on the forums, and the plentiful posts on the Facebook portion, I have been suggested a lifetime’s worth of anime to watch. I want to thank you all, and to let you know I intend to try as many of your suggestions as I can.

Secondly, many of you have tried to decipher why I don’t like anime. Frankly, I’ve never been that clear on what exactly bothers me about it, but honestly the postings you wrote have helped me a great deal in narrowing it down. Let me share my revelations.

Batman: The Animated Series is clearly a western animation, and one of my favorites. So I will use it as the prime example of all that I like of that medium. On the other side of the table I will use Afro Samurai. Why that choice, you ask? Three reasons; It’s got an American actor dubbing it, so the translations should be accurate, it’s more recent, and I watched it over the weekend so it’s fresh in my mind.

Why do I like Batsy? With a modicum of background knowledge on the character, you can watch any episode, jump in at any point, and understand exactly what people’s motivations are and why things are happening. The episode “Heart of Ice” won an Emmy, and elevated Mr. Freeze from a paltry ice villain into the layered wonder we know today. If I suggested that episode to you, all you would have to do is watch it; no need to watch an entire season or read a comic book to prepare yourself. One of the bigger problems I have with anime, a problem I didn’t see Afro fixing, is that you can’t just jump in. You either start from the beginning and watch an entire season, or you have to ask 15-20 questions of someone who did before you have any idea what is going on. “Why does that guy have a bear head on?”, “Do the headbands have magic powers”, “Can anyone else see that crazy guy talking to Afro?” When I say I hate anime, one of the reasons flashing in my head is that it has a very steep time price for entry.

Many people have corrected me in my statement that Aeon Flux was anime, rather that it was made in the USA. I regard anime as something that looks like anime, not something that was made in Japan, so I stand by my statement. However, why do I dislike that look? Well, back to “Heart of Ice”, we see Mr. Freeze having goggles. And yet even with a heavily synthesized voice and a lack of view to his eyes, those unblinking red dots convey a cold sadness that speaks volumes. Back to Ol Afro Jackson, we keep getting these close-ups on people with overly drawn, hyper-realistic faces and eyes. There are so many lines drawn, and so many veins in the eyes, one gets lost trying to figure out of the character is in pain, happy, or was just thrown out a spaceship airlock. The stupid bear-head character does have unblinking eyes, but it just ends up looking out of place. So when Aeon Flux comes along with the same thousand-vein-bulging eyes, I tend to turn off.

Sometimes when I try to watch anime and I don’t understand something, I will ask “Why did that just happen”, or “What does that mean?” The answer may be valid, but more often than not, it’s just “Because it’s anime.” That is unacceptable to me, and Bats has never caused me to utter those words. Why does Mr. Freeze have red circles for eyes? “Because he’s wearing goggles.” Why does he wear goggles? “Because he is in a suit that keeps him cold so he can stay alive, there was a chemical spill.” Done, and Emmy-award winning. Why does that guy have a robotic bear helmet on? “Because … well you missed that episode, but he was a kid … he got beaten … the bear represents … because it’s anime.”

So those are some of the reasons I don’t enjoy anime, and I hope that you now realize that when I say “anime”, what I mean is any animation that harbors these qualities. Some western animation gets lumped in there (12oz Mouse, some episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, etc.) There are eastern animations that don’t have these qualities, though I have yet to see them personally. I don’t judge anything I haven’t seen, and stated as much in the episode.

Ever since I started leaking my opinions about anime into episodes, people have wondered what my gripe was. We thought an episode explaining it would be good, but honestly our debates are completely improv and I didn’t explain myself as well as I should have. From time to time I will let you guys know what I think of the suggestions you gave me, as I have time to watch them. Maybe we’ll even return to this debate topic in the future. Maybe …

Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.

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