Walker has recently had some excellent posts on SF in Anime, including looking at the influences that Votoms, Dougram, Macross, and Crusher Joe have had on, among other things, Battletech. So it’s fair to say that there’s a lot of evidence that they’ve not been as susceptible to Social Justice Convergence. They certainly inspired one of my favorite movies, which Jeffro would find refreshingly short on excessive backstory.
As with Star Wars, Japan’s long-running pop-culture SF/F franchises are built on pulpy and superversive foundations- despite significant differences in mood, theme, tone, and subject matter. Mobile Suit Gundam, as much as it gets the billing for making “Real Robot” a viable subgenre, has protagonists and antagonists motivated by passion and desire beyond all material drives- something that persists across the franchise. Space Battleship Yamato is a Space Opera that E.E. Smith would approve of, as is Super-Dimensional Fortress Macross. The Dragon Ball franchise is full of this stuff; for all the jokes about a five-minute move taking 30 episodes to execute, the heroes hero because it’s right and the villains (for the most part) are evil and don’t apologize for it.
There is, and always has been, some great stuff. There is also of course, and always has been, a lot of dreck. Given that my start in anime was a combination of some morning cartoons available in the Boston area and Star Blazers, followed by the release of the Robotech series, I’m not the otaku some are, but I do have a fair bit of perspective. Shortly after Robotech started, I dug in and discovered a wealth of movies, starting – for better or for worse – with Megazone 23, and quickly jumping to more titles than I can remember. Gundam, the Lensman movie, the Iczer series, Bubblegum Crisis, the Macross movie, Golgo 13, the Arion movie, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, Area88, Project A-Ko, more damn esper movies than I can count, etc.
A lot of it was trading videotaped copies. Having a second or third gen copy off of a laser disk original was worth something.
Once out in the world things took a slump as deployments and obligations cut down on time for cons and getting a hold of material – and we were in that weird limbo before massive bandwidth where some good stuff was starting to show up on the cartoon network like Cowboy Bebop, and the Ghost in the Shell movie, but not a lot, yet. Then netflix and streaming services came along, and while I don’t watch much TV, a good chunk of what I do watch is anime.
Positives? Given I haven’t watched too many “slice of life” movies – action. Some fantastic art. A lot of genre bending. Off the wall ideas pushed to their limits. Negatives? Well, it’s pretty easy to find some very dark and nihilistic stuff – I’m not a huge fan of DeathNote – a lot of “loser is inexplicably attractive to girls” harem series, a number of very angsty and mopy boys, and Dragon Ball is hardly the only series to stretch out five minutes of story.
Take Bleach. Well enough done I ended up watching a lot of it, but the entire “Soul Society” sequence was almost nothing but backstory of every major character and how they got there, with a minute or two of plot continuation, before – finally – wrapping everything up in the last minute or two of the sequence.