Like so many of my generation, my anime fixation started with Cartoon Network’s “Toonami” broadcast, first introduced in the late ’90s. And, quick as I was to mock shows like Dragon Ball Z for their plodding pace — “on the next episode, Goku will breathe heavily while staring down his foe, and he might even launch at him with a flying kick!” — I’d still tune in for each episode. Same goes for Sailor Moon.
As I got older, I didn’t have the free time to devote myself daily to the super-serialized shows. Hence, I’ve never bothered watching more than a passing episode or two of Naruto, Bleach, and so many other super-lengthy anime. Instead, I decided to get comfy-cozy with the one season — sometimes two season — anime series. The largest I remember watching was Gundam Wing. But, as anime DVD collections became cheaper through the early ’00s, I delved into such shows as Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Lain, Key: The Metal Idol, and many others. Knowing that a definitive endpoint was in sight made the experience more bearable. But even then, I had the free time of a college student working towards a useless humanities degree (cultural anthropology, if you wanted to know).
Then, in 2005, I got married. With it went my carefree days of watching what I wanted when I wanted. I had a fulltime job, a spouse, and soon, kids! Time was very limited. It became a precious commodity.
And when that happens, as it inevitably does to nearly everyone for whole seasons of life, one has to prioritize. So, while I do love the model of serialized narrative, I found myself much more attracted to the spectacle of anime film.
This came with a whole assortment of benefits. First of all, most anime films have better production value: more frames of animation, a high quality music score, and (usually) English dubs that are superior to TV anime equivalents. Not that I’m big on English dubs, but my wife isn’t a big fan of subtitles, and if I’m going to watch a movie, it’s usually with her.
We started, in 2006 and 2007, by taking on the entire Miyazaki filmography. Satisfied with multiple viewings, but wanting more, we went after some non-Miyazaki Ghibli films (Pom Poko, Grave of the Fireflies). We’ve also watched works of acclaimed directors such as — rest in peace — Satoshi Kon (Paprika), Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), and Makoto Shinkai (The Place Promised In Our Early Days, 5cm/sec). We even picked up a movie on a whim called Origin simply because it was available on blu-ray. And even though the story to that particular film was a little contrived, the audio and visuals entertained both of us enough that we were pleased with the purchase.
I’m generally not a fan of film adaptations *of* TV series. Trying to condense long-form into short-form almost always fails. But bring me an original story that you can tell in two hours, and I’m willing to check it out.
So, again, this isn’t about anime film being better than their TV series counterparts. It’s about priorities and seasons of life. Maybe when I’m old and retired, I’ll watch all bajillion-and-three episodes of Naruto while breathing into an oxygen mask. For now, a nice stay-at-home date with the Mrs. featuring the latest 2 hour animated flick that Japan has to offer will certainly hit the spot. It’s a win-win for Japanophiles and their ever-patient spouses.
Patrick Gann is a husband of one and father of three with a boring desk job and a treasure trove of games and anime. He writes and podcasts on his blog gameosaurus.com and has written extensively for RPGFan.com and OriginalSoundVersion.com.