The Plugged In Show, Episode 95: Anime & Manga 101: Everything You Need to Know

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four girls in a school literature club


You’ve probably heard the phrases anime and manga. You might even know that they have some connection to Japanese animation. But if that’s where your knowledge of these interrelated genres comes to a screeching halt, have no fear: The Plugged In Show’s got you covered.

I confess, for a long time, I was pretty much in the dark about anime and manga, too. But when my son developed an interest in Pokémon a number of years ago, I decided it was time to get educated. And this week, we’re going to educate you, too, with a primer on what these forms of animation are, how they’re different, what makes them distinctive and appealing, and what parents need to know about the potential pitfalls that are involved.

So take a listen to the show, and be sure to check out related links below.

  • Interaction questions: What questions do you have about anime and manga that maybe we haven’t addressed today? What other obscure pop culture phenomena would you like us to tackle on an upcoming episode of The Plugged In Show? Let us know on Facebook or Instagram, or via email at [email protected].

12 Responses

  1. -Wish you could have invited me on your anime podcast. I could give a lot of info or trivia.

    I don’t really get why so many Americans automatically see animation as something that mainly appeals to children. Hasn’t Pixar by now corrected this misconception ^_^? I guess not, but it’s still so weird to me that so many adults still see animation and immediately think “this won’t appeal to me” without knowing anything else about it.

    It’s true that a lot of anime is aimed at adults, but it’s also true that culturally Japan just isn’t as “prudish” (so to speak) about what is appropriate for kids. Believe it or not it just isn’t seen as much of a big deal to have a higher level of violence or sexuality in shows aimed at kids compared to America. Naruto and dragonball are squarely aimed at kids in Japan, and they’d be considered PG-13 here.

    Transformers is not anime; it WAS animated by a Japanese studio, but it was mainly for an American audience. A surprising high number of American cartoons were actually partly animated in Japan or Asia. Tiny toons, animaniacs, tmnt, Spider-Man, X-men, and others were at least partly animated in Asia, but still American

    Pretty sure Ash only ogled a girl once in the entire Pokémon series; episode 10, and the girl was his age too, and he just commented that she was pretty. Brock (who is supposed to be like 15 or 16) is the one who constantly hits on every women he meets, it was a constant running gag for the entire time he was on the show.

    Usagi/Serena is 14 at the start of sailor moon and in 8th grade, and Mamoru/Darien is 16 in the manga/Crystal anime, 10th grade, and 18 in the 90s anime, freshman in college. But again there is some cultural difference. The age of consent in Japan is 13, though there currently is pressure to change it to 16.

    Etchi is the genre of anime that basically just focuses on sexual humor, the word etchi is basically one slang word for “pervert”. It does NOT *specifically* mean underage girls, though some etchi anime does have that, it’s basically just like the Japanese equivalent of stuff like “American Pie” or “Porkys”.

    Surprised you guys didn’t bring up “harem anime”. That’s the genre of anime that usually revolves around a protagonist, usually male, being surrounded by a large cast of the opposite sex, with the primary plot being driven by the question “who will the protagonist end up with?”; they aren’t always sexual, but often are

    Crunchy roll isn’t really censored in the way you are thinking. Crunchyroll shows episodes straight from Japan as they air on tv there, and some shows are censored when they air on tv, and then have a less censored version released on Disc later (a prominent example being Berserk, which is on crunchy roll). Funimation isntypically airing the versions of their shows that would be released on disc, so they just naturally don’t have the same censorship as the tv version, if there was any present. But as far as I know (and I could be wrong, having not watched everything in the sites) crunchyroll is NOT going out of its way to censor or change anything they release online. Crunchyroll is not at all “safer” content wise than any other anime streaming site. They all have different shows, with a variety of content levels.

    Yugioh!!! I just finished watching that entire series. Very cool. Japanese version only. Dislike the American dub

    1. -As a hardcore Christian weeb, I agree. Having some people already in the know on the culture would have been more helpful.
      Anime makes up the bulk of what little free watchtime I have these days as a busy mom. It’s nice to be able to invest myself in good story-telling without having socio-political agendas shoved in my face constantly like I do with Western media. We watch everything from the classics to the new gen.
      I think it’s telling that the biggest genre of anime, both in Asia and the West is shonen. Boys, especially those in their teen years, are yearning to have that itch scratched of grand adventures, of being the hero, and of fighting for something bigger than yourself. With modern Western media, the prevailing message for young boys these days tends to be “You’re bad. You’re broken. You’re unnecessary.” With messages like that, beating them down, of course they’d switch over to something that lifts them up and tells them they can be strong and brave and important. Of course series like My Hero Academia and Demon Slayer and AoT are huge in a situation like that.

      Yeah, I’ll admit the series CAN be rather fanservicey. And it’s probably the biggest thing preventing me from letting my boys watch it just yet. But I look forward to the day when I can introduce them to these stories and have them be inspired by great positive messages just as I have.

      I uh… never got into Yugioh, though. Current favorites are Detective Conan (which, as you said, is aimed at kids in Japan despite featuring brutal murders on a weekly basis, just because of cultural differences in what is and isn’t taboo), Black Clover, Shield Hero, and Yona of the Dawn (a shojo adventure romance in DESPERATE need of a second season).

  2. -You guys should review “Fullmetal Alchemist.” That thing’s a genuine classic. If you want to dig into anime, you should start with an understanding of such notable works. Not for the squeamish, though.

    1. -Fullmetal Alchemist is my favorite manga/anime. It is about loss and regard for human life. It falls into the Shonen category another user mentioned. The biggest problem with it is the violence. I could see the story becoming a classic here if it were in a Western novel or movie form.
      It makes sense, though, when they say in the podcast that it may not be best to expose teens to anime if it could lead to an obsession with the unhealthy animes. My first exposure to anime was one I borrowed from the library as a teen. It had something very improper in it and after that I stayed away from anime/manga for years because you can’t tell much by looking at dvd cases.
      Now, I usually find an anime/manga series about once a year that I like. As an adult woman who does not have the internet at home and was used to very strict rules for movies growing up (I wasn’t even allowed to watch National Treasure or The Incredibles because of language when I was a teen), it is easy for me to immediately quit reading a manga that goes too far.
      The problem is that what is considered family friendly is very different in Japan. For example, the Bleach manga is popular for tween boys, but it often has suggestive drawings of women – like probably half the female characters dress provocatively. As a woman I’m grateful women are not depicted like this as much in the U.S.

      P.S. I still accidentally call it man-ga instead of mahn-ga. Don’t feel bad.

      1. -What I love about your additional note at the end is that even “anime” isn’t pronounced “annie-may” like how it’s commonly pronounced: it’s actually pronounced アニメ, or in other words, like “ah-nee-meh” ! (The Japanese vowel “a” has only one pronunciation, and it’s pronounced like “ah”. Actually, every Japanese kana character only has one pronunciation!)

        Just a little fun fact about the pronunciation of Japanese media. Your comment reminded me of that, and I thought I’d share. 🙂

  3. -It seems a lot of anime deals with suicidal ideation and completion, often it revolves around “honor”, or despondency over a friend or lover dying. I know of some teenagers that have begun struggling with their own suicidal thoughts after bingeing hours and hours of anime. I’m thinking there is a connection, and as a parent and mental health therapist, I think this warrants some attention.

    1. -I agree, though I haven’t seen this personally. Japan does not have a social perspective that condemns suicide like western culture does.
      For example, I work in a hospital. One of my patients told me a couple weeks ago that he wished that he would die in surgery. Anytime patients say something like this we have to ask more questions to find out if they are suicidal. So, I asked him if he was suicidal and he said that he was not and that suicide was wrong, he just missed his relatives. I have had this conversation at least 4 times before where my patients have said that although they are sad, they would never consider suicide because it is wrong.
      While I am Baptist, not Catholic, so I don’t believe that suicide is an unpardonable sin, the viewpoint that it is a sin and hurts those left behind can be a protective factor for many people.

    2. -That’s because of karoshi (literally means “death from overwork”), Confucianism beliefs, and the Japanese hierarchy system. One of the core values of Confucianism is loyalty, in particular absolute devotion to one’s superiors (Side note: a lot of Japanese people say they aren’t religious, but that’s because they don’t see Confucianism as religion – it’s just a way of life for them. In my opinion though, Confucianism – at least its way of thinking – is still very prevalent in modern Japan).

      In the times of the samurai, when a samurai faced defeat or some other form of dishonor they would perform seppuku (also called hara-kiri) – ritual suicide – to show their conviction to a cause. This kind of mentality is still prominent in modern Japan, especially amongst salarymen. Workplace culture in Japan is HUGE! There is strong societal pressure to commit yourself wholeheartedly to your job, and Japanese workers will often take on unpaid overtime; even asking for days off is frowned upon, because people might view it as you slacking off.

      This is especially true if you’re low ranking (e.g. you’re new to the company). Those of seniority and status get first dibs on everything, and those who are newer must respect them and their authority. While I would say the U.S. is more focused on individual rights and American culture places strong emphasis on the person (“freedom” is a buzzword in the US), Japanese culture places high emphasis on the group. You aren’t just your own person – you’re representing the people of your group: your family, your school, your company, etc.

      As such, you have a duty to be your very best self so as not to cause disrespect to your group. There’s SO MUCH emphasis on giving your best performance, in fact, that many Japanese people can literally work themselves to death (that’s karoshi) trying to prove themselves.

      Perhaps you’ve heard that Japanese people are respectful and polite, or you know about Japan’s low crime rates. This is because of the group mentality. It is a double-edged sword, however; individuals who don’t follow expectations or who act unconventionally are shamed and guilt-tripped to no end. This leads to many Japanese people suppressing their true feelings, or can cause them difficulty when socializing. They even have a word for this: tatamae (what is shown on the outside) and honne (what one feels within).

      THIS is why suicide is such a big issue in Japan: there’s so many rules to follow (different levels of formality in speech, bowing, gift giving, exchanging of business cards, the senpai/kouhai aka “upperclassman” and “lowerclassman” dynamic). There’s such a HUGE pressure to conform, that those who have “failed” feel so ashamed that they believe they have no other choice but suicide.

      It’s quite sad, but the reason why these shame tactics are still in use is because it WORKS. Japan IS a country with low crime rates, and Japanese people generally DO behave well and follow rules; Japanese people being so “compliant” and “hard-working” is why we see so many big tech and car companies from Japan.

      Japan looks like a pristine and peaceful place on the outside, but is it worth it if the people are suffering within?

  4. -I would strongly, strongly recommend that you guys review the video game Genshin Impact. It’s a massively popular anime game at this point (literally millions of downloads), and I expect many people probably come here looking for info on it.

    Personally in the Christian circles I’m in I see two extremes: people either love anime and watch it all the time or they don’t watch any of it and think it’s all bad. I personally think there’s a delicate balance, and if I watch anime (which is usually rare) I research it thoroughly and I’d recommend others do the same. Even early episodes of Pokemon in Japan had some fairly explicit stuff, so you can’t always be sure if an anime is clean or not. Unfortunately anime does have a tendency to be explicit more often than other animation mediums, which is disappointing. I really think Christians need to get involved in increasingly secular areas of entertainment such as this and get a bit of light in a rather dark place.

    Thanks to everyone at Plugged In for writing these articles. With the massive, massive popularity anime enjoys in the world, especially the U.S. and Japan, people need to be informed before they go watching these things.

  5. – I find it interesting that you mentioned the potential influence of ecchi and/or hentai on young male audiences. Funnily enough, Japanese erotic manga and anime are quite popular with women, too. “Yaoi” is content of homoerotic nature which is aimed at women (though there are some male fans). It’s appealing to women because of the bishounen (literally: “beautiful youth” or “beautiful boy”) characters. Believe it or not, the concept of pairing of two handsome men together romantically is something many girls seem to like.

    I would know this, because I was ONE of those girls (or “fujoshi”) – and I wasn’t alone! I just wanted to mention this because it’s one of those things you can come across if you dive deeper into anime and manga, so it’s something to watch out for. In addition, I just wanted to give a reminder that women can fall prey to the sin of pornography too; in fact, this kind of pornography featuring handsome men is targeted towards women, specifically teens and young adults.

    Otome (lit “maiden”) games are also popular with girls/women too, though I think these games are generally more benign; there might be some suggestive undertones here and there and some fanservice, but they’re usually not explicit (to my knowledge).

    There’s more problematic content I’ve come across in Japanese anime and manga (anything ending with “con” should be AVOIDED at all costs!), but that’s all I’ll say for now. There are some really great anime out there, but trying to get to them is like navigating your way through a minefield.

    1. -“Believe it or not, the concept of pairing of two handsome men together romantically is something many girls seem to like.”

      That’s also true on another fandom that is often used by teens – the fanfiction websites. I write sometimes on these sites to practice writing and to write additional scenes that weren’t in the movies. Most of my readers who say their age on their profiles are teenagers and I write family-friendly stuff.
      Unfortunately, some of the fandoms I’ve written in, like, Avengers and BBC Merlin have nearly /half/ the stories be of non-canonical romantic pairings of men. I don’t know why, because the majority of people who read and write fanfiction are women. I think some of it is because of the mentality, “If I can’t have the guy no other girl can either.” Anyway, the fanfiction websites are something that parents should monitor.

      With manga I have found that I can’t trust even Christian fansites to recommend mangas. There are many articles that ignore the content issues and just focus on the positive elements. I have watched movies in the past, like Iron Man, that had scenes I am not comfortable watching, I eventually caved while waiting for Endgame to come out, but I watched it on dvd, so I could skip the scene. You have to make a line about what you will and will not watch. For example, I don’t watch anything with the f-word – unless I have to for school. This has made me nervous about the current Spider-man series as they’ve been cutting this word off the last couple movies. I really want to know what happens in the third movie. Yeah, I hear that word at work all the time, but I think people swear too much nowadays.

      With manga I am nervous to ready anything that isn’t by Hiromu Arakawa or published by Shonen Jump. And I avoid romance stories altogether, with the exception of Bakuman. Well, I also read some of Nisekoi, which is a parody on Romeo and Juliet, except the protagonists are only pretending to be in love to keep their yakuza families from killing each other. But that one does not have a healthy depiction of romance, because their are about four girls who all want to date one guy and the girl he is forced to “date” sometimes punches him.

  6. -I highly recommend the Beyblade Burst anime. As a fan myself, I can attest to its clean-ness. However, something to watch out for in it (especially in seasons 2 and 3) are the spiritual implications. In season 2–Evolution–one of the six protagonists of season 1 (Shu Kurenai, namely) questions his own identity, and later becomes possessed by an evil Bey, Spryzen Requiem. And even before that, this 12-going-on-13 year old actually tells his friends “Shu as you know him is gone.” “Gone” as in, dead. Later on in the season, there are scenes that may be very disturbing to younger viewers. This is almost ironic, since Shu was previously the role model for every little boy watching–kind, hardworking, calm, and mature. But, in the very last episode (51), the protagonist, Valt Aoi (who was Shu’s childhood best friend), breaks Spryzen Requiem’s control on Shu. Shu’s story becomes a powerful story of redemption and forgiveness–and shows the danger of letting revenge take the wheel of your life.
    In season 3, the new protagonist, Aiger Akabane, becomes partially possessed–on purpose. Now, enter in Shu’s student, Fubuki Sumiye, Valt Aoi, Shu Kurenai himself, two possessed twins name Phi and Hyde Kuromi, and you’ve got a big knot to unravel, Sherlock. But Aiger is fine a couple episodes after Shu, now 15, gives him “the talk” of Beyblade–in this case, about the possibility of demonic possession if you go too far. You might want to watch season 3–Turbo–yourself before letting your child watch it.
    I’m writing this because the fandom of this humble anime is bigger than anyone wants to admit. And I know this is important, as I am a fan of the anime myself. But a thing to watch out for is the fanfiction written on the Internet. Some innocent animes, like my beloved, kid-friendly Beyblade Burst, are perverted by fans to portray the characters as gay or transgender. A common one is that Shu is gay, which is not true. We actually don’t know anything about the characters that is related to religion (except for Daigo Kurogami saying he doesn’t believe in destiny in season 2). But this anime has hardcore, blood-shedding fans because of the friendship dynamics. When six, very different preteen boys somehow become friends, the result is a lot of laughs, and “aww”s. That’s why so many people were outraged when season 4 pretty much killed Shu off–and Shu has the biggest fandom out of the whole anime.
    Season 5 brings back many of the old characters–the original six now in their early twenties. Watching Shu and Valt interact as best friends, now as grown men, made many faithful fans shed tears. I must agree that these guys have wormed their hilarious and touching ways into my heart. Just watch out for the hiccups in the road that populate every life, and it is a great ride for everyone.

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