I am constantly struck by how Anime stands apart from other popular media presented to teens. It’s often not only something you need to be in the mood for, but also something that can bring people with no other common interests together in ways that books never seem to do. At conventions, thousands of people pay money to dress up as the characters and talk with other people who enjoy the same shows in a way only the harry potter books seem to do. So I’ve started to analyze what sets it apart from American media.
The first part that I’m struck by is how in every arch, one season, the characters not only go up against their worst enemy but they truly believe they will fail before discovering an even greater power. In YA books this is often saved for the climax or the end which can still be effective but not nearly as powerful.
You see the important part about this is the compounding effect. The reader always knows the character will make it out alive in the end, but when we see the breakthrough moment instead of a montage it truly makes the viewer believe that the character has gotten stronger. So when, with new power/control/knowledge, the MC faces a new terrible, amazing villain, we can hardly believe that they will win. Both the characters and we believe that’s all the tricks the character has until the creator pulls a fast one on us and shows there’s more power left in the character after all.
The other big difference is that the characters often want to be there. In much of American media, the MC is forced on the quest by another factor (blackmail, repaying a favor, prophecy ect.) While on a lot of anime not only does the character have a backstory that motivates them to complete the challenge but sometimes to create their own goal that they strive for. I’m constantly surprised by how many times the main character is told to stay out of the fight or to not get involved but is to motivated to not fight.
While anime will always have its advantages with how easy it is to consume in mass, novels can take a page from its structure and characters in this way.