The Theatrical Nature of Anime

American movies and television in general involve very little soliloquy as one would see in theater. I’ve been told before that if a movie or television series has a person talking to himself that it’s not considered good. After all, movies and television aren’t theater, right? Also, internal monologues used as voice overs are apparently a no-no as well.

With this in mind, I watched Gundam 00 Episode 24, and watched as Setsuna F. Seiei spoke to himself, alone in a room, for about five minutes. And I liked it that way.

I’ve known for a long time that when comparing anime to American entertainment, there are some things which are very different. I’ve thought of plenty of possibilities: plot, character archetypes, story progression, even simply visual aesthetics, but upon seeing Setsuna speak to himself, I came to realize that perhaps anime relates more closely not to television or film, but to theater.

I suspect that it may partially have to do with anime often times being an adaption of manga works, where still images and word bubbles work together to provide greater amounts of information, where internal monologue or long exposition are almost necessary to truly get what’s going on with a character, perhaps due to manga’s relationship to written text.

Another similarity I see involves the criticism of the Sunrise-style 52 episode shows which take 13 episodes to develop into their true plot. The criticism leveled at this method is that it takes too long to get anywhere, which I think may say more about attention span of viewers than anything else. This reminds me of Shakespeare’s plays which can go on for 3-4 hours in one sitting. And yes, I have found myself dozing off during them as well, despite the fact that I didn’t necessarily find them boring. Count me among the guilty.

I realize that I like the theatrics of anime, be they melodramatic 70s shoujo or a more down to earth style of storytelling such as in Honey and Clover. Not that I don’t like other forms and methods of storytelling, even the American style, but  I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

2 thoughts on “The Theatrical Nature of Anime

  1. Yeah, I’ve actually noticed this as well. A lot of anime can get very theatrical at points, especially when it comes to things like over-acting and overdone dialogue. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

    though talking to yourself is fucking weird


  2. Pingback: Oscar & Hammerstein Present: kure-nai: The Musical « Anime wa Bakuhatsu da!

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