What does it mean for an anime to be “realistic?”
It’s a question which seems simple, until you realize that different people interpret and prioritize different aspects of an anime as “realism” based on their own personalities and beliefs.
Take the Gundam franchise for instance. Depending on who you ask, you will get different answers for what is the “most realistic” Gundam series. Let’s look at just Universal Century.
Some will say First Gundam, because of the complex morals the characters possess.
Some will say Zeta Gundam, because it shows how easily government corrupts.
Some will say Gundam 0083, because of the grittiness and detail of the technology and battles.
Some will say 0080 War in the Pocket because of its depiction of what impact war has on the innocent.
Some will say 08th MS Team because of the way it follows the down-to-Earth “common soldier.”
And so on.
In every case, the supporters are correct, but only when they define “realism” by their own standards. Just as easily, I can accuse First Gundam of being unrealistic for having characters realize things a little too quickly, or Zeta for its over-the-top characterizations. I can accuse 0083 of being unrealistic for a lack of depth in its characters, and 0080 for being too preachy in its anti-war message. I can even accuse 08th MS Team of not being about the REALLY common soldiers, i.e. the ones NOT riding in Mobile Suits, or simply say that Gundam as a whole is nowhere close to “realistic” because the concept itself is preposterous.
The idea of “realistic romance” also has the same issue. Is a show realistic because the characters talk like real people? Is a show realistic because it conveys emotions in a way that is easily relatable? Is a show realistic because nobody falls in love (provided you believe true love isn’t realistic)?
You can already see some of the different ways to define “realism” in regards to fiction. There’s an external realism, where everything looks and acts as it does in the real world. There’s an emotional realism, where the characters’ feelings appear to be so genuine that they mirror your own. There’s a conceptual realism, where complex ideas and ideologies show a world of shades of gray. But in these cases and beyond, how we define realism is of course based on our experiences in life.
It’s just up to us whether or not we want to understand everyone else’s “reality.”