Back when I reviewed Anne of Green Gables I mentioned that I had never read the books, and had purposely avoided doing so in order to not make constant comparisons to it. Just the same however, I would not have made a mistake either had I chosen to read it in advance to prepare for the anime. It would have been a way for me to further understand an anime, and even now I fully intend to read the original novels. Thinking along these lines, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by how information leads to other information, and the limited amount of time we have to explore it all. I know we live in the Wikipedia generation and all, but it still feels rather daunting.
As an example, some time ago famous French comic artist Moebius made a statement that manga was like a “disease” in the sense that it spread into the culture of France while French comics were not able to return the favor in kind. I wanted to write an analysis of his statement, but then realized my knowledge of French and European comics is nowhere near extensive. The amount of Tintin I’ve read is sparse, I’ve only barely looked at Sky Doll, and for that matter I’ve never actually read Moebius’ work! “So I’ll read more European comics!” I said to myself, only to realize that time spent reading European comics is time not spent reading manga. That’s okay of course, but I feel like there’s little chance I’d be able to dive into European comics the way I have with manga where my enjoyment extends into every nook and cranny like I’m eating a Japanese English muffin.
Then I remembered how common the idea of “fully understanding something by extending beyond the immediate material can be.” With anime alone, you have a show like Gurren-Lagann where enjoyment of it increases when you realize just how much it’s paying homage to giant robot anime of the past, when you understand what it’s saying in response to the past. Going from there, do you research Japanese cinema because of its obvious connection to Japanese animation? Cinema as a whole? The technology of animation? Japanese woodblock prints for manga? The history of warfare in Asia? Do you look at the history of fine art in relation to commercial art in relation to animation? How about the fact that many famous works are adapted from novels and old literature? That’s not even accounting for series which incorporate elements from other parts of the world.
It’s like there’s this elusive “next level” of knowledge that people like myself try to reach, only to realize there’s millions of other mountains we could have climbed. There’s still time to get down and climb another, there’s still time to just walk at the base of each mountain and look up, but it’s impossible either way to get a full view of it all.
Phew. Maybe I’ll go check out some triptychs.