Today's episode: anime!
Not sure how many other kids grew up on Japanese (or not always Japanese) animated shows, but I sure did. Candy Candy, Sailor Moon, Saint Seiya and Macron 1 are just some of the names that come to mind, and now that I think about it it's impressive how many bad anime shows I watched (but I suppose that's just another similarity because it's also quite impressive how many bad Bollywood films I have watched too). So it's no surprise I rekindled that love affair later on in life with more mature shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, Berserk, etc.
Even though the styles have changed drastically over the years in both anime and Indian movies, certain elements have endured and it's interesting to note it's the elements (big or small) that the two industries have in common.
IT'S ALL IN THE EYESDisney's cartoons and Hollywood actors don't know to act with their eyes. Sure, their body language is excellent and the scripts are certainly superior, so maybe the eyes don't really matter as much. But I can't begin to imagine how hollow Indian movies as well as anime shows would be were it not for the million expressions that the characters can summon in one glance. Whether it's the over-sized, excessively glittery anime orbs, or the endlessly expressive glances of Indian actors, they sure know how to tell a tale without uttering a single word.
Proof? Let's see how easy it is to understand what is happening in this video with no sound.
Not convinced? Come now, don't make me dig for videos of characters getting their hearts broken and reacting to it in exquisite mute despair because I have a ton of Aamir Khan scenes up my sleeve for that.
WE'RE OVER THE TOP, WE KNOW, GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?
Need I explain this one? From the big melodrama, to the exaggerated reactions in front of the smallest, silliest things, to the bulging eyes literally taking up the whole screen, no Indian movie or anime show would ever be complete without a little, as Johnny Depp would say in Alice in Wonderland, “muchness”.
NATURE SPEAKS THE HERO'S LANGUAGE
And to continue the point above, did you notice how the elements always conspire to express the hero or the heroine's feelings at a certain time in Indian movies? It's always raining when there's sadness and romance, it's always windy when there's loss, it's always dark when there's drama, the leaves are falling when someone is dying. Heh... sadly the American productions have lost that communion between man and nature. But they're definitely there in anime. Check out this scene from Sailor Moon complete with instant rain!
DOWN TO THE SMALLEST GESTURES
When I was little my sister and I used to make fun of how people in anime shows would put their hand behind their head when embarrassed. We used to wonder: where did that come from, I can't imagine anyone in real life doing that, it's too uncomfortable. Imagine my delight when I found out they do that in Tollywood too!
Even today so many Indian films have some love story or other at the base of all conflict. And there are more girlie anime shows about the tribulations of teenage romance than we can count, so on that point I am sure we don't need further proof. The best part is that we can even identify a shared preference for the love triangles! Nothing like a good old love triangle to keep things spicy, right? Well from the classic Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (link to trailer) to the fifth season of Sailor Moon (link to trailer) there seems to be a long way, but unrequited love is the Scotty that will beam us up from one to the other in no time at all. And just so we're not mistaken in assuming that it happened only in the olden days, the romantic triangle was also alive and well in a very unromantic series like Berserk (link to trailer), or a very pragmatic political thriller like Raajneeti (link to trailer). Sure it may not be the focal point, but how many Hollywood movies these days play that card? Not very many...
EVEN THE COMEDY TRACKS? REALLY?
Really! Special sound effects, funny faces, quick reactions, speed talking and bulging eyes, even the camera work that makes it look like the world fell on top of the character as a result of some shocking news. All there, baby, all there under various guises! We may not see them very often in Hindi films anymore, but they are alive and well in the South.
REALISM? WHAT'S THAT?
Of course last but not least on today's short list, how lovely that neither anime shows nor Indian movies are very fond of being true to life. There is a certain disdain for realism, a concept that is not perceived as a sine qua non requirement (though that is changing lately in both) and that certainly adds to the appeal. Who needs reality when one can be transported into a world of colour, fun and endless drama?
Truly, writing all this I wonder why did I ever stop watching anime? Oh right, I know: I discovered Bollywood and Tollywood dishoom movies and hey the music is so much better in Indian films. And did I mention they dance?... Eh... I guess I'll still give Ghost in the Shell a rerun every once in a while for old times sake...