Anime and Its Impact on Generational Identities

Topics: Generation Y, Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli Pages: 8 (2915 words) Published: January 7, 2007
"In anime…the young [are] heroic. They may choose to resist the powers that be, or they may serve them on their own terms. What really matters is that they do it wholeheartedly. Now that's something in which even a Gen-Xer in a one-room apartment with a dead-end job at The Gap can find some inspiration."

Such is an example from Antonia Levi's book, Samurai from Outer Space, in which she attempts to explain the anime phenomenon. Anime, short for Japanimation, is animation from Japan that has been imported since the 1960's, but did not become popular until the late eighties and early nineties (Poitras, 17). This excerpt, taken from the chapter "Other Heroes, Other Villains," is but one example that explains why anime was so attractive to Generation X, a term coined to describe those born between 1961-1981. Also known as the "baby busters," Generation X is characterized as cynical, ironic, and sarcastic. Many see members of Generation X as slackers, and they were the first generation predicted to not achieve the same financial success as their parents (Isaksen, 1). Levi's book, which was first published in 1996, argues that anime's success lies in the fact that it presents messages that a tired, disillusioned generation disgusted by trite and perky lies of Hollywood could find solace in, and that due to the "aesthetic distance" inherent in anime's nature (anime is a virtual medium, and so will never appear "realistic"), it could convey realistic albeit occasionally pessimistic ideas without completely draining its audience of all feeling and emotion (Levi, 30). Levi argues that anime was able to provide both fresh new perspectives as well as render unpleasant realities more bearable, which was especially appealing to this generation, thus establishing anime as a member of American pop culture.

That was nearly a decade ago. Now, Generation X has been replaced with a new group of individuals composed of those born since 1981. Known as Generation Y, they are a sharp contrast to their moody, sour predecessors. Rather, Generation Y is characterized as sunny, cheerful, and optimistic. Whereas Generation X was known for its high teen pregnancy, drug use, and crime rates, Generation Y is known for the exact opposite. The members of Generation Y are going to church. They don't believe in racism. They see their parents are their role models. They are, essentially, the improved version of their older gloomy Generation X siblings (Plotz, 1).

The cultural meanings of the social constructs known as Generations X and Y are drastically different. Generation X was to be the first generation to not achieve the same financial success as the previous generation. Because they had to enter the workforce in a time of economic depression, members of Generation X were associated with failure, and it was predicted that those who tried breaking away from this predestination would ultimately end up being disillusioned, hence promoting the stereotype of someone with a college degree working at The Gap (Isaksen, 1). The members of Generation Y, on the other hand, are coddled. Baby boomers, who have been criticized for their self-absorption, have found new targets to indulge in, their children. Studies show that parents plan 75% of their children's weekday hours. Their boomer parents are pleased to see that their Generation Y children are growing up the same way they did: prosperous, happy, and well adjusted. There is a reason to why Generation Y is also known as the Echo Boom: They are replicas of their parents (Cates, 1). The media fawns over how their healthy, optimistic upbringing will make them generous and idealistic in the future. Pop prophets dub Generation Y as the "Hero Generation" (Plotz, 1). As the older members of Generation Y enter the work force, countless articles are published on them, predicting how they will affect the working environment. The members of...

Cited: Isaksen, Judy L. "Generation X". Looksmart Ltd, 2004.

Levi, Antonia. Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation. Illinois: Carus, 1996.
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