I’ve always been straight forward about my obsession for devouring works of fiction. All my life I’ve been a reader and a viewer of stories. As a kid I read obsessively (a special thanks to all the IRL friends who have saved me from walking into traffic while reading) and I loved going to the movies and playing computer games. Sometime in my early twenties (pretty much when internet access started getting much better than dial-up) a new outlet for that obsession was found in anime. Needless to say, that obsession with anime is still going strong today.
But this post isn’t actually about me. It’s about the nature of fiction and why experiencing narratives is so fundamentally important and it is about how anime gives people access to so many rich and wonderful narratives (as well as just a whole lot of fun).
Narratives for Entertainment
Reading and watching for pleasure naturally involves entertainment and that is probably one of the main reasons people engage with stories. Right back to the days of people gathering around the fire to hear about how the earth was made or how man discovered fire. It gives you a break from the real and takes you somewhere else for a little while and can amuse you and invoke a whole range of emotions.
When watching anime for entertainment, there are plenty of options on the table. Whether you are after cute girls doing cute things, comedy, harems, action, adventure, and a whole bunch more, there’s plenty of anime out there that just wants to make you forget your worries for a time and mellow out.
However, this is just one facet of the experience.
Narratives as An Educator
I think we all can connect with this idea. Back to the gathering around the fire, people passed on their knowledge, their religion, their ideas through the stories they told. They also shared their values and ideologies through the characters who were made heroic and those that were made into villains. You could learn about what was dangerous, what was acceptable, what was known about something through a story.
We do much the same nowadays with our children’s stories and the way the basic Grimms fairy tales have been edited over time is quite telling of the values we feel we should be instilling and which ones we’ve apparently left by the way side.
You also gain a rich knowledge in general through reading stories. Random facts stick with you well after you finish the story. Stories set in real locations or dealing with real issues usually weave facts into the story to make it more believable. While you can’t take everything in a fiction story at face value (how much research was done and how much was made up is questionable), you do gain a fairly diverse range of knowledge about places, settings, and things.
Narratives as Community Builders
In addition to educating, narratives allow communities to form and to mesh. By having a shared story or understanding, people are able to understand one another better. It’s interesting as we see our world becoming increasingly small that we realise that a lot of the fundamental stories around the globe are very similar in nature and yet those small differences can become critical to understanding one another.
Narratives to Develop Empathy
This is absolutely crucial. Over and over we hear that the current generation (whether it was X, Y, millenials) have no empathy and are self-absorbed. By experiencing things outside of their own life and connecting with characters, people can actually learn to empathise in a way that they might not just by interacting with people in the real world. A common trait of someone who does not have very much empathy is very little imagination. It actually takes imagination to consider how someone else might be feeling and imagination can be fuelled by exposure to narratives (not the only way to build imagination).
Narratives to Break Barriers
Following on from the ability to develop empathy and imagination, narratives allow people to see beyond the concrete reality and think in ways that might allow new solutions or new possibilities to be formed. At the very least, when confronted with a problem, someone with a rich exposure to stories (or to real life experiences) will have a wealth of options whereas someone without that exposure will struggle to think of a way around the issue. So without experiencing everything yourself, experiencing stories is a good way to build up your repertoire of problem solving skills.
As we increasingly see reality TV shows and talk shows dominating, I think it is important that the importance of narratives and the role they serve is remembered.
What are your thoughts about stories and the role they play? Or, what’s your favourite medium for stories?
Thanks for reading
100 Word Anime.
Want to read more? Check out these features: