Dedicated to all pioneers: sticky anime

At the risk of taking anime too seriously, a part of the reason my fandom has endured for as many years as it has is the idea of “stickiness”. And yes, feel free to leave your perverted jokes in the comments (jerks.)

I had a schoolmate who explained to me once how he thought about “good” movies: there were movies which were well made, had high budgets, excellent cinematography and which were all-around entertaining and pleasing to watch. When you ask most people what they think a “good” movie is, they’ll often give you examples from this type. However, he explained, there was also a second type: these were the movies that you couldn’t live without. Movies that, after watching them, changed the way your viewed the world. American Beauty’s iconic plastic bag scene is an example of this. What does the plastic bag hold that, for example, District Nine doesn’t? Stickiness. Even if it’s just in the immediate afterglow of watching the movie, suddenly every leaf moving in the wind becomes beautiful to the point of pain. Moreover, the beauty is in the execution of this scene: it hits you, without warning. We’re completely unprepared for it, and are figuratively knocked backwards by it. When something is sticky, you don’t just see or hear it, somehow, you experience it.

Admittedly, I came to Macross Plus rather late in my anime career (only last year) – but undoubtedly it was sticky. The first scenes are nothing short of enchanting, but what ultimately stays with you is the entirely human story: the characters have all given up childhood dreams of some sort – only to realize, in their hollow adult lives, how deep a part of them those dreams were. The resonance – and the extreme sorrow – of this situation is one any adult realizes, eventually: that the true promise of adulthood isn’t the realization of dreams, but the gradual shedding of them, until all that’s left is routine and draining. This is the part of Macross Plus that sticks with us. The reminder of sorrow, and what we’ve lost. And, as we hear the haunting opening, see the icons the OVA presents us, we’re transported back to those emotions, and to the times in our own lives where we’ve felt similar.

When you think on it, the ability for a static media – moving images – to grip you so deeply that a mere few notes in a song, or a simple image evokes so much is amazing. You have no part in this experience other than to be the conduit of emotions – no control. This is why anime like Macross Plus are important – and why the idea of “stickiness” is a something all creators strive for.

5 thoughts on “Dedicated to all pioneers: sticky anime”

  1. Stuck with me since 1995.

    At that point in my life I was in an anime wasteland. The Philippines had ample dubs of 1970s anime, but had all but missed the 80’s. We had to rely on American imports, and thus the Macross I’ve seen in 1985 was a pre-Robotech Harmony Gold production with weird names, and the Macross: Do You Remember Love? I’ve seen is something packaged as “Macross: the Movie.”

    By 1995 my mind was filled with so much Robotech that I had took at as canon — a straight adaptation of the original material. Macross Plus challenged all this, by being set so far into the future and totally diverging from the lulzy second arc that spliced Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross with the SDF Macross material. I loved Robotech, but now I was confronted with something far superior in every way from anything I’ve seen.

    So yeah it stuck. It was the beginning of my eventual awakening back to the core of my fandom, 10 years after I fell in love with Macross as a young boy — when the final bar of “Watashi no kare wa Pairotto” got sung in the karaoke scene in ep 02 of the OVA, you have no idea how I felt. It was as if the memories of Protoculture had awakened, as if I was Zentraedi. It was as if I remembered love.

    A year later I discovered that my thesis advisor, as I sold her on the idea that I would write a Post-colonial attack on Tolkien’s Silmarillion, was a pretty big Macros fan. I will forever treasure her because she then lent me her CD box set of Macross: the Complete. I listened to it and didn’t know what to do with myself, frustrated at the lack of availability of Macross in the Philippines. It wouldn’t be until 2007 when I learned to use torrents that I would see the original SDF Macross in full, in Japanese with English subtitles, and I would’ve completed my rebirth as an anime fan.

    What kept me going? I had seen Macross Plus once in my friend’s bedroom back in uni. It changed everything for me. It made me remember love.

  2. Well I saw macross plus awhile ago with some friends really enjoyed it. While its quite old now I still have the dvd’s and still would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it. When it comes to certain animes I think storyline wise they really will always continue to be very popular no matter how old they get.

  3. Coincidentally, I was actually thinking about Macross Plus earlier; a sign perhaps of the ‘sticky’ qualities mentioned! I love the original Macross and certainly enjoyed Frontier, but I think it’s fair to say that Plus was the one which stole my heart.

    Perhaps because I sat down to it only expecting dogfights and eye candy (which it delivered) its unexpected emotional punch caught me off guard. Rather than just being good or enjoyable its one of those animes which quietly moved me, sticking in back of my mind and coming back to me at odd moments when something would remind me of it.

  4. Its uncanny that you highlight American Beauty. Especially since that was the film that made me a genuine cinephile. I remember watching it at 2am when i was 13 yrs old. my 1st adult film with no action no special effects. Just characters and a magnificent story. That film changed my life. My stickiness with anime came with cowboy bebop on adult swim in the year 2000. It was the episode ballad of fallen angels. My mind damn near melted when I saw that episode. I was awake till late at night through out that summer to finish the show. And the ending of that show knocked me on my ass. I spent a year roaming through blockbuster trying to find another anime that will give me that feeling. Nothing came. I gave up anime for another couple of years till college when wolf’s rain came on. I remember recognizing steve blum’s voice and being entranced by the soundtrack… and the one-eyed man in black kidnapping a girl that these guys called a flower. That moment was my true birth as an anime fan. I had to hear that music again. I had to buy that soundtrack, I stayed up all night trying to find out everything i could about the show, when it aired, who scored the music. Lo and Behold, it was the same lady Yoko Kanno that scored Bebop. And Watanabe was a contributor to the show as well. In my research, I discovered the real world of anime, forums, torrents, fansubs etc. lol… Wow nostalgia. I think I also met bateszi on his old website then yrs ago. Since then I have scoured the web for anime that give me that stickiness. I search for the shows that will give me that rare transcendent feeling I got that quiet night my junior yr of highschool and sophomore year of college. Stickiness. Never had a word for it till now. Till today, very very few anime have given me that feeling. The closest being Planet ES. In 10 years of being an anime fan, hundreds of anime seen. Yet few anime have come close. I love my top 3 anime. I watch them maybe once a year to relive that feeling of stickiness. The remaining 7 on my top 10: LOGH, Berserk, Gankutsuo, Code Geass, Berserk, Eureka 7 and Monster are phenomenal anime. But something infinitesimal prevents them from the perfection that is bebop, wolfs rain and planet es. In an ideal world, we’d find something perfect often… so we could relive that feeling over and over again in multiple ways…..That perfection… that little something is what makes stickiness so special. Its what makes us passionate about the craft. Its what keeps us coming back no matter how jaded we get. I remember when i used to follow every new release in hope of finding something special… something close to stickiness. Now I just wait and hope that bateszi or someone whose opinion i trust will whisper something about some strange show that has potential for greatness. ~sigh~ Great post.

  5. I thought what you said about shedding dreams was very interesting. I agree that one of the downsides of getting older is that the possibility of younger years diminishes somewhat. In some ways the narrowing of goals can make you stronger, I think I’m a lot more confident now that I’ve faced the real world and know that I can handle it. It is difficult to resist routine though. It seems like it sneaks up on you and devours you before you have time to escape.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *