When I was a kid, Sailor Moon was the coolest show that ever was. Any nerd who was 14 in the 90’s remembers staying up insanely late to watch old Japanese movies on the Sci-Fi channel. And if you didn’t, you were not a nerd, sorry. Turn in your badges before you leave. And although our nostalgia goggles allow us to see why we loved these shows so much many of them, including Sailor Moon, aren’t any good. Not by any actual artistic or cinematic standards at least. But we loved them! I was totally obsessed, I drew my own fan art, wrote fan fiction- Mortal Kombat fan fiction! And yes, I had friends… okay I had one friend. My point is this: we loved these shows and games despite being any good. Why? Because it was new.
Most of us grew up on Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and a recycling of the same old story lines over and over, “Oh! That wascally wabbit is so wascally! I wish I could nab him! Too bad I’m developmentally disabled.” Not only did Japanese cartoons have new story lines, they looked completely different too. Whereas most American cartoons were hearkening back to a time only Norman Rockwell remembers, Japanese cartoons were about aliens, robots, girls who were nebulously magical in some way. And most importantly, a lot of them were about kids. Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy finds out girl is an transdimensional time warrior, etcetera, etcetera. This began my deep decent into weeaboodom.
For those of you playing the home game, a Weeaboo is a term that is often mistaken for “Otaku”. Someone who is totally obsessed with anime, and generally anything from Japan or it’s culture. Quick note, the word in Japanese for weeaboo literally translates to, “Cha-ching“.
It was sad people, I picked up anything and everything Japanese that I could get my hands on. This included a Sailor Moon alarm clock with the most skull-splitting buzzer known to man, I used it once, and then decided it was more of a decorative piece. But one positive thing that came out of this was I drew constantly. I was so inspired by the anime I watched that I was determined to learn how to draw it myself. This is where the love/hate relationship enters the equation.
You see anime is a very specific style of drawing. It’s extremely stylized and requires a certain formula to render. When you ask an accomplished artist how you can rise to same heights, most of the time they’ll scream, “Don’t draw anime!” while shaking you frantically from across their convention table. And kiddos, it’s words of wisdom. If you learn how to draw human figures from anime, it can steer you into a very limited way of drawing. If you’re really interested in becoming a professional comic artist, even a mangaka, you’ve got to have a grounding in traditional art. Because it takes more than knowing the anime forumla to create a really compelling image. This does not mean you must go to art school- more on that in a later post. But understanding color, lighting, composition, symbolism, movement, human expression- these are all really important things to study and practice outside of your anime art. It does a body good, trust me.
Now drawing anime in general isn’t detrimental to your skill, only your progress. It’s drawing ONLY anime while you’re still learning how to draw that’s going to screw with you. And don’t even get me started on the “That’s just my style” argument or we’ll be here all night. Just draw. EVERYTHING. FOREVER. You’ll get the hang of it.
I highly recommend the addendum to this post here.