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Backwards

February 26, 2010

After not saying anything worthwhile in my first post, I decided to try and take my second one to a whole new level. Instead of going by my first instincts to just go with the flow and start writing whatever comes to mind, I’m going to force myself to start at the end; a possible end: An opinionated analysis of a widely spread phenomenon in anime.

Following this baseless backwards strategy the most apropriate topic would be ‘noitaminA‘, the television programming block known for its adversity to standard anime conventions or easier: not aimed at the typical young male anime fan. Because of its excellent track record, these days noitaminA is also known for being a prime source for fresh ideas and quality series. Although this may just be the impression of someone who is not a typical anime fan. Most famous noitamina products include Honey & Clover, Nodame Cantabile, Mononoke, Eden of the East and Tokyo Magnitude 8.0.

The noitamina opening screen

For me the biggest appeal of the noitamina shows is found in the replacement of typical high school student characters with college students, reflecting the target age group not being high school students anymore. A lot of anime is inhabited with teenagers, often accompanied with angst and insecurity. This can result in interesting shows dealing with this vulnerable emotional age, e.g. Neon Genesis Evangelion, innocent tales of pure love, or shonen series with fearless naive leads. Still, it can be a relief to watch a series with mature characters and the magical superpower to tone down. How you deal with your third broken heart is just as interesting as the first, but more subtle and less dramatic. I think the sometimes really depressing drama in Honey & Clover is miles ahead of the second half of Clannad. Realistic human relationships are seldon portraited in anime, but ive seen a bunch of them at noitamina. I can also really enjoy casual jokes about alcohol or even sex that are found in shows like Nodame Cantabile or Moyashimon. There is this awesome little moment in NC in which a girl storms out of the house of the guy she’s always arguing with at morning, leaving just a small clue that their relation has gone to the next level. Can’t see that happening in a teenage romcom…

College life in Moyashimon

Offcourse noitamina isn’t restricted to college students. The bigger part of the shows so far don’t feature them. They are just a good example of characters that can be genuinly interesting without resorting to extremes. Noitamina characters don’t have the luxury to resort to fanfavorite stereotypes. Moe is considered unknown. The tsundere, genki, clumsy or shy types; no supercute design can save them from being flat boring characters for noitamina watchers. Pantyshot characters would even scare away possible viewers. Because they don’t target the anime fans, there is a total lack of fanservice. Theoretically.

Mayumi-chan can't be fanservice (Trapeze)

Identically to the way characters have to be fleshed out in order to appeal to the noitamina public, the entire premise of every series has to be beyond the scope of typical anime. Noitamina shows don’t sell itself with just superrobots, onsen episodes or slender bishonen. The have to add that little extra to convince even sceptical viewers.Nodame Cantabile combines splendid soap opera with insights in the world of classical music. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 makes a realistic depiction of a largescale eartquake in Tokio. Moyashimon even provides education on bacteria.

Tutoring by bacteria (Moyashimon)

The original purpose of noitaminA is to reach the people who normally don’t watch anime. In order to do that they have to be creative and innovative by not taking standard conventions for granted. Until now, I can witness this approach to be succesful and I’m anticipating next seasons noitamina ever more.
This will also be the first season that the television block will cover a full hour instead of half an hour, or two shows instead of one. And that can’t be bad!

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