How anime fascinates me in its world building

#12DaysOfAnime – Anime has introduced to us many stories and, with it, new worlds for us to experience. Ranging from fantasy, portrayals of the future, and others – anime, as a form of entertainment, is distinct in the sense that it is not afraid to experiment on something new. Why is that?

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In the Western side of things, there are a few notable titles that come to mind whenever we talk about world or universe building. Some of these might be the Avengers who try to connect all heroes under the Marvel Studios sphere and culminate all of their arcs into one battle royale to save the world.

Another example would be the world building done in the Divergent series where as every time a new sequel is added in, we get to understand more about this futuristic world where humans are divided into different factions according to their traits.

These titles and their incredible world or universe building have been popular but in comparison to the amount of titles where new worlds are made, I think I have to give it to anime for doing it better.

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Usually the world building we get from Western media exists for the sake of advancing the plot or the character’s development and then gets ignored for the sake of flair that is being forced by Hollywood and to rake in the dollar bills.

Most of the Western films largely ignore the aspects of the world in which they have established and just go on to make some Michael Bay move: add some explosions, get some tension in there and all of that good wonderful stuff to get everyone excited on their seats.

Unlike most Western media, anime tries to slowly build it up and have the viewer understand the world episode-by-episode, or minute-by-minute in an animated film.

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We have airing shows like The Ancient Magus’ Bride that, in comparison to its similar Western counterpart Harry Potter, it tries to slowly introduce this new magical world to its audience in the perspective of its main character, Chise.

Or how we’ve come to appreciate the shinobi world in the Naruto franchise as episode-by-episode we get to see the people, animals, and sights that comprise this new and exciting world that exists only in the imaginations of the writer and his or her audience.

To avoid any bias on my part, let us talk about attempts by the West to replicate this slow and wholesome way of world building.

In Nickolodeon’s Avatar the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra, we get to discover this new world where most people can manipulate elements like earth, water, wind and fire through martial art movements.

This franchise tries to explain the origins of elemental manipulation, how civilization in this new fantasy world started, and how its history has shaped the people the live in it.

Incredible storytelling on how the original manipulators of the elements were animals like sky bison for air, dragons for fire, and so on. There’s also the spirit world side of things where a powerful individual known as the Avatar serves as a bridge between it and the physical realm.

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Throughout the franchise, we are introduced to different spirits that have powerful capabilities to affect the physical world. The concept of evil and good embodies into two different spirits – either one not being able to exist without the other.

It is with this incredible and gradual pace of introducing a new world that makes me enjoy watching anime as a form of entertainment.

Unlike the flashy explosions, great CGI and expensive sets created in films coming from the West, anime in its simplicity can satisfy the viewer’s entertainment in gradually explaining the world being introduced to them and have them actually feel it to some degree.

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We might even argue that anime goes for a more personal approach with its viewers when it comes to introducing its settings and world, along with the stories that come with it.

Don’t get me wrong – western films and their more detailed, fleshed-out portrayals of new worlds like Middle-Earth from the Lord of the Rings, the wizarding world from Harry Potter and others. They are all good films with wonderful, exciting stories to share.

But if I were to choose which one had the most wholesome way of appealing to viewers in having them get sucked into a new world they’ve never experience before. I think that goes to anime for being simplistic, wholesome, and adding more story into the show by building a world as episodes progress.

What do you think about world building? Which side does it better? Can you share some wonderful worlds that you’ve seen in your favorite shows? Write in the comments below!


Thanks for reading the second entry for this year’s twelve days of anime. Be sure to check out stuff related to this ani-blogging challenge by searching #12DaysOfAnime on Twitter.

While I am at it, try reading some entries from my pals from OWLS. For the month of December, we are discussing about the portrayal of warmth in our favorite titles so be sure to check them out!

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One thought on “How anime fascinates me in its world building

  1. A very interesting post! I think you’ve really hit on an important part of why anime had such a wide appeal. World building is really important, and when it’s too much all at once or incidentals with no weight later, it does tend to fall flat. I can’t think of many anime that fall prey to this off the top of my head.

    I don’t know that western works fall entirely short of effective world-building, however. Sure, the superhero films can when money is prioritised, and many western cartoons are comedy-driven stories with less emphasis on world-building, but I feel like I’ve seen many western works where I was immersed in the world. Disney and Disney Pixar films are a notable example of this most of the time (thought not always, as it is sometimes just there for character building like you said. Here’s looking at you, Tangled and Frozen. How does magic even work in your world?) There are other fine examples of world building in the West as well.

    (🤔 I wonder to what extent anime world building could feel more cohesive to western audiences because it’s based in Japanese culture, so western audience members get an added illusion of world building when viewing Japanese cultural elements? We wouldn’t notice western cultural influences in western works. That would be an interesting thing to look at too!)

    Liked by 1 person

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