Eaisly the most depressing annime I ever watched was Grave of the Fireflies. It was recommended by someone whose taste I knew ran ddarker than mine, but I figured, hey it would be artsy, whynot? It certainly gets high marks from reviewers, but in my opinion from reading them there’s a Seinfeld/English Patient dynamic at work there. I mean, did they watch the same movie I did? I am particularly bitter given that that single title pretty much sabotaged the enjoyment of the entire genre of anime for my wife, who points to it (and the perpetual presence of anime orphans in general) as proof that anime is for emotional masochists.
Now – while certainly not in Fireflies’ league – several otaku comment that Binchou-tan is a fairly morose series. Given that it is kid-oriented, it certainly wasn’t going to end on a down-note, as Don observed with relief. Still, I just don’t consider loneliness and angst to have entertainment value. Whether or not the series is worth it for us would be how well it meets my Guidelines for Child-Friendly Anime or not. It’s kind of a moot point given that there is no dubbed Region 1 for Binchou-tan anyway, only fansubs.
One might argue that Haibane Renmei was a depressing series – after all, once you gget past disc 6 it seems like Rakka has a tearful breakdown every five minutes. And the introspective look of Reki is pretty well captured by my blog header – just wait until I post the lyrics to some of the songs from the Hanenone CD. But HR was joyous for all its angst. There’s an elation you feel at the end that makes it all fit together just right.
Still, there must be a market for all that angst. I bet Marvin would love it. What do you think, Marvin-tan?
UPDATE: Some folks at the Old Home Forum take exception to our attitude towards Fireflies, Miyazaki, and even Azumanga Daioh. I have often been accused of “not getting it” when I failed to express the proper reverence for certain pieces of art by those with more knowledge than I about what constitutes “good” art. I suspect that this is much the same. Ultimately whether art makes a connection to someone or not is an intensely personal affair, and I don’t think that refusal to treat art critically is the less sophisticated approach.