Back when I was in high school, I was often saved by sports anime in physical education (PE) final exam;  especially in the written test, not the practical exam. Honestly, I’m not the kind of person who is physically active during PE class, and am also not interested in studying them. So I watched sports anime before the exam instead of studying (you better don’t do this). One of the memorable parts was a question about the order of medley relay swimming and Free! helped me to pick the right answer. Later, I knew that all my weeb friends in high school chose the same answer as me (while the non-weeb friends picked the wrong answer), because we remembered the scenes when Haruka and friends were swimming for the medley relay. Because of this, I can cover my lack of physical ability for the practical exam part by getting a better grade in the written exam part.

Another work that I’d like to shout out is Project Itoh films based on Satoshi Itoh‘s works, particularly how The Empire of Corpses is using a lot of references to build its world. First, the characters are from popular literature such as John Watson and Mycroft Holmes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories; Alexei Karamazov and Nikolai Krasotkin from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov; Thomas Edison and Hadaly Lilith from Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam‘s The Future Eve; Friday, whose most relevant hypogram (though I’m still a bit wondering about this) is likely the character from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe; and Frederick Burnaby, who was a British Army intelligence officer. Second, it’s not only the characters, but there are also elements taken from popular literature Frankenstein by Mary Shelley to build the setting, using 1878 in London as its temporal setting as if awakening the corpses is an innovation in the Industrial Revolution; and also there is a supercomputer named Charles Babbage, which in real life was the name of a scientist who invented the computer for the first time in the 19th century. Looking at how many hypograms Itoh took from, it can be informative if consumers have the idea or curiosity to trace where the references of those characters come from.

Factual information from anime like sport titles can have useful practical application for some ©Ooji Kouji・Kyoto Animation/Iwatobi City Committee

Another Project Itoh work, Genocidal Organ, makes references to knowledge about literature and linguistics to form its background story and characters’ motives. There is a dialogue that I remember between Clavis Shepherd and his partner Williams while waiting (somewhere in Prague) for someone, with no sign of the person they expected coming. The dialogue makes mention of Waiting for Godot, which Williams mistaken as the work of Franz Kafka, rather than Samuel Beckett, to which Williams says that everything that is absurd is Kafka to him. Franz Kafka was a German writer known as an absurdist, and one of his popular works is The Metamorphosis, a story about Gregor Samsa who becomes a cockroach when he wakes up one morning. Samuel Beckett, meanwhile, was an Irish writer known for his work titled Waiting for Godot, it’s a story about two men named Estragon and Vladimir who are waiting for Godot, but in the end, Godot never comes. In Genocidal Organ, he explains in a rational way that language can control humans to the point it causing genocide. Classifying what is is real and what is fiction depends on what information we want to know and what information can be found in the work, be it connotation or denotation. Interpreting anime at this rate could be considered as pragmatic studies.

©Project Itoh / GENOCIDAL ORGAN

However in Harmony, in its futuristic utopia setting, the story tells about what is hidden under its settled world. It takes us to consider free-will, human consciousness, and solitude through how their technology allows them to have a decent healthy life in exchange of their solitude and personal boundary (kind of reminds me of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 or Brave New World). Though it may seems as if there’s no kind of informative-like narrative or setting, Harmony brings me something relatable to life in a conversation between Mihie Miach and Tuan Kirie on student day. Miach said, “you know, the book is the only thing that can survive alone”. It means that knowledge is the only thing that remains through time. In general, I found it very thought-provoking to watch Project Itoh films, for example, in how one of the themes that I can take from his works is that in any dystopian work, language always plays a major role in building its world’s society.

©Project Itoh / HARMONY

The boundary of fictional and factual contents in works such as anime can sometimes be blurry. How do we become sure which is fact and which is fiction? How far can facts be traced in a work of fiction? (Is this the real-life? Is this just fantasy?)

Reminiscing on those experiences made me think of some anime-related topic concerning how anime changes someone’s life. On more common terms, there are things like recommendation lists about anime that can change someone’s life (or something like that, Google indexed anything with the term). They tend to talk mostly about the meaning of the story, the cause and effect concerning characters; thus, mostly they’re pragmatic. By looking for the message in various works, they are looking for the value of anime as a work of fiction. What anime could make someone’s life different? What makes anime can influence consumers to the point they can change their life?

When we speak of influence, we can think of the idea of information society. According to Webster (1995, quoted in Capurro & Hjørland, 2003), definitions of the information society can be analyzed concerning five criteria and one of them is the cultural definition, that is related to the influence of media in society. Further, Bates (quoted in Broussard & Philip, 2016) defines information behavior as “all instances where people interact with their environment in any such way that leaves some impression on them – that is, adding or changing their knowledge store.” The first definition of “impression” itself as used by Augustine is to define the process of visual perception as informatio sensus and the image of representations of the perceived objects are stored in memory. The word informatio is used in a didactical aspect and defined as “molding knowledge” through communication (Capurro & Hjorland, 2005).

In regards to knowledge, we can also remember the hierarchy of wisdom. From data as gathered facts and processed within a certain method so it has meaning and becomes information. Information then builds knowledge, and knowledge leads to wisdom. We know that philosophy in Greek means “loving” (Philo) and “wisdom” or “knowledge” (Sophia). Ethics seeks for the right value and wrong value in life.

The meaning of fiction involves sharing thoughts about morals, ethics, and values. Fiction often tells the consumers “the right way of being” (Broussard & Philip, 2016). Fiction could influence and mold the minds of its consumers. From valuing fiction, we can make works of fiction to change people. The use of fiction to change people may be called bibliotherapy (but I won’t talk about that here). So, does the interaction between anime and it’s consumer count as information behavior according to Bates’s definition? 

Information can defined in three ways, as knowledge (knowing as the result of being informed), as a process (making sense), and as a thing (that information is “in” and “through” something). According to Bates’s definition of information behavior, watching anime could be a process of making sense if only the anime has a certain value to its consumer that changes their knowledge store, furthermore changing some aspects of their life. How do we know that anime has the value we are searching for? 

It depends on how the consumer interprets it and defines the meaning. For example, an anime about the functions of blood cells, Cells at Work takes the knowledge of human physiology and immunity and changes it into a work that anyone can enjoy. Although the image of human cells is anthropomorphized, it still doesn’t substantially change the value of information as long as the information is based on facts. This makes Cells at Works relevant to be used in the didactical field as a learning tool and helps people to know more about their body’s metabolism. 

A biology teacher in Aceh actually considered using Cells at Work for teaching in class © Akane Shimizu / Kodansha · Aniplex · davidproduction

Values in fictional works can often be found hidden. Interpreting them means there is a dialectic process between human experience and fictional works. The boundary between reality and fiction is in how far its facts can be traced, in the content of the moral values contained in the work, and in how relatable its content to be to our life. Making anime an information source means they bring changes in someone’s life. Stimulus from anime brings different impressions, different interpretations, and in the end, brings different attitudes as an output of making sense through anime that leads into changing the behavior of a person. Of course seeing various genres in anime not only gives good values, because there are also people who become addicted or perhaps become chuunibyou (with nowadays paradigm), that’s why the way people interpret anime has influence on it’s meaning. Values, as collective human consciousness, could be considered as a bunch of unwritten information that passed down generation through both oral and digital documents in any form, including anime.

One day in my class, a lecturer delivered this sentence as a closing statement, “a good (fictional) work is not those with a good or happy ending, but those that left us wondering what good works are.”

Bibliography

Broussard, R., & Doty, P. (2016). Toward an Understanding of Fiction and Information Behavior. ASIST 2016, (pp. 1-10). Copenhagen.

Capurro, R., & Hjørland, B. (2003). The Concept of Information. Annual review of information science and technology (pp. 343-411).

The Indonesian Anime Times | Written by Vina Nurziani | The author is a student of Library and Information Science | This opinion is the personal views of the author and does not represent the views and editorial policy of The Indonesian Times or KAORI Nusantara

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