What’s with the “Anime Was a Mistake” Meme?

Anime Was a Mistake Hayao Miyazaki

For kids, teens, and kids at heart all over the world, Japanese animation or anime is one of the most popular sources of entertainment for kids across the world. So, when the meme “Anime was a mistake” came out, it hit the anime industry in the face not only to fans and otakus but also to Japanese animation.

I know that as a young adult who loves watching animations, the meme might have offended you big time. But after learning that it was the legendary Hayao Miyazaki who said the famous line, he might have an important point. He might have a striking message he wanted to tell his fellow animators and also to the fans.

The Man Behind “Anime Was a Mistake”

Hayao Miyazaki is a beloved director in Japan and all over the world. His Studio Ghibli gave birth to some of the most touching, inspiring, and memorable animation movies ever produced. One great example is Spirited Away. Ever since its release in 2001, the “spiritual” journey of an ordinary ten-year-old girl named Chihiro has mesmerized kids, teens, and even adults all over the world.

Miyazaki’s enchanting storytelling and mind-boggling art have made “Spirited Away” the highest-grossing anime film of all time worldwide. Aside from this masterpiece, he also created hit animated feature films like Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and The Secret World of Arrietty that have become part of the lives of kids and adults worldwide. In fact, six of the ten highest-grossing and highest-rated anime films are creations of Miyazaki.

This impressive list of accomplishments made him an authority in the industry.

So, when the master speaks, the world listens.

And indeed he has spoken in words that made waves in the Japanese animation industry and were later misquoted by trolls that gave birth into a popular meme.

The Birth of the Meme

The meme, “Anime Was a Mistake” came out from Miyazaki’s comment on the current state of Japanese animation. In an interview, the legendary director said –

“Almost all Japanese animation is produced with hardly any basis taken from observing real people, you know. It’s produced by humans who can’t stand looking at other humans. And that’s why the industry is full of otaku!” 

His message expressed skepticism about the present condition of Japanese animation. This statement also reflects his concern over the new generation of animators who seldom observe real-life human behaviors and interactions. As a result, the industry has produced otakus, young people obsessed with computers or animes to the point that they forget to talk and play with their family and friends.

Otakus did not take Miyazaki’s blow without a fight. As their response, they produced memes that have “Anime Was a Mistake” text. On January 2015, the Tumblr blog old-Japanese-men posted two animated GIFs that contain clips of Miyazaki from the documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness. The meme producers captioned it with made-up quotes expressing dissatisfaction with the current condition of anime.

From its publication, the post has received hundreds of thousands of comments. It also paved the way for other meme producers to create their versions. These memes included the director’s photos and images taken from his previous interviews.

What Anime Must Show?

As an anime fan myself, What Miyazaki said is an honest comment on how animators have gone beyond what this form of art and entertainment should deliver.

Japanese animators are master storytellers. They have produced some of the moving and inspiring stories adapted into animation. Aside from getting enchanted by the entertaining and complicated storylines, anime fans also say they gain the following advantages:

  • Learning unexpected things – Animators use modern Japanese life as their inspiration for their plots.
  • Familiarizing and understanding Japanese culture – Japan takes pride in its rich and profound culture that you can watch in animes.
  • Learn life lessons – Kids, teens, and young adults can learn some of the important life lessons through stories. Some teach lessons like:
  • Bullying others can backfire later in life.
  • Not being thankful for your parents can lead to regret
  • Arrogance can shoo away your friends and lead to losses in games, battles, and struggles.

Miyazaki is one of the directors who see to it that their creations can teach people how to be better humans. But many anime studios today focus on the naughty and evil side of humans. What’s more, they exaggerate it to the point that you can no longer separate fact from fiction.

Aside from producing animations with too much violence and sexuality, they also create animes under the harem, ecchi, yaoi, and other genres that promote a weird and immature way of life.

Even though, Miyazaki never directly said that “Anime Was a Mistake,” you can see his disappointment in today’s animators. Instead of promoting good deeds and values, they show stories that teach kids negative things about life. These animes can make them feel alone, empty, and depressed, even when surrounded by family and friends.