And no, it’s not because I don’t like it or because I think it’s “bad for your Japanese”.
Disclaimer: This is just a train of thought that ended up being typed out. This is not about “right” or “wrong” ways to learn.
I love anime. I was an addict. I remember waking up painfully early just to catch episodes of Dragonball Z or Sailor Moon. I remember my first (and fiftieth) time watching Samurai Champloo. I spent about half of my weekends in high school watching several Gundam series with my roommate. I’ll even admit to watching a few episodes during classes. I still own a few series. But I just haven’t seen much recently. The most recent thing I’ve seen is まどかマギカ.
I realized that my departure from anime was a natural result of me wanting to get better at Japanese. Now bear with me. This isn’t one of those “ANIMEH WILL RUIN YOUR JAPANESE ARGH” posts, I promise. Just hear me out.
It’s actually quite simple. What it comes down to is:
In terms of practical skills, you get more from copying a real person than from copying a cartoon character.
There is simply more to take away from watching real people, and that is a fact.
You can learn vocabulary and pronunciation (to an extent, since no one talks the same way they do their 声優 thing) from anime.
You can learn vocabulary, natural pronunciation (thanks to actually being able to see mouth movements), body gestures, facial expressions, and general body language from watching real people. You also get to listen to real tones/voices, if you ignore idols (a skill now second-nature to me, despite them being thrown all over TV).
And this is the conclusion I’ve come to only after realizing how little anime I’ve watched in the past two years and asking myself why it happened. Seriously, it was so weird when I noticed how little I was watching.
In Defense of Anime as a Learning tool
I’ve seen anime described as a sort of stepping stone that people use. Once they’re “good enough”, they “move on” to “real” Japanese.
That is a load of bullpoopity. If anime isn’t real Japanese, please, by all means, show me where the real stuff is. (And if you turn on NHK I will punch you. I mean, come on. No one talks like announcers in real life. That news stuff is so fake.) Anime is diverse enough to cater to every level of language learner, as you improve you find more stuff to enjoy, even in the same show.
The reason I started watching real people almost exclusively is simply because I noticed flaws that I could improve upon, and watching real people was the most efficient way to get to where I wanted to be.
Somewhere along the journey I developed a preference for watching real people, though I’m never not in the mood for an episode of Excel Saga.