Apr 072012

There’s something about cartoons where the main characters are animals that’s always bugged me. It isn’t the absurdity of animals acting like they’re human or anything like that. It’s something far more inconsequential, and therefore all the more important to the inner workings of my broken psyche.

Why is it that it’s only the main characters who are animals?

This nagging point popped up again as I was watching Polar Bear Cafe. The show’s cute and all, managing to string out a good amount of charm from watching animals go about trying to find part-time jobs and shit like that. But the main thing on my mind as I was watching it was the fact that none of the background characters are animals. The main crew at the cafe is made up of animals. Panda hangs out with some co-workers from the zoo. But none of the inconsequential characters are animals. None of the casual background characters at the cafe are animals. You don’t see a giraffe chilling out and drinking an iced mocha. You see some generic human dude doing that. The attention of the anime will focus on animals, but it never lets those animals mingle with the background. It’s as if despite seeming to coexist, these animals don’t really exist on the same plane as the humans. Not on some sort of racial segregation level, but on a literal different level of reality. It’s as if these animals drift in and out of realities, or as if the humans drift into the reality of the animals for brief moments only to drift back into mundane reality, oblivious to what just transpired.

It’s the same sort of thing I’ve always seen in American cartoons. A recent example is Regular Show. The main characters are all animals and other weird anthropomorphized creatures. They interact with regular humans, but you rarely see other animals depicted in the backgrounds. Just like Polar Bear Cafe, all of the incidental background characters are human. You even see many of the same background characters appearing with some consistency, but they’re always humans. There are plenty of supporting characters who interact with the main characters and also happen to be non-human, but they always exist within the confines of the “camera’s” viewpoint.

It’s like these animals don’t exist if our attention isn’t focused upon them. They’re these ephemeral beings who need our belief in them in order to manifest in our reality– like some sort of gods born out of our beliefs or some shit. That’s the vibe I always get from these animal cartoons, and it’s all born out of this silly detail that’s born more out of animators being lazy and using stock drawings for backgrounds. It’s harder to draw a bunch of different types of animals to flesh out these worlds, but it makes the animals who are the stars seem like dreams only existing in the eye of the audience.

So yeah, Panda, your only being tormented by your vacuum-fetish mother because our attention upon you allows it to happen. If we ignored you, your torture would end, but so would your existence. Sucks to be you, Panda.

Also: Panda from Polar Bear Cafe and Rigby from Regular Show should totally hang.

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