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The Significance of Anime 301

angkor writes "'More Animated than Life' - Fascinating article discussing the significance of animation to the Japanese and why it is not what Westerners expect."
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The Significance of Anime

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  • Why Anime? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Q3vi1 ( 611292 ) <sean@radicalm[ ] ['onk' in gap]> on Monday November 11, 2002 @05:27AM (#4641365)
    Many Americans find anime a lot more appealing than a lot of stuff on TV because anime isn't as constrained by the American Standard that effects many of the popular programming.
    I watch anime constantly, always on top of the latest fansubbed releases, picking up the DVDs of series that are especially good and make it to North America. I support the full circle of anime, and all of the fruit it bears.
    Of it all, I've met new people, made some good friends, and experience a whole culture that I would have otherwise been completely oblivious to. I find anime to be informative, entertaining, and especially enjoyable.
    • Civil war documentaries, or porn

      Many Americans find porn a lot more appealing than a lot of stuff on TV because porn isn't as constrained by the American Standard that effects many of the popular programming.
      I watch porn constantly, always on top of the latest fansubbed releases, picking up the DVDs of series that are especially good and make it to North America. I support the full circle of porn, and all of the fruit it bears.
      Of it all, I've met new people, made some good friends, and experience a whole culture that I would have otherwise been completely oblivious to. I find porn to be informative, entertaining, and especially enjoyable.

      that being said, I couldn't come up with an explaination of why I like Anime, other than, it's high quality animation, and the allure of something from a culturally different background.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        I'll admit, I've seen my share of both.

        Let's just hope they never combine civil war documentaries *with* porn.


        It'd bring new meaning to the words, "We should flank to the left, and then take 'em from the rear!"
      • High Quality Animation??

        I gotta call you on that one. I haven't seen any anime that even comes close, in terms of quality, to the animation coming out of Disney and Pixar these days. Mouths that are actually lip-synced with the words, rather than alternating between large and small ovals. Body parts move and bounce realistically. Hair that moves. Human heads and eyes are actually in porportion to the rest of the body. Not to mention that some female characters are drawn that don't conform to the doe-eyed-Japanese-schoolgirl look.

        The best that can be said of anime is that the storylines are very different than that of North American cartoons. NA cartoons are aimed at kids, where anime is aimed squarely at the prepubescent crowd, or adults that haven't progressed beyond that stage. The quality, however, is absolute crap.

        • Many of your complaints seem to be about differences of style, rather than differences of skill.

          As far as animation techniques go, don't you think it's a little naive to compare CG studios like Pixar to manual and mixed-media studios?

          I'll admit that there's a lot of ass "anime" out there--just like there's a lot of ass "cartoons" out there (seen the new He-Man recently?). Compare the majority of the two animation genres (American and Japanese), and it feels like you're juding a competition for the worst animation ever.

          On the other hand, if you look at the high end of manual and mixed-media Japanese animation, you get things like Akira, Ghost, Lain, Metropolis, and Princess Mononoke. All of these compare favorably with the best American and European works, not just in story, but also in animation techniques and and artistic merit. I can't do anything about your style complaints, but if the biggest problem you have with anime is that "everybody's drawn funny", then anime at least has The Simpsons for company.
    • Same reason. American Hardcore porn lacks any real emotion or acting or plot. American softcore porn lacks any hardcore action.

      Anime porn has more emotional content, better plots, etc. Plus you can really dive into darker things like domination, shame, without creating a snuff film. That can make things more exciting and makes topics available for self-examination without actually watching a real person get beat up or whatever.
      • by Erik Hollensbe ( 808 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @06:46AM (#4641532) Homepage
        Emotional Content?

        When I watch porn, I want to see acts of sex. If I wanted 'emotional content', I'd watch a soap opera.
      • More on hentai... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GuyMannDude ( 574364 )

        Anime porn has more emotional content, better plots, etc. Plus you can really dive into darker things like domination, shame, without creating a snuff film. That can make things more exciting and makes topics available for self-examination without actually watching a real person get beat up or whatever.

        You have done a very good job of explaining why people like hentai films. Allow me to elaborate...

        I watch American porn because the women are really sexy. But you're right that there is no plot to speak of and the acting is rediculous. There is no way around it: porn is full of stupid white trash. And there's a limit as to how exciting that can be, especially when it's all the same. The most important organ in sexual arousal is the brain. When I see some sexy female ninja or spaceship captain in a hentai flick, I feel attracted to her in a much different way than I do to the bimbos in American porn. This hentai woman actually has skills and capabilites. She's compatent! And her face and body is at least as sexy as those of real women. For me, that's a great combination. I'd rather fuck hentai girls than the sluts in American porn.

        The other advantage hentai has over real-life porn is the ability to display some real hardcore stuff. It's just not very much fun watching a real woman being raped. Even if you know it's just a movie, it's hard to get around the fact that it looks an awful lot like what happens in real life. However, the non-consentual scenes in hentai are so over-the-top and rediculous that it's very clear this is not realistic at all. When you watch some sexy 19 year old girl with green hair and 38DDs being attacked by a monster with tentacles, it's very, very clearly an absurd bondage fantasy. It's something that could never, ever happen. And it's something that you're certainly never going to experience. So it's exciting. There are some live-action japanese porn films where they try to do the tentacle thing and it just doesn't work.

        American Hardcore porn lacks any real emotion or acting or plot. American softcore porn lacks any hardcore action.

        Exactly right. The hardcore stuff is actually kind of boring. You're just watching some stupid guy screw some stupid chick. You know that these people are pathetic. There's a limit how much fun you can have watching these losers fuck each other. The softcore stuff you find on Cinemax and such can be much more exciting because there is actually a story and motivation for the characters to screw. But you don't get to see the goods. Hentai provides the best of both worlds, plus it also shows some stuff that is too hardcore for American hardcore films. The Onion had an interview with (porn producer) Ron Jeremy once where he admitted that American porn is so tame that they can't sell their stuff overseas. Everyone else thinks it's boring. Of course, they can't make it any more hardcore than it is now or the feminists will scream bloody murder. So if you want to see something really kinky and naughty, hentai anime is for you!


    • Re:Why Anime? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @06:54AM (#4641554)
      That is true, I like anime for that reason as well. Difference is that I am a European and from my point of view Japanese material is a good alternative to the flood of US made Formula films and sitcoms that we are drowning in over here. Dont get me wrong, I am not against American TV material, some of it is really good. I like the New Star Trek series, Six Feet under, Farscape and of course FUTURAMA. But too much of the US stuff is just mass manufactured blurb without caracter. Kind of a visual counterpart to the infamous "Replicator food" they are always complaining about on the Enterprise. These Anime films make a great change in the monotony of bad sitcoms and action films. I wish more original programming like this would find its way onto my television screen. Definetly more Asian material and perhaps some E-European material as well and not just Anime mind you but regular films and series as well.
      • Re:Why Anime? (Score:2, Insightful)

        But too much of the US stuff is just mass manufactured blurb without caracter.
        Don't worry, many people here in the US feel the same way.
      • Re:Why Anime? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ixache ( 123955 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @09:47AM (#4642124)
        But too much of the US stuff is just mass manufactured blurb without caracter.

        As opposed to anime? Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but it can also be told of anime that too much of it is pure hackneyed commercial drivel. It's just that not many of the bad works gets to permeate through the West.

        On the other hand, there are many great movies pertaining to anime, to the point that it has been labelled the "secong golden age of Japanese cinema". See this [] New-York Times article.


      • Farscape is Australian by the way. Kudos to them for making an outstanding Sci-Fi series. Is there some reason why local Australian TV doesn't pick it up?
        • Re:Why Anime? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Jordy ( 440 )
          Farscape is an American show filmed in Australia. It is produced by the Jim Henson company and Hallmark Entertainment for goodness sakes.

          There are a whole lot of American shows that are not filmed in the United States, for instance Smallville (Canada), Survivor (all over the damn place) and of course all sorts of movies like The Matrix (Australia), Dark City (Australia), Spiderman (Australia.)

          The choice of location really has to do with where the director believes is the best place to be.
      • Re:Why Anime? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by b1t r0t ( 216468 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @12:00PM (#4642887)
        You got it right there. Producers in the US are more interested than following the latest "formula" (and cheezy CGI special effects) than in things like good writing and a good story. Hollywood couldn't write their way out of a wet paper bag, which is why two of the biggest films last year were Harry Potter and LOTR-FOTR.

        The US music industry is even worse. Almost everything new these days is crap, and the '70s and '80s stuff (even though I like it) is just plain old. So I listen to anime theme song music with a bit of regular J-pop mixed in. Remember folks, '80s music happened because of Brit groups (and the occasional non-english song like 99 Luftbaloons and Der Komissar) getting so much airtime on MTV (back when MTV actually played music). Unfortunately J-pop has a bit of a language barrier to deal with, plus the same US producers' urge to "sanitize" anything Japanese language from anime because it's not in their "formula".

    • Many Americans find anime a lot more appealing than a lot of stuff on TV because anime isn't as constrained by the American Standard that effects many of the popular programming.

      That's definately part of the appeal. I think another part is that most of the crud (See Sturgeon's Law []) never gets exported to the US. We see the same effect with British TV shows. Monty Python, Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, etc make it over here, but most of the bad stuff doesn't.

      If you look back at mainstream American TV, there's been a fair amount of really good stuff (e.g. Babylon 5, original Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Buffy) and a lot of decent stuff (I won't list examples out of fear of controversy). We just don't notice because we're getting all the crud mixed in with it. Unfortuantly, throught the miracle of American Media Dominance, the rest of the industrialized world gets our crud unfiltered. Those countries where English is not the primary language get our crud badly dubbed on top of everything, but I digress.

      Another factor is the way Anime is promoted in the US: almost entirely by word of mouth recomendations. By only watching stuff that our tasteful - if more adventurous - friends have pre-screened, we avoid whatever crud does manage to make its way over here.
  • So what's the significance of tentacles, then?
    • Re:tentacles (Score:2, Insightful)

      First off they are Japanese, so they eat things with Tentacles, you know -- Sushi. We eat Hotdogs, pickles, carrots, and other long things. Haven't you every played with your food????
    • Re:tentacles (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Tentacle porn may go back a ways before anime. In the 70s, Heavy Metal ran a few strips by some artists that were messing around with some fairly creepy stories involving a disease that caused some bizarre shapechanging mutations. Symptoms of the disease included the formation of large fleshy tentacle-like protruberances of immense power, and an overwhelming desire to rape people and tear them limb from limb. Once someone caught the disease, they became fugitives, since it was only a matter of time before they would succumb to their perverse desires.

      The story that I remember (cut me some slack on errors - it was a long time ago) followed one character who had the disease, but thus far seemed to have the ability to maintain mental control and not go berzerk. Of course, they could still have some pretty outrageous and twisted nookie. The storyline, with sex, power, violence, and intrigue, was of course a winner, and may have inspired boatloads of imitators in a number of countries. Many of the artists during Heavy Metal's heyday were from all over as I recall.
    • Re:tentacles (Score:5, Informative)

      by DragonMagic ( 170846 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @07:26AM (#4641641) Homepage
      It is illegal in Japan to show uncensored penises, but it is legal to show uncensored tentacles. This is why you often see them with a little mushroom tip, as well...

      More than just symbolic, it's a way to bypass certain laws.
  • by new_breed ( 569862 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @05:28AM (#4641369)
    On a related note, here is a link for the Dutch Animation Festival that will be held the upcoming weekend. []
    • But anime is still underappriciated by the majority. Look at TV for example. FoxKids only broadcasts *old* kiddie anime like Pokemon/Digimon/Flint/Medabots/Hello Kitty (*gasp*)! Cartoon Network broadcasts DBZ (better than all the cr4p from FoxKids though). And Yourin broadcasts Sailor Moon season 1 (season 1! *gasp*!) and Card Captor Sakura, which is actually the American censored and edited dub dubbed to Dutch using horrible voices.

      If things continue like this, it may do more bad than good to people's general view of anime.
      • Maybe because most Anime is actually made for children? It's not Japan's fault if misguided foreigners mistake it for genuine works of merit, instead of the 30-minute toy commercials they actually are.
        • Sigh... Most anime distributed in America is for children. There's a lot of non-shonen and non-shojo stuff. It's not Japan's fault if misguided foreigners mistake them for 30-minute toy commercials, instead of the genuine works of merit they actually are.
  • Spirited Away (Score:5, Informative)

    by rufusdufus ( 450462 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @05:32AM (#4641379)
    Let me recommend "Spirited Away" to everyone. This is not your typical jerky graphics, guns blazing loud obnoxious Anime film. The graphics are great. But more important is the story line and the pacing. Its slow and methodical and completely enthralling. Groundbreaking even.

    Great movie even for people who don't appreciate Anime.
    • And let's not forget the stirring romantic and philosophic exploration of the epic Legend of Overfiend [] series.

      *wipes away a tear*
    • Re:Spirited Away (Score:3, Informative)

      by gl4ss ( 559668 )
      i'd recommend laputa - castle in the sky too. especially if you liked spirited away..
    • I really enjoyed the first shocking scene with the parents gluttony... man was that unexpected. Everything until the end when it kind of wrapped up a little too neatly and everyone became happy in a very Disney bank-rolled sort of way.....

      • Re:Spirited Away (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Minna Kirai ( 624281 )
        Not exactly in a Disney-like way. In every major Disney animation I can recall*, the hero's problems are the work of a villian (usually a magician or, prototypically, a witch) who is defeated at the end.

        Sometimes its merely her plan that's foiled, but usually the villian's existence is terminated as well. Death, dissolution, imprisonment, or at least public humiliation- the Wicked Witch is not allowed to return to her tower with pride & power intact. The villian doesn't get to become happy with everyone else.

        Unlike 2 other Miyazaki movies that Disney has imported (Kiki's Delivery Service and Mononoke Hime), Spirited Away had a well defined antagonist in the person of "Ubaba". In fact, she was even a witch! But her comeupance was not nearly the simplistic Good-Conquerors-Evil that a Mouse storyboarder might create. Her pride was hurt a little, maybe she learned a lesson about caring, but her livelihood and position of control were not harmed.

        * I haven't watched enough Disney movies to tell if this is really the pattern, but its the impression I get from a small sample (Cinderella & Alladin, Beauty&Beast). Its notable that the Pixar movies, although influenced by Disney writers, haven't fallen much into the "hero vs villan" mold either. They're more "man against nature".

    • "Typical" jerky graphics and guns blazing loud obnoxious anime?
      Oh, you must mean those 10+ years old movies released by Manga (the company)?

      Watch some recent anime movies, like Inu Yasha or Slayers Premium, or even the somewhat older movies like The Vision of Escaflowne. *Extremely* smooth and beautiful graphics.
      • Re:Spirited Away (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Ponty ( 15710 ) <> on Monday November 11, 2002 @06:32AM (#4641501) Homepage
        Does it have an obnoxious little kid who screams and jumps around? Every time I try and get into an anime at my friends' request, I am repulsed by the outrageously obnoxious characters. Most specifically, small round girls who shriek and bounce around. Really annoying. Even 'serious' ones like a movie about Hiroshima (I forget the name, it's been a couple of years.)
        • Heh, yes, escaflowne has one of these characters.. The cat-girl, which I cannot remember the name of.

          Here's a little activity for owners of the series. Watch one of the first episodes, and count the amount of times the Cat-Girl says "Lord Van!". If 5 minutes have passed and you still have fingers and toes, you are not watching that early of an episode :)
        • Yes@! This is exactly my complaint. I love Cowboy Bebop, a great series, but they had to add that stupid annoyingass character 'Ed' who does nothing but detract from the feeling they're trying to create (or are they -trying- to piss me off?).
    • Let me recommend "Spirited Away" to everyone. This is not your typical jerky graphics, guns blazing loud obnoxious Anime film. The graphics are great. But more important is the story line and the pacing. Its slow and methodical and completely enthralling. Groundbreaking even.

      #!/usr/bin/perl -w
      $post =~ s/Anime/American/;
      print $post;

    • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @07:11AM (#4641601)
      One of my other favorite films of all time, (animated or otherwise.) Zero violence, yet plenty of story stresses and growth. That scene where Kiki and the painter were talking, (where Kiki was losing her magic), really blew me away. It's not often when I'm struck to the quick like that! And it also struck me that the artist was somehow aware, (at least on her level), of the various realities which Miyazaki visits with each of his films. (They're nearly all telling a version of the same story; of different lives where different choices were made and different levels of awareness are ripe). --The painting of the winged horse and the Kiki/Nausicaa/Princess Mononoke/etc., on its back was like a window connecting all the various realities. And I don't know if Miyazaki meant it this way, but I bet the stunned moment Kiki experienced in looking at that painting of her was partly due to her feeling a connection with all those other lives. (At least, I would have had that in the back of my mind if I were Miyazaki!) A very powerful scene, nonetheless, which worked on many levels!

      Anyway, kudos for the recommend on Spirited! See it now while it's still on the big screen!

      -Fantastic Lad

    • by Lumpish Scholar ( 17107 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @08:35AM (#4641812) Homepage Journal
      ... I just wish they had shown it, even once, anywhere near my house. I would have had to go into New York City to see it; maybe worth the trip for me, but how many of my nearby friends and family would bother?

      I'm not the only one who's annoyed; IMDB [] ran this story []:
      Is Year's Best-Reviewed Film the Worst Marketed?: New York Daily News film critic Jack Mathews has chided Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook for rolling out Hayao Miyazaki's animated Spirited Away "as if it were some experimental gruel from Cremoria." Noting that the film received nearly unanimous rave reviews when it was released, Mathews asks in an "open letter" to Cook appearing in today's (Thursday) [October 24, 2002] edition of the newspaper: "Why didn't you treat it like any other Disney animated feature, with a wide release and a big-bucks ad campaign?" Instead, Mathews noted, the film, which opened in 26 theaters on Sept. 20, is now showing on only 151. He concludes: "I hate to say it, Dick, but you had a tap-in putt here and you blew it."
  • by Dot.Com.CEO ( 624226 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @05:41AM (#4641404)
    I am pretty sure the person who submitted the article either did not read it thoroughly or did not really understand it. It is more of an insight into why Japanese people like anime rather than why Westerners do not.

    If anything, it analyses why anime tends to reject Japanese characters and ideals in favor of Western ones.

    By the way, since the server is completely /.ed, here is the google cache []

  • Adult anime (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cheese Cracker ( 615402 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @05:43AM (#4641407)
    My wife and I rented two adult anime videos some years ago. We watched 15 minutes on the first tape, before realizing how sick it was... what a heck, it might have been a bad anime... we watched 10 minutes of the second video, and it was even more weird and perverted than the first one. I guess we weren't enough pervs to get something out of it... 8P
    • Re:Adult anime (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hatchet ( 528688 )
      You mean hentai. I relly like it... you watch such movies to see what you can't in real life. Why would you want an ordinary fuck porn, if you can fuck your wife in real?! We watch hentai to statisfy our fetishes which we can't exercise in real life.
      • Why would you want an ordinary fuck porn, if you can fuck your wife in real?!

        Why we rented anime? (I'm pretty sure it said anime on the video shelf) I'll let you figure that one out... you'll probably figure out the answer after you've been married and faithful to the same partner for a couple of years. ;)
    • My local "alter-native" video store puts a little red dot on the anime that may not be for everyone. A red dot means "warning! tentacles and demon-sperm rape scenes!"

      This is handy for people who may not be in the mood (now, or ever) for such fare, but also helps against simple mistakes.

      "Honey, this cover looks cool, let's get this"

      Note to self: "Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend" is not a first date movie.

  •! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 11, 2002 @05:44AM (#4641412)
    Two comments and the link (and possibly an intercontinental internet pipe) has been slashdotted!

    The question of a cache should not be met with a vague grumbling about "content owner permission" rights.

    Stop being so damned irresponsible! Cache the complete first page of any linked articles!

    Hell, this could even be done without slashdot footing the bill for the extra bandwidth. Before posting an article:

    (1) compress the first page of every article link to a single file.
    (2) share that through a peer-to-peer system such as bittorrent [].

    It would work. Everyone would win - slashdot readers and linked sites. AND it would be a Genuinely Good Use(tm) for the peer to peer tech.


    Tech notes:

    Internet Explorer can save complete pages as a single .MHT compressed file - there must be something else equivalant that works with all other browsers - hell, even make it a standard zip file with the .slash extention and associate that extension with a script or batch file that uncompresses and views when clicked on.

    Bittorrent: It's seriously underappreciated, and - the part I love - it ONLY shares the CURRENT FILE that you're downloading. As soon as you close the "file download" box when your download is done, you drop out of the peer to peer network that was made specifically for that file. It is neat.
    • Give enough information about the subject at hand and article being linked to that people with only a cursory interest in the subject don't feel the need to click on the link just to find out what the hell the article is about.

      Sheesh, one sentence. The art of the abstract is dead.
  • If you can forget for a few minutes that it's a drawing, it's the best bang for your buck in Special Effects.

    Japan being short on space can't really throw togeather resources like big studios. And if your market doesn't care why should you. Hong Kong had the Martial Arts traditions, lots of Jackie Chan and Jet Li types. It's cheap. Europe, has classy people like James Bond.

    Here in the US we got more money then sense so we get Attack of the Colons. (not a typo, my colon twists up everytime that #2 is mentioned).

    The only feature I like about you humans is that you do adapt very well. (a feature as in a bug for which documentation exists).

  • Overanalyzation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FooBarWidget ( 556006 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @06:26AM (#4641493)
    "One should also note that Rei has blue hair and red eyes ?rather remarkable traits for a Japanese girl!!"
    Uhm... unnatural hair colors like purple, blue, white and green look nice. That's it, they look nice. No need to think about *why* they chose that color, it just looks nice!

    I think the author of the article is overanalyzing things.
    • Re:Overanalyzation (Score:5, Informative)

      by Graspee_Leemoor ( 302316 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @06:42AM (#4641522) Homepage Journal
      The reason for different hair colours was originally to make it easier for the audience to tell different characters apart.

      (I claim my +5 informative!)

      Nowadays not many anime use hair colour for this reason. Sometimes a certain hair colour is used because it associated with a certain character stereotype.


    • If you want some real overanylization, check out this article [], written by a UC-Berkeley PhD candidate (seriously).

      One of the better quotes:

      "What The Overfiend's gigantic, mutated penises and sperm grotesquely caricature, I would suggest, is American imperialism in Japan."

      I'm reluctant to shout "Looney!",, it really is looney.
    • "One should also note that Rei has blue hair and red eyes ?rather remarkable traits for a Japanese girl!!"

      Uhm... unnatural hair colors like purple, blue, white and green look nice. That's it, they look nice. No need to think about *why* they chose that color, it just looks nice!

      And obviously has never been to Japan. I couldn't keep track of all the girls I saw with blue or pink hair. (I never saw any red eyes, but if I started examining the faces of every japanese girl I saw, I think I might have gotten slapped.)

      "AIEEE! Etchi Gaijin!!!!" *POW!*
      • I never saw any red eyes, but if I started examining the faces of every japanese girl I saw, I think I might have gotten slapped.

        When my middle school (a long while back) had a cultural exchange and we took them to a waterpark, the boys absolutely went nuts! Their eyes were out of their sockets, very much like you see in anime. They were following women around just drooling.

        I'm not sure you'd get much difference in reaction over there than here depending on your age group. Although, I have never been to Japan.
  • by jukal ( 523582 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @06:43AM (#4641526) Journal
    is a derivate of the amount of comments posted on a story titled "The Significance of Anime". Based on a recent empirical study, the significance of Anime is just a bit less than that of a "Indiglo Clock Case Mod".
  • by 8282now ( 583198 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @06:49AM (#4641537) Journal
    K J #4 6 : M E D I A I N A S I A

    ©San and Ashitaka, Princess Mononoke

    More Animated than Life

    By Sato Kenji
    Japan's animation boom began in the summer of l977, when the movie Uchu Senkan Yamato (Space Cruiser Yamato) captivated teenagers and young adults to emerge as a major box-office hit. The success of this sci-fi "anime" prompted a fundamental shift in the cultural status of animation.

    Even before Space Cruiser Yamato, Japan had produced a considerable number of animated films, but they were generally regarded as children's fare or, at best, family entertainment; the few adult-oriented animated movies were not successful commercially. Space Cruiser Yamato was the first anime to demonstrate that the medium need not restrict itself to kiddie fare. Following suit, from the late l970s, Japan put out a steady stream of animated films geared to young adults, including Ginga Tetsudo 999 (Galaxy Express 999) and Kido Senshi Gandamu (Mobile Suit Gundam). Most of these were commercial successes as well, although critics dismissed these as exploitation films pandering to teenage tastes. The attitude of film critics changed abruptly, however, with the 1984 release of Kaze no Tani no Naushica (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind), a film whose artistic quality was widely regarded as more than sufficient to hold the attention of adults. With this movie, writer-director Miyazaki Hayao overturned the conventional image of the anime director as a versatile hack, and was soon crowned as anime's first genuine auteur.
    Of course, not all anime rose to the level of non-juvenile entertainment or art. In fact, in the late 1980s, with young adult anime showing signs of staleness, the focus began to revert to children's films. Nevertheless, the genre never relinquished the commercial foothold it had gained during the young adult anime craze; furthermore, Miyazaki began to enjoy a large degree of freedom in his filmmaking, as did several other directors who subsequently achieved the status of anime auteur. The results of those efforts, particularly the anime produced by Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, are not simply movies with high box-office potential; they are in many instances artistically superior to the live-action films made in Japan, and they have won growing legions of fans overseas.
    During the 1990s, animation, spearheaded by the work of a few anime auteurs, emerged as the face of Japanese film, positioning Japan as the world's undisputed "anime superpower." And in 1997 -- a full twenty years since anime took off -- animation's preeminence over live-action films in Japan was more apparent than ever. In a matter of months after its release, Mononoke-hime (Princess Mononoke), Miyazaki's latest film to date which was then alleged to be his last directorial effort, broke every box-office record to become the biggest domestic movie hit of all time in Japan. In the languishing field of young adult anime, the avant garde sci-fi work Shin Seiki Evangerion (Neon Genesis Evangelion) scored a major box-office hit and won a huge cult following. Moreover, children's anime are as popular as ever. In all, it appears that anime has taken center stage in the Japanese film industry, pushing live-action movies into the wings.

    Fleshless reality

    The simplest explanation for this reversal of fortune between animation and live-action is that the former has ridden to success on the coattails of its older cousin, Japanese comics, or manga, a medium that emerged as a main focus of Japanese popular culture after World War II, and has grown particularly pervasive since the 1970s. It is true that many successful anime were based on popular manga and anime have been heavily influenced by manga's pictorial conventions. Another important factor is cost. Hollywood has made successful live-action films based on such popular comics as Superman and Batman, but the need for expensive sets and special effects to create the necessary visual realism has resulted in extremely high production costs. Japan's film industry, with its much smaller market, cannot afford such high-budget pictures To put it another way, animation offers a means of producing slick, stylish films without spending much money.
    Still, this ignores the fact that anime's very format has an inherent weakness. Because its characters are relatively small and simplified pictures painted on cels (thin pieces of plastic), they lack the fleshy presence of actors, nor can they rival the subtlety of good actors' performances. Compared with live-action films, their reality is literally two-dimensional, which is why animated films were for so long regarded as fit only for children's (or family) entertainment. The reason Hollywood elected to make live-action films out of Superman and Batman is that they could be counted on to attract wider audiences and larger profits, notwithstanding the much higher costs of production.
    It may be that Japanese under a certain age, having been weaned on manga and anime, are not bothered by the lack of visual realism. But this begs the question: Why is the cultural status of animation so much higher in Japan than in America, the home of Walt Disney? To be sure, ever since the anime boom began animated films have sought ever greater realism in both form and content, refining the animation itself and looking to more serious subject matter. They have gone far beyond Disney films, which remain essentially animated musicals performed by conspicuously cartoonish characters. Films like Studio Ghibli's Mimi o Sumaseba (Whisper of the Heart) and Omoide Poroporo (Only Yesterday) portray Japan's urban and rural landscapes with a realism that puts many live-action movies to shame. Visually, however, Japanese anime by no means transcend the medium, even though viewers may find some of them remarkably realistic for animated features.
    In any case, a growing number of people accustomed to animation's lack of visual realism cannot in itself explain why anime has come to represent Japanese cinema in toto. For animation to push aside live-action films, a growing number of people had to prefer the thin, insubstantial reality of animation to the flesh-and-blood world of live-action -- they had to be cool or even hostile to the real image. This, in fact, is precisely what began to occur in Japan in the 1990s.
    Why, then, did the Japanese take a disliking to live-action? One reason is that most Japanese films are made on a low budget and look it, with low production values. Second, there is no denying that in theme and subject matter, some anime are more thoughtful and ambitious than their live-action counterparts. Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke, a fantasy-adventure set in medieval Japan, is a critique of modernity founded on a deep concern for the environment. Neon Genesis Evangelion describes an individual's existentialist search for identity, calling to mind Jean-Paul Sartre's famous desperate axiom: "Hell is other people." And Kido Keisatsu Patoreiba 2 (Patlabor 2: The Movie), released in 1992, lashes out at postwar society with its depiction of Tokyo under siege by urban terrorists -- a portrayal eerily prophetic of the Aum sect's 1995 poison gas attack on Tokyo subways.
    Of course, the artistic success of each individual film is open to debate. (Evangelion, in particular, is so incoherent that it virtually defies any real comprehension.) But to my knowledge, Japan's live action films today offer nothing at all to compete with anime when it comes to tackling such ambitious themes. Suo Masayuki's Shall We Dance?, crowned as the best Japanese live-action film of 1996, is a lightweight comedy about a middle-aged office worker who finds release from his humdrum life through ballroom dancing. And the big hit of 1997, Shitsurakuen (Paradise Lost), is a melodrama about another middle-aged salaryman who is demoted at work and eventually commits suicide with his married lover.

    Ethnic Bleaching

    Still, there is a more alarming reason for moviegoers' rejection of live-action Japanese films. Their flight to anime is an inevitable result of the ethnic self-denial that has suffused Japanese society ever since the Meiji era, and especially since the end of World War II. Bent on achieving the goals of modernization and Westernization, the Japanese, in rejecting their own history and traditions, have sought to become Nihonjin-banare (de-Japanized) -- a generally complimentary term, implying that one looks and acts more like a Westerner or a Caucasian than the average Japanese. "Japaneseness-free" might convey the nuance of the term even better.
    Take a look at the animated characters featured in anime. Physically they are "de-Japanized Japanese" -- a blend of Japanese and Caucasian characteristics. Given the setting of Princess Mononoke, it is obvious that the characters are intended to be pure Japanese (or at least Mongoloid), yet their features are nearly identical to the presumably Caucasian characters in Miyazaki's earlier work, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, a fantasy set in a future world suggestive of medieval Europe. (The heroine herself is named after the daughter of King Alcinous of Homer's The Odyssey). In Miyazaki's animation there is no physical distinction between Japanese and Caucasians. Evangelion features a Japanese girl, Rei, and Asuka, a girl who is one-quarter German and three-quarters Japanese. Apart from Asuka's Caucasian attributes of light brown hair and blue eyes, there are no significant differences in the facial features or physical development of the two girls. One should also note that Rei has blue hair and red eyes -- rather remarkable traits for a Japanese girl!
    In short, the characters of anime show the Japanese -- who so aspire to Western traits -- as they would like to see themselves. It is an effect that cannot possibly be duplicated by live actors, who -- being alive -- can never really change the physical characteristics determined by their genetic makeup. They can dye their hair and even change their eye color with contact lenses, but they cannot fundamentally alter their skin color, facial features, or physique. And even if they tried, using special make-up effects or plastic surgery, the result would be unnatural.
    Only anime, and its cousin manga, can convincingly meld Japanese and Caucasian attributes into a natural-looking human being. This is because the upside of these genres' inherent lack of realism is their unique ability to exploit the appeal of and fascination for the unreal. And that is why manga and anime have attained such a high status in the popular culture of Japan, compared to that of other countries. These are the only two media capable of portraying reality the way Japanese feel it should be. By comparison, live-action films sacrifice appeal from the outset simply because they feature Japanese actors. Fashion illustrator Nagasawa Setsu expressed the feelings of many Japanese in an essay he wrote in 1983 for the Japanese playbill of the British film Don't Look Now:
    "With their sharp-featured faces and long-limbed bodies, Westerners (read Caucasians) are physically suited to the movie screen; everyone looks almost too beautiful, down to the minor characters . . . . Japanese are just the opposite. Even people who appear delicately beautiful in person look round and dumpy and totally unstylish on camera. The reason many people today say they dislike the "ugliness " of Japanese films -- content notwithstanding -- is that the looks of Japanese screen actors put domestic films at a crucial disadvantage. Period pieces at least allow one to cover up these failings with elaborate costumes. But when they take off their clothes for bedroom scenes, even the most glamorous Japanese actors and actresses look hopelessly unattractive -- which is why you can't pay me to watch Japanese porn." That Nagasawa is not alone in his preference is attested to by the growing number of animated pornographic videos that have been produced in Japan since the mid 1980s. Thus, the history of the past twenty years, during which anime has pushed live-action to the side and emerged as the face of Japanese cinema, has in essence been the history of "ethnic bleaching" in Japanese film. Incidentally, it was also during the last two decades that manga, originally regarded as kids' stuff, truly came into its own as adult entertainment.

    Dismantling the Cultural Framework

    The tendency of Japanese to reject their own history and traditions in favor of a Western ideal has undermined live-action film also by affecting the performances of Japanese screen actors. An obvious example is the inability of today's younger actors to portray Japanese of earlier eras with authenticity. A live-action version of Princess Mononoke, for example, would be impossible to produce even if one could overcome budget constraints and the difficulty of its special effects. There are simply no young actors in Japan today who can wear the traditional clothing, duel with swords, or shoot arrows on horseback as convincingly as the animated characters in Miyazaki's film.
    It is not only in period pieces, however, that the rejection of our country's history and tradition robs actors' performances of authenticity. In postwar Japan's cultural climate, it is exceedingly difficult for actors in any type of role to convincingly express complex, deep or intense emotion -- in fact, any dramatic emotion at all. To appear real, this sort of emotional expression demands exactly the right modulation and combination of subtle elements, including not only choice of words and facial expression, but also posture, gesture, tone of voice, direction of gaze, and distance from other actors. And the "right" modulation and combination differs from culture to culture. Every culture has its own framework of expressive conventions from which actors must draw in order to express emotion that will strike their audience as authentic. As long as Japanese actors refuse to work within the framework of emotional expression stipulated by Japanese culture, they cannot express dramatic emotion in a convincing manner. The famed Meiji-era novelist Natsume Soseki once taught his students that the true Japanese translation for "I love you" is "Tsuki ga tottemo aoi na" (The moon is so blue tonight); what he meant was that to express within the Japanese cultural framework the same emotion expressed in English by "I love you," one must choose words like "The moon is so blue tonight."
    Since every culture evolves naturally over time, the cultural framework for emotional expression is by no means immutable. But in post-war Japan the process of change has been unnatural and rushed. Regarding their traditional modes of expression as archaic and feudalistic, and eager to Westernize, the Japanese have attempted to adopt the Western (more specifically, the American) expressive framework wholesale. Yet given that they continue to use the Japanese language as their vehicle for verbal expression, any attempt to affect a "de-Japanized" manner at this level is half-baked. Today, one might say, a Japanese person is unable to convincingly express passion for another either by the English "I love you" or by the Japanese "The moon is so blue tonight." This may be why, since the 1980s, young people in Japan have increasingly disdained the expression of serious or dramatic emotion as kusai, or corny, and prized the appearance of emotional detachment as kakko-ii, or cool.
    In terms of dramatic expression, then, the Japanese film labors under a heavy burden. If it portrays emotion within the traditional Japanese framework, it may achieve authenticity, but the effect is antiquated. If it portrays emotion within the Western framework, it comes across as meretricious and unconvincing. Films that try to blend the two modes often end up antiquated and unconvincing. Yet in animation, which lacks visual realism and features de-Japanized characters to begin with, the expression of emotion paradoxically takes on a more convincing sense of reality. This may explain why most of the serious and ambitious film efforts have used the vehicle of anime. Given the serious dramatic deficiency, Japanese live-action films can no longer tackle any serious or profound subject matter.
    In the context of contemporary Japanese film, then, anime often conveys a greater sense of reality than live-action films. The thin, insubstantial reality of animated film, that is to say, is more alive -- literally, more animated -- than the flesh-and-blood reality. And if anime is perceived as more real (i.e, closer to physical reality) than live-action, this means that, increasingly, anime embodies the Japanese consciousness of reality. The Japanese conception of reality is undergoing a process of animation.
    The rise of anime as well as manga, is a cultural by-product of modern Japan's tendency to promote modernization and Westernization while rejecting its history and traditions. A medium that fuses elements of East and West, and lacks a clear national identity, could be considered international in a certain sense, and this is doubtless a major reason why anime has so many fans overseas. But the current state of affairs, in which anime represents the mainstream of Japanese cinema, is by no means desirable, inasmuch as it signifies an ever-widening gap between physical reality and people's conception of it.
    Meanwhile, ever since the huge international box office success of Star Wars (released, coincidentally, in 1977, the same year as Space Cruiser Yamato), a growing number of Hollywood blockbusters might best be described as "live-action anime." Kathleen his girlfriend Terasawa Shinko shouting, "I love Terasawa Shinko! I love her, I do!" Ide reveals the script originally had him yelling , "I hate Terasawa Shinko! I hate her, I do!"
    Of course, this is simply an example of reverse psychology at work. Everyone knows Rokusuke is in love with Shinko. However, such rewrite kills the nuance conveyed by the original line, namely that Rokusuke is trying (rather transparently) to conceal his emotional vulnerability. How, then, did "I hate you" become "I love you"? Ide describes how the revision came about.
    In those days we had to translate scripts and have them reviewed by GHQ (the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers). The young censor, a second-generation Japanese-American, said to me, "Your script is very interesting and democratic. The only thing that bothers me is why do Japanese say they hate someone when they should be saying they love them? If you love someone, isn't it better to come right out and say so?" Completely overwhelmed by this epiphany, I said, "You're absolutely right. Thank you," and then and there rewrote the line to read, "I love Terasawa Shinko! I love her, I do!" (Shogen no Showa-shi7: Wanman saisho funto su (The Showa Era Speaks, Volume 7: Prime Minister Yoshida Soldiers On], Gakken, 1982) Unable to trust his own intuitive judgement as to the most genuine Japanese-style expression of emotion, Ide went along with a foreigner's opinion and turned the line on its head. Bowing to the idea that an American-style, forthright mode of expression was more suitable to the new "democratic" Japan, he made his character say something that went counter to his own Japanese impulse. Under the circumstances, one could hardly expect the actor to come up with a convincing performance. And indeed, film director Oshima Nagisa recalls going to see Green Hills when he was in high school and finding the last scene "so embarrassingly awkward that I could hardly bear to watch." (Taikenteki sengo eizo ron [Imagery of Postwar Japan: A Personal Recollection], Asahi Shimbun, 1982)
    The problem is that these days it would seem just as false to say "I hate you" in such a scene. How, then, is an actor to perform? This is precisely the problem Aoi Yoji confronts when he criticizes Japanese dramatists for reeling off "line after self-satisfied line that actors are viscerally unable to make their own, justifying it by saying 'that's my style.'" Aoi complains with good reson that actors are forever struggling with dialogue that has "little style and even less substance, and since they have to render the material in some way, they have no choice but to resort to cheap theatrics."
    The idea of ethnichat even with a ghost as a main character, a program in which tatami appears is simply not fanciful enough for anime. Tomino's reaction to tatami mats -- an integral element of the traditional Japanese house -- is a clear indication of the deep-rooted presumption that a typically Japanese setting precludes the qualities of fancy and wonder.
    Then there is the story told by Ide Toshiro, who co-wrote the script for the movie Aoi sanmyaku (The Green Hills of Youth, directed by Imai Tadashi), an enormous hit in 1949, during the Allied Occupation. Speaking of the movie's last scene, where the high school hero Rokosuke walks along the shore with his girlfriend Terasawa Shinko shouting, "I love Terasawa Shinko! I love her, I do!" Ide reveals the script originally had him yelling , "I hate Terasawa Shinko! I hate her, I do!"
    Of course, this is simply an example of reverse psychology at work. Everyone knows Rokusuke is in love with Shinko. However, such rewrite kills the nuance conveyed by the original line, namely that Rokusuke is trying (rather tranthe first animated movie in history that was as realistic as live action. Inasmuch as Star Wars Episode 1 is fundamentally a live-action movie, saying it could also be called an animated movie with all the realism of live action not only places animation on a par with live action but also implies that there are live-action movies without the realism of live action.
    By ignoring the difference between reality pretending to be cartoons and cartoons pretending to be reality, McCallum's words eloquently attest to the fact that the gap between live action and animation is closing in the West as well. It would seem that Japan is not the only country where people's vision of reality is undergoing a process of animation.

    This essay was previously published in KJ#41, but unfortunately at that time approximately one paragraph was deleted in production (following the pivotal example of Natsume Soseki's translation "The moon is so blue tonight...") We are pleased to present the essay here in entirety, with a new afterword. It has also been reprinted in Japan Echo's anthology Years of Trial: Japan in the 1990s (ed. Masazoe Yoichi).

    Sato Kenji graduated from the University of Tokyo, where he majored in international relations. He is the author of Chingu: Kankoku no yojin (Chingu: a Korean Friend), Gojira to Yamato to bokura no minshushugi (Godzillanian Democracy: Ideological Subtexts of Japanese Popular Culture) Genmetsu no Jidai no yoake (Dawn of Disillusionment) and most recently a forthcoming collection of essays entitled Mirai soshitsu (Future Lost).

    ©Illustrations used with permission.
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  • Some recommendations (Score:5, Informative)

    by Graspee_Leemoor ( 302316 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @06:52AM (#4641547) Homepage Journal
    Yawn- yet another article that praises "worthy" anime like Mononoke Hime and Spirited Away, and ignores the massive diversity of popular TV series and OAVs.

    Here is a mini-guide to some slightly more obscure anime to watch for fans of certain series that are well known:

    If you like Ed in Cowboy Bebop then you will like the title character in NieA Under 7.

    If you like Tenshi, you will probably like Love Hina and Happy Lesson TV.

    If you like Oh My Goddess, you will probably like Chobits.

    If you like anime with lots of fighting action then take a look at Beserk, Noir, Scryed, Hellsing.

    Other good romantic comedy animes are: Onegai Teacher, I my me Strawberry Eggs, Ai Yori Aoshi, Hanaukyo Maids.

    There are many more than this. Most of the ones I mentioned came out in the last year or two.


    • by CynicTheHedgehog ( 261139 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @10:32AM (#4642370) Homepage
      I don't really know where to put these in relation to other anime, but I'd also recommend:

      Trigun - Kind of like Slayers meets Cowbody Bebop

      Saber Marionette J - I don't know how to describe it really, but Megumi Hayashabara does the voice of the main heroine, Lime (she plays Haruka in Love Hina)

      All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku - Another one for Megumi fans (this one reminded me of Urusei Yatsura if you like that one)

      My Dear Marie - 3 episode OAV, similar to Hand-Maid May

      Witch Hunter Robin - A "goth" Cowboy Bebop I guess

      Serial Experiment Lain - If you like Neon Genesis Evangelion you'll probably like this one
      • I love the recommendations in the parent comments, but it may be a really good idea to list some "starter" anime. Some anime series are just really, really good at getting people interested in the genre and opens peoples minds (specifically, my girlfriend). Here are a few of my favorites, which my family or friends really enjoyed for their "first anime":

        Original plot:
        Perfect Blue
        Serial Experiements Lain

        Golden Boy (the dubbed version of this is unbelievably funny)
        Ranma 1/2

        Romantic (watch with your significant other):
        New Kimagure Orange Road: Summer's Beginning
        Sakura Diaries

        For the younger folk:
        Sailor Moon
        Princess Mononoke (more PG than G)
        Kiki's Delivery Service
        • I started with Rurouni Kenshin, Kodomo no Omocha (great series), Ranma 1/2, and Tenchi Muyo OAV. I haven't yet found anything my girlfriend can tolerate other than a rare episode of Love Hina.

          I will break her or die trying.

          Which reminds me (I don't know why)...I forgot about Full Metal Panic. Great show. Doesn't really fit into any category (kind of mecha I guess, but it's got romantic and high school themes).
    • These series aren't very obscure.
      Love Hina, Happy Lesson and Ai Yori Aoshi are quite similiar. If you like fanservice [] Hanaukyo Maids is an entertaining anime but it isn't a very ingenious anime. From your list I would suggest watching Love Hina, Noir and Onegai Teacher. (To be released by Bandai and ADV)
      Here is my suggestion list for some more obscure anime:
      Jungle Wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Guu
      Description from the fansubbers: In the Middle of the jungle all is quite and peaceful, then came Guu. A mysterious little girl that seems to have a split personality and an appetite for, well, everything.
      Hale's life is changed forever when his mother adopts this strange girl into the family. A lazy teacher, a perverted doctor, a beer drinking mom, Pokute, The Mysterious Guu, and Poor little Hale stuck in the middle of all this Is a recipie for comedy.
      Azumanga Daioh
      Well, here another description from fansubbers, but no one can be told what "Azumanga Daioh" is, you have to see it for yourself.
      Everyday life of highschool students? Experience Highschool with hilariously over-the-top characters and tempermental English teacher Yukari and her colleague, P.E. teacher Kurosawa.
      Azumanga Daioh is a very "japanese" show, so I'm not sure if you will enjoy it if you know almost nothing about Japan and haven't watched a lot of anime.
      Guu is very insane and just a lot of fun.

      Azumanga and Guu aren't commericially available outside of Japan yet, but you can download them as fansubs. [] If you want to download them, just use google to find the homepages of the fansubbers.
    • What if I liked Cowboy Bebop *except* for Ed and watched most of the series wishing for Ed to be violently killed so I wouldn't have to be annoyed by the stupid kid?
  • I'm Japanese. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CBNobi ( 141146 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @07:19AM (#4641631)
    And speaking from a Japanese viewpoint, let me clarify one thing.

    Miyazaki's works are not the norm.

    Its uniqueness, yet similarities to real life is what makes Studio Ghibli's works such blockbuster hits. However, other animations also do rake in cash for studios.

    Every spring, when kids get out of school for spring break, the movie studios release several animated features, much like Disney.

    Doraemon [], an anime about a futuristic cat-like robot helping out a puny kid, is seen every week on television. In its extended movie version, the group goes on a journey to unique lands.

    Each flick (which has been released every spring for the past two decades) brings in about $20 mil (2bil yen). Not too shabby, considering it's a domestic release.

    Another is Detective Conan [] - a high school sleuth is turned into a boy and solves crimes.

    Noticing a trend here? Childrens' films - those that are despised by anime freaks in the US - are those that gain the most popularity. Keep in mind that it's not only the kids who like them, as opposed to the popularity of Pokemon in the states.

    "Classics" such as Cowboy Bebop and other mature-themed anime exist in large numbers, but they do not gain the widespread acknowledgement that kid-oriented shows do.

    On the other hand, comic books (mangas) are split in half between the kids and the adults. The mature-themed manga is a booming industry, mostly focusing on modern themes such as corporations and sports. The unique few get turned into anime, and end up in the hands of American viewers who think that what they're watching reflects the Japanese phyche.

    Bottom line: The Japanese animation industry is hardly different from the Disney of America - child-oriented shows sell. Mature anime are not the norm, and do not reflect the culture of Japan. For that, you need to watch television programs, domestic films (not Godzilla), fiction books.. and so on.
    • Can you recommend any television shows or domestic films that give a good feeling for Japanese culture?
    • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @10:16AM (#4642281) Homepage Journal
      They used to do some pretty severe stuff in the children's anime back in the early 70's, at the tender age of 2 through 5. Despite this, the typical Japanese boy tended to be quiet, meek and not at all inclined to pick up an AK47 and stalk from classroom to classroom pumping round after round into tearchers and classmates. Kind of makes me wonder if more politically correct cartoons is really what this country needs...

      Of course, everything else in the culture is pretty severe too, but at the same time very people-oriented. In times gone past, massive rounds of layoffs due to poor stock performance was unheard of. I don't know if this is still the case; Western values might be creeping in and causing the companies to treat their people more like the robotic drones as most western companies do.

      I think that of all the cultures and people on the planet, the one least likely to ever be understood by any American (including myself) are the Japanese. Even if you spend your whole life among them, I think that from time to time something will happen that will surprise and befuddle you. But that depth of culture is also what makes them so cool, so it's OK.

    • You know, some of us "anime freaks in the US" like anime because we like anime. The anime we enjoy has things that we just can't find in most American TV shows. Plot and characterization, for example. Writing that doesn't treat us like drooling morons. (Though that could be the translations) Half-decent science fiction or fantasy. Good action sequences. (Voice) Actors who can, you know, act.

      Second thing to remember: there has never, as far as I can remember, been a single "mainstream" article written about anime that gets this. They all seem to try to portray it as some "artistic" thing or some such. None have considered the fact that people might enjoy a medium for other reasons...

    • Having seen some Doraemon episode , the show is actually quite a lot of fun because that robotic cat tries to help and things often go unexpectedly worng (misspelling is deliberate, but you know what I mean ^_^ ).

      The reason why Detective Conan is very popular in Japan is the fact the Japanese LOVE detective mystery stories in general. That does explain why the Sherlock Holmes stories are quite popular in Japan.

      Another enormously popular series in Japan is Osamu Akimoto's Kochikame (as the series is affectionately called in Japan--the full name is actually quite long--I believe it's Kochira Katsushikaku Kouen-mae Hasutsujo or something very close to that). Poor Ryoutsu Kankiichi--every crazy scheme he tries usually ends up being a major disaster one way or another. :-) The manga serial has been running in Shounen Jump since 1976, and the anime series has been running since 1996. Akimoto's keen sense of every major Japanese fad makes it a very fun series to read and/or watch if you are fluent in Japanese.

  • by ookaze ( 227977 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @07:36AM (#4641669) Homepage
    Well, I'm used to read such nonsense from people which don't know a thing about anime. It's really sad.
    The article is seriously stupid, and the author doesn't know a thing !
    Point by point :
    - Yes, Yamato was a shift in anime, but it didn't cause a boom : the boom was a long time before 1977, and that's why Yamato came. The major thing Yamato changed, was in the songs used in anime. Before Yamato, there were 5 assigned singers (3 men, 2 women) for anime (I remember some names like Mizuki Ichirou, Kooro Gi, and of course the great Horie Mitsuko). Since the Yamato film, which used pop artists, every anime started to use people whose it was the job to sing :)
    - A lot of anime were indeed adult and successful before 1977, Yamato being one of them. The guy is sickening now...
    - Nausicaa was NOT a big success ! Nausicaa was renowned among anime fans, that's true. Miyazaki didn't overturn anything. Toei made more bucks with his films than those of Miyazaki, until Mononoke. Miyazaki started to be a success in Japan since Mononoke Hime, when more money was put on ads. Only anime fans reverred Miyazaki well before that time.
    - The gold years of anime where the 80s, NOT 90s ! 90s where the decline, and then, the end of cellulo. It seems to be going back nowadays.
    - this guy clearly doesn't know a thing about animation : the biggest mistake he makes is the same 99% of people do. He takes it all backwards, thinking anime is a subset of live movie. But it's the other way : live movie is the simplest and less powerful animation : it's limited to still images of reality, and not even perfect images at that. That's why there was always the need to blend special effects or other forms of animation (like CG) in live action films, because it's too limited. On the other hand, drawn animation is the most powerful of animation (the only limit is your imagination and skills), but as such, the most difficult to master. Some people I know who study animation don't even know when live animation started to be predominant, but I think one of the reason was that it looked more real ! Remember the Frères Lumières and their first show :)
    - The only thing that made people think that animation is for children is Dysney !!!! Animation, in the start, was NOT considered for children !!! It was for adults, were presented in theater, and even served as propaganda during war ! Sone like this guy saying anime was for children principally is a cretin which doesn't even know history... And to add to the bad things Dysney have done, they shut down every other animation (be it japanese or from east Europe), threatening festivals were they were broadcasted, from the start until now. But I guess a lot of people do not know that, taht was the goal. They even continue nowadays.
    - Anime can be as, even more convincing than live. But a lot of the performance is dependent on the voice actors. The "fleshy presence" is a nonsense. Anime can be more powerful than any live. You can't dismiss the power of pictures because they are not taken from "reality". Sone tell this guy that horror or porn in anime can not be shown to small kids : even without "flesh" presence, the subjective power is still stronger than anything. Imagination has always been more powerful than reality.
    - The guy is stuck on "visual realism". That is, he can't even understand animation, as "visual realism" is only one feature of live animation. You can not judge anime by "visual realism", that's not one of it's features, though you can put such pictures in anime (it has even been done already). The purpose of anime is to present sth, not to be "realist".
    - Another common pitfall. The author himself falls in it without even knowing. One of the power of anime, is that you can more easily identify yourself to a character. I mean, a japanese, looking at an anime character, will see a japanese. And an european will see an european, an american will see an american (except if it's too "realistic"). That's why the guy doesn't see a japanese in the characters. And the eyes have nothing to do with nationality : look at Tintin !
    Or think that nobody has so wide round open eyes as you can see sometimes, or has blue or pink hairs :) And then I read nonsense about asians not beinat advantages on screens : very sad to read such stupid things...
    - The author apparently comes from the "caste" of people which rejects Japan history. All japanese are not among this group, and there is conflict, even in manga, on the subject. This turns into politics after that, and I'm tired already of this guy. Surely, I don't love all japanese (and surely not this one)...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    OK, slashdot. WE GET IT. Anime is SO IMPORTANT that we all must stand up and take notice. We all must worship the silly cartoons where women are drawn like 12 year-olds with eye problems. We get it. Anime is SO important and SO beyond our conceptions that only you few nerds are capable of understanding. Right. We bow down before the might of Japanese animation. Only the elect nerds of slashdot "Get it". Verily they must bring the gospel of Japan to the world because god help us, the rest of the world JUST DOES NOT UNDERSTAND how IMPORTANT and AWESOME and SIGNIFICANT Japanese cartoons really REALLY are.

    Sorry Rob, we haven't been paying Anime-fu enough attention. The world has not taken notice of your holy apostolic Anime web site. We have sinned, verily, and thy wrath is shown to all the world on You were right--maybe if you post JUST ONE MORE ARTICLE about how AWESOME and SIGNIFICANT anime is, and how we JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND, we'll all change our ways. We great unwashed JUST DON'T GET IT. North American culture == bad, neurotic Japanese culture == god. WE GET IT. Loud and clear, A-OK! North american animation is JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
  • I'm constantly disappointed by peoples utter lack of knowledge about exactly how far back the tradition goes. I'm not a fan of anime, and I've never been one, but even I can see that the roots of anime go back several centuries. To say that they come from manga is only one step in the right direction. Japanese printmakers such as Hokusai [] and others in the Edo period are the ones that really started the ball rolling.
  • Yeah, very interesting article.

    Sad that there is alot of "Nihon-jin banare" is still around. It has really been pumped into Japanese culture over the decades. Especially during the 80s. I reckon that there is a collective rejection of this way of thinking coming to the fore however. The "White way" is becoming less popular with the yute, and, unlike Michael Jackson, the Japanese are proud to appreciate and celebrate the inherent non-whiteness of their condition. In time, I believe we will see more and more anime, manga, video games etc propogating the "obviously" Japanese as main characters.

    On a racially neutral aside,. I've noticed that anime are extremely popular in the US aswell as the mother-land. I read an article saying that you will be getting plenty of anime on cartoon network etc. The same just doesn't apply here in Europe. They're really popular with you guys eh?

    I am in the UK and speak from the viewpoint of having a Japanese wife who has downloaded loads and loads of anime.

    I like most of the biggies, Ghost in the Shell being my fave. A truly exceptional animated movie. Akira, Fist of the North star etc. But I aint overly crazy about them. I saw the first couple of stand alone complexes too.

    Ghibli Studio work is certainly of a higher standard than Disney too, for the most part. Maybe its just me, but I think that culturally we in Europe/UK really don't appreciate anime half as much as you do in the US.

    Anyway, this is a good topic for me. A car will be arriving in less than 2 hrs to take me to the airport where we will be getting on the wonderful 12hr flight to Tokyo. FUckin' A. HEere I come!

    • Thats cause your not in Portugal, where people droll over locomotion, a channel that playes here, in brazil and spain with loads of Anime, not counting with every single national channels.
      Portugal youth is crazy about anime :p Spain had hentai freaks and anime fans even before we did. Not counting with france, wich even translates a good deal of original comics *want the comics of sailormoon, dragonball, and almost everything you can imagine? get it from france.*

      UK isnt EUrope *it was suposed to be part of it*, and by the current political affairs, its in danger of becomming more of an American probe preventing Europe from gaining ascension, than a true ally.

    • I reckon that there is a collective rejection of this way of thinking coming to the fore however. The "White way" is becoming less popular with the yute, and, unlike Michael Jackson, the Japanese are proud to appreciate and celebrate the inherent non-whiteness of their condition.

      Aha ! I knew there was a reason japanese animators were using so much color ! It is due to the inherent non-whiteness of their condition ! They will never pull a vile Casper tfg !

      go, purple, go !

      (exclamation marks are the vilest form of sarcasm !!! )
  • The moe genre (Score:2, Interesting)

    The article didn't mention that the reason anime got so popular in Japan is the "moe" genre. "Moe" anime is the type that somewhat arouses sexual fantasies.

    More than half of the anime contains at least one of the following components: cat ear, uniform, lolita, maid, nurse, baby sister, female teacher... And I don't mean anime pr0n. These are the anime that turned lonely boys into otakus.

    Of course many of these anime are excellent in terms of intriguing plot and excellent story, but they wouldn't be nearly as popular if the moe element were removed.

    Here are some names of the anime that falls in to the moe category: Love Hina Ah My Godess Sister Princess DiGi Charat Onegai Teacher Handy Maid May Chobits Hanaukyo Maids ...

    Oh and I got hooked on Hanaukyo Maids (Shame on me!)

    • SHAME ON YOU!!! The dogma amongst Anime advocates is that there is no sex in Anime, there would never be disgusting, sexist material in Anime if it were not for the demands of gaijin consumers. Sexy cartoons have nothing to do with the appeal of Anime. NONE!!!
    • "Moe" anime is the type that somewhat arouses sexual fantasies

      More than half of the anime contains at least one of the following components: sister...

      Is anyone else as squicked out as me?
    • by Synn ( 6288 )
      Cat ear? Um, can anyone explain this one to me.
  • by kev0153 ( 578226 )
    Can anyone recommend a good site or list of Anime titles for a person thats wants to get more into it? I've started watching Cowboy Bebop on the Cartoon Network and really like it. Any more titles like this one? Thanks
  • I'd have to agree with the commentary on the rejection of the japanese self in alot of anime. If you look at the big-budget space operas, alot of them have to deal with thematic apocalypse/destruction, a social afterthought of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Yamamoto, Macross, Akira...big things go boom!

    Also, consider this -- there are alot of old school Hollywood directors who feel that b&w is an integral element of being able to carry a fantastic story -- something about colour becoming a distraction. Very few directors use colour as a dramtic/thematic device successfully (exmaple: Antonioni; Kubrick). The colour element brings you too close to reality to believe in the farce such as "Some Like it Hot" (2 cross dressing guys escaping the mob), and Citizen Kane would not look as good if shot in colour. In this way, abstracting a fanastic theme from reality by presenting it in an anime style allows you to appreciate the story much more effectively... I would be postively scared of watching Ranma 1/2 in live action...ewwwww....
    • there are alot of old school Hollywood directors who feel that b&w is an integral element of being able to carry a fantastic story

      The frame rate and lack of excessive movement is just as important in anime as B&W is to Hollywood. Has anyone seen any of "Platonic Chain" yet? (One liner: Japanese schoolgirls with video cellphones become a sort of P2P network of cable public access shows.) It's done with full CGI (cel shading on the characters) and motion capture (and the camera viewpoint moves like crazy too). The CGI is technically interesting, but all that motion capture is annoying as hell.

      On the other end you have Violinist of Hamelin, which is basically a slide show with voice actors. Some of the scenes aren't even fully painted, but are just pastel sketches! The few sequences with full frame rate animation tend to get re-used in flash backs. Low-budget at its lowest.

  • Whats next..."Bugs Bunny, He's Significant! More Significant than YOU anyhow!"... Anime: In the 80's I was really into it, trouncing upong any mecha-space-scifi I could find (yeah, Robotech peaked my interest just as GForce and StarBlazers did a decade earlier). Sadly, today all the anime I see makes me generally cringe. Much in the same way American movies feature the same stereotypical characters, so does much of the Anime I'm seeing now. They all have the same cast of characters and I've grown weary. The brooding anti-hero, the gender-ambiguous guy/girl/silent character, the screechy young female character....the fat "comic relief" character...and must every anime film on earth have at least one pantyshot per episode? I mean, I'm starting to thinkt hat all anime is good for is Tentacle Pr0n. :P I've tried watching the incredible Gundam series (all of them), and find the animation on the newer ones to be jaw dropping, and the stories to be convoluted and ridiculous. I guess I dont buy "kids in giant mecha suits". Oh, and voiceovers....dubbing basically destorys anime, period. Then again, you might get tired of hearing every single character in non-dubbed anime sounding like a gravel-throated Japanese warlord. :P I love the Japanese culture, or rather...Japanese Pop Culture.....but at the same time, I'm finding all that made Anime so great to me back in the day to be tired and rehashed today. Oh well, I'm jaded ;)
  • Blue Moon (Score:5, Funny)

    by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @12:43PM (#4643170)
    "what he meant was that to express within the Japanese cultural framework the same emotion expressed in English by 'I love you,' one must choose words like 'The moon is so blue tonight.'"

    Does this mean that for Japanese to truly express the emotion behind, "You're so hot, I can't stand it!" they have to resort to phrases like, "My twin moons are so blue for you tonight."?
  • From the article:

    This may be why, since the 1980s, young people in Japan have increasingly disdained the expression of serious or dramatic emotion as kusai, or corny, and prized the appearance of emotional detachment as kakko-ii, or cool.

    Anyone else seem to think this same description fits any adolecent of America and other countries? Let's face at, as a world, drama and love emmotions are generaly regarded as corny. The best hero's, the people we look up to are the ones that are stoic.
  • This was a very interesting discussion thread that occurred on recently that I think people would do well to read through, as it contains some very interesting information:

    The State of Anime Fandom in Japan []

    Regarding some of the general comments people are making, they seem a bit extreme on both ends, which I guess is to be expected.....both the people saying "anime sucks, it's all porn" and the people who say that "anime rules, it's the only thing that has real plot and characterization and isn't tainted by commercialization like American stuff is" are both equally ridiculous statements. Anime in fact isn't all porn, and like any other medium it has had its share of good stuff as well as a lot of bad shows. And of course, the notion some extreme anime fans have that anime is good because it isn't commercialized is ridiculous, as anime is heavily commercialized, and many shows are made solely based on how well they will sell, which is why you often see a lot of recycled plots, character designs and story concepts.

    Just in general, anime is way too broad for I think many of the comments being made here to be very has its share of crap and its share of brilliant work. I could say the same thing about movies, television, books, comic books, etc.......take almost any of the comments being made in this thread and replace "anime" with "movies", "television", "books", "comic books" etc. and perhaps this will give you a better indication of how ridiculous some of the statements are.

    Anime is not all stale and recycled plots, and it is not all the same big eye style of animation......a few shows that wouldn't fit this mold would include Boogiepop Phantom, Niea_7, Now And Then Here And There, etc. If I had to guess I would say that a lot of the negative comments are being made by people with a very limited exposure to only certain kinds of anime, which would be about on par with making a value judgement on "movies" after watching some pornography tapes.


  • the author starts from a perspective where animated film (not necessarily anime) is inherently inferior to live-action because it has less visual depth and detail. what he disregards is, that as with any book, a good story only has to provide the necessary elements and hooks for your imagination to kick in and fill in the details.

    The best images come from the viewer's inmagination. I wonder what books he reads if he has to be spoon-fed every detail.

    A good example is the movie "Pink Floyd - The Wall". It has both, good live-action and stunning animation. But the animation is far more intense than the live-action here.

    How did this link make it to /.? The "review" of anime isn't even starting on good premises for a decent review of animated film. In short: he doesn't get it.

  • Missing Something... (Score:4, Informative)

    by ronfar ( 52216 ) on Monday November 11, 2002 @02:33PM (#4644040) Journal
    Hmm, what is missing in the article is the way Japanese and American society diverged on the subject of comic books due to the intervention of the State. Back in the 1950's (the time of the Cold War, the Korean War, Joe McCarthy and the like) American comic books were being squarely aimed at older teenagers and young adults. They were becoming very popular and experiencing tremendous growth. Popular titles dealt with War, Crime, Horror and Science Fiction.

    What happened? Well, a status seeking psychologist by the name of Frederick Wertham wrote a book called Seduction of the Inncoent and the Senate Subcommitee on juvenile deliquancy decided to hold hearings. Certain comic book companies were practically blacklisted (E. C. Comics ended up with only Mad Magazine being available, and even that was often watched by the F.B.I. []). It was a bad time to be a comic artist or writer.

    The effects of this assault on comics as an art form can still be felt today in the United States, and as far as I can tell a similar crackdown did not occur in Japan at any point in recent history. (At any rate, I haven't read anything in the history of manga that would suggest it.)

  • outdated (Score:2, Informative)

    by andang ( 167918 )
    This article is somewhat outdated. The recent movie by MIYAZAKI Hayao is Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro Kamikakushi) even The Cat Return (Neko no Ongaeshi) is around the corner.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain