Saturday, November 28, 2009

Anime? Anyone?

Living in Tokyo, Japan has granted me some folly as well as wisdom. It killed a lot of very erroneous, preconceived notions about Japan and Japanese culture. And it heightened my appreciation for the many good things Japan has to offer.

Despite what one would think, however, living in Japan has made me develop an almost irrational and pathological dislike for Japanese Anime.

I never thought the day would come, because it seems like only yesterday I regarded Japanese animation almost as the "second coming" in terms of what it had to offer the animation medium.

Todd McFarland (comic artist of Spider-Man and Spawn fame) summed up Japanese animation best for me as I paraphrase: "Japanese animation has mastered giving you the impression a lot is happening, when it really isn't."

Animation in general is very expensive. Japanese animation studios have mastered holding people's attentions with extremely limited animation (held poses, talking heads on static bodies that almost never move, animation sometimes done on 4's, 8's and 12's) BUT holding everything together with simple, but solid draftsmanship, action scenes that ARE animated quite well and dynamically, and reasonably compelling and mature plotlines.

I feel it has been the draftsmanship and the plotlines that has made the world go ape over Japanese animation over the past few years.

Japanese anime can be like "moving manga" (not a far stretch from the old Marvel Superheroes cartoons from the 1960's for those who know). The Japanese animation way is more concerned with presenting a graphic image rather than putting forth a convincing acting "performance" ala "Disney".

Is there good Japanese animation? Hell, yes. Katsuhiro Otomo is still number one in my book. Yes, Hayao Miyazaki is a true artist and visionary. Japanese animation has its place in the world as a viable medium and it deserves appreciation on it's own special merits.

Personally I'm glad that there is a huge fan base for Japanese animation in this digital age of CG animation. (which from looking at recent B.O. sales seems to have been losing it's "wow"-factor steam unless it has "Pixar" or "Dreamworks" on the billing) Japanese Anime serves as an example that there are those who still have a huge interest and appreciation for traditionally hand-drawn animation.

Sad to hear that in the past couple of years that DVD sales for Japanese animation has plummeted (as interest in the medium continues to rise). Let's face it, video piracy is to blame here. The majority of the consumers who are into anime are not the types to go out to the local video store for the newest anime when they can get it online for free. Not a good thing.

Found an interesting story from the Wall Street Journal on how the animation business in Japan hasn't been doing so well, and those who love the art of animation who are willing to endure during these tough times.


  1. I have to agree. I generally prefer manga over anime due to the fact that anime is just moving pictures. Mainly seasonal animation(12-25 episodes), generally have many episodes of just mundane animation that bores the hell out of me even if the story is descent. Its usually the movies/specials that have a little more than just moving pics. But if you search, you can find some really great animation(not moving pictures) coming out of Japan. Tokyo Godfathers by Satoshi Kon is one of my favorites. The expression that goes into the movements of the characters is outstanding. Mindgame, Toujin Kit(short), and Tekkon kinkreet by Studio 4C are also some other great ones.

    Found your page from Mateen. Are you still in Japan?

  2. Whoops!
    I JUST saw your comment. (which you posted in April! O_o)

    I agree with you. Satoshi Kon is....was a great one. Unfortunately he passed away recently as you probably know.

    Yes I am still in Japan. Mateen, yes nice guy. But I think the last time I saw him was like in April too!