Friday, July 27

The Significance of Anime

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.

Another excellent article talks about anime in general. Full link is here.

1 comment:

Shura said...

Maybe it's just nostalgia and sentimentality catching up to me, but while I do like a lot of series that are being released nowadays, I feel that contemporary anime is "lacking" compared to their earlier predecessors. Especially from the 1980's and early 1990's. I realize that this is due to factors such as generational differences, changes in usage of digression and subplot, pop culture trends, etc. When one compares the anime they made in the 1980's and 1990's, 21-st century anime seems to be accredited to serve as marketing vehicles for merchandise, a media companion to the novels or manga that the series is adapted from, particular niches in Japanese society, i.e. mecha fans, gaming otaku, etc. Some people would criticize me for looking at past anime through "rose-tinted glasses", but while there was plenty of poorly executed series, the intent of anime back then was for entertainment as well as achievement. Thus, anime made back has a certain degree of replay value that showcases what seems to be missing today.
However, on the plus side, it is also noted that more mature subject matter and characterizations are being made apparent in its intent to draw in older audiences. So on one hand, the anime industry at the moment is geared on catering to viewer ratings and profit margins, there is also a growing movement of studios that are shying away from mass marketing and are focusing on independent works and series that focus more on stylistic as well as substantive elements in its direction. The dichotomy of such difference approaches in anime is probably what makes present day anime tolerable and sometimes even interesting to watch.