The first article in this series is available here.
This series on the sakuga community is going to be half articles, half interviews of members of the community. The goal of these interviews is to provide some individual and personal accounts of the growth of sakuga, to accompany and contrast with the more general articles.
This time, I got to talk with manuloz, French anime and sakuga fan, and admin of the (now offline) website manganimation.net
Let’s start with the beginning : could you tell how and when you became an anime fan ?
In France, my generation, in the 80’s, was lucky enough to grow up with anime on the Cinq, the Club Dorothée, etc. My favorites at the time were Dragon Ball, Ranma ½ and Sailor Moon. But I was young and I didn’t identify them as “anime” coming from Japan. Then, there started to be less new things, but thanks to cable TV and the Récré Kids program, I still managed to watch some classics for a few more years – but I still didn’t ask myself where they came from.
It all changed with Internet and piracy : in high school, my best friend once gave me a CD with a pirated version of Evangelion. That was a big shock : I wanted some more, and I followed on with the movies, Kare Kano, and the first FLCL. That must’ve been in ’98 or ’99.
Then I became a fan : because of the subs, I finally understood that those cartoons were from Japan. After that, I started researching and I met the word “anime”. I understood that Japanese production had never stopped and that they kept doing new “anime” every year.
And after that, how did you discover sakuga ? By some special sequences, or animators ?
I became interested in talented animators a bit later and more gradually. I kept following the projects of Gainax, and at the time (2000-2005) it was full of talent that just waited to be discovered. I collected the illustrations they made for Newtype and Animage that were on the Net, and I followed the studio’s website that offered some presentations of their productions. That’s when the names started to get in : Tadashi Hiramatsu, Hiroyuki Imaishi, Sushio, Yuka Shibata, Chikashi Kubota, etc. At the time (2002), they had started publishing illustrations on the website, and sometimes they were made by these animators.
Then, my research on FLCL and its sometimes very idiosyncratic style led me to the Catsuka website. I started to get close to it, to get interested in animation with some precision, but that’s still a higher, easier level : the animator/director with a very distinct style, notably the shorts produced by Studio 4°C made by Koji Morimoto, Tatsuyuki Tanaka, or Kazuto Nakazawa.
Hiroyuki Imaishi wasn’t far : he made himself known with his episode on FLCL (#5), Abenobashi #3 and #11. And finally there was the announcement of his first movie at Production IG, Dead Leaves, that we could watch in 2004/5. My jaw dropped at the final climax, an awesome fight between two charismatic female characters. I then asked myself : who did that ? I found the answer on Ben Ettinger’s blog, Anipages Daily. For me, he’s the first animation expert on the web ! Oh, and by the way, the animator was Sushio : he instantly became a favorite.
Did you speak Japanese at the time ? To understand the names and the Japanese websites ?
No and I still don’t. To be accurate, that was the [English speaking] Gainax website that I visited regularly.
From what I gather, it’s on the Anipages and Catsuka forums that discussions started and the community began. Could you tell if there were a lot of people ? And a lot of other French ?
I don’t know everything, but I suppose so. It’s also possible that the silent visitors of these websites have become today’s sakuga fans. Anipages’ forum was especially used by the community that had formed on the English-speaking forum of the Production IG forum ; you could occasionally meet people like Bahi JD. You also musn’t forget other platforms like YouTube : that’s where I met Bahi JD for the first time, he contacted me about one of my videos. At the time, he was already very curious and passionate. The Castuka forum could enjoy the presence of animation pros and students that were already interested in sakuga. It went even further with people like Thomas Romain and Eddie Mehong that helped us to know more about how a production works.
I’d say that there weren’t many people at the beginning, but that the community progressively reached more people. The videos we shared spoke for themselves.
I wasn’t a member, but I also believe that today’s sakuga fans emerged from the Naruto forums. I once stumbled on a forum whose name I forgot, and the members understood very well who was responsible for the best moments of the series, and had compiled a list of the most important episodes.
I didn’t know you also did videos. What were they like ? MADs or things like that ?
That brings me to my next question, about your own website, manganimation.net. When did you get the idea ?
The idea of speaking about sakuga ?
That’s a bit hard without the website at hand (it’s offline), but I think I started with pieces about new projects, where I shared some info about projects with a staff I knew and liked. Sometimes I went further, like for example the news on Genius Party which included a focus on Shinya Ohira with visuals from the mook Animation Note.
After that, the sharing animation topic on the Catsuka forum convinced me that it’d be nice to share some pieces on animators. Here are the first examples I could find of these “Sakuga Dump” :
Do you remember when the site went offline ?
So that’s pretty recent. You kept posting there until then, or you stopped earlier ?
We kept posting, but more slowly.
Ok. Now about the booru : I imagine you saw it appear and that you followed its evolution ?
I did. Though that may be surprising, I never created an account. But the idea is very good, and also how it evolved with the Sakuga Blog.
You think the community has changed a lot since then ?
If the number of followers of the creators of the project is an indicator, it’s pretty good : they’re around 10k followers. It did make it more democratic, especially with English that makes the blog reach further. Animation fans today are very lucky, I think.