Starting Point

You might be aware that 2020 has been a busy year. For the world at large, of course (and I’m not going into that), but for me as well. I moved into an apartment of my own, began working on a Master’s thesis, organized a seminar on anime at my university and, of course, started this blog. The first anniversary of Animétudes will arrive in a bit less than two months, and I initially planned to release this then. But I got an idea for a less rambling, more interesting celebratory post – and here I am, improvising a sort of stream-of-consciousness thing for the end of the year. This is my first time at this, and I hope you will be indulgent.

Starting the blog meant being more (should I say very ?) active on Twitter. I don’t really know if that was for the best: I’ve never spent that much time on social media before, and for the past few months, it feels like I’ve only been thinking about anime and nothing else. Basically, I’ve become a full-fledged otaku. But the flip side is that I’ve made many wonderful meetings: Josh, who I looked up to in my first days of discovering sakuga; Dimitri, my editor on Full Frontal who quickly became my friend; Emmanuel, who’s as close to a senpai as I think I’ll ever get; Toadette, who helped me grow so much as an animation fan; Fede, whose knowledge I will never stop admiring; thaliarchus, who I imagine as the ideal British I always wished I were; and, more recently, Kraker, Fmod and Nav, fellow aniboomers (is that the right word ?) with whom I can speculate on the color of Yoshinori Kanada’s underwear (we never had that conversation, I’m not sure if we should)… and many others. Without all that, the last two lockdowns would have been much lonelier.

I never expected the blog to grow so fast, and my engagement with anime to get so deep in so little time. A year ago, I was vaguely aware of Kanada as this really cool animator that I liked, and now here I am, a self-proclaimed expert on the man planning to release maybe a bit more than hundred pages on him and his influence. 

This website was initially conceived as a place where I could try out various speculations about anime that I played with in my leisure time – I didn’t think I’d get accepted for a Master’s on the subject, and thought that I might never have another opportunity to talk in a bit of depth about the thing that I love so much. With two lockdowns behind me and a third looming, I can say this has become something of a fulltime job.

So, what’s the point of this post ? Not much, really… Meditating on how the blog has evolved and where it’s going, basically. This is my own little “Starting Point”, if I may be so bold as to quote the great Hayao Miyazaki. When will the “Turning Point” arrive, I wonder.

Initially, I was really focused on theory. I still think of myself as a philosophy rather than a film student, but back then, I was really deep into it, and I basically wanted to write a philosophy of anime. Thus, my first posts, probably pretty abstract. But these were the things I had to say back then, and I still hold  to most of them – I’ve never made it explicit, but they’re still very much the theoretical backbone of everything I’m doing now, and I don’t think what I’ve been trying to do with my historical essays (what I’m calling my “sakuga history of anime”, more on that later) can really be understood without the perspective of my previous meditations on the fact that anime is just a production process, or the importance of actually studying animators, or why framerate modulation is such a decisive technique.

The shift probably occurred when I wrote my article about Otomo’s short films. Looking back at it now, with much more knowledge under my belt, I wish I could rewrite it – there are so many more things I could add, and so many new links I could make ! I pictured it as another relatively theoretical post – applying Thomas Lamarre’s pioneering work in animation theory to an important anime director. But I chose to focus on Otomo’s lesser-known works, and that sent me down the path of anime history: I began researching his career, his influences, his evolution over time.

This played into my big historian’s mindset: my obsession with doing things in chronological order, to look at the origins rather than the results. And it’s then that I started working on what’s probably my biggest work to date, the series on TMS. As crazy as that can seem, I initially thought that I could fit it all in a single article – after seeing Space Adventure Cobra, I grew curious about that studio that produced so many Dezaki shows, but also the Lupin series and some of Miyazaki’s first works. For so many important people to have worked so close to each other, it must have been damn important, I thought. And, well, it was ! After some research, I realized it would need more than a single piece – and so I started investigating the very first anime series, dug up Anipages articles like crazy, and received the immense help of Toadette, who I really want to credit as the co-writer of that series. Without them, it would have been much shorter and less interesting.

And here I am now, kinda bound to these big, multiple article projects like the one on TMS or the one on sakuga. They’re very time consuming, and maybe pretty niche (ok, animation can be interesting, but an entire series on animation fans ?), but they’re a lot of fun to write, and I hope they are as interesting to read. I’ve always wanted to be able to dig up information and share it around like that, and in that sense I am very fulfilled. I’ve become a total nerd, but I’d like to think I’m good at it.

This brings me to the future of the blog. This is, after all, the point of this post, isn’t it ? The first half of 2021, and maybe more, on Animétudes will be dedicated to the publication of the Kanada series. I think that I’ve already written something like half of it, and by the time when the articles start going out, I should be almost done with the most part. This is the biggest project I’ve ever worked on, and I plan to make it even bigger: after it’s done, I want to merge it with the TMS series, significantly edit the two of them, and put out a single file/book that would be a sakuga history of anime – a look at anime’s evolution through its animators. Maybe that one day, I’ll be even more ambitious and complete it with a  third part on the 2000’s and 2010s… Who knows.

But, as this post might already indicate, I’ve been wanting to try out other things. More simple, relatively educative posts, like the “Animation Fundamentals” I’ve been doing for Full Frontal. But also more spontaneous, maybe personal ones. The time when this was what blogs were all about is long past, I know. But I’ve been reading a lot of Benjamin Ettinger’s writings on Anipages recently, and my admiration for him has been steadily growing. I’d like to write a tribute just to him and what I owe to him, one day. And one thing that struck me so much about his writing was the love you feel through all of it – love for animation as a medium, and not just the very technical, nitty-gritty kind of things I’ve been doing. This may just be an illusion on my part, but Ettinger’s writing is something I wish I could replicate to some degree, even though I know this blog will never equal Anipage’s richness, depth and diversity. One of the causes of that may just be that Ettinger’s sights went far beyond just anime, and considered animation and sometimes even film as a whole. I wish I could do that, but my completionist mindset is too strong – I want to have seen every anime in a systematic fashion before I can start getting to every other animated work in a similarly systematic fashion. Maybe the time when I’ll publish the Kanada school will be the good time for that – I’ll probably keep writing for Full Frontal on the side, but Animétudes will be fully occupied for at least a few months, even though all the writing will have been done since a while. So maybe I’ll enjoy it to take a break from anime, and get deeper into cartoon and world animation. So that the first few letters in Animétudes will stand for animation and not just anime. Who knows, if I’m writing something similar in a year from now, I might tell you that I’m done with anime and that now is the time of real art, not just this otaku bullshit. Oh, well. Let’s just hope we all make it through until then.

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