The politics of 80s anime: the 198X controversy

Many thanks to Drake and Renato Rivera Rusca for providing the sources for this article

The representation of war in Japanese media has always been a complicated issue. In the case of anime, the Space Battleship Yamato franchise is something of a typical example: while the original show undoubtedly condemns war and violence, the series as a whole makes intense use of ambiguous World War II imagery and militarist rhetoric. It has, for those reasons, largely been claimed by sections of the Japanese far-right. 

Non-Japanese, especially Western, audiences may sometimes be aware of such debates, but rarely of the detail of the arguments or who was involved in them. We are all the more inclined to brush off such specificities, as a common narrative of Japanese social history and anime history holds that, starting from the 1980’s, the Japanese population has gotten increasingly distant from politics. The rise of apolitical otaku circles and their own ironical, derivative aesthetic seems to confirm this tendency. But in the very same period, and at the exact moment when otaku communities as we know them were forming, a controversy shook the anime industry and revealed that political debate and action were very much on the agenda for some creators. It all happened around a single movie that came out in November 1982: Future War 198X. Not only did the film spark discussions within the anime industry and community proper, it also caused nation-wide movements from actors outside of the anime world, such as Parent-Teachers Associations or the Japanese Communist Party. The stakes were Japan’s domestic and foreign policies, but also the very purpose of the animated medium.

Future War 198X, the movie

Before anything, it is necessary to discuss Future War 198X, its content and context, outside of the controversy and debates it sparked. From an industry perspective, Future War 198X perfectly fits in the “anime movie boom” that covered the extended decade between 1977 and 1989. Studio Tôei had played a major role in this boom: although not initially involved in the Yamato TV show, they were the ones to distribute the 1977 recap film that sparked the boom, and then produce Farewell Space Battleship Yamato, which would remain the highest-grossing animated film in Japan for a decade. After such a success, Tôei increased its production of SF movies, some of which, like 1985’s Odin, were clear attempts at replicating Yamato’s success.

Produced throughout 1981 and released in 1982, Future War 198X came out while the Yamato franchise was still going strong and releasing new entries. Although famous (and controversial) producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki wasn’t involved, there were many other contributors from Yamato on 198X: producer Tôru Yoshida had been in charge of Farewell Yamato in 1978 and Be Forever Yamato in 1980, and the two directors were closely involved with the series. On the Tôei side, Tomohiro Katsumata had been Chief Animation Director of Farewell Yamato, and Chief Director of Be Forever; on the Office Academy side, it was ex-Nikkatsu live-action war movies director Toshio Masuda, who had been supervisor on the original TV series, directed the 1977 recap movie and then Farewell and Be Forever

At the top level, only two artists were uninvolved with Yamato, and in fact came from outside the anime world. The first was writer Kôji Takada, a playwright and screenwriter for Tôei’s live-action movies. The second was Noriyoshi Orai, a famous Japanese painter and illustrator who had, among other things, been specially commissioned by George Lucas to paint the international poster for The Empire Strikes Back. Orai had done illustrations that appear in the movie, but also original designs and image boards. He was central to the movie’s aesthetic and purpose.

Some of Orai’s image boards for the movie

What Tôei aimed for with the movie was “realism”, in both narrative (military and geopolitics experts were consulted at the writing stage) and design. In the words of Tôei’s CEO Yoshinori Watanabe, this meant moving away from the manga style: “I wanted to make a movie that didn’t look like manga. Until now, the original drawings for animation were done by manga artists. […] The kind of animation that has been produced so far [in Japan] is in a “Japanese style”. But the biggest drawback of Japanese-style drawings is that they lack realism. I wanted to create realism with Western-style images.”

198X was both in the continuity of previous Tôei movies and very different from them. It was similar, especially to Yamato entries, in the realism of its mechanical designs – all of which were from real machines and weapons. However, in terms of character designs, it had nothing to do with the stylized drawings of artists like Leiji Matsumoto or Keiko Takemiya, who had been the original artists behind some of Tôei’s adaptations in the early 80s. This distinct absence of a “manga style” was not just the result of Orai’s presence. 198X was an ambitious and international production, with costume designs by French designer André Courrèges. Yoshinori Watanabe even aimed to show the movie at the International Cannes Film Festival. It was also a technically pioneering work as the hand-drawn animation process was supported by computer animation. I couldn’t quite figure out what exactly what Watanabe called “Super Real Vision” entailed, but it seems to have been used to create the atomic blasts effects, which were composited with the 2D sequences.

In spite of these lofty ambitions, Future War is pretty bad, like many of Tôei’s movies produced during the period. But its narrative is worth examining in the context of the Cold War in the early 1980’s. Indeed, the movie tries to retrace how World War III between the US and the Soviet Union could happen and goes far to create a believable scenario, with lots of maps, on-screen text, and geopolitical explanations. It is also clearly anti-war, to the point that it almost becomes ridiculous in the last 15 minutes, when peace is finally achieved and all the people of the world march to celebrate.

However, in its geopolitical stance, the movie doesn’t really follow Watanabe’s claim that “there are no good guys” and that both sides are as much to blame in pushing humanity to the brink of disaster. Anticipating the announcement by US president Ronald Reagan of the Strategic Defense Initiative by a year, most of the movie’s conceit rests on the concept of orbital lasers, a system of satellites put in orbit that would be able to destroy nuclear missiles before they reach their targets. The film’s stance is quite ambiguous, as it is the development of this defense mechanism by the US that starts the escalation and ultimately triggers the conflict; but at the same time, it is thanks to it that humanity is saved in the end. In that, the movie not only anticipates the SDI, but may retrospectively be read as laying the ground for Reagan’s rhetoric.In another register, the way various geopolitical actors are represented is quite instructive. There are basically 3 nations represented (the US, USSR and Japan), plus the theater of the conflict on the East/West Germany border. It is clear that the top levels of both great powers (the US president and the first secretary of the CPSU) do not want to start a nuclear war. But it is started by the Soviet side, as a warmongering bureaucrat makes a coup and launches an attack on NATO, and then directly on the US. As for Japan, it is quickly abandoned by the US as strategically unimportant. This element may very well be read as a proof that the movie isn’t that naive when regarding the US. But on the reverse side, it does put the focus on the Japanese Self Defense Force and the military capacity of Japan. Moreover, one of the protagonists of the movie, and the ultimate savior of humanity, is a Japanese pilot: in that sense, the film does put Japan at the forefront of its narrative.

Japan in the Cold War: the political question

In any case, it was before it came out that the movie provoked the controversy that made it famous. In February 1981, the initial draft of the script was leaked to the union of Tôei Animation, whose members (108 in total, among which 43 women) made it circulate throughout the company. Many among those who read the script considered it to be “dangerous”: its depiction of war was too realistic, there were no anti-war elements to moderate it, and it seemed to provide too positive a light on nuclear escalation and Japanese military intervention. Shortly after, the union started a public campaign, expressing the refusal of its members to contribute to the movie, and appealing to the national teachers’ union and PTAs to protest against the production.

Things heated up on April 3, when major daily newspaper Asahi Shinbun published an article which read “In the midst of an animation boom, labor unions have raised their banners against Tôei Animation, the company behind the production of the feature-length animated film Future War 198X, which imagines World War III.” The movement against the movie quickly grew, and reached a first peak on May 25, when 160 representatives of around 10 groups, PTAs and teachers’ unions, gathered in the hall of the Japan Education Center in Tokyo. The result of the meeting was a new, inter-organization petition titled “Don’t let them make war anime” and, on July 7, the creation of a new structure only dedicated to protesting against the movie which organized demonstrations and talks.

Although a unified structure had been established, it seems that the various actors within the movement had their own distinct demands. On the PTA side, the problem was one of audiences: such a movie should not be shown to children, the more violent elements should be removed, and war should not be represented in a positive fashion. As a member of a PTA said, the main problem was that the script was “insensitive”. On the union side, things were more political: on one hand, there was the problem of a unilaterally negative representation of the USSR and the stressing of Japan’s role within the Western side. On the other hand, there was the question of labor conditions, as Tôei’s workers had no choice but to work on a movie that they ideologically rejected. In the words of Takashi Abe, vice-chairman of the Tôei animators’ union: “There are a lot of people on the staff who don’t really want to do it, but they have to do it for a living.”

In the end, it seems that part of the protestors’ demands were met. The movie did come out in the end, and some of the artists who worked on the movie even if they didn’t like it (such as Yoshinori Kanada, mechanical designer and animation director) were simply uncredited; but it seems that the original script which had been leaked went through major changes. Indeed, a member of a PTA reported that “things have changed thanks to the opposition”, and that multiple lines were taken off. It is very possible that the overly pacifistic ending of the actual movie was a result of this: to remove any sense of ambiguity over the ideological intentions of the work, the anti-war aspect was exaggerated and ended up taking a lot more room than it would have had initially.

However, the most interesting aspect of this entire affair is that the mobilization did not end here. On the contrary, it helped cement workers’ movements not just in Tôei, but in the entire anime industry, around the ideas of pacifism and anti-government activism. Indeed, Future War 198X came out in a very specific, and perhaps unfortunate, context: that of the mandate of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone. Nakasone was a conservative politician who, during his time as Minister of Defense in 1972, had raised the budget of the JSDF and supported Japan having its own arsenal of nuclear weapons. 10 years later, as a Prime Minister, Nakasone was very active. On the side of foreign relations, he did try to improve relations between Japan, the USSR and China; but he is mostly remembered for his friendship with US President Ronald Reagan and his proclamation that Japan would serve as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier for the US”. On domestic policy, Nakasone also followed Reagan’s example, leading a major wave of privatizations and favoring a nationalist ideology. In a highly controversial move, he was the first Prime Minister to visit Yasukuni Shrine (which lists among the enshrined multiple war criminals) in an official capacity in 1985. In other words, the political climate was tense.

In April 1983, a flyer opposing Nakasone’s government and policy was circulated throughout all anime studios in Tokyo. The organization behind it was called the “Animation United Front Group” (アニメーション共闘会議) and was a coalition between the three major workers’ groups of the industry: the Tôei union, the Tokyo Movie Shinsha union, and many animation divisions (notably Eiken, Shin-Ei Animation and Mates) of the film-industry wide union Eisanrô (Movie Production Workers). There were also freelance artists, or people not affiliated to one major studio and its union. It was the case of the most famous among the 167 signatories: Isao Takahata, Hayao Miyazaki, Yoshifumi Kondô and Yoshinori Kanada. We also find the names of veterans such as Yûgo Serikawa (from Tôei), Yasuo Otsuka (probably involved in the TMS union through Telecom), Shinsaku Kôzuma (unaffiliated), Tsutomu Shibayama (Shin-Ei), Tsukasa Tannai (unaffiliated) or young people that had just entered the industry like Akiyuki Shinbô (unaffiliated). It is striking, however, that many of the signatories had previously been employees of Tôei (and possibly of its union) or close to ex-employees. Being from older generations, they were naturally closer to the more traditional Japanese Communist Party. In any case, such a reunion of people from all over the industry was a historic event.

The flyer was titled “Stop the Nakasone Government! Let’s Build a Peaceful Tokyo” and tackled multiple issues. Generally, it expressed a strong opposition to Nakasone’s policies: the support for US military operations in Japan, the lack of subsidies for education and culture, and the shrinking of social measures for the elderly. More concretely, the appeal was centered around the impact of those nation-wide policies over the Tokyo metropolis and called for mobilization.

It states: “In order to change the metropolitan government as soon as possible, the Japanese Communist Party, the youth, labor unions and various democratic organizations have united around the JCP, and have begun to fight for the creation of a new, peaceful and safe metropolitan government.” Finally, and most interestingly for the purpose of this piece, the flyer made a direct connection between the current political mobilization and the events of 1981: “Our fight against the production and screening of the film Future War 198X has developed the connection with the nationwide anti-nuclear movement. We were able to protect many children from the dangerous content of this film. Let us now make the most of our right to choose: the path to war or the path to peace. To make Tokyo a city of peace, safety, life and culture, let us expand our policy and our circle of support in all areas and in all places!”

The fight did not stop here, as two later documents from 1985 illustrate.

The first one is a poster, issued by the JCP-related anti-nuclear organization “National Committee for the Appeal of Hiroshima and Nagasaki [for the ban of nuclear weapons]”, which featured pictures of actors such as Gô Katô, Keiko Takeshi, and director Hayao Miyazaki. This exceptional document was circulated throughout the entire Japanese film industry, including animation studios.

The other is on a smaller scale (it was signed by only 77 persons), and less related to the anti-nuclear movement. It was an appeal by yet another structure, named the “Anime Support Group” (アニメ後援会), which counted among its members artists like Yoshifumi Kondô and Yoshinori Kanada. Alongside the JCP, they were involved in a wider protest movement against the “Prevention of Espionage Relating to State Secrets” Act, which had been submitted at the Diet by the Nakasone government in 1985 and planned to enforce harsh punishment (including the death penalty) for those leaking, intentionally or not, confidential documents. This heavily debated act did not pass, with one of the major arguments of the opposition resting on freedoms of speech and press. The appeal from the Anime Support Group used the very same argument: 

“As producers of animation for children, we believe that freedom of expression and creativity is of the utmost importance in order to create better works. However, the “State Secrets Act” that the government and the Liberal Democratic Party are planning, under the pretext of preventing espionage, will undermine the people’s freedom of expression, creativity and democracy. […] We are too busy with our work of producing TV programs and films to speak out or take part in social activities, but […] we hope that the JCP will make a breakthrough in its struggle to take the lead in defending peace and democracy.”

Tsutomu Shibayama’s illustration for the 1985 appeal, in which even Doraemon is shown to be a victim of the State Secrets Act

The appeal also included references to the anti-nuclear movement, illustrating that, under the direction of the JCP, all fights were related. No artist is a better example of that than Hayao Miyazaki. As is well known, Miyazaki had been one of the early members and chairman of the Tôei union in the 1960s and, even after he left, he remained politically active. Considering the role the Tôei union had in the 198X affair and its aftermath, it makes no doubt that Miyazaki, with the connections he still had in it, was on the frontlines from the beginning. Besides his official support for the campaigns shown above, Miyazaki’s militancy was also visible in his work.

The most significant instance is a book published in December 1982, titled The World of Hayao Miyazaki and Yasuo Otsuka. As the title indicates, it consisted of various illustrations and image boards by the two men, from Hols, Prince of the Sun to The Castle of Cagliostro. As a retrospective on their careers, it should have had little to do with the current political context. But the cover of the book, an original illustration by Yasuo Otsuka, stated otherwise: it showed Nausicaä, Lupin and Jigen together on a tank, surrounded by anti-war symbols and slogans, such as the unforgettable “Don’t War”. In what was a completely unrelated publication, Otsuka and Miyazaki unambiguously showed their opposition against nuclear weapons and any kind of military action.

It is in that very same context that the first chapters of the Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind manga were published in the magazine Animage. It is therefore no surprise if these early chapters are largely about imperialism and proxy wars between large empires involving smaller, more peaceful countries. Surely this is not all Nausicaä is about, and the rest of the narrative would make matters increasingly complex; but, throughout 1982 and 1983, it would have been easy for people to read it as an allegory of the Cold War in Asia.

The Animage debates: the purpose and workings of anime

Future War 198X sparked debates outside of the anime industry that resonated with the tense foreign and domestic contexts of the early 1980s. But that was not all, as the movie also triggered discussions within the industry and fandom that were just as heated and fascinating, but further removed from concrete, immediate political questions. The topics raised by other anime creators and fans were less those of Japan’s place within the geopolitical order and the ideological intentions of Future War 198X. Rather, they touched on the content and aesthetics of the movie, and whether or not they should be shown in animation. It was in the magazine Animage that most of those debates were conducted.

The Animage side of things began in the April 1982 issue. Largely dedicated to the third Gundam movie, Encounters in Space, it also contained a long (3 pages) coverage of the 198X situation, titled “How do you see Future War 198X?”. Its main feature was a long interview of Tôei’s CEO Yoshinori Watanabe, but that was not all. Alongside it were multiple columns: a recap of the controversy, titled “This is how the 198X problem happened” and various opinions by involved parties, grouped under the heading “Here is what I think about 198X!”.

Now an invaluable source on the situation, this was a great work of journalism. Indeed, it was visible that the writer behind it, Kôichi Katô, cared to provide all possible perspectives on what was going on: among the people interviewed were the movie’s director Tomoharu Katsumata, the vice-chairman of Tôei’s union Takashi Abe, a member from a PTA and some parents. All these opinions which surrounded Watanabe’s words and are often in conflict with each other allowed for the reader to make their own judgement and to compare and contextualize each statement.

Most of what is written in this column has already been reformulated and presented above. But there are a few more things that warrant attention. The first thing is the arguments raised by those defending the film, notably Watanabe and Katsumata. What is especially interesting with Watanabe is that, despite some strange statements about wanting to make an “animated Guernica”, he absolutely doesn’t appear like either a naive producer unaware of the things at stake or a cold, profit-hungry businessman. For example, he himself mentions the current political climate in Japan and abroad, and wants the movie to be understood as a wake-up call: “Japanese people as a whole are surprisingly carefree about this situation [referring to Reagan’s martial rhetoric]. Even with regard to the nuclear issue, it should be a very serious matter, but we don’t seem to be taking any action.” Later on, he even states “I think I’ve tried to make the point that Japan should stay as it is” – that is, a pacific state uninvolved in the Cold War, or, even more radically “the film we’re making may become left-leaning”. This last statement was going a bit too far, and perhaps revealed Watanabe’s cynicism. This was not the case for Katsumata, who was indignant at the idea that he, who had lived through the war as a child, could ever direct something that would encourage armed conflicts.

In another curious move, and certainly one that stood out against the mainstream of the industry, both Watanabe and Katsumata express their opposition towards the toys and figures sponsorships. They both state that the machines portrayed in 198X are “real weapons” and that “you can’t make toys out of weapons”. This in fact leads us to another question, one of the most important ones raised in the debates around the movie: that of the audiences. Indeed, as was visible in the various documents cited previously and the involvement of PTAs, a major cause of worry was that children would watch such a work. What was the real audience of animation, what should be shown or not, were real worries.

In a rather sensible argument, Watanabe and Katsumata explain that 198X is not that different from “normal”, live-action, war films and both comment on the exposure of the audience to more war-mongering media in live-action and manga. During the discussion, Katô, the interviewer, identifies the paradox in the very idea of marketing such movies to children: “children are the ones who are most interested in war, and at the same time, they are the ones who play the biggest role in averting it”. Watanabe’s answer is ultimately that the very goal of 198X is to show that war is not fun or entertaining.

Things could very well have ended peacefully there, with Animage readers deciding for themselves what they thought about the movie once they would have seen it. This was without accounting for the entry of a new actor in the debate, who presented unexpected arguments: that was Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. 1982, when the last entry in the Gundam movie trilogy came out, was a glorious year for the franchise, and Yasuhiko, the series’ character designer and animation director, was at the peak of his popularity: he had overwhelmingly won every Anime Grand Prix awards since 1979 as Best Animator, and had just been won the Seiun Award for Art, an annual prize given at the Japan Science Fiction Convention (the organization that supervised Daicon). In those years, he held a monthly column in Animage titled “Moongazing notes”. It is in one of those, in the May 1982 issue, that he commented on Future War 198X.

I wasn’t able to obtain that issue, but according to all the accounts I could find, Yasuhiko was unforgiving. He qualified Watanabe’s interview as “reeking of hypocrisy”, called the realism of the movie “a joke” and believed the movie unworthy of its (very high) budget. But by far the most controversial opinion he expressed was that “as film, anime is unsuitable for a serious consideration of war”. Coming from one of the artists behind the Gundam franchise, this must have sounded extremely paradoxical. It was indeed, but that statement also needs to be put in context: how to represent war and politics, or even whether representing politics was even possible, was something Yasuhiko was actively meditating on at the time.

It so happens that in the April 1982 issue, just next to the pages about 198X, Yasuhiko’s column was dedicated to that very subject. He had received fan mail which contained the draft of a story about “space wars”. Yasuhiko heavily criticized it for its immaturity and lack of understanding of what wars and politics were actually like. He complained about what he perceived as Gundam being understood as a militaristic work, and wanted to remind his readers of two things: “war is a scary thing” and “thinking about wars inevitably means thinking about politics”. And, for Yasuhiko, it was better not to touch on these subjects at all if one was unable to do it right: “On politics, there is no middle-ground between justified commitment and justified indifference. A half-baked commitment is dangerous, and a misguided one, with strange pretexts and a vision of politics as just a game is never good.”

As the lines above clearly show, Yasuhiko was reflecting on his own commitment and the legacy his work left on the industry. It is also obvious that, for him, 198X was condemnable: its vision of politics was too simplistic to meet his standards.

And in this, perhaps he was the one to touch the most accurately what the entire debate surrounding the movie was about: who was this movie by, and who was it made for? Whether it was for children or the developing audience of young adults, neither of those had the proper political awareness to understand the stakes of global geopolitical conflict. As long as anime was bound to these kinds of audiences (that is, as long as it was bound by its commercial nature to cater to those markets), it would never be able to develop proper political discourses: this is probably why Yasuhiko condemned anime’s capacity to represent politics as a whole. Although I can’t confirm if Yasuhiko was involved in the protest movement against the movie, his arguments had more depth and range to them. This may have made them weaker in the specific context of 1982, but is also what makes them resonate even today. What Yasuhiko criticized was anime’s system as a whole, of which 198X was but an example; what the protesters criticized was the movie first and foremost, only occasionally touching on the wider issues of the anime industry at large.

In any case, these statements seem to have heated up the controversy. Yasuhiko and Animage probably received a lot of mail about the 198X commentary. It was not until the December issue, the last entry in his column series, that Yasuhiko reflected back on it: he congratulated his readers and the answers they sent them as being “genuine” and thanked them for inviting him to think things further. But that was the last time he would evoke the issue.

Conclusion: what politics for 80s anime?

The involvement of such organisations as PTAs in the Future War 198X may invite some to make parallels with other controversies that touched on the anime and manga worlds: the debates around Gô Nagai’s works, especially Harenchi Gakuen, in the 1970s, and the moral panic over otaku in the early 1990s. At least in some circles, this seems to be how it is remembered in Japan: while maybe not representative, a look at the movie’s title on Japanese Twitter made me find some tweets describing the JCP’s involvement in the opposition campaign as “a violation of free speech” and an attempt at censorship.

As I hope to have shown, things weren’t so simple. For the JCP at least, 198X was but one occasion to develop what was their ideological core in the 1980s: anti-war and anti-nuclear movements – especially at a time when the party’s popularity was eroding. But what was truly unique in the 198X opposition movement was not the involvement of political parties. It was, rather, that the movement started in the anime industry itself: workers and fans weren’t victims of political or mediatic controversies, they were active participants in it. The demands of course varied, from those that used the debates as a platform to demand better working conditions, those that involved themselves in the political and electoral ambitions of the JCP, and those that criticized anime’s commercial system as a whole. This diversity, in itself, shows that the opposition movement was a success: it allowed for new discourses to be expressed and illustrated that anime workers could develop a real political awareness.

The question remains, however, of this movement’s legacy within the anime industry and fan communities. Certainly, looking at anime that came out in the context of the 198X debate offers new perspectives: Macross’ proposal that the greatest geopolitical asset is not military might but culture (and especially subculture) can be read as a strong counter-argument to 198X – although it is itself a profoundly ambiguous work on other topics. Similarly, as I mentioned above, Hayao Miyazaki’s subsequent works can very well be read as reactions to the domestic and geopolitical situation of the early 1980s. Finally, in the following years, many of Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s works were attempts at grasping and representing a certain essence of politics; in animation, this effort would culminate in 1989’s Venus Wars. Despite all of this, and a number of politically-charged works that one may identify throughout the decade, it remains that the new generation of adult fans that was emerging was largely indifferent to such questions. While the representation of politics may have remained a relevant topic, the organizational bases that allowed this topic to emerge on the public sphere progressively vanished.

If this is the case, this is not only a result of organization, or irrelevant political questions, but rather because all the elements that surrounded the debate were very much of their time. On the side of the anti-198X movement, despite the involvement of the JCP and animators themselves, some arguments appear somewhat behind the times: their fight is also one for animation for children, something the animators themselves acknowledge and claim as a source of pride. This illustrates the ambiguous situation animation still had, even in Japan, in the early 1980s: framing the medium as one for children, with mainly pedagogical purposes, was still the only way animation workers could find legitimacy. The same debate would never have happened after 1984, not so much because the otaku audience didn’t care, but because the OVA market provided a channel for adult-oriented, eventually violent or political, media.

Similarly, the discussions in Animage were both a stepping stone in the history of the magazine, and fated not to last. They were an amazing platform for discussing an incredible range of topics, from anime production to distribution, as well as more abstract subjects of politics and aesthetics. They are a perfect example of how anime audiences evolved and how their critical stance towards media developed. But this was only possible in the early years of the magazine, when editors and audiences were still very closely knit; as Animage and other anime publications became more commercial and increasingly focused on promotion in the second half of the 1980’s, such platforms slowly disappeared.


“1985年ヒロシマ・ナガサキ・アピール・ポスターに宮崎駿監督”(アーカイ)” [1985 Archive: Hiroshima-Nagasaki Appeal Poster with Hayao Miyazaki]. Net Anime Report. 30 October 2012. [Japanese]

“1985年 共産党後援会がアニメスタッフと連携幻の都議選アピール発見” [1985 Finding: The Communist Party Supporters’ Group Collaborated with Anime Staff for an Appeal to the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly]. Net Anime Report. 8 December 2012. [Japanese]

“1983年の記録:ストップ・核武装政治 アニメ関係者167名が共同声明” [1983 Document: Stop Nuclear Politics. A Joint Statement by 167 People in the Anime Industry]. Net Anime Report. 10 December 2012. [Japanese]

Katô, Kôichi, “FUTURE WAR 198X年をきみたちはどう見るか!?” [How do You See 198X!?], Animage, April 1982, 123-125. [Japanese]

Oguro, Yuichiro. 2009. ‘WEBアニメスタイル | アニメ様365日 第103回『FUTURE WAR 198X年』. WEB Anime Style. 09 April 2009. [Japanese]

Rivera Rusca, Renato. 2016. ‘The Changing Roles of Anime and Manga Magazines in the Japanese Animation Industry’. In Manga Vision: Cultural and Communicative Perspectives, 52–69. Monash University Publishing.

Yasuhiko Yoshikazu, “連載04 月づきの雑記帳 政治のこと…” [Moongazing Notes #04 – On Politics…], Animage, April 1982, 134-135. [Japanese]

Yasuhiko Yoshikazu, “連載最終回  月づきの雑記帳 おしまいにあたってのいろいろなこと…” [Moongazing Notes Final Entry – So Many Things to Say at the End], Animage, December 1982, 144-145. [Japanese]

One thought on “The politics of 80s anime: the 198X controversy

  1. I got a copy of this film back in the day before they were importing anime over.

    It was not translated, however it was enough to follow. I have to agree about it certain screamed “War is Bad”.

    Out come didn’t make a lot sense. A lot of nuclear weapons were used, and having people walk away begin to protest. Does seem to be bit…unrealistic. Protesting sure, but…you don’t walk away from nuclear strikes. Radiation sickness, death, and starvation going to happen to entire planet. It was a limited nuclear war but it was bad.


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