The idea here is not so much to add on complaints about the current state of the community, whether they’re justified or not. It isn’t either to be a normative account of what sakuga should be - I’ve been an active member of this community for far too little time to even dream of making such claims. Take it rather as my own follow-up on “At Least It’s An Ethos” - though I hope a less controversial one : some ideas about what sakuga means to me as an anime fan, and what it does and could bring to anime writing and criticism in general.
This time, I interviewed Geth, sakuga fan and Naruto expert, creator of the most famous sakuga Discord, Naruto Sakuga.
By 2016 and the creation of the companion Sakuga Blog, the sakuga community we now know had pretty much been formed. But that wasn’t without debates and heated discussions which would definitely establish the core elements of the sakuga discourse and positioning towards the general anime fandom. This all happened in and around one of the most prominent sakuga blogs of the time, Wave Motion Cannon, between 2016 and 2017.
This time, I talked with Bloodyredstar, aka Blou, sakuga fan and production assistant at Studio Tonton, currently making an amateur Naruto OP and ED.
In the previous essay in this series, I argued that one of the most important factors for the development of sakuga in Japan was the VCR and its widespread use during the 1980’s, when otaku culture in general was born and boomed. Go forward 20 or 25 years, and I think that you can find something of a similar situation in the West ; but the new technology was, obviously, not the same. It was, this time, the Internet.
This series on the sakuga is going to be half articles, half interviews of members of the community. This time, I got to talk with manuloz, French anime and sakuga fan, and admin of the (now dead) website manganimation.net
If you ask different people what “sakuga” is or means, chances are you’ll get different answers ; but all these answers will probably revolve around a few similar ideas : sakuga is good animation ; animation that stands out ; animation made by some talented animators, etc. All these definitions rely on remarkably vague terms (“good”, “standing out”, “talented”), but they all point out a certain awareness that there’s something going on. Animation is not just the things you see moving on the screen, or even the way they move. So to speak, animation is the way things are made to move, in specific ways and by specific people, enough to make it remarkable.
In the 70’s, TMS and its subcontractors managed to create two aesthetics of their own, one centered around the A Pro comedies and the other the Madhouse dramas. Despite how innovative and influential these might have been, TMS was missing the tidal change known as the “SF boom” that started in 1974, with Space Battleship Yamato and risked, because of that, to fail to attract anime’s new audience, young men in highschool or older that would form the first generation of otaku. But the studio profoundly influenced early otaku culture with a series so enduring it’s still alive today : that was Lupin III.
The second half of the 1970’s was no doubt a transitional period for Tokyo Movie. As a whole, the anime industry had set up a stable structure that would only be modified in the middle of the 80’s by the otaku boom and the new OVA format. But for Tokyo Movie and its subcontractors, this was a time of big change, marked by the separation between A Pro and Tokyo Movie in 1976. The consequences were unexpected : A Pro’s staff scattered and its most talented members would do the groundwork of Studio Ghibli. But before that, Tokyo Movie profited the most from this outpouring of talent.
Last time, I covered the changes in anime from the perspective of the industry : how studios evolved, how staff moved from one place to the other, and how anime’s production processes became closer to what we know today. Now, it’s time to look at it from the perspective of the shows themselves : how their style, staff and animation are unique to that specific time period - one so exceptional that it could rightfully be called Tokyo Movie’s golden age.