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 of the Japanese Communist Party. The stakes were Japan’s domestic and foreign policies, but also the very purpose of the animated medium.
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 a previous essay about otaku identity and militarism, I mentioned that the issue of gender was a central one to understand the development of otaku identity, and most notably, its construction as a dominantly male, SF-oriented narrative. Most of Japanese feminist and queer anime criticism (most notably the work of Mari Kotani) has sadly … Continue reading Gender roles in Gundam and Macross
I would roughly say that, in English-translated works, there have been two general historical accounts of the phenomenon called “otaku” : the first, embraced by Toshio Okada, reads in otaku practices the expression of something specifically Japanese. For example, Okada roots otaku’s obsession with encyclopedic knowledge in 18th century Edo period art criticism and trade. … Continue reading Militarism and otaku identity : from Gundam to Macross
Is anime what’s on the screen ? While the formulation of this question might seem strange, as it is obvious that anime, as animation, is something that we look at, quite a large part of academic studies has chosen to approach anime indirectly. To put it simply, many scholars chosen to discard an approach of … Continue reading Defining anime – Part 2