Being close to the industry, have you ever pitched your own ideas for an anime TV show?
Yes and no. I had a fantastic idea for a TV show, but the venture was so complex, so unbelievable, so bonkers, that I didn’t think walking in and pitching it would do it justice. So instead I wrote it as a book, called Coxinga and the Fall of the Ming Dynasty. Although any anime version would probably end up being called Imperial Dragon Pirate King Wizard War, or Black Devil Sea Raider Task Force, or something like that.
So if you want to find out about the great unmade anime, in which a half-Japanese resistance fighter leads an army of freed African slaves and exiled samurai against Manchu invaders, it’s all there! And it’s a true story.
How is ‘Westernised’ animation received in Japan? Does it have a similar cult appeal that Japanese animation receives in America and Europe?
In the sense that a “cult” is something that the press missed first time around and don’t want to admit to, no. This is a fact that is often suppressed by the usual suspects, but the best-selling cartoons in Japan are the same as the best-selling cartoons here: Disney and Pixar and DreamWorks. Disney bought into Studio Ghibli, in part, because Hayao Miyazaki’s movies were the only ones that were giving Disney a run for their money in the Japanese sales charts.
So “Western” animation, in the sense of Wall-E or Kung Fu Panda, is very much part of the Japanese mainstream. A lot of anime, particularly on video and on TV, is actually just as much of a cult in Japan as it is here. A lot of the “TV shows” sold in Britain on DVD were actually broadcast at two in the morning in Japan when nobody was watching!
(Message from the Big Giant Heads: we think we’ve covered it, but is there anything we’ve missed out? Any burning questions you have for Jonathan Clements about Schoolgirl Milky Crisis or the anime and manga world? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll pretend we’ve thought of them ourselves and ask him in a couple of weeks).