This week began with two Oscar wins with an anime/manga connection. La Maison en Petit Cubes won the Best Animated Short, while Departures (Okuribito), won Best Foreign Film. Albeit not as widely celebrated in the fan community, the film release of Okuribito was preceded by a manga adaptation in Big Comic Superior magazine, which I covered in issue 49 of Neo last year:
“Okuribito is a downbeat variant on Six Feet Under, with much of its dramatic weight coming from the traditional Japanese prejudice against anyone who handles dead bodies. In a country where leather-workers and butchers are still shunned for breaking Buddhist taboos, you can imagine how well the news goes down that a family’s son has decided on a career as an undertaker. Daigo loses friends and falls out with his family over his job, although he embraces it with the piety that Japanese workers embrace any occupation as portrayed in the media. A drunken mourner accosts him for being a ghoul, with the broken reasoning that as his job is so awful, it must be well paid, and consequently he is either doing it for the money or doing it for perverse kicks. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, Daigo is berated by grieving relatives for letting corpses look too dead, and also for making them seem too life-like. In a deliberate move away from the clean lines of normal manga artwork, Akira Saso’s adaptation favours washed-out, watery shading that blurs beyond the edges it is supposed to fill, as if every scene is glimpsed through a veil of tears.”
So yes, manga fans, somewhere out there, I expect the quickest witted of the Anglophone publishers are already scrambling for the rights and the chance to stamp “Oscar-winner” on their press releases.
And just in case there was any chance of you forgetting, this week ends with the UK publication of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis. I’m pretty sure that the book’s marketing achieved unprecedented heights. Over at Anime Vice, the perplexed staff reported that the most hits last month were on the page for an obscure erotic anime called Milk Money. I think they failed to realise that a lot of their users were running searches on “anime” plus “milky”. At least, I hope that’s what they were doing.
La Maison fully deserved the award, and I can say that without having watched any of the other nominees! I should really get around to doing that just to give my statement some validity to ho ho ho…
Another award category that interest me is the best Animated Film category that Wall-E won. I liked Wall-E, wouldn’t go as far as say ‘loved it’, and I think more obscure, innovative and brilliant works like ‘Waltz with Bashir’ got snubbed. Pixar has been so dogmatic in their approach to animation and story-telling that personally, it would have been so much better to give more recognition and exposure to an animation that dares to be break new grounds successfully. I also think that would have helped erode the ‘animation is for children’ stereotype that is so prominent in US.