Perched above London’s Tottenham Court Road like a misplaced effigy of Saddam Hussein is the 20-foot fake-bronze statue of Freddie Mercury, late moustachioed lead singer of Queen. His image adorns the front of the Dominion Theater, where the sci-fi musical We Will Rock You plays to a packed house every night. The second act begins with a rendition of the group’s 1980s hit “One Vision,” used here as an ironic attack on homogenized, dull, global media culture. In the midst of the fast food, inane branding and Newspeak on the multiple screens, We Will Rock You permits its audience a glimpse of the kind of garbage that will infect the world’s television broadcasts in the 24th century. It has bright colors, spiky hair, and big eyes. It is all anime.
Britain’s Sci-Fi channel must have missed that particular memo. If you want to see anime on the nation’s bastion of future-TV, you have to look very hard indeed. Stay up until five in the morning and insomniac viewers may be rewarded with episodes of Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040. An audience of highly baffled nightwatchmen will also be spitting out their cornflakes in surprise at Excel Saga. Of all the things to hit your brain that early in the day…! The Sci Fi channel has ‘de-prioritised’ anime for now, a decision that should amuse all long-term industry watchers, because we’ve heard it all before, at least twice. Give it another few months, the staff will change once more, and some bright spark will opine that these here Japanese cartoons are the Next Big Thing. Again.
We Will Rock You lampoons the crass commercalisation of entertainment on a nightly basis. My ticket cost me $70. A packet of mints in the foyer was five bucks.
(This article first appeared in Newtype USA magazine, April 2004).