Pity the poor anime pundit, busily making predictions about stuff that’s in the distant… I mean near… I mean tomorrow… I mean just happened. Only last month I was merrily giving an interview to Variety magazine, predicting crowd-sourced anime within the next two years. I was inspired by the sight of the Kickstarter funding for the manga of Osamu Tezuka’s Barbara, which swiftly rustled up the required ten grand. You could probably squeeze out a crappy anime video one-shot for $20,000, I mused, so what were the chances that someone decided to hit up forty wealthy fans for $500 each? It’s already what the Japanese charge for some DVD box sets, so why not?

Within a couple of weeks, San Francisco developer Double Fine announced that it had managed to scrape $480,000 to go into production on a new game, a “Double Fine Adventure”. That’s enough to make a 12-episode anime television series! If you really want to make an animated tentacle-invasion version of the Iron Lady, now all you need is to rustle up 10,000 like-minded friends.

Except! You don’t need to be a genius mathematician here to see that some of the Double Fine investors were putting in a lot more than the minimum $15. In fact, if there were 10,000 of them, their average investment was the price of a posh car, each! So this isn’t quite the grass roots investment funded solely by potential end-users that some are pretending it to be. There are still some big investors behind the scenes, but not many! Just think, what if you could write off the cost of a convention weekend and put it towards actually making an anime? And since there are stepped levels of involvement, you’d also be likely to score some exclusive, personalised merchandise, too, and your name on the credits. Beats standing around a car park dressed as an elf!

So, for now, my prediction still stands. I still see a crowd-funded anime production happening within the next two years [Time Travel Footnote: there was a wait of only eight months or so before this happened]. Probably a crowd-funded anime translation substantially sooner than that. But if you had a personal say in which new anime actually got made, which would you choose?

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO #97, 2012.

Eurovision Shouty I-Spy 2012

Hello, Woki Mit Deim Popo, and welcome to the Eurovision Shouty I-Spy Game, back for the first-ever final to be held in the immensely gay-friendly town of Baku.

Step One: you will probably need to be quite drunk. Step Two: The following sights will be seen during this Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest. Can you see them first? Remember to shout it out. Party hosts will need to keep score of who gets what first, or otherwise dish out the forfeits to those that aren’t quick enough. As ever, there is more than one key change, and plenty of orbital cleavage. Keep your eyes (or ears) open for any of the following. And when you notice it, SHOUT IT OUT!

With great disappointment we have had to say farewell in the semi-finals to Montenegro’s fat rapper and his onstage Trojan horse, as well as the fantastically named Trackshittaz from Austria, with their neon knickers and pole dancing. We shall also miss the chance to shout “SPLITTER!” every time the Finnish entry opens her mouth and sings in Swedish. But that still leaves us with the best/worst Eurovision in years, with a bunch of certified mentalists bringing you the trancey, oddly cyberpunky fun. Occasionally dressed as refugees from Assassin’s Creed.

In no particular order, in Saturday’s final you should look out for:


Is it snowing?

Sergeant Pepper’s Epaulettes

One glove (doesn’t make you cool)

Hammer Time (sideways footy shuffle)




Onstage fountain


Rotating oven

La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la

Instant boat!

KEY CHANGE! (every time you hear one)



Oh no! An Oboe!

Very very small xylophone

Dancing onscreen rubber gimps


Onstage baking


Men in skirts playing trumpets!

Muffins for everybody!

Assassin’s Creed on Keyboards

Blacksmith’s Apron


Synchronised Swimming (without water)

Bronze tights

Breakdancing on plinths

Fingers make a heart

Hair stuck to her chest

Moonwalk (have to be fast to catch this one)

DRUM-SITTER (she’s sitting on a drum!)

FLAME ON! (every time there’s pyrotechnics)

We include our traditional category of COSTUME CHANGE, just in case someone actually changes costumes, although nobody did in rehearsals.

(*swaying one’s head from side to side in a snakey fashion. This is particularly difficult to spot this year, so I’ll give you an extra clue: SHIPBOARD BIMBLING).
(**ostentatious cleavage sufficient to see from a satellite in orbit, which, according to Eurovision bra consultant Tom Clancy, requires a minimum of C-cup).


A point every time the presenters claim that Azerbaijan is in Europe.

Special bonus points all round if one of the acts decides to self-destruct on the night and inject some sort of live protest. Look out for rainbow flags or badges at the very least.

Are Armenia voting…? If they are, you can be sure someone says something cutting…

Apologies to American readers, who will have to just imagine what the world’s biggest, gayest song contest is like. Just imagine, for one day every year, Europe gets to behave the way that Japan does all the time!

For hard-core players, Shouty I-Spy is now available in Finnish.

Digital Disruption

My review of Iordanova and Cunningham’s Digital Disruption: Cinema Moves On-Line is up now on the Manga UK blog. It’s a very interesting walk through some of the issues facing “cinema” and “broadcasting”, in a globalised economy where nobody wants to pay for anything.

I particularly like the authors’ decision to eschew content, access and production, and to talk about matters of exhibition and distribution, which are all too often overlooked in film studies.


From the very outset, Iwao Takamoto (1925-2007) was torn between his parents’ birthplace of Japan, and his own homeland of America. His autobiography, Iwao Takamoto: My Life With a Thousand Characters, notes the uneasy situation in 1930s America, where Japanese immigrants were not permitted US citizenship, effectively ensuring that Takamoto grew up with a different nationality to his parents.

As a Japanese-American growing up during WW2, Takamoto’s dual ethnicity was a constant concern. He and his family were carted off to an incarceration camp in 1942, and spent the latter years of the war kicking their heels in the middle of the desert. As one inmate waggishly commented, if the Japanese win the war, Takamoto will be sent back to the camp, this time because he is American.

In 1945, Takamoto guilelessly turned up with a hastily drawn set of samples at Disney, where he was hired on the spot – it turned out that his ability to knock out a book full of sketches to order actually trumped the more considered portfolios of his fellow applicants. He arrived at a cash-strapped studio that had only made it through the 1940s on wartime government contracts, and which suddenly had to make money from entertainment cartoons again. His contributions included sequences and designs in Cinderella and Lady & the Tramp. There’s one intriguing aside where Takamoto brings up the subject of Yusaku Nakagawa, an animator sent from Japan to Disney to learn how things are done (and although Takamoto does not mention this, also the little brother of a famous Japanese film star). This is the same “Steve” Nakagawa who ends up a generation later working on a number of Japanese-American co-productions, including Frosty the Snowman and the ill-starred Metamorphoses, although there are allusions to behind-the-scenes skulduggery which kept his name off the credits.

In 1961, Takamoto ended up at Hanna-Barbera Productions, where he would eventually become “creative producer” – a made-up title for a series of responsibilities that, in Japan, would be parsed as character designer and supervising director. Takamoto would often be the point man who created specific looks and characters, storyboarded early shows, and then departed to set up the next project, leaving his creations to live on without him. He threw himself into work on The Flintstones, a show that had already established that it was, much to many animators’ surprise, possible to make a half-hour weekly TV show. He created characters for Wacky Races and Hong Kong Phooey, and most memorably came up with the “comedy dog” for a detective show who soon took over. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, with its counter-intuitive exclamation mark, is surely Takamoto’s most enduring creation, and dominated kids’ TV in America for decades. For what it’s worth, Takamoto also notes that he has always thought Scrappy-Doo was “a crummy idea.”

The autobiography itself is a work of academic brinkmanship. Takamoto died as the book was being laid out, which only adds to the sense of legacy and elegy in this excellent memoir. His collaborator Michael Mallory is deftly invisible, leaving Takamoto himself to do all the talking, in a story that spans six decades of animation, as well as tall tales of indoor archery and abuse of thumbtacks. Although of Japanese ancestry, Takamoto was never a “Japanese” animator, but his life-story only goes to demonstrate the transnational quality of the animation business – as The Jetsons is aired in Japan, in turn inspiring Tezuka to make Astro Boy, Go-Bots is made by the Taiwanese studio set up by Hanna-Barbera’s own James Wang, and Scooby-Doo ends up dubbed into Japanese under the hands of Satoshi Kato, an alumnus of Tezuka’s Mushi Production, who also worked on anime such as Berserk, Space Adventure Cobra and Tomorrow’s Joe.

In later years, Takamoto became less of an animator and more of a brand. Following the takeover of Hanna-Barbera by Warner Bros in 2001, Takamoto was wheeled out in countless public appearances at Warners stores around the world, to sign sketches and shill for merchandise. He seems to have embraced this “ambassadorial” role with great gusto, and gleefully reports his unexpected celebrity late in life, even down to the “respect” accorded him by unnamed rap stars when he appeared on The Big Breakfast.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. Iwao Takamoto: My Life with a Thousand Characters is published by the University Press of Mississippi. This article originally appeared on the Manga UK blog in May 2012. It has been reshared here after that site was disappeared in the 2021 Funimation putsches.

Zombie Hitler

I’m writing today’s post in Brno, the vowel-deficient capital of Moravia, where I’m a guest at the Czech convention Animefest 2012. We’ve just done my workshop on the way that anime are put together, adding two more bonkers ideas to the catalogue of previous pitches. As regular readers of this blog will know, my notorious hothouse rantathon, as seen at the Irish Film Institute and Media Academy Wales, as well as for numerous academic and private clients, dumps an unsuspecting group of creatives in at the deep end and forces them to come up with a pitch for a non-existent anime show.

In the past we’ve had Decontaminators, which sold soap to unwashed urchins, and the Egyptian-themed Hattie Bast: Mummy’s Girl, the post apocalyptic eco-drama Fallen Angels and the time-travelling Chronokids. Not forgetting Choc Shock, in which alien space pirates attempt to liberate Earth’s reserves of cocoa.

Today in Brno, the rival teams came up with Miracle Dance: Dimensions, in which feuding nobles control fighting robots through the power of dance, and Capek’s Machine, a steampunk time-travel epic in which two brothers square off against a zombie Hitler, with the aid of an Egyptian princess. And I think there was a pirate in there, too.

The finish was such a frenzy that I forgot to give them my usual speech about “monocultures”, but I think they had worked it out for themselves by that point. And then just a couple of hours rest before my big speech, delivered in the round, to a standing-room-only crowd of catgirls, Vash the Stampedes and Hollows.

Cook It Yourself

In the last couple of years, the Japanese consumer goods market has offered cheaply priced document scanners that can read both sides of a page. Some bright spark in an office realised that he could use the company’s heavy-duty guillotine to trim off the gluey, spiney bit of his book, and suddenly it was possible to feed a whole book into the scanner.

This activity has become so prevalent in Japan that it has gained its own neologism: jisui, or “self-cooking”. They slice up books, magazines and newspapers and shove them into a digital format, all the better to read them on their phones and iPads. It’s not about piracy, it’s about simple space and convenience – an infinite e-library like a manga Kindle. A habitual manga reader with a two-hour commute is going to add a foot of comics to their personal shelf space every week. Books might furnish a room for some people, but for others they just get in the way, and now you get the best of both worlds.

I’ve been self-cooking for several years now, ripping all my CDs onto MP3 files. I keep the CDs, because I like physically owning a format, particularly for obscure Japanese artists, and as an author, it’s handy to have access to the sleeves to check names and lyrics. That’s all very well, someone might say, but the intellectual property of the CD rests on the disc itself. And theoretically, now that I have ripped a copy, I’m cheating if I sell the original on. In copyright terms, is a personal copy an illegal reproduction? And even if it isn’t, how can you stop people passing their digital copy round?

This is where the jisui problem becomes an issue. Because double-sided document scanners have made digitising a book as easy as making a Pot Noodle, and digitised books are as easy to share as sending an email. Great for the book-lover who can “lend” a book without losing his own copy of it. Not so great for the author on the day that someone is data-mined, or lends to a third party, or just forgets to wipe their hard-drive, and a book that took a year to write migrates to the Internet for all eternity. For free.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO #96, 2012.