Cold Shoulder

Another month, another anime industry strop – this time with Aloha Higa actually suspending her own manga, Polar Bear Café, in protest at her treatment by her publishers. Her grievance is that she hasn’t seen a penny for the anime adaptation, and discovered that editors were signing off on approvals without even telling her.

To play devil’s advocate for a moment, there are a lot of manga artists who would love it if someone took away all the drudgery. She can get on with drawing the manga, and leave the “What colour hat works best” nonsense to some studio underling. Even so, that’s no excuse for discovering that one’s name is on a TV show before any money has hit the bank account.

Interestingly, one of her complaints is the sort of thing that might have easily been settled over a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Higa doesn’t like the fact that the anime version of her titular bear only has four fingers. This is, I am sure, a deliberate decision by the animators, dating back to received wisdom from the distant past, when Disney and Tezuka both agreed that in animation, four fingers looks like five at a glance, whereas five fingers looks like six. The animators could have probably demonstrated that for her, and she could have made her case the other way. But now it’s all gone sour, as she discovers that the animators have been assuming that she has approved scripts that she has never even seen.

Polar Bear Café may well be a one-note joke, but it belongs to Aloha Higa. It’s hers to do with as she pleases. And perhaps she fears, as do all creatives, that this might be her fifteen minutes in the spotlight. So if she wants to tell the anime company how to draw her characters; this might be the one time in her life when she gets to do that. Imagine how she’d feel if Polar Bear Café came and went on-air, before she had the chance to influence so much as a single brushstroke. So, good for her for giving her publishers the cold shoulder. The icy atmosphere led to a swift apology, and, hopefully a thaw in relations[That’s enough – Ed.]

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO #101, 2012.

Festivals and Preserving Film

The Manga UK podcast is back for its ninth episode, in which Jeremy Graves heads for Glasgow to talk with Andrew Partridge of Scotland Loves Anime, Hugh David, formerly of ADV Films, and Jonathan Clements of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis about film festivals, Japanese premieres and the drama of bringing old television shows back to life.

01:00 What does Scotland Loves Anime have to do with swans? The perils of scheduling a film premiere only three days after the Japanese finish making it. Includes the terms: “human playthings”, “community” and “Volkswagen.”

07:00 Last week’s Edinburgh University symposium on soft power and Cool Japan last week, and the controversial revelations of Shinji Oyama. 15:00 The Glasgow Film Theatre and the atmosphere therein. Comparisons with Fright Fest and Sci-Fi London. Takashi Miike and Ace Attorney. Hidden messages in K-on. Includes the words “can of worms,” “transvestites,” and “dog poo.”

egg_of_the_king.jpg27:00 The Judge’s Award and jury management. The long-term effects of Anime UK magazine. The Berserk movies, worldbuilding and fantasy adaptations. K-on the Movie and the spectacle of London. Naoko Yamada and the research that went into the film. Includes the words “bummed,” “balloons” and “retro-Nazi mutants.”

40:00 Hugh David, formerly of ADV Films, discusses the trials and tribulations of film restoration at Network DVD. The phasing-out of film and its impact on archives and retrospectives. Why has there never been a dub of the original Gunbuster? Why do archivists put tapes in the oven? Macross Plus and its unexpected function as an ashtray. Censored footage in Rock & Roll Cop and From Russia With Love. Shooting “day for night” and the colour-timing of James Bond movies. Includes the words “electrodes,” “sympathy” and “Nigella.”

61:00 Ask Manga UK. Twinings Tea adverts and their role in anime history. Hiroyuki Yamaga’s advice on becoming a film director. The unlikely connection between Goodfellas and Schindler’s List. An unexpected appearance by Jeremy’s boss Jerome Mazandarani (or is it…?). The resale value of digital media. Include the words “Hitler,” “iTunes,” and “daggers.”

Available to download now, or find it and an archive of previous shows at our iTunes page. For a detailed contents listing of previous podcasts, check out our Podcasts page.

Event Horizons

The Toei “Manga Matsuri” or “Cartoon Festivals” began in 1964, and lasted until the 1990s. At spring or summer vacations, kids would pile into their local cinema for a 200-minute programme of anime. There would be a movie re-edit of a TV series, and a couple of episodes from whichever shows were the flavour of the moment – a big deal in an age when many kids lacked colour tellies, and nobody had a video recorder. The Cartoon Festival, and its Toho rival, the “Champion Festival”, must have been welcome reliefs to hard-pressed parents, as at least they got rid of the rugrats for a few hours in the holidays. In the anime world, they were an ideal way of burning off all the dross lying around in the studio bins – aborted pilots and 15-minute apprentice pieces, shoved into the programmes like animated ballast. Every now and then, they also sneaked in something classier like Puss in Boots.

I’ve always found the Cartoon Festivals interesting because they turned anime into “events”. This wasn’t about watching TV with one eye while slurping your breakfast; it was a grand day out, and the chance to be fans together.

I was, however, a little baffled by the news that Toei was releasing the Cartoon Festival programmes on Japanese DVD this August. Historically, it’s fascinating: a chance to experience these forgotten moments of anime enjoyment just as the ten-year-olds of 1968 or 1970. Although probably in your own home, without 500 other screaming children making it difficult to hear anything. But in terms of straightforward entertainment, how many people do Toei really expect to fork out their £40 asking price? In some cases, it will literally be the only way you can get to see obscure cartoons like the 60-minute 30,000 Miles Under the Sea (1970) or the 25-minute Hitoribotchi (1969), designed to sell Toyota cars to squirrels. But is that really going to be enough to pull in the punters? I doubt we’ll see this in the UK, although it would be nice to give it a whirl… what about a one-night-only performance, including 1970s Japanese cinemas ads…?

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO #102, 2012.

Nakama Britannica

The folks over at Nakama Britannica have moved heaven and earth to get their podcast interview with me, Jonathan Clements, out in time for Scotland Loves Anime. If you’re at all interested in the history and direction of the anime industry, there is a lot of information in here, real-world statistics and behind-the-scenes gossip. You can download the podcast here.

0:00 The loss of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis, the great unseen anime, disappeared from the record in an unfortunate boating accident. Scotland Loves Anime — the logistics of getting Japanese guests to Glasgow. And a quick plug for my latest book, the new translation of the Art of War.

10:00 What is anime? Nowhere near as dull a question as it sounds, leading to all sorts of gossip about the battle for anime’s soul between the spirits of Osamu Tezuka and Hayao Miyazaki. Includes the words: “Communists”, “witchhunts” and “crappy”.

20:00 Anime as Soft Power. The size of otakudom. The meaning of TV ratings. How anime form follows function. How much is the anime business worth? Includes the words: “chimpanzee”, “over-engineering” and “popular”.

30:00 What is a silver otaku? The impact of Heidi and Yamato.The phenomenology of fandom and misremembering Evangelion and Gundam. The influence of Tadao Nagahama and Yoshiyuki Tomino. Includes the words “pander”, “toss” and “Aznable”.

40:00 Traditional concepts of storytelling, and how unlikely you are to find them. How “traditional” was the Hakkenden. The ethics of tying anime directors to chairs and slapping them. Noh drama and Gasaraki. Jinzo Toriumi’s Introduction to Anime Scenario Writing. Includes the words: “fallacy”, “posh” and “pervy”.

47:00 Wimmin. Do 125 million Japanese people all like hentai? The demographics of female anime fans and the birth of Noitamina. Fujiko Mine and the line between sexy and sexist. The role of women within the anime industry. Includes the words: “mind bleach”, “boobs” and “jellyfist”.

57:00 The chivalry of chauvinism and its impact on anime staff rosters. The evolutionary role of colour recognition. Women in powerful positions, like CLAMP. Includes the words: “xerography”, “concordance” and “primal.”

67:00 Aloha Higa and the unpleasantness over Polar Bear Cafe. How many fingers am I holding up? Includes the words: “sod off”, “Disney”, and “torpid”.

69:00 The nature of originality: giant robots and schoolgirl witches. Downton Abbey the anime, and what a production committee might do to it. Creativity within limits. Includes the words: “tropes”, “Metallica” and “Minovsky particles”.

73:00 Three trends for the future: Kickstarter, mobiles and China. The size of the informal anime market. Issues for intellectual property. What’s changed in Sino-Japanese relations since the publication of the Dorama Encyclopedia. Includes the words: “crowd-sourcing”, “Margaret Thatcher cyborg”, and “sandwich-making”.

84:00 The Death Note backlash in north-east China. Cosplay in China. And goodbye. Includes the words “boobs” and “grabbed”.


The Manga UK podcast is back for its eighth episode, in which Jerome Mazandarani offers sage advice on dealing with school bullies, Andrew Partridge of Scotland Loves Anime plugs his film festival in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Jeremy Graves on what’s coming up at the MCM Expo, and Jonathan Clements on the dangers of sharing a bed with a third-degree blackbelt. And when Jerome is suddenly caught short, Andrew Hewson steps in to the breach.

0:00:00 – 0:04:55 : Pre-Show chatter.

0:04:55 – 0:24:03 : New releases, production snafus, the certification of Madoka Magica, and how new releases ‘sound’, Ninja Scroll and why pre-ordering is a good idea.

0:24:03 – 00:38:35  Manga UK & Kaze UK plans for London MCM Expo, free hugs at conventions,

00:38:35 – 00:49:28 A preview of Scotland Loves Anime in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Also, reasons why “amazeballs” really is a word.

00:49:38 – 1:28:19 [END] Ask Manga UK, featuring questions on older series, licensing titles, best sellers and more! Favourite manga, including Domu and Shooting Stars in the Twilight. The history of Dark Horse Comics in the UK, and their strange transformation. Details of Toshio Maeda at the Expo, and how not to ask him for a “controversial” image. The problems caused by middlemen in acquiring anime rights. Sales figures for Manga Entertainment’s top sellers, including Akira, Naruto and a couple of surprises.

Available to download now, or find it and an archive of previous shows at our iTunes page. For a detailed contents listing of previous podcasts, check out our Podcasts page.