The Prologue…

ae3Just a little taste from the introduction to the new edition of the Anime Encyclopedia, due out in December 2014. The passage excerpted outlines some of the changes and new additions to the book that has been keeping me busy, on and off, for the last two years. We’re currently on the fourth or fifth read-through in search of adjustments and typos, and sneaking in the last few cheeky last-minute entries.

1200 pages. Imagine.

Milky Crisis!

The background to today’s news that the New Zealand company Fonterra is buying stakes in another Chinese dairy. From Modern China: All That Matters, by Jonathan Clements.

milky crisis

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The dairies of Inner Mongolia now form a powerful lobby in Chinese supermarkets. Adverts selling milk products are all over the place, and pushily insist on a number of bespoke varieties – this one for stronger bones, that one for more energy. They are so pro-active because Chinese parents have largely given up feeding Chinese milk to their children, after major scandals in the early 21st century. Chinese milk is probably the safest it has ever been, but public trust is at an all-time low.

In 2004, sixteen Chinese children died of malnutrition after they were fed a ‘milk formula’ that turned out to be nutritionally worthless. This was no manufacturing error, but a deliberate scam that cruelly led several families to literally starve their own children to death, while believing that they were feeding them.

In 2007, a new problem arose, not over what was missing, but what was being added, when pet deaths in America were traced to melamine in the food chain. This had entered into Chinese pet food through contaminated animal feed, although the size of the problem was difficult to judge without a national veterinary database – fourteen confirmed pet deaths, but several thousand reported. It was claimed that mixing melamine into animal feed had been a common practice for years, in the mistaken belief that there were no ill effects. Many animals were butchered before they died of renal failure from melamine poisoning, but this only delayed the discovery until it built up further along the food chain. Extensive testing found melamine in hundreds of food products for both pets and people, leading the FDA and Department of Agriculture to estimate that up to three million Americans might have, for example, eaten chickens that had been reared on contaminated feed. Chinese food exports, also of chicken, powdered egg and wheat gluten, were found to be similarly tainted.

sanluBack in China, the food chain was discovered to be directly contaminated, when the budget dairy Sanlu was accused in November 2008 of selling a milk powder product that had been adulterated with melamine in an attempt to show higher protein levels. This may well have made the milk seem healthier, but it directly affected the health of some 300,000 people, many of them children in low-income families. Six children died of renal failure, while original whistleblower, an employee at Sanlu who had been querying production standards since 2006, was later found stabbed to death in mysterious circumstances. A Chinese investigation later found similar contamination in 22 Chinese companies, causing a massive crisis of confidence, particularly among Chinese mothers. It is now far more likely for Chinese mothers to feed their children exclusively on a diet of foreign milk formula, often sourced from Germany or New Zealand. Ironically, a New Zealand company, Fonterra, had owned a 43% stake in Sanlu, and had called for a recall on suspect products eight months before the scandal broke. The deadly delay was blamed on mismanagement at a local level, as Chinese employees tried to save face by avoiding a public announcement of any danger.

Modern China: All That Matters by Jonathan Clements, is available now in the UK and US.

Art for Art’s Sake

invernessHello, Ian. Hello, Stuart. I’m addressing you by name because you are the only people who have shown up. So my introduction to today’s screening of Patema Inverted doesn’t really require a microphone. I’ve flown up here from London. Andrew Partridge there has driven me for one hour from Glasgow to Perth, and then we sat on the train for two hours to Inverness. So that’s the two of us, and Kevin the projectionist, and the usher lady and She That Sells the Popcorn, all here for your benefit this sunny Sunday.

Since the British Film Institute is forking out a bucket of Lottery money per venue for this tour of the regions, you’re basically each the recipient of a Garden of Sinners DVD’s worth of subsidies. But that’s what Lottery money is for – taking risks with odd and niche-interest films, in search of unexpected spikes of interest and swells in consumer behaviour in a dozen places that would otherwise not see any anime at all. Yesterday we were in Bo’ness, a picturesque Scottish village decorated with ominous signs about how “Summer is Coming” and “Hail to Our Queen,” as if the locals were already erecting a Wicker Man to greet us. But 30 people showed up to see the film, and many were keen to ask questions about the Kickstarter for the DVD or the movies on show at this year’s Scotland Loves Anime.

The definition of success for mini-tours such as this is an order of magnitude away from packed London Film Festival screenings, and buckets of money. If profit were the sole motive, anime would never reach cinemas like this at all. It’s far more arty and bespoke, like M. Night Shyamalan’s plea in Lady in the Water that a work of art only has to have a single person love it for it to become worthwhile. Maybe we turned you into anime fans today. Maybe we turned you into festival-goers or Kickstarter angels, or NEO subscribers. Maybe we just carried on the conversation, putting Patema back into the public eye, and hence promoting it to people who hadn’t heard of it. Whatever the result, we keep doing this, because this is how you grow a market for anime, one person at a time… until they tell their friends.

(Scotland Loves Anime would like to point out that after Jonathan’s introduction in Inverness, the audience in the auditorium quadrupled in size, quadrupled! To nine people, including three Hungarians.)

Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO 126, 2014.

Podcast: A Dingo Stole My Anime

close_ghibliJeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani, Andrew Hewson and Jonathan Clements in the 26th Manga UK podcast to discuss last week’s Studio Ghibli news, the San Diego Comic Con, upcoming releases, and your questions from Twitter and Facebook. Includes an inadvisable impersonation of Meryl Streep, commentary track shenanigans, and Jerome’s skateboarding stunts. You can download the podcast here.

01:00. Jerome encounters the Suicide Girls. Notes on the inadvisability of branding the name of your favourite anime show into your flesh.

03:00. The introduction of the swear jar, and its purposes.

04:00. The controversy over this week’s Studio Ghibli news. Is the studio shutting down? The background to Toshio Suzuki’s various plans to keep the flame alive at Studio Ghibli – Plan A, Plan B… Plan F, Plan G.

07:00. Some unconfirmed and entirely speculative things that you might find in Mamoru Hosoda’s One Piece movie. Other people who have worked with Studio Ghibli and never quite replaced Hayao Miyazaki.

10:00. Suspending production; the former Toei staffing policy and how Ghibli copied it. The prospect that what we are seeing now is the return of “Silver Ghibli”. Goro Miyazaki and the power of nepotism.

lotteria-114:30. The prospects of a Ghibli-Disney tie-up, which are remote indeed. The unlikely story of a Berserk happy meal. Ghibli and children’s literature, and what made Ghibli such a good studio.

22:00. Manchester MCM Comic Con. Manga Entertainment’s “Road Dogs”, or should we call them Manga Dingos? Forthcoming changes to admissions policy at the October Comic Con in London.

27:30. Announcements from the Manchester MCM Comic Con. Ghost in the Shell Arise, and the typographic misery of Production I.G’s name.

31:30. Bayonetta: Bloody Fate out on the 24th November.

34:00. Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods coming to DVD on 10th November. Some theatrical screenings coming up, including the chance to demand your own at Ourscreen.com. How does “crowd-sourcing for cinemas” work?

42:00. Harlock: Space Pirate, coming on DVD and Blu-ray in February 2015, but available now on Netflix. The 3D version will be included on the Blu-ray. More on Jerome’s obsession with steelbooks.

45:00. Jerome’s adventures at San Diego Comic Con. The Mondo poster company and their fantastic Ghost in the Shell poster, and the behind-the-scenes concern that make premiering it at San Diego such a cunning marketing decision.

51:00. Jerome’s Hulk sandwich and his karmic skateboarding injury.

54:00. How did you licence Jormungand when you’ve said before that it’s difficult to get Geneon shows?

55:30. Promising recent releases, not necessarily coming from Manga Entertainment.

63:30. Legal streaming sites such as Crunchyroll, Animax, and Wakanim.

69:30. Expanding into streaming services.

71:00. The cost and economics of releasing on Blu-ray. Do some people really not yet know that Blu-ray players will also play DVDs? Why hasn’t Blu-ray been as fast as the DVD to be taken up by consumers?

76:20. How much easier is it to licence anime in the days of email? Face-to-face meetings still required in the modern age.

81:00. The departure of Jerome to another meeting, leaving the lunatics in charge of the asylum.

82:00. Why aren’t there any more UK-based commentaries these days? All kinds of behind-the-scenes shenanigans making commentary tracks difficult and/or expensive.

91:30. No news on Black Butler or K-On Blu-rays. Well, no good news, anyway.

93:00. Changes in the prices of older products. The politics of bundling, and how that leads to crappy releases when the accountants demand you actually release the thing that you never actually wanted to buy in the first place.

98:00. With the world going eco, do you think that the time is right for a release of Marine Boy?

100:00. Some of the past Manga Entertainment releases that we have almost completely forgotten about, including the marvellously titled Red Hawk: Weapon of Death and the problematic Dark Myth.

105:00. And we’re out! Thank you for listening.

And we’re out. The Podcast is available to download now HERE, 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.

Lest We Forget

28 juneJust arrived in the mail this very moment, my contributor’s copy of 28 June: Sarajevo 1914-Versailles 1919 — The War and Peace that Made the Modern World, edited by Alan Sharp. It’s a country by country analysis of the outbreak and end of World War One, largely by many of the authors who wrote books in the Makers of the Modern World series. As the biographer of both Wellington Koo and Prince Saionji, the youngest and eldest diplomats to make a splash at the Paris Peace Conference, I have two chapters in this collection, “The Chance of a Millennium” about Japan’s imperial ambitions, and “Labourers in Place of Soldiers” about the 140,000 Chinese coolies who did the laundry, fixed the roads and, yes, dug those famous trenches.