When people are indoors with literally nothing to do except read books, listen to the radio and watch movies, it is a tad disingenuous to refer to the media as a “non-essential” industry. I’m pretty sure it’s kept a fair few of you sane over the last three NEO-free months.
There’s been some confusion about the degree to which the animation world has been affected. Amid press reports that many anime productions have shut down, there are also news stories proclaiming the exact opposite, and that animation is ideally suited for remote workers. Certainly, there have been a few hiccups in production this spring, but a remarkable number of people have rolled with the punches. Your correspondent, for example, has suddenly become the proud owner of a 4K-compatible home film studio, to do all those pesky media interviews without leaving the house. I was shocked at how cheap it was – and it paid for itself in three days!
Lockdown viewing has created some odd patterns in media consumption. The new Ghost in the Shell series just slipped out under the wire, becoming one of the few shiny new things available to a captive audience. Trolls World Tour was a lockdown hit with parents trying to keep their kids entertained, leading Universal Pictures to promise more straight-to-streaming premieres, and the cinema company AMC to proclaim that if they were going to be like that, they weren’t going to screen any of their films ever again.
It is the exhibition sector that is feeling the pinch the worst. Theatres and cinemas are the great social-distance hazard zones, and that means tempers are easily frayed among stage actors, musicians and festival organisers of my acquaintance – practically my whole family.
But we are not through COVID-19 yet, and there are still many twists and turns to come. I suspect one will be “festival fatigue”, as the migration online of what were once local events starts to create something of a crowd on your desktop. It will probably not surprise you at all to hear that there were more than ten film festivals a week last year. It didn’t trouble you, because unless you lived in Yamagata, or Sao Paulo, or Stockholm, none of them were noticeable. But now it seems that all of them are a click away, clamouring for your attention. Choose wisely. By which I mean, choose Scotland Loves Anime this autumn!
Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO #199, 2020.