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 Shadow Staff

In the new issue of Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal:

Despite the attention paid by Japanese animation historians to cartoon propaganda films made during the Second World War, twice as much animation may have been produced in the period for military instructional films. These films, now lost, were made by a group of animators seconded to the Tōhō Aviation Education Materials Production Office (Tōhō Kōkū Kyōiku Shiryō Seisaku-sho). Occasionally running for five or six reels (c. 48 minutes), and in one case consisting of a feature-length eight reels, they form the missing link between the one- and two-reel shorts of the 1930s and Japanese animation’s first feature, Momotarō Umi no Shinpei (1945, Momotarō’s Divine Sea Warriors). The films included tactical tips for the pilots who would bomb Pearl Harbor, short courses in identifying enemy ships, and an introduction to combat protocols for aircraft carrier personnel. This article reconstructs the content and achievement of the Shadow Staff from available materials, and considers its exclusion from (and restoration to) narratives of the Japanese animation industry.


My review of Iwao Takamoto’s posthumously published memoirs is up online now at the Manga Entertainment UK blog; one of several articles recently on the blog that aim to commemorate creatives of Japanese ethnic origin who work in America. Other articles in the same series have included Andrew Osmond on Jimmy Murakami and there are a couple more in the pipeline.

Tea Time

An unexpected highlight of the Scotland Loves Anime Festival has turned out to be a surreal quest narrative that has been screened before every film on offer in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It’s the new advert for Twinings tea, “Getting You Back to You”, (see it here) and according to its makers, is intended as an allegory of ten minutes of “me-time”.

“Women today juggle such a wide variety of roles, on a day to day basis, whether it is being a mother, housekeeper, cook, employee or friend. Recent research has revealed that women all over the UK are so focused on looking after others, they do not have the opportunity to take any “me-time”, and as a result are sometimes left forgetting who they really are.”

By “recent research”, I think they mean a focus group at Red magazine, but rediscoveries of the wheel aside, the Twinings advert brings to mind a subject that has been recurring throughout the festival, and particularly at the Education Day on Friday. Here we are, at a week-long series of events dedicated to animation, including not only Scotland Loves Anime, but also showcases for Polish animators and presentations from Aardman and a workshop from Axis. And yet the animated works seen on the most occasions, by the most attendees, regardless of what they actually paid to see, are commercials.

Psyop, the company that made the Twinings advert, are the latest in a long line of animators who have used advertising as a patron of the arts. All three presentations at the Education Day showed commercials as part of their studio showcase, and noted that it was a far better way of paying the bills than animating stick-men in a garret and waiting to be discovered.

The Twinings advert has met with repeated hilarity at Scottish screenings, largely, I think, because some people have confused it with a festival bonus film, only to discover that they are being sold a cup of tea. But in terms of generating interest in the product, it already has people talking. Since part of my job here is to introduce the films, I have had to sit through the adverts before every single one, and have been noting the number of times that animation plays a part. Red Bull, entirely animated. M&Ms, integrating animation and live-action. Even Orange, in their “Phone Break” satire, have had to pay someone to go away and make the “Phone Break” animation that appears on movie screens as part of the advert.

I’ve written elsewhere about the most widely seen piece of Japanese animation in 1958, which, contrary to expectations, was not the feature-length colour movie Hakujaden, but a 60-second commercial for Torys Whisky. The recent book Anime-gaku claims that up to 70% of early Japanese commercials used animation in some form, even if it was just a simple graphic presentation of the way that an indigestion tablet worked, or a striking product logo. This has always been the way, and the Festival Director Andrew Partridge and I will be discussing the presence, absence and enduring value of short animation at our Q&A later today.

But first I have to go in for my last day of duties. Firstly, herding cats at the festival jury, in order to pick our winner. Still no name for the award. I have suggested the “Golden Partridge”. Someone else has mooted the Scotland Loves Anime Vaginahands Homodolphin. I think we’ll just call it the Judges’ Award. Then I have Ryosuke Takahashi for a Q&A on his career and an introduction to the Tekken movie. OH…I nearly forgot, I am off to London on the sleeper tonight. I’d better pack!