A call came in from the editor of the script book of Serenity, the movie spin-off from Joss Whedon’s Firefly. In which, you may recall, people swear in Chinese.
“We’re just doing the back cover,” he said, “and we wondered if you could write us a Chinese slogan: ‘If you do not buy this book, your associates will consider you to be a stupid inbred sack of meat.’”
Another tax-year gone, and I’m stuck with a bucket of receipts. The usual deduction issues ensue – are contract killers a reliable contract-enforcement expense? If I had fun watching an anime, can I still call it work? When I buy a copy of Golgo 13, it’s for work purposes only. It’s not like I enjoy it.
Anime companies have the same problems with media accounting. If a director has a packet of peanuts, is that ‘entertainment’ or ‘subsistence’? But there are perks, largely tied up in the sector of anime shows that take place outside Japan. There’s nothing an anime crew likes more than a roké-han, a ‘location hunt’, otherwise known as the thinly disguised staff holiday. No works outing to Grimsby for Japanese animators – imagine the misery of the Gunsmith Cats crew when they were all carted off to Chicago to drive fast cars and play with guns. They even filmed it as part of the Making of documentary. You see, they told the tax man, it was research.
Once you get your head around the accounting complexities of office perks, some of anime’s weirder moments make more sense. In Detonator Orgun, the invading alien robot action grinds to a halt for a whole minute while the female lead explains that she’s driving a replica of a 1963 E-type Jaguar. Pause for loving pans across the car’s flanks, zooms on its upholstery, and general auto porn. Well, someone had to get hold of a Jaguar for research purposes, didn’t they? And after that, they’d damn well better use it or face a tribunal. Does this mean that if I write about a date with a voice actress, I can claim for it on expenses? I asked my accountant if a dirty weekend could ever be tax deductible.
“Only if it’s with me,” he said, somewhat creepily.
Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. this article previously appeared in NEO #6, 2005.