15 Years at Ghibli

“…an utterly priceless insider account, loaded with shouting matches, dastardly deals, moments of searing creative wisdom and fist-gnawing awkwardness. Ghibli, and anime, will never look the same again.”

Up on All the Anime, my review of Steve Alpert’s memoir of life at Stuido Ghibli.

Sight & Sound

Out today, the latest issue of Sight & Sound magazine, an anime special featuring my article on the seeds of the anime business in the post-war period.

I have been a subscriber to Sight & Sound for over thirty years, but this is the first time I have actually appeared in their print edition as a paid contributor. Although I have written rants to their letters page on a couple of occasions, once memorably about the correct way to translate the theme song of Kekko Kamen.

The Japanese Cinema Book

“Ni Yan… writes a ground-breaking chapter on Japanese cinema in occupied Shanghai…. Stephanie de Boer writes thrillingly about Sino-Japanese tie-ups in the Cold War world, and Ryan Cook practically made me fall off my chair in surprise with his chapter on remakes and adaptations, which included discussion of A Warm Misty Night (1967), nothing less than a Japanese remake of Casablanca.”

Over at All the Anime, I review Bloomsbury’s comprehensive Japanese Cinema Book.

The Metabolist Imagination

Over on All the Anime, I review William O. Gardner’s new book on the Japanese architects who dreamed of a brave new world in the 1960s, whose ideas informed so much of the science fiction of the years that followed.

“Gardner, for example, finds it ‘striking’ that so many of the mecha shows of the 1970s, starting with Mazinger Z and culminating in the iconic Gundam, should seem to allude so closely to Metabolist ideas of ‘cyborg architecture’ – a machine-based enhancement of human potential that was one of the central ideas of the movement. He points, most obviously, to Katsuhiro Otomo’s Neo-Tokyo in Akira, based on the architect Kenzo Tange’s Plan for Tokyo (1960), which proposed building into and onto Tokyo Bay – an idea subsequently riffed on by Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell.”

*Not* Big in Japan

“Why is that giant robot skipping…?” I return to the All the Anime podcast for another time-wasting podcast about (among other things) — the reasons for corporate pseudonyms in the anime business, why nobody likes Swedes, the politics of reindeer herding, “southern softies” from Helsinki, anime that are more popular outside Japan than in it, and, as ever, why I love Gunbuster.


00:00 – 02:34, Intro.
02:35 – 07:53, An update on life in Finland during lockdown, the politics of reindeer herders
07:54 – 19:31, Jonathan on the re-recording of Gunbuster, then discussion about Diebuster too.
19:32 – 31:25, Who is (or isn’t) Hajime Yatate? A look at how this pseudonym came about and its impact on the industry to this day.
31:26 – 41:48, (continued from the section above) Have there been any more examples of blowback by a creative because they lost a credit to a studio?
41:49 – 56:15, Discussion on titles being more popular outside of Japan but also how a title may be presented to be perceived larger than it is.
56:16 – 1:02:53, (Continued from section above) The crucial missing component in the foreign attention pattern: China.
1:02:54 – 1:11:48, The Chinese animation industry as it is now.
1:11:49 – 1:15:13 [END], Show close.

Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary

Over at All the Anime, I review Donna Kornhaber’s new book on cartoons and war.

“The Empire, in Leicester Square, was the venue at which the world’s first recorded screening of an animated film took place, with an animated advert in which the Bryant & May company promised to send a personalised box of matches to every British soldier fighting in the Boer War.

“But then [Kornhaber] leaps into the future, to a winter’s day in Moscow in 1983, when a very different film received its premiere. Garri Bardin’s ‘Conflict’ also features animated matchsticks, but was a very different presentation with a severe anti-war message.

“These two moments in cinema history mark the broad parameters of Kornhaber’s just-published Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary, in which she investigates the relationship of animation and war, not merely as propaganda, but as protest, resistance and memorial. She is intrigued by the ways in which film can be used to tell outrageous lies about the acceptability of war, or to confront viewers with unwelcome truths about its costs, but also in which animation, in its plastic relation to reality, can prove ideally suited for depicting a world turned upside-down.”

Easter 1638

“Vital documents about the rebel state of mind were ignored until after the Rebellion because they used terms in Latin, the secret cant of the Christians, unintelligible to non-believers. Biblical allusions in rebel correspondence and rhetoric sailed completely over the heads of their enemies. Jerome Amakusa held his army together through a long siege that lasted through Lent 1638, only to discover that his most trusted lieutenant was plotting to betray him on Easter Sunday. This irony escaped the notice of the government troops, who did not know what Easter Sunday was.”

From Christ’s Samurai: The True Story of the Shimabara Rebellion.