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.
Mark Schilling’s latest article in Variety discusses some of the issues facing modern anime, including the ever-growing rush to outsource, plummeting demographics and hybrid contents. Yours truly is briefly quoted with a very conservative estimate of the size of the foreign labour pool — Ryosuke Takahashi puts it a lot higher. Schilling suggests that declining numbers of children are responsible for declining numbers of anime, but I do not entirely agree with this, or at least, not with the way that the data is presented here. The peak of production in 2006 was generated by an insanely high investment interest from abroad, which is still playing out today as all the investors sue each other over what went wrong.
Today I’m packing for Scotland Loves Anime, two weekends of Japanese cartoonery held in Glasgow and Edinburgh. This year’s line-up has four, count ’em, four Japanese guests, which means I have my work cut out for me interviewing Yumi Sato (Brains Base) and Shuko Yokoyama (Aniplex) about Hotarubi, and Shunsuke Oiji about Colourful. And the cherry on the cake is the legendary Ryosuke Takahashi (that’s him in the picture), father of “real mecha”, and show-runner on Armoured Trooper Votoms, who will be in Edinburgh to show off his new Pailsen Files, and answering questions after the premiere.
I’ll also be talking to him on Sunday 16th about his long career in the Japanese animation business, beginning with his early days at the famous Mushi Production. I might also bring up his segment of The Cockpit anime, since I translated it 16 years ago.
Scotland Loves Anime is actually part of a broader remit called “Scotland Loves Animation”. This is reflected in the education day on Friday 14th which sees a number of animators, directors and producers from the global animation community talking about their work. Also, the Polish animation house Platiges Images are sending Daniel Nenow to talk about his superb dogfight animation Paths of Hate. And all the while, Jonathan Clements, author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis (that’s me), will be darting about on stage imparting Quite Interesting facts and odd anime trivia. At some point, I think that festival organiser Andrew Partridge is interviewing me… or I am interviewing him. We will probably end up interviewing each other, and as per usual it will turn into a stand-up routine about Bonkers Things the Japanese Studios Have Done This Year.