New Secrets of the Terracotta Warriors

1382061_676525859025041_80750332_nFor readers in the UK, I shall be on Channel Four on Sunday 8th December at 8pm, as a talking head on New Secrets of the Terracotta Warriors. Lots of metallurgy fun, and possibly even the entertaining sight of me interviewing the man who discovered them — I don’t know, I haven’t seen it yet myself.

We had been hoping to get a reprint of my First Emperor of China book out in time for it, but that won’t be until 2014. But you can apparently pick up the original edition for a penny behind the link, so knock yourselves out. Photo courtesy of Two Chiefs.

Premises, Premises

milkycrisis-1Right, I said, I see that you are writing an article about why anime has disappeared from TV screens. Great to have attention from the mainstream press, and yes, I will happily help you out. After all, there’s no such publicity as bad publicity, right…? However, I am not sure that you are asking the right questions. I am not sure that I accept your premises.

Firstly, is anime really not on television any more? I’ve just flicked around and I’ve found Pokémon and Dragon King airing right now. I’ve found a rack of Studio Ghibli movies airing on Channel Four. I’ve found an obscure cable channel pumping out Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

I think there is a story here, but I think you’re looking in the wrong place. The story appears to be not that anime is in trouble, but that anime is doing fine, while television itself is in trouble. If anime fans are early adopters, and one in ten UK residents are torrenting, doesn’t that tell you a whole lot about how fans are accessing this material? Particularly when we consider that so many anime television shows in Japan are aired in the graveyard slot when nobody is watching. So if nobody is watching them in Japan, why do we expect them to be on in primetime here?

Look, I said. Why don’t you talk to Joe Bloggs from well-known Anime Channel? Here’s his email address. He will tell you about the anime channel that he set up, and give you precise reasons why it shut down. And while you’re at it, why don’t you talk to John Smith at Anime Company? Here’s his email address. He will tell you that his company is now bypassing TV entirely and offering direct anime broadcasts to X-boxes, downloads from iTunes and free try-before-you-buy streaming from his own website. Let me put it like this, your premise is that more anime should be on television. I suggest that anime is finding another way to reach fandom, and that television doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it any more. That is sure to be an interesting thing for your tech-savvy readers to think about over their cornflakes.

Alternatively, if that doesn’t sound good to you, why don’t you just pick someone at random in a comics shop, ask them for their opinion, and fill up a quarter of your article with whatever they say? I am sure that the readership of your newspaper won’t mind. It certainly won’t get me into trouble when I am the only person from the anime industry quoted in your article. If anyone complains, you can say that you “didn’t have enough time” to interview everyone worth interviewing. That is sure to impress everyone (er… me) who gave freely of their own time to help you out before you collected the money for writing your article. And yes, that might be why I so often get an awful sinking feeling when approached by mainstream journalists who want to talk about anime, when I realise that I don’t merely have to provide answers, but also the questions. And even then, it’s no guarantee they’ll talk sense.

This article first appeared in NEO #76, 2010. Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade.

2012: The Year in Anime Books

Possibly for the last time, we return to my annual round-up of books I have read about the animation industry in Japan. This year I have published several extensive reviews of some of my anime reading, including Marc Steinberg’s Anime’s Media Mix, Nobuyuki Tsugata’s Before the Dawn of TV Anime, Liliane Lurcat’s Alone With Goldorak, and Tobin’s book on the Pokemon phenomenon.

Behind the scenes, I have also been wading away through Japanese-language works on the subject, including two accounts of anime in China, Tomoyuki Aosaka’s Contents Business in China: Fluctuating Markets, Emerging Industry, and Homare Endo’s The New Breed of Chinese ‘Dongman’: Japanese Cartoons and Comics Animate China. Both authors must write in a tense environment, with evidence pointing to a strong potential market for Japanese animation and comics in China, but also to a strong anti-Japanese feeling all over China. It’s a fascinating dichotomy, where there is minimal evidence of anime and manga in Chinese stores, but anecdotal evidence everywhere you look that illegal downloaders and torrenters form a significant silent population. Meanwhile, even though only 35 foreign films are permitted in Chinese cinemas each year, you can guarantee that two of the slots otherwise reserved for Tom Cruise, or James Cameron, or Pixar, or whoever will go to the year’s Conan the Boy Detective film and the year’s One Piece movie. Anime and manga in China are not only on a critical cusp, but have been teetering there for the last decade and could still fall either way.

There was also an account of the life and work of Osamu Dezaki, and another about the achievements of Akiyuki Shinbo, adding welcome detail to the public profiles of two prolific directors. At the edge of the anime field, Yasuo Nagayama published an interesting “occasionalist” history of science fiction in Japan, concentrating not on the texts themselves but on the events that surrounded them. In the wrong hands, this could have all too easily turned into a tedious account of things that happened at conventions, but Nagayama keeps closely to his methodology, discussing not only the fan politics of the Japanese con scene, but also the effects of media fads and scares, and the public performances of popularity every time certain anime break box office records.

A few books disappointed me. A new work that purported to offer an insiders’ view of Sazae-san had nowhere near the detail I was hoping for, and Mitsuhisa Ishikawa’s account of his “revolution” at Production IG lacked the kind of nitty-gritty details that I personally go for. Much more fun was to be had in a series of books about the Japanese animation business, particularly the wonderful Otaku Marketing by the Nomura Research Institute, which offers hard data about the various types of otaku to be found in numerous consumer sectors, and how best to sell them stuff. Another book on the industry, This is the Anime Business, by Makoto Tada offered a run-down of the ten secret “Rules of the Devil” recited at the Dentsu corporation by its loyal minions. They are, apparently, a secret handbook to understanding the way the best animation studios work, too:

Rule 1: Work is something you should create not something that should be given.

Rule 2: Work is something where you take initiative and not something you do passively.

Rule 3: Tackle an important job. A small job will make you small.

Rule 4: Target a difficult job. You can progress by accomplishing it.

Rule 5: Once you tackle, don’t let it go. Hold on like grim death, until you achieve the target.

Rule 6: Drag the people around you. It will be worlds apart between the one who drags and who is dragged in a long term.

Rule 7: Plan. If you have a long-term plan, patience, devices, correct effort and hope will be born.

Rule 8: Have confidence. Without confidence, your work does not have punch or tenacity or even depth.

Rule 9: Use your brain in full all the time. Be always on the alert. Don’t slip your guard. That is what service is.

Rule 10: Don’t be afraid of friction. Friction is the mother of progress and manure of drive. Otherwise you will be obsequious and irresolute.

If it seems like I am reading less anime books than usual this year, it’s because this year saw me come to the end of the long writing process on my doctorate. I handed it in back in July, and the prospect of reading it so terrified my superviser that he ran away to China. As a result, it’s still languishing at the faculty waiting for the committee to get its act together; I didn’t help matters by running for China myself for four months this year, making it a little difficult to turn up for my viva; I shall have to sort out all of that in the new year, or else I shall never be Dr Clements. Meanwhile, the book version, some 60,000 words longer (in fact, as one wag commented, a whole other PhD worth of stuff) makes its way through the peer review process at the British Film Institute. I am just about to deliver the second draft of that, and with any luck you should see the published result – ANIME: A History of the Japanese Animation Industry, published in late 2013. As the name implies it is a massive chronicle of animation in Japan since the year 1909 (yes, 1909, you will have to read it to find out why), based almost entirely on the Japanese-language testimonials of the actual creators, rather than the speculations of foreign pundits. If you are the kind of person who has read this far on this blog, then I think you will like it very much.

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 Manga UK podcast is back for its eighth episode, in which Jerome Mazandarani offers sage advice on dealing with school bullies, Andrew Partridge of Scotland Loves Anime plugs his film festival in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Jeremy Graves on what’s coming up at the MCM Expo, and Jonathan Clements on the dangers of sharing a bed with a third-degree blackbelt. And when Jerome is suddenly caught short, Andrew Hewson steps in to the breach.

0:00:00 – 0:04:55 : Pre-Show chatter.

0:04:55 – 0:24:03 : New releases, production snafus, the certification of Madoka Magica, and how new releases ‘sound’, Ninja Scroll and why pre-ordering is a good idea.

0:24:03 – 00:38:35  Manga UK & Kaze UK plans for London MCM Expo, free hugs at conventions,

00:38:35 – 00:49:28 A preview of Scotland Loves Anime in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Also, reasons why “amazeballs” really is a word.

00:49:38 – 1:28:19 [END] Ask Manga UK, featuring questions on older series, licensing titles, best sellers and more! Favourite manga, including Domu and Shooting Stars in the Twilight. The history of Dark Horse Comics in the UK, and their strange transformation. Details of Toshio Maeda at the Expo, and how not to ask him for a “controversial” image. The problems caused by middlemen in acquiring anime rights. Sales figures for Manga Entertainment’s top sellers, including Akira, Naruto and a couple of surprises.

Available to download now, or find it and an archive of previous shows at our iTunes page. For a detailed contents listing of previous podcasts, check out our Podcasts page.

Golgo 13: Clementary

So, apparently the new US release of Golgo 13 includes the commentary track that I recorded for Manga Entertainment in 2007. Very glad to see it getting another airing, particularly since two of my commentary tracks were once dropped from a US release because a timid distributor thought Americans wouldn’t get my sense of humour.

More details on my other commentary tracks can be found here.

The Demonisation of Empress Wu

A lovely article has just been posted on the Smithsonian blog, outlining the odd life and hateful rumours about Empress Wu. There are a couple of quotes in there about shagging slave girls and barbecuing sheep, lifted from that book about her by one Jonathan Clements.

I think the article gives a remarkably good account of why she is such a fascinating subject, even so many centuries after her death.

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.