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symbv
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Okamoto vs Anno interview

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Postby symbv » Tue Mar 08, 2011 5:43 am

OK translation for the Okamoto vs Anno talk
(original here http://johakyu.net/lib/2008/05/2008-05-18-000850.php )

I only translated what I think is key part on Anno side. Some are close translation and some are general translation of the summary of the conversation, and some I just skipped.

It was typed out roughly and I did not bother fine-tuning the wording, so take it as it is. Hopefully my translation is not too hard to understand:

==================================================

Okamoto (O) said that he watched Evangelion twice though he watched the ending first. He said the reference material he received along with the video has "controversial" written in it. He did not understand at first but later knew why once he watched the whole series.

O - Gun Busters is easier to understand. The final episode in the second video is black-and-white. I think it might be done to make it stand out - I men the "Okarinasai" at the end.
A (Anno) - My generation was the age when black and white moved to color. I would like people living now to see how great to have color lol. That was 35 monochrome.
O - I love black and white. Perhaps nearly half of my works are black and white?
A - Recently there are more black and white CM on TV. Poster too. Somehow it is getting popular.
O - And then there is partial coloring.
A - "Part Color"... Everyone is now so familiar with beautiful full color, so on the contrary they see that as ununsual.
O - But development cost is high. In the past development solution for black-and-white was always available. Now you need to order it first and then they make the development solution.
A - If it's color development can be done in the same day. For black and white, they told me to give them 2 days and it became a problem to me schedule-wise. If there is a rush, they would not get it done unless they have 2 days.
O - But that thing does not fade. Print is easy to fade as time passes by.
A - It becomes reddish...

Then some talk about Okamoto's Nikudan. Anno watched it twice and Okamoto said it's more than enough...Anno said he still remembered a lot of the scenes and how they are edited and linked.
But the ones he watched most are "The longest day of Japan" and "Okinawa Battle". He even played it as BGV when he was doing storyboarding at one time, and then slowly his attention was drawn to the video and ended up spending 3 hours watching it.
Then Okamoto talked about his filming Okinawa Battle in Okinawa and the problem with lack of manpower and resource, ended up doing one of the characters.
Then Anno said it's easier in anime -- if one more character is needed just draw him. But Anno said anime and real life both have aspects that the other side may envy.
For example in anime, the camera does not move, and the shadow and body motion needs to be made realistic. Even with CG it has become easier, it still has that CG feel.
Anno then said for anime the main work is still about fixing the motion. Scrolling and wrapping the background is particularly inefficient.
Then more flattery from Anno about how Okamoto's tempo and scene cutting is suitable for anime.
And then Anno talked about frame aspect ratio -- love Cinescope and miss its disappearance. Hate standard ratio and also not like Vista. He loves the way when Cinescope aspect is used audience have to follow the scene by moving their heads which is something not possible with TV watching.

Skipped the part that talks aobut "Blood and Sand" and "Sengoku yarou", and use of long shots.
Except that Anno mentioned the fun thing with anime is that the photographer doubles as the actor in anime and in real-life you never see cameraman doubles as actor.

Very technical talk about how many frames of films to use for one blink. Anno said 6-7 frames, if he does not want the scene to get noticed, he put 6, if he wants to make sure it gets noticed he put at least 9 frames.
And he said that if it is familar and static scene, even 2 frames can leave an impression. 3 frames may already make it too slow.
But if it is fighting it needs 7-8 frames. Took 12 frames in film, cut may be 5-6, depending on how the pictures look. And of course in dialogue how to cut is already predetermined.
He said he spent 12 hours to cut 20 min of animation. The longest time took him 24 hours.

Skipped the part about talking with the audience.

About line of eye sight:
A - In the case of anime, the acting and performance usually does not take that much into account. One reason could be the character design.
The eyes of the characters usually stress on the details of the eyes and this make it difficult to put acting by using line of sight.
However, in Eva the char design is comparatively easier to do such acting, so I put some effort into that. Like where the character is looking at in that scene, or whether the audience are going to see the eyes or not...
Because it is so fundamental I took great care about it. So unusually I put instructions in the storyboard like "Eyes are looking here". As I am influenced by director Okamoto, I used camera line of sight more than usual
O - if possible, line of sight should be on somewhere close. And on direction, A would look at B and then speak, and B would look back at A in reacton. It has to be like that...
A - for me, camera line of sight is often on the front. The drawing staff usually hates it. Drawing frontal face is more diffcult and often it could not be done well. But if the line of sight goes the other way, it becomes hard to use it to act.
O - There is power if the guy's sight is close to you
A - yes, that's it. That has energy in it.
A - I don't like switching between front and side. It is easier to frame the position of eyes of the characters if it is a front to front exchanges between the lines of sights of two persons. Anime is at the end a 2D thing so the amount of information is limited.
When it is cut to a new scene, the audience will try to search for something to focus, and if it is a face, it will be the eyes they look first. So when the eyes have expressed the information, you can cut to another scene already. In tv anime, static scenes are many.
I think this is the proper way to go. Although I think acting by eyes is very important it is also very tedious. I don't mind putting effort into doing it but somehow when I look at it later I have a feeling that it won't get noticed, or nobody cares. And then I get a bit irriated.
O - Perhaps because eyes in anime characters are so big...
A - That has many physical reasons. If we do not make the eyes big and treat it as a symbol for the characters, it will become difficult for many to draw.
O - but one can act just by eyes. Like the position of the iris...
A - true, but as the end we only have the drawings to fall back on. If we overdo that kind of serious acting, it carries a risk of looking ridiculous. Character Design is a difficult thing.

About Director:
Skipped the part about old time directors and struggles with studio about rights to edit.
except Anno said that for anime sometimes it needs to do editing without having all drawings. But he thinks editing is fun. Gather extra cuts and then try to experiment by switching the cuts or rearranging order and that is interesting. And even the question of whether to cut 2 frames or not can make a difference.

About Storyboarding:
More flattery from Anno about watching "Ghost Train" and Okamoto said because of AD'S mistake he once needed to take 140-150 cuts in one day.
A - for movies, consensus is impossible
O - Director must be a dictator
A - He is a despot. Nothing can move forward if we have to wait until someone else makes a decision and approves. Also the personal character would nto come out.
In anime, a overall design called storyboard is made from the very beginning. And the production system is based on that design, so it is easier to unify opinions.
On the other hand, there is an image that the director's job is over once the storyboard is decided.
O - since we are on it, in Ghostbuster and Eva last episode, there are parts in black and white, that flashback, that kind of stood out. It used quite a bit of sketch like drawings. Did the storyboard also cover that?
A - It was put in there.
O - Oh, those sketches were interesting. It somehow feels it's moving.

Anime vs real-life film:
Okamoto said real-life is not necessarily better. Anno said many anime directors want to do real-life. Many simply put drawings in place of real-life images and they seem to want to push anime to look closer to real life film.
And both think it is not a good idea.
Final comment by Anno - Animation is a kind of static world, but there is a yearn for thrill when it switches from one static world to antoher static world and that cut to new scene is a most efficient way to get such thrill. And he thinks Okamoto's style of film cutting has similar effect
A - in a tv anime, 30 min of video has a limit of 3500 pictures. So the images cannot move as much as I want. And how to squeeze out the best from the image in such lack of motion, it is all in the cutting.
I never thought I would come back to Evangelion after EoE,
But I discovered Re-Take (or it found me?) and
now here I am.
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Postby Xard » Tue Mar 08, 2011 6:22 am

This is really great stuff! I hope I have more to comment on later...

A - in a tv anime, 30 min of video has a limit of 3500 pictures. So the images cannot move as much as I want. And how to squeeze out the best from the image in such lack of motion, it is all in the cutting.


Anno is certainly having a field day with Rebuild :lol:

I never thought about character eyes in eva that much (beyond the thought "geez, Anno sure likes closeups of eyes") but I'm pretty impressed to hear Anno paid so much attention to these things and "acting". I know I'll see some scenes of eva with fresh eyes now... :)

That Okamoto has seen even Gunbuster is awesome in itself
ran1: Oh gosh this sentence gave me an internet boner. You're so tsundere.
Mugwump: Goddamn it, Xard! Take me in your arms, you magnificent sex god bastard!
And don't forget to wear the Ran mask.
Eva Yojimbo: You really are the Otaku equivalent of a Catholic and Jew rolled up into one giant dakimakura of guilt.
Gob Hobblin: Sanctimonious, subtly racist, vaguely misogynist, somehow says something while at the same time saying...nothing, really, at all....

Nice, Xard. That's nice.

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Postby toe mash » Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:19 am

Well, that was an interesting read

Thanks symbv!

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Postby Xard » Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:30 am

But the ones he watched most are "The longest day of Japan" and "Okinawa Battle". He even played it as BGV when he was doing storyboarding at one time, and then slowly his attention was drawn to the video and ended up spending 3 hours watching it.


I've heard Battle of Okinawa mentioned in context of making EoE and I watched the film today. Truth to be told I didn't see great similarities between the film and the JSSDF attack in EoE...perhaps there's some resemblance in cave/tunnel fighting towards the end, I guess I can see abstract influence there. And the flame thrower bit probably came from this film.

Haven't seen The longest Day of Japan yet so can't comment...

Skipped the part that talks aobut "Blood and Sand" and "Sengoku yarou", and use of long shots.


not asking a full translation but what did Anno say about long shots in general? It might be interesting in light of infamous "freeze frames" in eva... :lol:
ran1: Oh gosh this sentence gave me an internet boner. You're so tsundere.
Mugwump: Goddamn it, Xard! Take me in your arms, you magnificent sex god bastard!
And don't forget to wear the Ran mask.
Eva Yojimbo: You really are the Otaku equivalent of a Catholic and Jew rolled up into one giant dakimakura of guilt.
Gob Hobblin: Sanctimonious, subtly racist, vaguely misogynist, somehow says something while at the same time saying...nothing, really, at all....

Nice, Xard. That's nice.

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Postby symbv » Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:23 pm

View Original PostXard wrote: not asking a full translation but what did Anno say about long shots in general? It might be interesting in light of infamous "freeze frames" in eva... :lol:


If he had I would have translated that.... Basically it was Okamoto mentioning how one thing he learnt as a lowly AD for 15 years was to learn to make quick decision to zoom and pull in a long shot. And then he talked about there are difference of using long shot for film that is meant for cinema, video or TV... The only thing Anno said is this
A - I think long shot is about how far you can pull the shot. In anime, that is convenient because everything is expressed by the pictures. We cannot tell lies with that. If we do not draw well we will not be able to tell a story. It's always like this. Whether the acting is good or bad depends on how good the actor is and how good the drawing is. In anime, cinematographer is also the actor. That is the animator. It may be tough, but it can also be fun as you get to draw picture, and be a cameraman and an actor.

Since this was also repeated in another passage I did not bother translating that bit...
I never thought I would come back to Evangelion after EoE,
But I discovered Re-Take (or it found me?) and
now here I am.
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Postby C.A.P. » Tue Mar 08, 2011 4:58 pm

Wow, this is stuff you rarely see other forums discuss about! Thanks so much symbv! You're doing us a huge favor (we really need to make a EvaWiki section about stuff like this. I mean, I've seen other Wikis doing it)

Like Xard, I'm especially intrigued by the comments Anno made about the eyes; not only does it gives me a clearer picture on why anime is still emulating what Omseu manged to pioneer (I always thought it was because of the business refusing to surrender the basic template), but it reminds me on the beginnings of television animation. You see, when it started (with shows like Crusader Rabbit, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Huckleberry Hound, late 50-early 60s), appealing designs, lots of dialogue, and familiarity of the characters usually dominated the excitement of moving drawings in order to make up/make excuses for the lack of fluidity of what animation actually is (Chuck Jones calls it "illustrated radio" for a reason), and when the budgets got bigger, the principles were still in effect, but the limited movements usually tries to cover the problems of animation for television.

So, I find it funny that with the clarification I now know, I'm slowly starting to think that Anno never really saw, in clear eyes, the problems of the mechanical nature of animation (he knows the flaws of creativity, but I'm skeptical that he's aware of what separates the true advantages of animation from the cost-cutting advantages), and instead of wishing to receive the advantages of live action, he goes ahead and treats it like it was (or is) an extension of live action. I mean, when you comment that performances and camera angles has a greater importance to animation than the actual essence itself (instead of working on all three to make a form), I can't help but think that Anno sees the artform as an extension (perhaps even a drawback) rather than a whole, and if comments like "we only have the drawings to fall back on" tell me anything, it's that Anno the filmmaker might be a genius, but Anno the animator? John Hubley he's not.

(tl;dr anno sure sees the business differently than some other animator directors I know)
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Postby Xard » Tue Mar 08, 2011 5:09 pm

View Original PostC.A.P. wrote:Like Xard, I'm especially intrigued by the comments Anno made about the eyes; not only does it gives me a clearer picture on why anime is still emulating what Omseu manged to pioneer (I always thought it was because of the business refusing to surrender the basic template), but it reminds me on the beginnings of television animation.


...you lost me. Who is Omseu?

View Original PostC.A.P. wrote:So, I find it funny that with the clarification I now know, I'm slowly starting to think that Anno never really saw, in clear eyes, the problems of the mechanical nature of animation (he knows the flaws of creativity, but I'm skeptical that he's aware of what separates the true advantages of animation from the cost-cutting advantages), and instead of wishing to receive the advantages of live action, he goes ahead and treats it like it was (or is) an extension of live action. I mean, when you comment that performances and camera angles has a greater importance to animation than the actual essence itself (instead of working on all three to make a form), I can't help but think that Anno sees the artform as an extension (perhaps even a drawback) rather than a whole, and if comments like "we only have the drawings to fall back on" tell me anything, it's that Anno the filmmaker might be a genius, but Anno the animator? John Hubley he's not.

(tl;dr anno sure sees the business differently than some other animator directors I know)


...and you lost me completely here :lol:

If you're saying Anno treats animation as form of live action then you're definetly wrong. But I'm not sure if you're saying that. :dizzy:

As for animator being "the actor and cinematographer" at the same time, it is old industry adage going at least back to Hayao Miyazaki - Anno is just echoing him regarding this. I don't see how that leads to ignoring "the essence", whatever that means
ran1: Oh gosh this sentence gave me an internet boner. You're so tsundere.
Mugwump: Goddamn it, Xard! Take me in your arms, you magnificent sex god bastard!
And don't forget to wear the Ran mask.
Eva Yojimbo: You really are the Otaku equivalent of a Catholic and Jew rolled up into one giant dakimakura of guilt.
Gob Hobblin: Sanctimonious, subtly racist, vaguely misogynist, somehow says something while at the same time saying...nothing, really, at all....

Nice, Xard. That's nice.

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Postby Noriko is my wife » Wed Mar 09, 2011 9:42 pm

thanks symbv!

View Original PostC.A.P. wrote:I mean, when you comment that performances and camera angles has a greater importance to animation than the actual essence itself (instead of working on all three to make a form)

I also find your post confusing. What is the "essence itself"? I'm sorry if I sound condescending but you understand that performance here means the actual animation? (The question is about whether in the world of very limited tv-animation the expressiveness of this "performance" can be affected by paying special attention to the characters eyes or not.)

I can't help but think that Anno sees the artform as an extension (perhaps even a drawback) rather than a whole

I'm just guessing (because you're not very clear) that you mean an extension of (live-action) film-making rather than an unique art-form with its own special properties or something like that. You can probably say that in Japan they treat animation as an extension of film-making. Not just Anno but Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon, Masaaki Yuasa etc. This isn't the same as confusing it with live-action and not seeing the particular strengths of animation but the ideals that these people creates animation from are different than those of most American animators. When someone like Kon plans the "camera angles" (i.e the layouts) he's simply not coming up with creative ways to hide limited animation, but is thinking of how to create the best possible film visually. And given infinite resources I don't think Hiroyuki Okiura wuld have made Jin-Roh any more like Snow White than it is. As for "a drawback", Anno straight out says animation and live-action have their different advantages and shouldn't be confused and that he dislikes directors treating animation as a stand in for live action so..?

Peter Chung whose comments on this subject are the most well informed you can read compares American animation to Vaudeville The ideal of American animation is something like a stage (captured by a static camera) where the animator is crafting a character based performance. He thinks the American approach leads to better animation (performances) but worse films.

Just to empphasize again that these are different traditions. Miyazaki has said the first thing Japanese animators notice are the lines whereas Americans notices the shape (or something like that, I'm going by my memory). This could explain why Japanese animation is still dominated by two dimensional drawing instead of CG models. The knowledge that Japanese animators have built up simply can't be transposed from one to the other the same way it could from American animation which was always more three-dimensional to begin with.

and if comments like "we only have the drawings to fall back on" tell me anything,

I don't get why you think there's something negative in this comment. Acting in animation is different from acting done by humans but different animation also requires different type of acting. We probably interpret what he says very differently.

I'll stop now. I'm not even sure how relevant this is to the post I'm replying to but it was sort of confusing in the first place.

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Postby gwern » Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:13 pm

View Original PostSaltyJoe wrote:Relevant [Anno quote]


Are you just quoting the _Atlantic_ article I dug up or does that Anno quote (about adults) show up elsewhere?

View Original Postsymbv wrote:Those are really old interviews, dated 1998 and 1999 respectively.


1998?

http://johakyu.net/lib/2008/05/2008-05-18-000850.php 's metadata infobox pretty clearly says 1997, and Google Translate renders it as 'January 1997 Animage'.

(Also, I don't think this thread really belongs in 'Completely and Utterly Off-Topic', but whatever.)

symbv wrote:O - since we are on it, in Ghostbuster and Eva last episode, there are parts in black and white, that flashback, that kind of stood out. It used quite a bit of sketch like drawings. Did the storyboard also cover that?


Just to double-check, you really meant *Gunbuster*, not _Ghostbusters_, right? (I don't recollect any BW scenes in _Ghostbusters_.)

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Postby symbv » Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:20 pm

View Original Postgwern wrote:1998?

http://johakyu.net/lib/2008/05/2008-05-18-000850.php 's metadata infobox pretty clearly says 1997, and Google Translate renders it as 'January 1997 Animage'.


I wrote that quite some time ago before I did the translation. I did not check the dates closely then -- I just wanted to state how old that interview was...
In fact at the end of the article, it was stated the talk took place at the home of Okamoto in Ikuta-ku Kawasaki-shi Kanagawa Precture on Wednesday 1996 Oct 16th

View Original Postgwern wrote:Just to double-check, you really meant *Gunbuster*, not _Ghostbusters_, right? (I don't recollect any BW scenes in _Ghostbusters_.)



Okamoto said トップをねらえ! which I believe is Gunbuster and translated as such.
I never thought I would come back to Evangelion after EoE,
But I discovered Re-Take (or it found me?) and
now here I am.
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Postby gwern » Thu Mar 10, 2011 5:36 pm

View Original Postsymbv wrote:In fact at the end of the article, it was stated the talk took place at the home of Okamoto in Ikuta-ku Kawasaki-shi Kanagawa Precture on Wednesday 1996 Oct 16th


Thanks for the correct date. I had slotted it under 1997 because I wasn't sure when it had taken place. (Publication dates have always frustrated me with Japanese magazines, being off by weeks or months from when they physically appear. I wonder if American magazines are that bad?)

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Postby shinji_ryoji_89 » Mon Mar 14, 2011 2:15 am

Wow, I had forgotten about this thread and I find it and it looks like it has exploded into a fascinating discussion. Kudos to everyone!

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Postby gwern » Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:45 pm

A blast from the past http://eva.onegeek.org/pipermail/oldeva ... 29728.html :

kaworu named after nagisa oshima?

i'm throwing this out since the FAQs in existence do not address it.

a kinema-otaku friend of mine suggested that kaworu
might have been named after the dierctor nagisa oshima, the most notorious of
all the bad boys of the Japanese new wave. he is known primarily in the west
for being the first director to get an equivalent NC-17 rating for "in the
realm of the senses," possibly the most notorious Japanese film of the 1970s;
and was also censored for his exploration of homoerotic themes, as in the ww2
drama "merry christmas, mr. lawrence" with david bowie and ryuchi "smoochy"
sakamoto

anno refered to nagisa oshima's work in an interview in newtype (i think)
back in summer 1997--but no one bothered to point out the obvious...should
somone have?


Poor Luna1883. Anno's essay on the character names where he confirms the Oshima link wouldn't be translated until December 2000 (and likely Luna1883 never saw it), and that Newtype interview still hasn't been translated, I think.

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Postby busterbeam » Fri Nov 25, 2011 8:08 pm

I want to bump this because it's an interesting discussion
View Original PostXard wrote: This kind of disgust at general "infantilization" and longing for Japan of ye olde with values and respectable role models seems to be pretty common among Japanese intelligentsia and smartypants from Murakami to Anno to (RIP) Satoshi Kon. SaltyJoe's quote is a bit out of context in this sense because Anno discusses lack of any good, real models of adulthood in modern Japan and loss of values and identity alongside with it; the "people unashamedly read kid stuff and porn on trains" just came along with the baggage.

Murakami doesn't really seem that nationalistic and "I miss the good old days" to me:
Sadly, or maybe not so sadly, as long as Japan is a puppet nation of America and there is no image of the future, otaku culture will grow and develop."

and
People cannot rise up or wake up because they are sleeping protected in a capsule. We already found out that that society is not real. But it is our normality. Perhaps this is why Japanese subculture has been so strong these 20 years. Maybe if we can keep our minds really childish we can be free.

To me he seems very undecided about otaku culture and whether it's doing more good than bad, which makes perfect sense considering he's a guy who appreciates many aspects of it and is friends with a bunch of particularly strange otaku. Anno on the other hand just seemed like he was being very angsty and self-hating in that old interview; those seemed to me like bitter emotion-fueled statements.

I never actually found out the exact year when that article was released, but it would be interesting to find out if Anno was still during his depressed period or not.

Edit: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/arc ... er/5776/3/ man, the article is from 2007... so yeah, fairly recent. What the hell?

Edit edit: further searching reveals that Miyazaki has said something similar
That game console-like thing in your hands and the strange way you touch and stroke it makes me feel ill such that I have no appreciation or passion for it. There is disgust* though. Sooner or later such strange masurbatorily fondiling people will be on the rise in trains, I suppose. Just like when manga readers and cell phone users came to the train, I'm already fed up.

So technically Anno would be disgusted if he saw someone reading his wife's manga on a train, and Miyazaki would perhaps even have the same reaction if someone read his own manga?

I can't decide if I should come to the conclusion that Miyazaki and Anno are strange, or if Japanese culture is just too hard for me to understand. How is reading comic books on trains disrespectful or horrible?
aaaaaa

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Postby Xard » Sat Nov 26, 2011 9:03 am

View Original Postbusterbeam wrote:Murakami doesn't really seem that nationalistic and "I miss the good old days" to me:


Some interviews of him I've read (one I actually used to have was in finnish paper made when his art exhibition came to helsinki maybe 5 or so years ago, it was cool stuff) beg to disagree as well as Hiroki Azuma's writings on the guy.

Besides, we are talking about a guy who uses a ton of pages in his art theory to develop artistic vision of Japanese anime as direct descendant of Edo period culture of floating cities and tries to underplay and exclude the massive, crucial and determining influence of post-WWII invasion of american culture pretty much entirely. See for example Murakami's ludicruous instance of wishful thinking and delusion about the dragon in Harmageddon (which is one shitty film btw) presenting tr00 Japanese art and natural continuation from the Edo period.

Stuff like this isn't really unusual at all among otaku "theorists".

View Original PostHiroki Azuma wrote:The third cause of the neglect of the otaku culture is the most remarkable and interesting, but more complicated. It is connected with a socio-psychological problem of Japanese post-war identity.

Since the end of the World War 2, the Japanese have long suffered from a serious difficulty to evaluate and be proud of their cultural tradition straightforward. There are two reasons. One is political; in Japan, any affirmative attitude towards Japanese identity has been likely thought to be a political right-wing expression as the action of forgetting or liquidating Japanese military "crime" in the war. This atmosphere still exists, and this is very serious for any intellectuals or academics.

The other is more sociological; the so-called "Japanese tradition", for example the literature, fine art or the Emperor system is in fact the historically new construction after Meiji Revolution, and now Japanese society has been so deeply Europeanized and Americanized that any nostalgic return towards its traditional, original, or "pure" Japaneseness, seems a fake. You can easily find how Japanese typical landscapes actually are in contemporary films or comics, those filled with Seven-Elevens, McDonalds, Denny's, comics, computers and cellular phones...they are all of American origin.

In addition, my point here is that it is the otaku culture that reflects most clearly this mixed, hybrid, bastardized condition; that is, the paradox that we cannot find any Japaneseness without post-war American pop culture. I guess most Japanese intellectuals are feeling a strong psychoanalytical resistance towards admitting this condition.

The otaku culture in general is often claimed to be a sort of cultural successor of premodern Japanese tradition, mainly the Edo tradition. This succession is emphasized by leading otaku critics like Toshio Okada or Eiji Otsuka. According to their pretension, the consumptive structure of manga or anime is remarkably similar to that of Kabuki or Joruri in Edo era. Murakami's argument you can read in the catalogue is on the same premise. He draws a direct line from Kano Sansetsu to Yoshinori Kaneda, that is, from the 17th century paintings to 1970's anime films. This conception can be analyzed as a variation of the prevailing idea that premodernity and postmodernity is directly connected in Japan without enough modernization. You can find this cliche everywhere in Japanese postmodernism.

However, the reality is more complicated. However attractive or persuasive the similarity between Edo culture and otaku culture seems, we should not forget the simple fact that otaku culture could not have existed at all without the influence of American subcultures. Manga, anime, tokusatsu (SFX movies), SF novels, computer games, all are of American origin and imported from the US with its post-war occupation policy. The otaku culture should not be seen as a direct successor of Japanese premodernity, but as a result of the recent "domestication" of post-war American culture, which was developing just at the same time with Japanese rapid economical growth and the recovery of national self-confidence in 1950s and 1960s. In this sense, otaku culture is essentially "nationalistic" though its characteristic and expression are far from those of traditional ordinary nationalism.

You can find the most ostensible example in the TV anime film titled "Spaceship Yamato", which was broadcast in mid-70s and is still very popular. The story is typical; one spaceship with heroes saves the earth from the alien's attack. However, remarkable is that all the crewmembers are Japanese, no foreigners, and the story emphasizes their spiritual and self-sacrificing philosophy, which is no doubt the imitation of that of Japanese pre-war military. The name of the spaceship "Yamato" actually means "Japan" in poetic language and the spaceship itself is made from a salvaged Japanese navy warship sunk in the famous battle of the World War 2. The implication is clear.

The otaku culture is a sort of the collective expression of post-war Japanese nationalism, although their surroundings in reality are thoroughly invaded and traumatized by American pop culture. This paradox necessarily leads otaku artists and writers to the twisted, ambivalent, complicated and a sort of self-caricaturized expression of Japaneseness. You can find this obsessive distortion of identity just in the artworks exhibited here, for example, Bome's sculptures, Murakami's paintings or Anno's films.
It may be interesting to analyze the politics of their distortion, but here I rather give you another example from outside the exhibition, a Japanese ordinary TV anime titled as "Saber Marionette J", which was broadcast several years ago. Its world reflects the structure of the twisted psychology of otaku nationalism very clearly .

The story is a mixture of Sci-Fi and love comedy. It is set in an odd planet where there exists only men and all female figures are androids without any human feelings, called "marionette". However, the story begins with an accident that the protagonist happens to encounter three marionettes with human heart. He began to live with them but later finds that they are made to be sacrificed for the resurrection of a human female. Their sacrifice is necessary because the only surviving lady has been captive in the satellite high in the space by the uncontrolled artificial intelligence. The humans on the planet planned to make the special marionettes with faked hearts to trick the computer into believing their faked heart as authentic ones and liberate the human female in exchange for three marionettes. Informed of this plan, the protagonist is forced to face the serious choice. On the one hand, there are the anime characters that are accompanying, sexually appealing and sometimes seem to have real hearts -- but in reality faked artifices. On the other hand, there is a human girl he never met, never knew, never communicated with but who has a real heart. I think this choice is nothing but the reality for many otakus and in this sense we can understand "Saber J" as a kind of allegory abstracted from the actual otaku situation. It is suggestive that the protagonist cannot choose any alternative by himself. It is by marionettes that the decision is made. Maybe this passiveness is a key to understand the otaku mentality.

Nevertheless, the most interesting in the context of today's lecture is the imaginary role of Edo culture in the program. The landscape of the future city where its story develops is designed as a simulacrum of Edo landscape like an amusement park. It seems symptomatic because, in the 1980s, at the beginning of Japanese postmodernity, the Edo era and its culture was strongly preferred by many writers, artists and critics including both postmodernists and otakus. Their preference toward the association between the 80s' postmodern society and the premodern Edo can be easily explained once you recognize the above-mentioned process of "domestication" of the post-war American culture. In the mid-80s, many Japanese were fascinated with their economical success and tried to erase or forget their traumatic memory of the defeat in the World War 2. The reevaluation of Edo culture is socially required in such an atmosphere.

This preference is not only prevailed in Japan but also supported by some foreign critical discourses. Alexandre Kojeve, a French philosopher who published the reading of Hegelian historical philosophy, is often referred to because he interpreted the Japanese Edo era as a precursor of the postmodern society after the "End of History". Roland Barthes, another French critic, also depicted Japanese tradition as a realization of postmodernism. We can add much more names to this list, for example, Wim Wenders, William Gibson, Rem Koolhaas and so on. Japan has long been represented as a mixture of premodernity and postmodernity in Western discourse over these 30 years. This kind of "Orientalism" was imported back into Japanese society in the 1980s and since then the Japanese themselves began to explain their postmodern reality based on their premodern tradition going back to the Edo era. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the deepest psychosocial element beneath this tendency is the (impossible) desire to deny the post-war American cultural influence. The postmodernity came from the U.S. although the Japanese wanted to take it back to their national tradition. The otaku culture is also originated from this desire.

In this context, you can easily see the paradoxical position of this Exhibition Superflat. Otaku culture is the result of Japanization of American pop culture. However, Murakami intends here to bring it back to its origin, that is, re-Americanize otaku culture, re-Americanize the Japanized American culture. "Superflat" is not an authentic successor of "pop" but its hybrid, mixed, fake bastard.


busterbeam wrote:Anno on the other hand just seemed like he was being very angsty and self-hating in that old interview; those seemed to me like bitter emotion-fueled statements.


Anno is a child of his generation and a typical gen. 1 otaku in key respects. As recently came up in one newly translated interview after 60s failed to "revolutionize the world" (to quote Ikuhara for a change) the young kids like Anno came to see the system as immutable and there was nothing to struggle against in the society anymore as there was no hope for "better", whatever that means. So the kids of early 70s, his generation, had nothing but tv to turn to. As such it's not very surprising that their in real world impotent and directionless feelings of disillusioment and disappointment with society then often gave birth to this longing for some idealized, false "genuine Japan" of the past and a streak of bizarre nationalism and anti-westernity underpinning many otherwise or seemingly vacuous anime productions.

It's especially prevalent in 80s as Japan got to live in kind of comfortable bubble of rising as great and powerful again through economic power, a new superpower more than capable of in long run challenging the accursable United States (such fears were prevalent on american side too as can be seen in eg. city of Blade Runner that has Japanese writing and cultural influence all over the place, reflecting expectations of Japanese cultural invasion that were all over the place at the time) - bubble economy bursting destroyed the 80s spirit once and for all which in part did not make likes of Aum Shinrikyo unappealing in early 90s for such otaku.

You can see this 80s surge of DAI NIPPON and nationalism all over the place if you're willing to give it small effort. Gunbuster's backstory where America started WWIII by pulling their own Pearl Harbor and subsequently losing the war to Japan who emerged as a third superpower as a result (hence why Japan has equal importance with USA and USSR in Gunbusterverse) is typical power fantasy you'd expect from otaku like early GAINAXers including Anno. More pointedly and alarmingly there's Angel Cop OVA from early 90s by Ichiro Itano, Anno's friend and mentor, which has at the heart of the conspiracies and plottings a worldview where USA is afraid of rising Japan and now the meek Japanese politicians have "sold out" Japan to JEWS controlling America (and now JEWS are controlling Japan too) who plan on turning Japan into a nuclear waste dumb of the world. LOL

The screenwriter for Angel Cop went on to become acclaimed writer within industry, doing such mainstream titles as FMA decade later...

View Original Postbusterbeam wrote:So technically Anno would be disgusted if he saw someone reading his wife's manga on a train, and Miyazaki would perhaps even have the same reaction if someone read his own manga?

I can't decide if I should come to the conclusion that Miyazaki and Anno are strange, or if Japanese culture is just too hard for me to understand. How is reading comic books on trains disrespectful or horrible?


There's difference between two. Miyazaki is just a cranky old guy without any of the psychological baggage that is so prevalent in otaku generation authors like Anno :hahaha:
ran1: Oh gosh this sentence gave me an internet boner. You're so tsundere.
Mugwump: Goddamn it, Xard! Take me in your arms, you magnificent sex god bastard!
And don't forget to wear the Ran mask.
Eva Yojimbo: You really are the Otaku equivalent of a Catholic and Jew rolled up into one giant dakimakura of guilt.
Gob Hobblin: Sanctimonious, subtly racist, vaguely misogynist, somehow says something while at the same time saying...nothing, really, at all....

Nice, Xard. That's nice.

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Postby busterbeam » Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:16 pm


Some interviews of him I've read (one I actually used to have was in finnish paper made when his art exhibition came to helsinki maybe 5 or so years ago, it was cool stuff) beg to disagree as well as Hiroki Azuma's writings on the guy.

Do you recall what he said in those?
Besides, we are talking about a guy who uses a ton of pages in his art theory to develop artistic vision of Japanese anime as direct descendant of Edo period culture of floating cities and tries to underplay and exclude the massive, crucial and determining influence of post-WWII invasion of american culture pretty much entirely. See for example Murakami's ludicruous instance of wishful thinking and delusion about the dragon in Harmageddon (which is one shitty film btw) presenting tr00 Japanese art and natural continuation from the Edo period.

I wasn't talking about whitewashing American influence, just the "America ruined Japan and made us all into babies" thing. Murakami doesn't seem that bitter about these things and appreciates to a big extent many things that came out of childish post-war anime culture, and has even spoken out against the censorship of the less refined aspects (like the Seiji Matsuyama incident last year). He just understands it's not all sunshine and rainbows and a lot of the common themes of anime came as a result of a pretty dark background. I don't agree with everything he says and yes there is some blatant nationalism in there, but I don't sense a level of bitter self-hatred either for liking the things he does.

Then again Anno appreciates these things too but he acts very strangely about it. The "manga on trains" thing is honestly ridiculous and no matter how "out of context" it is there's no way to paint it otherwise.

Also, I mostly agree with Murakami about Kanada's fire dragon. The quality of the rest of the movie doesn't really have much relevance to how amazing and legendary that scene is and I also see it as something very Japanese - as far as I'm concerned you simply couldn't have seen a sequence like that from an 80s animated feature film in the West, not in terms of how good it is (though it IS amazing) but in terms of its stylistic choices. I read about Murakami's views on Japanese art vs. Western (especially in nerdy/'otakuish' subjects) years ago as I was getting into anime and I found it very constructive. As a result I've been easily noticing certain trends (I believe this is the reason why the Japanese video game industry is an environment where people never consider trying to make realistic first person shooters for instance) that made me get a better understanding of the West's (and hell, MY) attraction towards Japanese things.

Also when Azuma said "Anno's films", what was he referring to? What Anno stuff did they show off during that 2001 exhibition, just Eva? I know for a fact that Murakami mentioned Love & Pop in his original 2000 Super Flat book (back when he started using the term and it was written as two different words) but I dunno if that was present.
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Postby gwern » Sat Nov 26, 2011 5:17 pm

Are we discussing Takashi Murakami here as ignoring US influence? I mean, I just finished reading _Little Boy_ and Murakami himself discussed the US and Japan quite a bit and the military aspects in particular. The volume spends a lot of time on popular tokusatsu and nuclear bombs, which surely counts as US influence on Japanese popular culture...

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Postby busterbeam » Sat Nov 26, 2011 6:21 pm

View Original Postgwern wrote:Are we discussing Takashi Murakami here as ignoring US influence? I mean, I just finished reading _Little Boy_ and Murakami himself discussed the US and Japan quite a bit and the military aspects in particular. The volume spends a lot of time on popular tokusatsu and nuclear bombs, which surely counts as US influence on Japanese popular culture...

I think Xard is bothered by Murakami linking modern anime aesthetics to the stylized old paintings of Hokusai. I don't know, maybe he's right in disagreeing (or thinking Murakami is delusional) and knows more than I do, but as far as I know it seems like a perfectly valid theory. As far as I know he's right about old Japanese paintings having this flat, stylized look to them and anime seems to continue the tradition of doing more with less, with Kanada's frame-skipping style being the best possible example of that.

Besides I might be wrong but I don't think he was saying that Kanada intentionally aimed to make his stuff look like his old paintings but that Japan is unique in that it's a cultural environment where those types of aesthetics are more likely to flourish. It's similar to the mistake that self-proclaimed "Superflat fans" make when they assume that just because Hideaki Anno and Mamoru Hosoda collaborated with Murakami occasionally they are now "Superflat artists" and that things like the new Eva movies or Summer Wars are made with the intention of "superflat movement works". Even after Hosoda specifically disagreed with this interpretation people still do it because it's a cool "arty" word to use (which is hilarious since one of the points Murakami makes is that "low art" like anime is hardly different from "high art" and can be analyzed in similar ways).

Oh not to mention the people who just give Wikipedia a cursory glance and say Evangelion or other Anno works are "Superflat-influenced" when it's the other way around and Anno had those views before the word "Superflat" was even coined (I have seriously seen a quote from a clearly commercial website call Eva 2.0 "the latest entry in the superflat-influenced series").
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Postby gwern » Sat Nov 26, 2011 6:48 pm

A little out of my depth, but a style or trend can be identified in retrospect (indeed, most are so identified and then named); so Eva could be superflat before any Superflat manifesto was published.

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Postby busterbeam » Sat Nov 26, 2011 7:01 pm

View Original Postgwern wrote:A little out of my depth, but a style or trend can be identified in retrospect (indeed, most are so identified and then named); so Eva could be superflat before any Superflat manifesto was published.

I don't know, I don't think the idea of self-reflexively looking at otaku culture is an inherently "Superflat" trait. Besides, not all of Murakami/Kaikai Kiki's works are about that, especially now that Murakami is unironically embracing the whole "sell cute stuff to people" thing and making AKB48 music videos. He has even gone on record to say that not even Hiropon and My Lonesome Cowboy were really a way to criticize and judge otaku (at least not in a "THIS IS DISGUSTING AND HORRIBLE STOP DOING IT NOW" way as many believe); they seem more like parodies and an attempt to analyze otaku fetishes. Actually he's done some similar sculptures recently and the concept artist for them is Seiji Matsuyama, the guy behind Eiken who unironically draws and enjoys boatloads of strange fetish art (and is married to a woman who is into the very same things... his blog is pretty odd to look at) and who Murakami is friends with. Anno's reaction on the other hand seemed to be more one of intense self-doubt. If Azuma's writing is any indication (and it should be considering he's actually interviewed Anno in the past) at one point Anno even viewed Gunbuster as an embarrassing, horrible otaku work. On the other hand Murakami praises stuff like that.

I personally think it's better to just use "Superflat" to describe the "uniquely Japanese" ideas and aesthetics that Murakami has described. I guess Kaikai Kiki stuff could be seen as "superflat movement works" but there's also a sub-set of people that thinks "superflat" is a genre of anime that people are consciously making and labeling as such which is just so very off. I can guarantee that Anno and Hosoda never thought "I WILL MAKE A 'SUPERFLAT MOVEMENT' TV SERIES/MOVIE" when directing something (except for when Hosoda made Superflat Monorgam since he was literally working with Murakami and "Superflat" was right there in its name).
Last edited by busterbeam on Sat Nov 26, 2011 7:51 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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