I saw the french animated film Persepolis today. Based off a comic book of the same name, Persepolis is the tale of a young girl named Marjane living in war-torn Iran and its religious transformation during the 1980s. We as the audience get to see Marjane grow from girl into woman, making mistakes along the way, and constantly re-evaluating what’s important in her life. It’s a really powerful film and I recommend anyone who has the opportunity to watch it to do so.
I came out of Persepolis with one prominent thought in my mind: It’s been a long long time since I’ve seen a Japanese animation like it.
Stylistically, there’s no anime like Persepolis, but that’s not what I’m focusing on (though I might in a later time. It’s really quite powerful visually). What I’m talking about is how Persepolis addresses the small scale issues regarding relationships and emotions, as well the large scale issues with the backdrop of warfare. Recent anime, when it’s good, tends to be very good at one or the other, but not both. On the occasions that it does manage to address both, it tends to add a certain fantastic element to it which pushes the whole animation slightly to the left of reality, as in the case of Gundam 00.
Now this is hardly the case for the history of anime. Japanese animation and manga rose out of World War II, and many people have tackled and re-tackled the setting. Grave of the Fireflies, Barefoot Gen, even more romantic series such as Rose of Versailles all manage to portray the large and small stuff with a great deal of poignancy.
So what’s happened? Has anime become too much of a comfort zone, perhaps?
Now, I realize that I’m comparing a ton of Japanese animation to just one French animation, and that Persepolis may very well be an exception to the rule even in French animation, but this is the feeling I got from seeing this movie as it pertains to the thing I love called anime.