How Many Curtains Does It Take to Get to the Truth of Anime Production?

One of the recurring endeavors in the study of anime and manga has been to remove some of the aura from Tezuka Osamu. Rightfully one of the most influential figures in anime and (especially) manga history, it’s not so much about questioning whether Tezuka had any impact on Japanese popular culture but to what extent the attributions given to him (either by others or himself) are necessarily accurate. Did he really create the first anime (no) or the first TV anime (no)? Did he really invent shoujo manga (the answer is also no)? However, amidst the pursuit of the truth, this brings to mind the question of how much one is willing to peel back the veils of illusion that go into the production of art and media, to look at the creators themselves, and perhaps to take away even their brilliance in favor of treating them and their works as mere people and products.

What inspired this post was the book Anime: A History by Jonathan Clements, which aims to study anime as objects, created and sold, and in doing so reveal a side of anime’s history that isn’t merely about lauding the successes or pointing out obscure, overlooked works. As much as one might argue that this is removing the “magic” from anime, there’s nothing wrong with this approach, especially if one is in pursuit of a more factual type of truth. In fact, it’s not so much that the veneer of fantasy has been peeled away from the anime or the creators that has me writing this post, but rather about the degree to which another might accuse me of doing the same thing through this blog.

One of the aims of Ogiue Maniax from the very beginning has been to get people to think more about anime and manga, to explore why one might love anime in a certain way. To this extent, I’ll talk about different themes in series but I’ll also bring up both creators and audience in a mix of modernism vs. postmodernism that I don’t necessarily think needs to be resolved. I’ll go to panels at Otakon and lament the lack of audience for Maruyama Masao, who is one of the greatest troves of anime production knowledge in existence (though maybe now that he’s been parodied in Shirobako this might change things) and question why people pay so little attention to the creators. And yet, is that so different from what Clements does in his book?

While Clements strips away the aura from the creative process a bit in order to question the self-congratulatory aspects of creators and studios, am I stripping away the fantasy of the anime as a story in and of itself, the narrative as entity that wishes for people to engage it on some level as inherently real? Do even the people who follow voice actors do this same thing in their own way? And perhaps most importantly, should these contrasting stances all be considered under the same umbrella of “fandom,” or are they distinct enough to need more specific categories?

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3 thoughts on “How Many Curtains Does It Take to Get to the Truth of Anime Production?

  1. A while ago there was some kind of effort to write blog posts on anime throughout the 50 years since Astro Boy. I thought that was neat but glorified the wrong thing in that it confounds Tezuka’s contribution to TV anime with what is really animation about when it comes to the Japanese take. It’s along the same line of thought in terms of understanding the nature of the infomercial-style TV anime that proliferated since the late 90s and there are some common narratives (in the EN online scene) about them that I also feel skews reality somewhat. And it’s not like I know what the “truth” is either, but some of these things don’t always line up with the facts (that perhaps not everyone is aware of).

    But these are still just pithy whining compared to, say, get people to look beyond “does [insert thing] entertain me.” To get people to think about these things from other perspectives. Those are really hard things to do.

    That said you were doing a terrible job getting people to attend Maruyama’s panel, until 2015.

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  2. I find the analysis to be the opposite of stripping away the magic, but rather a transference of where we see it.
    If you follow the 4 levels of consuming art, the development of fans is signalled by the location of which they point their focus and appreciation. (Or where they find the magic)

    Those who focus on “behind the curtain” see the magic of narrative in the production process, which is why it could be so easily given proper story form in Shirobako. One layer further, and some fans find the magic in the structure of the industry, in in fan-creator relationships.
    Some people want to focus on the given storytelling narratives of the media itself. Others prefer to analyze the narratives of media makers’ career trajectories. (Especially in the case of voice actors, who become beholden to sports and idol narratives of triumph and failure)

    At no point does magic itself ever disappear. We just find that the frontier boundary of mystery has moved.

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  3. Pingback: The Long Arm of Anime History | OGIUE MANIAX

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