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Animation Is Serious, But Anime Is Not?

Animation Is Serious, But Anime Is Not?

In a January 3rd piece posted over at The
Atlantic, Monica
Kim ponders if Shinichiro Watanabe’s latest series
Space Dandy can help
anime garner some “well-deserved critical consideration.”

It’s a rather lengthy, in-depth, and well-researched article
on the topic of anime series and they’re place in popular Japanese culture. Yet
Kim hits on the fact that plenty of anime isn’t taken as seriously in the west
as perhaps it should:

Critical focus, however, has stayed largely on feature
films, while anime – referring specifically to Japanese animated television
series – has not earned the same kind of respect. An animator like Daisuke
Nishio, for example, who directed the hit Dragon Ball and Dragon
Ball Z
series, is not considered an artist like Miyazaki, whose
drawings have been displayed in museums in Paris.

There are plenty of reasons for this but Kim remarks that
the commercial success of anime (reportedly worth $2 Billion a year) and the
relentless demands of the industry for safe, reliable animation with
dime-a-dozen plots and characters, are what prevent it from being taken as
seriously as other forms of entertainment.

Of course, plenty of western animation isn’t critically
acclaimed either and there are hundreds of shows being produced around the
world that can barely be considered ‘creative’ yet alone have any artistic
value. Yet western critics seem eager to sing the praises of western animated
shows such as Adventure Time while simultaneously ignoring the output from
across the Pacific (sans Miyazaki of course.)

That’s hard to comprehend, especially since shows like Neon
Genesis Evangelion
(just to name a popular one) have been presenting viewers
with a more complex psychological experience than the aforementioned Adventure
for well over 20 years. Outside of the limited budgets, anime shows often
exhibit far more genres than the western animated shows that seem bent on
performing a comedy routine at all costs. Doesn’t critical acclaim encompass
more than one aspect of a show’s composition?

Kim boils part of this ignorance down to the directorial
‘signature’ of a series, but that is to over-simplify things. There are too
many cultural aspects in the mix, and there is also the blatantly obvious point
that too many western critics simply don’t watch enough, or indeed, any, anime
shows to form an honest opinion on artistic merits. That is more likely to be
the real culprit to this problem, and sadly one that doesn’t look like being
solved any time soon.

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