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Anime critiques January 22, 2007

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Books.
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Enrollment at SOAS has the added benefit of access to a range of academic materials, including several critical appraisals of anime that I have wanted to read for a while.

Watching anime, reading manga’ by Fred Patten, is a collection of articles from various magazines and fanzines over the last 25 years. Patten is one of the ‘sensei’ generation of fans – one who was there at the very beginnings of western anime fandom and can thus comment authoritatively on the scene. Whilst it is interesting to see the changing attitudes toward anime over the years, I found many of the articles included to be too simplistic. Many were written with a general audience in mind and I was perhaps hoping for more insight. The added commentries to the articles do offer some kind of perspective, but the whole book seems more like a historical record of western fandom’s development. Again, I think I was perhaps expecting something else and that might explain my disappointment.

The BFI published ‘100 anime‘ by Philip Brody, is however, exactly what I expected. Not an introductory book, nor a ‘best of’ as the title suggests, Brody uses a range of anime to illustrate the depth of theme found throughout medium and speculates as to how this relates to Japan, its history and its people, as well as that of the mindset of the persons behind it and the fans who follow it. Being a BFI book it is also insanely pompous in places, particularly the introduction, which would surely scare off any reader new to academics.

But the book is entertaining because of Brody’s arrogance, combined with a genuine love of the medium. He joyously overanalyses more ludicrous anime, such as FLCL, and explores Blood: The last vampire as a metaphor for the modern Japanese teen, misled by a generation that denies Japanese-American and Japanese-Asian relations. Indeed, Brody is on top form when he gets carried away by the sound of his own voice and the absurdity of his ideas, describing a scene in Wicked City as

a thrilling depiction of what it would be like to have sex with a woman who suddenly turns into such a sexy spider monster.

Also notable is his entry on Devilman:

the sanskrit aspects of the story become limned with kamasutra edicts, pushing Devilman series intoa heightened celebration of trancendence through animalistic sex practiced by god-demon souls. It really doesn’t get better than this.

And you can tell he’s saying it with a straight face.

Mixed results, with some interesting insights, then, from my first foray into anime academics.

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