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Comments for Japanese Aesthetics and Anime: The Influence of Tradition

Japanese Aesthetics and Anime: The Influence of Tradition: 10/12/14

cover art

Japanese Aesthetics and Anime: The Influence of Tradition by Dani Cavallaro is a slim but extremely focused volume on the history, culture, and iconography of anime. I read it because I have a life-long love/hate relationship with anime. Although I've watched probably as much anime as I have American animation, my knowledge of the history of it remains spotty at best.

Anime, like animation around the world, has its roots in the early days of Japanese filmmaking. That said, though, anime didn't really take off until the advent of television (whereas in the United States, television was almost the death knell for the art until it was radically changed by Hanna-Barbera).

I've watched a ton of anime from the 1970s and early 1980s (either untranslated on a local access channel, or badly dubbed / imported on after school syndication). In college I was re-introduced to anime through my then-boyfriend's neighbor, and to a lesser degree, through my film studies degree (Akira is not the be-all and end-all of the art form, thanks). After college and into the early 2000s, I didn't watch much due to the demands of work, parenting and a, a lack of disposable income, and just basic access problems. With the advent of streaming media and services like CrunchyRoll, Funimation, AnimeNetwork, and to a lesser degree, Netflix, access to anime is easy and affordable (though still not complete but that probably won't ever happen).

In the last five years of watching probably more anime than domestic television, I've come to recognize certain tropes, motifs, and progressions of storytelling with in genres and among studios. But with huge gaps in my watching and of course, the language barrier, I feel like there's so much more I'm missing.

I chose Japanese Aesthetics and Anime: The Influence of Tradition after a Google search brought up some interesting passages in the book. I had actually been looking for a connection between the French New Wave and an anime series we were watching at the time. While the previewed text didn't immediately answer that question, it did an intriguing passage that implied Bladerunner was more influential in the Japanese anime circles, than it was a commercial success here. For anyone who's seen Bubblegum Crisis, that connection is apparent, but according to this book, it was an almost across the board influence.

While Japanese Aesthetics and Anime: The Influence of Tradition isn't an academic book (even if it sounds like one with that title), it is a solid introduction to anime with plenty of title suggestions for people who want to fill in the gaps of what they might have missed. There is even speculation that the author might not even exist (and non de plums are more troublesome for credibility in nonfiction, though certainly "anonymous" has published quite a few). This book isn't film theory; it's more like an A to Z of anime, with an focus on titles that best highlight certain Japanese aesthetic trends.

Four stars

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