On Anime and Japanese Films

Japan Living

Would you like to stay in a pleasant riverside cottage near Hakone and Hot Springs but not empty your wallet?

Near Hakone and Hot Springs

Minamiashigara shi, Kanagawa, Japan
Located near the Kari River across from a supermarket with access to nearby Iiwahara Station (Daiyuzan Line). There is a restaurant next door and a Sri Lankan restaurant and Japanese restaurants n...

Anime is all part of the kawaii culture that currently dominates Japan at the expense of anything more sophisticated and adult, and I'm not talking about porno-adult.

"Remember Be the change you want to see in your pocket."

--Kevin Burns

by Jason Taisha

While masters of the art, like Miyazaki, continue to entertain and enthrall, most of the anime is fairly disposable and built on long-standing franchises such as One Piece, Doraemon, Pokemon, & Dragonball.

Yes it is refreshing that unlike the narrowly focused American comic book industry, which really only supports Super Hero themed projects, despite impressive books and films based on non-spandex themes, the Japanese manga and anime choices are varied and interestingly diverse. And it's also nice that cartoon doesn't automatically equal juvenile and childlike. But at the same time, many Japanese teenagers I talk to rarely read "novels" or any type of book without pictures/drawings, and this is also troublesome.

Japan's live-action films have failed to produce anything in recent years that have had the international success that recent Chinese films have had. Even though successful remakes of the one genre Japan seems to excel at, the horror film, introduce some Western viewers to Japanese films, they almost always come to the original after having seen the remake.

And if Japan wanted to have its` films reach a wider audience, one simple solution would be to add English subtitles to more of the DVD releases. As an American living here who doesn't speak fluent Japanese, it's so frustrating to see ads and previews for upcoming Japanese films only to discover the eventual DVD doesn't have any subtitles, meaning I can't watch the film. Recent examples of actual popular films like Shinobi,Densha Otoko and Nana all have only Japanese subtitles on the DVD - not even Korean or Chinese subtitles and there are far more people who speak those two language than speak English in Japan.

So I rent what I can, and mostly I'm disappointed at how pedestrian, meandering and plotless most Japanese films are. I do it anyway as a supplement to my Japanese language study, and am occasionally surprised by a good Japanese film, but there doesn't seem to be much heart in it - like they know that they're not gonna sell many tickets at the Box Office and more Japanese rent Western films than Japanese ones. And don't even get me started on the lack of movie theaters in rural prefectures like Shimane, where Ilive. Offering none of the kick-back money that Pachinko parlors offer, you can drive for hours without seeing a movie theater but there is a Pachinko place on every corner.

The last frustrating thing for a movie-fan living here is the staggered release dates on Western films. Last year for instance, Star Wars Episode III opened in most of the known world in May, but didn't open in Japan until July 7th. Narnia, a recent worldwide hit that opened before Christmas in America, just opened in Japan on March 4th.

This summer sees some big films opening, including a new Superman film, a new X-Men film, the Da Vinci Code and a new Pixar film - hopefully I'll see them by theend of the summer if I'm lucky.

Anime is great and I'm glad there is so much of it for every taste, but I wish Japan could refocus on live-action films and bring back some of the heyday of the 50s or 80s.

What are anime and manga?

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