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Endangered Megalopolis in Japanese Anime Films

The purpose of this paper is to deepen our understanding of anime, a remarkable kind of animation that grows more and more popular all around the world. Japan’s animation has experienced a kind of renaissance during the last twenty years, which probably made it the most exciting phenomenon in the world of animation at present time. But it is still vague and difficult to define.

A short introduction, which presents Japanese art in general with its propensity to adapt foreign influence, but resist assimilation, is followed by the quotation of a 1929 essay »Thoughts on film-take« by Sergei Eisenstein, in which he noticed great cinematic potential in Japanese art and in a way predicted the emergence of something like anime. Eisenstein highly valued Japanese art’s capability of destroying »realism« in order to approach reality. »It is montage«, he exclaimed.

In the first part of the study, the author gives a historical overview of the ukiyo-e, woodblock prints of the Edo period (1600-1867), which was seen by many as the precursor of both Japanese comic manga and Japanese animation anime. The ukiyo-e artists established visual patterns of Japanese drawing; they made this art distinctive in style and content by developing powerful yet fluid outline with a clear and elegant line, by creating a unique perspective technique, and capturing the essence of the subject put the emphasis, with on its details.

The second chapter gives a review of the historical evolution of Japanese contemporary comic called manga. Manga comics are incredibly popular in Japan and the status of manga artists in Japan is the same to that of authors or film directors in the west. Considerable length that gives ample time to expand on the story development, and characters with distinctive moral ambiguities are just two of many singularities that make manga intellectually much more challenging than most of European or American graphic novels. In the analysis of manga, the author finds that influences in manga derive from many ancient Japanese sources, the most important being the Shinto religion, Japanese traditional and modern art, ukiyo-e drawings, kabuki theatre, Japanese poetry, and finally, Japanese lifestyle.

The third chapter is dedicated to Osamu Tezuka whom his numerous fans in Japan and worldwide have elevated to the position of »manga god«. Tezuka was, in a very real sense of the word, the father of Japan’s comics and animation culture. Magical powers and playful spirit of the gigantic work made by this writer, cartoonist and filmmaker of genius have influenced generations of Japanese artists that have emerged since 1960s, the time when Tezuka became known. Drawing for girls’ romance comics, Tezuka found that Caucasian look, with its typical facial expressions and saucer-shaped eyes, had strong appeal to the readers. In accordance with that, he fashioned now famous manga stylization and created a large scale of symbols representing emotions of his cartoon characters.

Among many of his extraordinary achievements one must mention the fact that it was Tezuka who considered manga and anime as two shapes of the same art form so that to this day anime usually appears as »manga on television and at the cinema«. That is also the title of the fourth chapter of the study. Here the author analyses the aesthetic design and technical aspects of anime. He noticed that most Japanese animators don’t waste cells since they use a much smaller number of drawings than an average Disney film. In order to hide this particularly Japanese feature known as reduced animation, they often use unusual points-of-view, dramatic camera angles, sound effects, special effects, etc.

In the next chapter, called »Ancient mythology meets sophisticated technology«, the author discusses the roots of story content and dramaturgic construction in anime films. The author concludes that anime is usually an expression of the cultural heritage from Shinto mythology combined with fears and dreams, and hopes and ideas of the Japanese of modern time.
In the chapter called »Women in anime: remembering civilization«, the author gives a summary of some of the most emblematic conventions found in anime films. The author concludes that anime films are usually set in the near future, in the apocalyptic post-war times, so that fantastic narratives tend to be the prevailing genre. In this part of his study he also discusses explicit pornographic situations merged with occult rituals, exaggerated violence, and the fact that female characters are more common in anime and manga than they are in European and American comics and animated films.

The following chapter »The young heroes of the megalopolis« presents one of the most common particularities present in the majority of anime films; their heroes are generally much younger than the heroes of the popular western culture. Special consideration is given to the way in which anime artists treat large urban areas. The story is usually set in the present or future Tokyo, which is used to convey the feeling of uncertainty and fear of the apocalypse and destruction that are deeply rooted in Japanese subconsciousness.

The case study is Akira, a long anime made in 1988. by Katsuhiro Otomo, which presents one of the highlights of anime history. The film was made using an enormous number of drawings and an extensive range of new techniques. More than any other anime, or Japanese film in general, it has succeeded in endearing itself to the audiences of different ages and from all corners of the world. Featuring young heroes set in the urban paranoid world of 2019 Tokyo, Akira might be, the author agrees, the most typical example of its kind ever made.
The paper ends with a short account of the complete work of Hayao Miyazaki, the genius in the field who is critically acclaimed and loved by audiences worldwide.

Miyazaki, who, according to the author, is the most important animator of our time, has acquired his reputation with a large number of animated features, such as My Neighbour Totoro or Princess Mononoke, in which he has combined his interest in European literature with marvelous naturalistic images and beautiful, human stories.

Miyazaki’s love of small cities and nature culminated in a romantic action-adventure Porco Rosso (1992), featuring his »pigman«, a cynic who had lost his faith in mankind, and Fio and Gina, two of the strongest female characters that have ever appeared in animated stories.

Midhat Ajanović

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