The future of “anime” is bright

Let’s take this Dai Sato discussion for another spin, shall we?

The above image is from the film My Beautiful Girl Mari. It was released in 2001, and is being distributed in the US by ADV films. Moreover, you can stream it for free courtesy of the Anime News Network. It centers around a dream the protagonist has, as a young boy, while staring at a cat’s eye marble. The film is atomospheric, intense, visually pleasing in the extreme and experimental.

If you didn’t notice already, it’s also Korean.

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The future of anime (is bleak?)

Will the people inspired to create the anime of tomorrow want to create another K-ON? Or another Cowboy Bebop?

If you haven’t already, I urge you to read this recent discussion with anime “storywriter” Dai Sato. He’s pissed off with the current state of anime and you should care because he created Eureka Seven and Ergo Proxy, as well as contributing to, amongst others, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Wolf’s Rain and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

Sato‘s complaints hone in on two separate areas, the first of which concerns how the production of anime is being increasingly out-sourced to cheap labour in neighbouring Asian countries, but more fascinating to me are his latter comments on the quality of story-telling in anime (or, indeed, the lack there-of.)

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Discovering Eureka Seven; mecha and dehumanisation

In my previous E7 article, “Discovering Eureka Seven; subtext and pop culture“, I briefly touched on the pervasive themes of war laced through out the series, going so far as to compare it to Akitaro Daichi’s post-apocalyptic (underrated) masterpiece “Now and Then, Here and There“.

As a genre, we’re conditioned to believe animation is for kids, hence, it’s a medium synomonous with innocence. Even as a seasoned fan and knowing full well a lot of anime is intended for adult eyes too, I expect a certain degree of naive optimism. It’s the same with Eureka Seven; we’re seeing this world (largely) from the perspective of two adolescent protagonists, and because they aren’t jaded and don’t understand the reasoning of adults, they have a clear view of life; enemy or not – they see blood, they jump. Eureka Seven explores the exploitation of innocence, showing how children can be used as fearsome weapons simply because they don’t understand the impact of their actions. Up until a certain age, I suppose we all view life as a game to be won; Renton’s happy “playing mecha” until he discovers the mashed up remains of one of his opponents.

Mechas role in dehumanisation

In Eureka Seven, the mecha have two arms, two legs and “bleed” red engine fuel, so it’s fair to assume that they have been shaped in the image of man. Except they aren’t human, they aren’t alive and they don’t feel pain, therefore its just-fine to dismember them limb by limb. Forget the pilots inside, it’s okay to kill something provided it doesn’t look or seem alive.

In the previous article I cited an interview with Dai Sato, in which he reveals one of the major influences behind the war-torn landscape of Eureka Seven was Tibet’s national policy of allowing young children to join the military. The ultimate concern is that if a child is brutally conditioned to believe their targets are “sub-human”, any kind of “normal” moral development is thrown out the window and we end up with a bunch of care-free mass murderers on our hands. Obviously the mecha bleeding, as any “normal person” would, is an ironic jab at the militaries collective attempts to dehumanise the enemy.

Moral horror lies beneath the veneer of innocence

As noted above, we are seeing the world through the eyes of an innocent boy like Renton. Everything looks so exciting and new to him; piloting a mecha is like a dream come true. Of course, such a personal high is violently contrasted with the harsh and disturbing reality of Gekkostate’s true position as airborne terrorists. This shift in mood and the gradual realisation of moral guilt is best emphasized in the changing face of Eureka herself, originally an attractive and healthy looking young girl but now scarred and fragile. No doubt, this sense of exploitation and loss of innocence is the most chilling quality at the heart of E7’s allegoric narrative.

With all that said, one should keep in mind that this is essentially a kids TV show. Characters in E7 still find the time to smile, joke around and be stupid. In reality, that prevalent and undying sense of optimism and hope is rare and extremely valuable.

(NOTE: This was written having seen up to the 22nd episode of Eureka Seven, I’m still enjoying it just as much!)