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Cinema Anime edited by Steven T. Brown

01/07/2009. Contributed by Phil Jones

Buy Cinema Anime in the USA - or Buy Cinema Anime in the UK

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pub: Palgrave Macmillan. 248 page illustrated indexed enlarged paperback. Price: 14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-230-60621-0.

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'Cinema Anime' is a collection of essays discussing Anime and especially its introduction to the west. The introduction goes onto discuss that Anime has a world outlook in the form of output. It is not just limited to screen, but also to TV, DVD, the web and there are nods to its paper cousin Manga. It also discusses how Anime is not limited but ever expanding in style and methods of production. Take 'Final Fantasy - Spirits Within', this is a wholly 3D CGI movie with camera and film techniques that would be perfectly at home in live action movies, but it still falls under Anime.

I think also what is attempted to get across to the reader in the introduction is that Anime covers enormous breadth, scope and subject. There is Anime to appeal to the whole demographic not just select groups. Animation in Japan has never been viewed as a sort of separate entity as here in the west or a domain particularly for children. It is viewed as another form of media just as valid as any other. A lot of the essays discuss cultural differences and also note the fact that Anime is still predominately produced for the home market. I think in a way the west has started to embrace Anime and Manga especially as it starts to come into the main stream as we've seen with 'The Matrix' and 'Final Fantasy'.

The console game market has had a huge influence as well in bringing Anime to a wider audience. In a way, Anime and Manga give us an insight and reflection into Japanese culture, history and thinking. There is an attempt to break down the distinction between cinema and animation. Many of the essays reference how as with most media forms, ideas are played out that have been previously raised and worked within other established media. A sort of begged, borrowed and honoured approach with, hopefully, a new re-interpretation.

You would like to hope that at the very least a series of critical essays would broaden or provide new insight into the media being discussed. Unfortunately, often you are bogged down in media technical jargon and passages you have to re-read several times with overtly long sentences or their view is so narrow they forget about the rest of the world out there and fixate just on the subject their discussing. Yes, you want meaningful discussion and for the essay to stay on topic but there has to be a balance, but also an enthusiasm hopefully for the subject being inspected.

Well, the first two essays are both well-written, informative and a pleasure to read. For some of the others though the converse is true but for the most part still a worthy read. Toward the end of the book, some of the essays are well, to be frank, heavy going. The first essay presented in an easily accessible manor. Using Hitchcock's films as a comparison 'Excuse Me, Who Are You?': Performance, The Gaze, And The Female In The Works Of Satoshi Kon.' Susan Napier discusses and compares female characters in both Kon and Hitchcock's work. It also goes further to analyse the feminine and how both explore and deal with the ideas and stories presented. Ending with the possibility that Kon could be suggesting new ideas for the direction of cinema as a whole.

'The Americanization Of Anime and Manga: Negotiating Popular Culture' is another entertaining and insightful read, allowing the reader to gain an insight into the fandom and culture that has expanded from fans in the west especially embracing Anime and Manga. There is an interesting discussion on how in the west fans can through a sort of osmotic process filter out Japanese references and culture and sort of make it their own. This is a really interesting essay that gives you a historical insight into how Anime developed and touched both fans and mainstream media.

These two essays I have to say are the most entertaining and jargon free from the book. Both very well written and easily accessible. It's a shame that can't be said for some of the others. Some of them are heavily laden and hard going. Still, worth reading but not as accessible. The essays give you a good starting point for exploring Anime. Interesting points are raised such as how censorship differs between cultures and how close-minded the western media industries can be. It's good to see that there is an attempt to bring Anime into the limelight and get the academic attention it deserves. It covers such a wide field and often explores difficult and complex ideas, but also it entertains. If you're willing to embrace it also an insight into Japanese culture and ideas. This is a worthy addition to any Anime fans library or for those who want to study the media in more depth.

Phil Jones

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