Kionon wrote:This is where I think the video-blogger goes wrong. He, and perhaps SPJA given what you say, tries to divorce culture from that conceptualisation, whether we call it "anime" or not, and I think this separation is deeply flawed. But I'm on the inside of that culture, a culture I have spent my entire adult life assimilating to and functioning in. I may be unable to view it objectively.
I think you sell yourself short. It is quite commonly argued that subjective, personal experience of a culture is necessary to fully understand it. Those of us on the outside, who do not have the experience of being socialized into the culture through subtle and implicit cultural messaging, are unlikely to be able to identify certain aspects of what defines the culture.
And I do think that the definition of something as a cultural artifact specific to the time and place of its creation and the life of its creator is important. As someone with a literature degree married to someone with a fine arts degree, I can say that these would be incredibly important when attempting to define the nature and meaning of any other work of art, and anime is no different. As someone with a library science degree who works with metadata-heavy cataloging systems, I can say that it's a part of how professionals classify content. If you want to invent your own definition of anime that is divorced from that cultural touchstone, you can do it, but please understand that it's not how film theory works, how cataloging works—and make no mistake, the database is a catalog—or how almost any form of art interpretation works.
Is there international influence? Of course. But no matter how much someone like Tezuka was influenced by Disney, that doesn't make his films Disney films, and a film critic would spot the differences just as instantly as I can tell that Avatar
is written and directed by Americans due to its early tonal similarities to animated children's TV shows of my childhood and its lack of tonal and structural similarities to anime I'm familiar with. Sure, I can also spot the influence, but that's like saying that I can spot the blues influence in Chuck Berry's rock-and-roll; it's clearly rock-and-roll and the influence doesn't change that.
Are there edge cases? Of course. People born in one country work in another. Companies in one country commission work from another. People collaborate on joint productions. And I'm generally in favor of admitting the edge cases because I'd rather be inclusive and assume good faith on the part of the AMV creators. But to be an edge case, you have to have a distinct cultural nexus between a major part of the actual creation of the work in question and Japan, whether that's having a Japanese co-writer or a Japanese production company or whatever. But when the nexus is mere inspiration, that's not anime. That's just something inspired by anime in the way that pop culture has been crossing borders for centuries, but despite centuries of cross-border pollination, we don't have a monoculture. Anime is animation from Japanese culture, and white guys born and living in America are not from Japanese culture, just inspired by a surface layer of it.
And because the video annoyed me twelve ways from Sunday, let me address just a few of those points as a postscript:
I have many, many problems with the video's arguments, not the least of which appears to be that it initially defines "anime" to be what is meant by "anime I like" when spoken by people whose tastes are coextensive with what the video creator's intended definition is. Then, having defined the scope of what is "anime," he defines "anime" only by reference to that scope based on "common usage" rather than a "pedantic" dictionary definition. The fact that so many people disagree with that "common usage" definition that he feels compelled to make a video arguing with them rather undercuts the argument, since clearly the usage isn't actually as common as he'd like.
My point that "anime" is a product of Japanese culture is "defeated" in the video by asserting that I accept Chinese productions as anime, but the fact of the matter is that I don't
and no better counterargument is ever presented than creating a strawman set of values for me. He points to recent internationalization of culture as creating an exception to the prior rules of cultural origin just moments after talking about how the anime of earlier eras was influenced by American cultural imports. I accept that that influence is there, but I disagree that it is sufficient just as I disagree with his assertion that The Godfather
is somehow French New Wave due to perhaps a few minor influences from it; it is, in fact, American New Wave, which is a quite distinct thing . . . and please note the national cultural identifiers in the names of those movements.
His argument that is is, in fact, a movement is laughable, as any film critic worth their salt could point to multiple movements over the last 50 years in each genre; if anime can't be a genre because it contains distinct genres within it, how much less can it be a movement when shōjo contains a movement derived from the Year 24 Group that was overturned by a movement derived from the yaoi movement, the '80s had the "a war for the new generation" movement, super robots have had a whole slew of movements, including the post-Eva dark age of angst that was ended in part when second-generation Gainax (whose work is clearly distinct from first-generation Gainax) rebelled against it, and these movements aren't coextensive in time across genres? Of course, it helps that he's already defined anime to not include a variety of Japanese shows that would wreck his formal definition if he hadn't already excluded them by pre-defining anime as not being them. But then, this is a guy who refers to "the anime art style" as a hallmark of the "movement" literally 50 seconds after rejecting art-based standards for the definition of anime by pointing out how many different art styles there are, so consistency is perhaps asking too much.
That being said, his social argument has some merit, but the point of the database here is not to be a social forum for discussing cross-cultural influence and whether Goku could defeat Korra.