By Andy Hanley.
However much you might abhor it, it’s hard to deny that armed conflict holds a certain fascination – whether it’s the cutting-edge technology available to the military, the awe of seeing the firepower that this technology allows, the strategy of war or the human dramas and friendships. This interest in the machinations and machines of war can clearly be seen across popular culture: in video games, movies and anime. However, stories based upon all-out war also have some inconvenient disadvantages for those that write them – there’s typically little room for normal every-day life to intrude upon the bloodshed, death and destruction.
There’s a handy solution which anime has turned to on several occasions – the existence of so-called “survival games”, or Airsoft. The hobby arrived in Japan in the 1980s, around the same time as paintball boomed in the US and as a generation of blockbuster violent action movies excited the masses. The result was an opportunity to revel in the intricacies of modern weaponry and the thrill of combat, but with no mortal danger beyond the possibility a bruise or two. Continue Reading
By Andrew Osmond.
Nine years after Attack on Titan began, it’s become a paradigm of franchise management. As of writing, the original story by Hajime Isayama continues as a manga and anime, with fans speculating “How will it end?” as eagerly as Harry Potter or Breaking Bad fans did in their time. But Titan has sprawled in umpteen other directions. It’s spawned games and figurines, of course; it was adapted as a two-part live-action film; and it’s had long-running spin-offs that crossed media themselves, like the prequel Before the Fall (a light novel series and a much longer manga) and the Junior High spoof (a manga and TV anime).
Garrison Girl, though, is something of a first. Published by the US imprint Quirk Books, it’s a spin-off Young Adult Titan novel by an American writer. True, there are industry precedents. In past decades, there were American-produced anime spin-offs linked to “hidden import” titles, like the long series of Robotech novels by James Luceno and Brian Daley; the American Battle of the Planets comics; and American-drawn versions of Captain Harlock and Star Blazers. Titan itself has already dabbled in cross-overs, with a comic anthology by non-Japanese writers and a mini Marvel crossover (“Attack on Avengers”) that came and went with little notice.
But Garrison Girl goes beyond that. It’s a 237-page prose novel that invents its own characters in Titan’s world. From a marketing viewpoint, it’s risky – some Titan fans may turn up their noses at a spin-off that doesn’t focus on Eren, Mikasa, Levi or Armin. The upside, of course, is that author Rachel Aaron can develop her protagonists with far more freedom. Titan already has memorable female players – Mikasa, Annie, Sasha, Christa, Ymir – and Aaron sets out to add her own, sixteen year-old Rosalie Dumarque. Titan’s “canonical” characters had back-stories that were slowly parcelled out, or else carefully hidden by their owners, but Aaron sets out Rosalie’s past plainly in the first pages.
She’s an aristocrat, living within the innermost Wall Sina, far from Wall Maria which was catastrophically breached at the manga’s start. That happened five years ago; Rosalie’s story (or at least most of it) takes place in the time-frame of the third and fourth anime episodes. While Rosalie’s home was untouched by Maria’s fall, her family was still affected. They’ve lost swathes of land, and Rosalie is now their most valuable asset – as a bride. She’s been long engaged to marry into a richer family, and the wedding’s coming up in six months. Continue Reading
By Andrew Osmond.
In 2016, Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name became the highest-grossing Japanese film ever released in China. That may explain the existence of the Japan-animated, Chinese-set Flavors of Youth (as the film is called on pretty much every Anglophone source online, so Brit readers will just have to put up with the American spelling). Now available on Netflix, Flavors is not made by Shinkai, but it is made by the “Shinkai” anime studio, CoMix Wave, with visuals evoking Shinkai at a glance. Continue Reading
By Andrew Osmond.
Hands up if Full Metal Panic! was among the first anime you saw. The first 24-part FMP series, introducing the tempestuously strong-willed schoolgirl Kaname and her schoolboy/soldier guardian Sosuke, was made back in 2002. It was followed a year later by the far lighter-hearted Fumoffu, while the action-orientated The Second Raid came in 2005. A gap of thirteen years followed before the anime resumed with Invisible Victory – another very action-focused series – in spring 2018.
Full Metal Panic! is based on a series of books, and AllTheAnime jumped at the chance to interview its author Shouji Gatou on his first trip to England. In contrast to the adventures of Sosuke and Kaname, Gatou says his early years were extremely average. “I was just a normal kid, so I played football, baseball, watched anime, read books… just really normal,” he says. His favourite robot anime was Sunrise’s Armoured Trooper Votoms, which began as a TV show in 1983. Continue Reading
By Raz Greenberg.
76 years after they were forced out of their own studio, a move that marked the end of their prominent role in the development of American animation, the legacy of animation pioneers brothers Max (1883-1972) and David (1894-1979) Fleischer is still alive and kicking, and nowhere is this legacy more evident than in anime productions. The Fleischers’ influence runs deep within the DNA of anime: early Japanese pioneers drew a lot of inspiration from early Fleischer productions as the Out of the Inkwell shorts and the Song Car-Tunes series; references to the Fleischer brothers’ productions can be found in Mitsuyo Seo’s ambitious animated wartime propaganda epics like Sacred Sailors; there is an unmistakable Fleischer-esque touch to the character-design style of Osamu Tezuka; and the Japanese audience’s post-war discovery of the Fleischers’ studio late works – their 1939 feature Gulliver’s Travels and their Superman cartoons – played an important part in shaping anime genres, notably robot and science fiction animation.
You won’t find any mention of this in Ray Pointer’s book The Art and Inventions of Max Fleischer: American Animation Pioneer, which by itself isn’t a problem: the book isn’t about the Fleischers’ influence on Japan. In fact, the book isn’t about the Fleischers’ influence at all, at least not of the artistic kind. You wouldn’t find any mention of the Fleischers’ contribution to the development of the superhero genre in American comics and animation, their influence on the American underground comix movement or the inspiration they provided to many developers of digital games (from Pac-Man and Donkey Kong to the more recent Cuphead) in the book either. Which, I guess, is also fair, but it highlights the book’s biggest problem: it’s more about “inventions” and less about “art”. Pointer’s book is definitely the most detailed and richly-researched historical account of the Fleischers’ rise and fall, but it’s an account that reduces their body of work to the development of technologies, techniques and work practices. It reads more like a book about rotoscoping, sound on film, color and stereo-optics than a book about Koko the Clown, Betty Boop and Popeye the Sailor. Continue Reading