Anime or “japanimation”

Anime or “japanimation” in its most basic form is simply an animated feature or short produced in Japan1. The word “anime” itself is in popular theory derived or ‘loaned’ from the English word animation. It should be noted that anime is not a genre but more of a communications media, much like when people use the word “Hollywood”.

Anime, unlike conventional western animation is not solely for children. This does not mean there isn’t anime for children, but more a larger percentage produced for young adults to adulthood.

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2It is in popular belief that anime’s entrance into the American mainstream was in 1988 with the release of “Akira” and later with the popular release of “Ghost in a Shell”. At this point anime had in the western world a very “niche” market.

However, anime thanks in part to American globalisation has now far less of a “niche” market. Originally in a western sense, anime appealed to a young male sub-culture. Usually seen as “non-mainstream” or Arty (watched and read by art students).

But now, due to popular youth cartoons such as “Pokemon”, “Digimon” and “Yu-Gi-Oh!” anime has been brought to a wider audience. Hollywood, seeing Anime’s new found popularity have “cashed in” and have incorporated its style into American cartoons (such as “Jackie-Chan adventures” and “Power Puff Girls”) but also into Movies. Warners Matrix Franchise has an excellent example of this through the release of the “Animatrix”.

The “Animatrix” started as a TV program idea but because of practicality was changed into nine short films. Warner drip fed it to the “audience” though the official Matrix website. Eventually it was released on Warner Home Studios DVD packed with extras.

Unlike most high budget short films they where not shown at any high brow film festivals but rather on the net to “plugged-in” fans. The website could be seen possibly as an internet art house cinema.

Using many different styles of Japanese animation, the Wachowski’s have opened up anime to a much broader audience who may (or may not) have had any ideas about anime.

The other most recent movie that Hollywood has “piggy-backed”the anime culture is Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film “Kill Bill: Volume One” in which a chunk of the movie has been done in “rough Anime” the rest of the movie was in motion.

Anime’s most recent attempt to hit the movies in Big Budget was “Final Fantasy: the spirits within”. Sadly although beautifully animated was not a big box office success mainly due to its storyline.

American Globalisation vs. Japanese Anime and cultural identity could easily be elaborated through Warners Matrix franchise. American Big business will try and cash in on anything that will make a profit and it seems anime is the flavour of the month. Japanese anime is part of Japan’s cultural identity but has now been integrated into American omni-culture and maybe has lost its “niche” heritage.

Ironically as it may seem anime originated from American cartoons such as early Disney and Warner characters, for example “Betty Boop”.

But have since then changed into a different style.

One could argue that American Artistry is simply regurgitating itself although anime has gone a long way since its roots.

The original audience for the Matrix franchise was for a more “niche” audience of science-fiction fans. It has now evolved to a far greater audience of all ages and sexes (from its original male audience of “geeks”).

Warner has targeted their audience through distribution and a epic marketing campaign. Using the internet Warner has got to “plugged-in” fans though the use of an expansive website for the franchise. Many “fan sites” have appeared since the Matrix’s release generating lots of below-the-line free marketing.

Larry and Andy Wachowski, directors of the Matrix franchise worked semi-independently although they are reliant on Warner Brother’s money for international distribution and marketing.

The extensive merchandising for the Matrix franchise; which entails DVD’s, posters, figurines, comics, mobile phones, sunglasses and a soundtrack for each movie in the trilogy. Warner realised the audience of “plugged-in” fans and so creating a good “word of mouth” campaign on the internet with clues and trailers.

The internet now being the most powerful word of mouth haven has created huge fandom for the Matrix and Anime as a whole and a franchise. The whole notion of the Matrix is a geek’s “wet dream”, slick cyberpunk characters with twists of net couture’s finest action, martial arts and philosophy. Allowing both intelligent audiences and “immature gun-ho” audiences to have an amazing cinematic experience.

Through the use of a soundtrack for each of the movies (except the Animatrix) Warner have acquired a new audience for the Matrix Franchise. Using popular youth bands and composers (such as “Rage against the Machine” and Jonathan Davies) Warner can almost advertise their film in music magazines where the soundtracks will be reviewed. The soundtracks of the movies are slightly different to the average soundtrack due to the music not only being from (or in) the movie but also groups who have been influenced by the “Matrix phenomenon”. Warner has really pulled out the stops on how the “Matrix franchise” has not only influenced how action movies are made but also how music soundtracks are an important part of the marketing influence.

The Matrix franchise fits the generic “blockbuster” Hollywood movie stature. By this I mean, a film that relies on spectacle, excitement and the pleasure of spectateing. It is an “event” film, marketed or packaged globally. As Darley suggests, the “. Whereas on further analysis of the matrix franchise it could be seen as a Hong-Kong martial arts movie. I believe this because of the special FX ridden fight scenes and heavily philosophic storyline. The superb choreographed fight scenes, one of the generic registers of the martial art film industry in Hong Kong but more deeply into Peking Opera and Buddhist metaphorical motifs shown in the trilogy.

Peking Opera originated in the 18th century, it involves music, dance, art and acrobatics.

It is the most influential of the opera’s from China. The characteristic that influenced the Matrix Franchise is “Da” or the martial arts and stunt acrobatics.

This is the main parting point from Hollywood and Hong-Kong cinema. Granted some Hong Kong movies are high budget, such as “Crouching tiger, Hidden Dragon”, but bare no comparison to the millions pumped into such Hollywood films.

However, an audience would not mistake the fight scenes in the matrix for a low budget martial arts movie; the visuals and special effects so clearly belong to the American “Hollywood-esque” big budget action movie genre.

In Japanimation women can be just as powerful or sometimes allot stronger than their male counterparts.

Trinity’s character insights a femme fatal� “strong” women allowing a female audience to respect her without feeling they have no feminist reason to. If you compare Trinity to Sigourney Weaver’s character in the Alien movies you can see how the strong female action role has evolved. In Alien Sigourney is till kept in a feministic state by the cat she keeps as a pet (featured in “Aliens”) whereas Trinity (Carrie Ann-Moss) barely ebbs femininity through her short slicked back hair and stern looks.

By becoming a convincing fighter, the six 3foot unconventionally attractive Carrie Ann-Moss makes the audience believe she can be “one of the guys”. Her “male” body (with the black PVC cat suit and her face frequently covered) makes it easier for us to imagine that there is an equal status between the sexes in the future. As Hardy (1998) said “women have always had the ‘innate potential’ to be aggressive” this is apparent Trinity’s dialogue and actions. A female audience admire this new representation in women through the idealisation the muscularity that provides strength, fitness and stamina.