Enter the Anime is an hour long documentary about the Japanese animation industry and the various counter-cultures it has spawned in the well-ordered and often rigidly structured country. What made this documentary an intriguing prospect was that the trailer stated that it would be presented by a self-proclaimed novice to the field, Director Alex Burunova. So, intrigued by the trailer I dived right in... but was it worth it?
Over the course of an hour, we journey with Burunova as she tries to discover the 'soul of anime' by talking with some of its key creators and people influenced by it. The entire documentary is shot in a kinetic style to suit who she is talking to and, at moments, is quite beautiful to look at but there is a major problem... the documentary only covers the anime on Netflix rather than the medium as a whole. The fact that most of the anime presented and discussed has only been released within the last 3 or so years means that, for an art form that spans over 70 years, the scope is somewhat limited.
With these limitations, we discover the following:
Adi Shankar, writer of the excellent Netflix Castlevania anime, was influenced by early 80s OVA's, which helped to inform the look of the Castlevania show, which is produced in the West but in the anime style.
The Director of Aggretsuko, Rarecho, believes that anime is art taken to its limits and that's why it has niches, sub-cultures and sub-cultures within subcultures. When there is the mundane people seek the unusual and different.
The 'three edgiest outlaws', Tetsuya Kinoshita, Yuji Higa (Producers of Kengan Ashura) and Seiji Kishi (Director of Kengan Ashura) discuss their love of hand crafted anime using CG and the time they met Arnold Schwarzenegger at the original Gold's Gym. They talk about using real martial artists to create the fight sequence and then the animators slow it down to animate the sequence.
Studio Toei Chairman Kozo Morishita tells us that as one of the longest running and well known anime houses, much of its catalogue is classic childhood fare, much like Disney is for many people here in the West. It has handled such properties as Dragonball Z, Slam Dunk and Saint Seiya. Morishita rather honestly states that Toei was created to raise the spirits of children after the loss of World War II.
This is all hardly groundbreaking stuff. The fact that the relationship between manga and anime isn't even looked at is a huge oversight in my opinion. The two art forms feed each other and are so intertwined, so to exclude one is to the detriment of the other.
Burunova also (briefly and only through one artist) explores the anime music scene and shows how the two are linked by chatting to Yoko Takahashi, singer of Evangelion's 'A Cruel Angel' s Thesis.' Takahashi makes an appearance and talks about her experience of Evangelion and the ardent fan base.
Kawaii (cute) culture is looked at and Rilakumma makes a giant headed appearance to discuss Japan's obsession with kawaii culture as a measure against 1960s stuffiness. In a similar way, Director Rarecho believes that Aggretsuko is a expression of female frustration in the workplace and sees the character as one of empowerment and a voice for many women in the workplace, which seems prescient in the time before #MeToo became a thing.
The rise of CG anime and the processes of its painstaking creation are discussed, but the general feeling is it makes the cost of the series more manageable and affordable in this online streaming world.
Overall, this is a disappointing documentary, one that will find it hard to reach the appropriate demographic. It is not comprehensive or detailed enough for your hardcore anime or Japanaphile (weeaboo) yet I think it will be too broad and meandering for a younger audience. In this day and age when anyone can be a content creator, I have found more interesting and informative videos on YouTube than this documentary provides. It is a shame as manga and anime has entered the zeitgeist in much of the world yet this documentary does a disservice with its Edge-Lord stylings and musings. Considering there is a huge exhibition at the British Museum currently and considering that Neon Genesis Evangelion, a landmark in anime is finally stream able after years out of circulation, reducing the medium to 'creators be cray cray, psycho, mad and other silly terms diminishes the artform.
Watch it if you must but not one I'd recommend to anyone. I've listed a few documentaries that I would recommend in the links below.