More in Store
Anime After Dark Film Festival reveals the depth and versatility of the genre.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Say the word “anime” and many people will envision images of Pokemon, Speed Racer or Astro Boy. Or the bit of backstory Quentin Tarantino dropped into his film Kill Bill Vol. 1. Or a glimpse of some crazy anime scene on the Cartoon Network.
All legit. But the world of Japanese anime is much bigger than that.
“Anime After Dark,” which plays at Golden State Theatre for three days starting Friday, Nov. 28, will demonstrate that versatility with a high-end sampler of 10 seminal anime films. It’s an entertaining lineup, for sure, but many of the films are fresh, hip, popular works of art.
Princess Mononoke tells a sophisticated environmental morality tale, in the form of a fable, about humans battling nature; it does so by drawing in Japanese mythology, rousing action, sparkling animation and complex characters. It comes from the powerhouse Studio Ghibli, spearheaded by Hayao Miyazaki – a Spielberg of anime, of sorts.
Tekkonkinkreet, about orphans warring with the Yakuza in a fictional Japanese town, is a marvel of animation art that topped the New York Museum of Modern Art’s 2006 Artforum list, and nabbed the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.
“They used a lot of cutting-edge computer techniques to mimic hand-drawn animation,” says festival founder and former sci-fi channel owner Dekker Dreyer. “It’s a masterpiece.”
The anime film Urotsukidoji spawned, almost by itself, a sub-genre called hentai, which elevates sex and violence to another plateau. It’s a fascinating look into the different cultural mores of Japan – “not right or wrong,” says anime English voice actor Yuri Lowenthal.
(Another film not suitable for children, says Dekker, is Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, as it deals with prostitution.)
“[The United States] can show violence in cartoons, but we’re afraid of sex,” says Lowenthal, who will speak at the festival. “You can show beheadings and violence and crazy alien tentacle sex [in Japan], but you can’t show pubic hair. For them, the nape of the neck is very erotic. Japanese culture is sprinkled with crazy dichotomy.”
Meanwhile, Grave of the Fireflies, which closes the festival, is a poignant, wrenching and semi-autobiographical film about World War II, from the point of view of a young Japanese boy and his little sister. “[It’s] an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation,” wrote Roger Ebert of the 1988 film.
It also reminds viewers that there is something liberating about a whole genre of film that relies on the merits of artists and writers, and not the attractiveness of its actors. Or their height. As photographer, author and anime costumer and character model Jessie Pridemore can attest. Her burgeoning modeling career was cut short, literally, by her height.
“I’m 5 foot 2 – 5 foot 3 on a good day,” she says.
She, along with Dekker and Lowenthal’s wife, anime voice actress Tara Platt (of the Cartoon Network’s number one rated show, Naruto), will speak at the festival. A festival pass offers attendees access to all films.
They’ll likely discover that anime is not just for kids and not just for fans. It’s for people who have an open mind to ideas and narratives that arrive from distant shores. It is popular art, in the best sense of the medium.
ANIME AFTER DARK runs Friday through Sunday, starting at 6pm each day, at Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $29/three-day pass; $20/three-day pass for students; $12/per-day pass. 372-3800, 372-4555, www.goldenstatetheatre.com