Hold on tight to your imagination

This post has been sparked off from watching the trailer for the upcoming movie by Satoshi Kon called Paprika set to open in the USA this week. During it, there’s a quote from the New York Times praising the film, saying:

“Evidence that Japanese animators are reaching for the moon, while most of their American counterparts remain stuck in the kiddie sandbox.” – Manohla Dargis

I think she has a strong point in that quote. American animation still caters predominantly for the kid market, even if there’s a nod to the parents who’ll be watching them. Recent outings like Flushed Away, Meet the Robinsons, Over The Hedge, and classics like Toy Story, The Incredibles etc all have their adult appeal, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a formula even to these. Want evidence? Watch a few anime titles and see real tangential fantasy ideas pour out of the page.

Since the early 90s when I stumbled over the Anime section at HMV in Birmingham and joined the UK Manga Club I’ve been a big fan of the animation style of the Japanese. From early classics like Akira (of which I’m a very proud owner of an original cel from the movie) to the fun Tank Police series, I’ve recently been captivated by two releases by Studio Ghibli – the Academy Award® winning ‘ Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) [Hayao Miyazaki] (2001) and the captivating ‘Whisper of the Heart (Mimi wo sumaseba) [Yoshifumi Kondo] (1995).

In an unofficial translation of an article Hayao Miyazaki describes his justification for producing ‘Whisper of the Heart’, which also demonstrates his approach favouring an adult audience despite being animation.

“The movie will neither cater to the tastes of the younger audience, nor deliberately raise questions or highlight the problems in their present situation.

To the middle-aged people who have unspeakable regrets and remorse towards their salad days, the movie should be able to deliver an inciting feeling to today’s youngsters. Deep in the minds of these young people, they are assuming in great faith that they can never play the main roles in the stage of life. Indeed, they are the reflections of the old selves of the middle-aged people like us. Therefore, we hope to revive the wishes in their hearts, and reveal to them the importance of embracing their dreams.”

He goes on to describe more about how shoujo manga usually doesn’t have inconsiderate parents and pretty much concentrates on the central character’s hopes and dreams. And the dream sequences are usually utterly fantastical and shows what I think Dargis was referring to by animations ‘reaching for the moon’.

Go on, treat yourself, find one of these films and let your imagination run riot. It deserves being unleashed and stretched further.
Spirited Away

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