Academic journal article Science Fiction Film and Television

Remaking Yamato, Remaking Japan: Space Battleship Yamato and SF Anime

Academic journal article Science Fiction Film and Television

Remaking Yamato, Remaking Japan: Space Battleship Yamato and SF Anime

Article excerpt

Introduction

One of the more salient developments within the anime industry in recent years is the increasingly unmistakeable emergence of what can only be characterised as a nostalgia movement marked by the proliferation of reboots and remakes of classic sf anime series. The last two decades have seen the appearance of new versions (in the form of both re-animations and live-action remakes) of such classic titles as Astroboy (Tetsuwan Atomu; Japan 1959), Cyborg 009 (Saibögu 009; Japan 1968), Space Pirate Captain Harlock (Uchükaizokukyaputenhärokku; Japan 1978-9) and even relatively more recent titles like Ghost in the Shell (.Kökakukidötai; Japan 1993), Neon Genesis Evangelion (Shin Seiki Evangerion; Japan 1995-6) and others. In addition, a number of examples of Hollywood live-action remakes of anime titles, perhaps the most infamous of which are Dragonball: Evolution (Wong US 2009) and Speed Racer (Wachowskis US 2008), have also appeared. In part, this development is a product of the significant investments made by the Japanese state to incorporate anime officially as the central cultural commodity for export under the banner of 'Cool Japan. As Kukhee Choo highlights, anime, manga, video games and other cultural commodities had historically been viewed as vulgar and as such not given official sanction in international campaigns for cultural promotion. However, the decades of recession beginning in the 1990s forced a rethinking of these notions, leading to a move to make popular culture a central component of the Japanese government's strategy for the international promotion of its contents industry and national branding efforts (Choo 218).

A notable effect of this emergent trend is to reinforce an existing tendency towards the fetishising of the category of anime itself into a coherent corpus of canonical texts, with the concurrent impact of constructing anime as a form of national culture, which, by implication, also has the effect of fetishising the category of 'the nation' as an imagined entity, in both popular and scholarly discourse. This has manifested, for example, in a marked shift in the dominant approaches to the global circulation of anime. While a practice of extensive translation and localisation to the extent of producing what were effectively new versions of anime titles that efface the Japanese origins of their source materials characterises the dominant modes of distribution of anime titles outside of Japan during the 1970s and 1980s, by the 1990s this was no longer the case. Indeed, the appearance and widespread adoption of the very term anime in the English language to signify animation from Japan specifically and exclusively attests to precisely this development. One might even go so far as to say that the transformation of anime from what used to be regarded as a denationalised [mukokuseki] cultural commodity to something that is emblematic of the national culture itself follows a pattern that aligns with Stuart Hall's observation of a shift towards a depoliticised embrace and commodification of identity politics in the contemporary conjuncture in place of earlier modes of racial exclusion (Hall 48).1

Not surprisingly, this emphasis on animes national origins produces a host of problems, not the least of which is how the reduction of anime to a national-cultural form forecloses the recognition of the transnational dimensions of both its production and consumption. On the one hand, the fan culture surrounding anime extends beyond Japan itself (a fact that has not gone unnoticed by both producers and commentators of anime in Japan and elsewhere), which paradoxically has served to reify precisely the habit of viewing anime as media for the transmission of Japanese cultural values in line with orientalist patterns of knowledge. On the other hand, the production of anime is transnational in scale, often involving all manner of official international co-productions and the farming out of the labour-intensive work of animation itself to locations in Korea and China (LaMarre Anime Machine 89-90). …

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