Asian culture has always been a subject of great interest for its mysterious magic and unusual embodiment. Even modern Japanese branches of culture, such as manga and anime, have numerous admirers nowadays all over the world. The phenomenon of anime frequently becomes an issue of discussions and investigations because of its attractive nature and extraordinary effects. Anime does not often follow ordinary laws of literature and narratives. For instance, Lou Marinoff’s theory of sequels (that sequel are merely copies of original films, and with each successive copy the overall quality goes down) does not apply to anime. The paradox is that with anime copies of literary or historical narratives the quality does not go down unlike Marinoff argues. Why does not anime surrender the laws of typical modern culture? Let us try to analyze this phenomenon using real examples.
Anime films are frequently based on historical, fiction, or fantasy story. Some have original screenplays. Others are copies of previously known narratives. For instance, the well-known and admired anime Samurai 7 was based on the famous movie of Akira Kurosawa Shichinin no Samurai (1954), which in its turn was based on true events in the Japanese history. The plot of these two films is rather similar – samurai defends the residents of a small village from evil warriors.
However, I would not call the Samurai 7 anime a simple copy of Akira Kurosawa’s movie. The authors skillfully applied the interpretation approach to making the anime version of Samurai 7 exciting and modern. The events take place in future, samurais mechanized their bodies to gain more strength, and the general perception of this animation became much different from its predecessor.
In this case, we can not call this adaptation a “copy of the original story with a lower quality” (according to Lou Marinoff) because both the screenplay and the scenery were interpreted though not changed for the better perception. The principal tools used in this case were images and emotions. Applying these techniques to the adopted version of the historical narrative makes anime more vivid and interesting.
The next example of successful anime versions of narratives is Dragonball. This anime series was based on the manga by Akira Toriyama, who took the main characters from the Chinese folktale Journey to The West. Manga series of Dragonball and its sequel Dragonball Z gained huge popularity and made up forty-two books in whole. It was so popular that nobody believed animation version could succeed. However, with the release of anime Dragonball, the number of admirers increased significantly. Since the original Akira Toriyama’s manga story was very colorful and interesting, the animation could only make it better. Adding audio-visual effects to the original story through adaptation approach helped Dragonball to become a popular anime series with its sequels.
We can sometimes meet anime versions of literary narratives.
Asakiyumemishi: Genji Monogatari is one of them. Being adopted from manga version, originally this story comes from the novel of Murasaki Shikibu‘s The Tale of Genji. As the original book was written in the eleventh century, before making an anime version of this narrative much work needed to be done to create relevant and modern exciting animation. By applying the translation approach, the Japanese animators interpreted the story and the characters so that the serious novel could transform into popular anime. The success of this series is obvious, as for the Tale of Genji became one of the favorite films for numerous anime admirers.
Let us briefly summarize our discussion. It has been already said a lot about the role of anime in development of modern animation. Its success is conclusive, no matter what kind of story lies in its basis. To my point of view, it is technically possible to create successful anime based on either story at all, if skillfully interpreted. There exists a great number of tools to make anime attractive, vivid, sated, and as a result successful. Unlike any other animation, anime can easily conquer any mind with its colorful images, vivid emotions, and surreal heroes depicted by mastery of Japanese artists.
To my mind, breaking the rules of literature, such as Lou Marinoff’s theory, is a part of the very nature of anime for which it is loved all over the world.
Poitras, Gilles. The Anime Companion: What’s Japanese in Japanese Animation. Stone Bridge Press, 1999.
Brown, Steven. Cinema Anime. Palgrave Macmillian, 2006.
Clements, Jonathan, and Helen McCarthy. The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917. Stone Bridge Press, 2006.
Gresh, Lois, and Weinberg Robert. The Science of
Anime. Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005.
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