You may have noticed that out of the line up this column has produced, I’ve done my best to shy away from some of the more obvious picks (well, unless they were really good) for dystopian anime. I haven’t done Appleseed, or Ghost in the Shell, or any of that lot. Despite the subject matter being fitting. Rather, I have chosen to weekly trawl the interwebs in search of somewhat more inaccessible fare.
Seriously? 4chan? What was I thinking? My eyes bled for a week after that.
But nevertheless, I think it’s turned out well. Its in that spirit that I bring you Shangri-La.
Because you knew after last week, there just had to be another dose of Ecopocalypse!
Ahh, the classics. I can’t believe I’ve neglected to include this in the Friday line up so far. Hayao Miyazaki‘s Nausicaa. It’s entirely probable that you’ve seen this already, but I can’t help but give due deference to one of the more formative films of my life.
Picture, if you will, a young boy growing up media-less in the wilderness of Northern New England in the early eighties. When one day his family discovers it’s possible to rent a VCR for the weekend; they’d only had two broadcast channels up until then.
Yes, I said VCR, stop snickering.
This was one of the first films they rented. I can’t suppose what stroke of fate led them to it, a Father’s love of Scifi and a passion to impart it to his children, or perhaps a desire to ride out the impending blizzard with the comfort of animation. Nevertheless. There was the young Etruscan (if such a thing could be said to exist), camped out during the worst storm of the year with a bowl of popcorn at the foot of the couch, marveling at this new piece of technology and watching what is frequently referred to as one of Miyazaki’s greatest works; the boy’s first exposure to anime. I can recall that the Father was so impressed that by the end of the weekend, before the VCR had to be returned, every neighborhood child (all three!) had been around to the house to watch it with us. Not to mention educated about ecological disaster.
Heh. This may be some sort of twisted personal best, but I’ve just discovered that a Google search for ‘Dystopian Anime’ now returns this column on both pages 1 & 2 ( who knows, maybe others too, I got bored).
Leaving aside what that actually might imply about my posting, in honor of this achievement we’ll take a little departure this evening into the just purely off-kilter, as opposed to the slightly more linear and focused oddities that my coverage usually entails.
I recall some years ago, during the midst of my redbull-fueled Netflix addiction, one evening the nascent BoL Consortium was debating the wisdom of watching a movie. Alas, the only thing we had at our disposal was an as-yet-unheard-of by any of us anime by the name of Gantz. Within the first few minutes, there were several yelps from the back of the room in addition to some notable cringing. As Cash Money put it to me recently, “It starts bizarre and crass. And ends bizarre, crass, and unexplained.”
While his description is utterly on the mark (and I’ve had more than a few cringe-worthy moments myself with this series), nevertheless there are probably a few guilty moments of that internal monologue we’ve all had at one point or another. In a sense I appreciate the attempt to make the characters sympathetic by being unlikeable. It’s a tactic that has served a number of authors well (I’m looking at you Chuck Palahniuk!), and sort of a staple of the modern sense of absurdism. It’s interesting to see it translated to the anime form. [Read more →]
Ok, ok. You may have already seen this one as it was fairly widely released in the US. But that doesn’t detract from its loveliness. What does detract from its loveliness is the fact that it somehow ended up as a PS2 game. I’m still scratching my head over that one; done properly it could have turned out to be a tour-de-force, but ended up being a bit of a rote shooter. Nevertheless, the storyline (once it gets going) is a dystopian dream. Not, of course, the bits with all the shooting but rather the character development over the course of the series, which is on par with many of the longer running anime out there. Mafia controlled mega-corporations, human enhancement, gutter-punks rising to riches, all abound in Gungrave.
We’ll bring it back a little tonight, to some of the more traditional themes cyberpunk was designed to address. Dystopia as an exploration of consciousness, being-ness, and the development of transhumanism. Nakamura‘s Serial Experiments Lain. The consequences of living in a post-human society; one in which we have moved beyond the constraints imposed upon by biology. In a cute Japanese anime form no less!