Anime: Yay or nay?

Jonathan Hastings asks: can the mass production of anime and manga be fairly classed as art?

16th November 2015

Anime and manga have often been shaded by stigma and brushed under the carpet when it comes to the cultural discussions surrounding art. If not for its ill precedence, or its novelistic features, people tend to disregard anime, and manga for that matter, as common work that is never really held on a pedestal next to the precise art of the enlightenment or the renaissance periods. 

For those unfamiliar, anime and manga is a Japanese form of both animation and black and white comic book iterations, spanning a large area of genres. Both were developed during the 20th century, although precursors have been proving throughout the early 20th century taking larger influence after the American invasion post-world war two. The influence of American culture quickly overtook the Japanese market, creating high publishing demand and general interest in this form of media.

The mass consumption of this medium, and their publications, have seemed to decline the standard of this art form; this is one of the main issues that surround manga/anime, in regards of it’s artistic development.

The seemingly quick production of manga and anime provides consumers with a service

   The seemingly quick production of manga and anime provides consumers with a service, rather than delivering artistic expressionism. They are often cheap to produce, based on demand and eventual selling point, and don’t necessarily challenge the audience. For example, motifs are often used to hang popular stories and sexualized characters in order to generate a mass appeal; in a sense this disregards the authors’ real art for the sensationalized story that is contained.

Like pop music, anime and manga are produced to sell, and it is very rare that either of these forms of art are used individually in a gallery for the audience appreciation. It’s hard to justify when anime and manga are easily assessable in comparison to its fine art counterparts, especially when we’re told that production of anything but fine art is always silted.

all forms are art, but it is up to the viewer to determine if what they see is artistic

Yet, we must still acknowledge the time and dedication that these animators, and illustrators, have spent in developing their own style for the audience’s appreciation – this effort is clear within anime. Though there is a range to showcase, I would like to direct the reader to the works of Studio Ghibli, more personally on Hayao Miyazaki’s work in anime, and films. Such passion and elegance is placed into every aspect of the film. Producing a piece that is moving, and both visually and audibly stunning in every way.

It is times like this that I try to think retrospectively and focus on art as a self-contained piece of media, a form of production that is created for the pleasure of both the viewer and for those creating the art. This is apparent in the works of Andy Warhol, most often quoted, as he was in the business of mass-producing art for his own pleasure. Much like this, I see anime and manga in a similar light - all forms are art, but it is up to the viewer to determine if what they see is artistic.

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