It’s time for another episode of Old Fogies Take a Dump on New Anime. Mamoru Oshii’s done it, taking pops at Mamoru Hosoda, Hideaki Anno, and all currently-airing anime in general. Now it seems Toshio Okada, co-founder of Gainax and so-called “Otaking”, wants to get on the boat and rock it too. Except his unwitting victim is Makoto Shinkai’s your name.
Since Okada left Gainax in 1992, he’s been spreading his personal otaku gospel, writing books and giving lectures on otaku culture. Now, I’m all for that, as long as anyone presenting their opinions respects other creators and fans, even the ones who don’t conform to their own experience or share their viewpoint. Keep that in mind and perhaps you can see why Okada’s comments, made at a recent lecture in Kyoto, pissed me off somewhat:
your name. is a huge hit. There are a lot of women who are saying this film is a masterpiece, and it has me worried about the future of Japan. Come on, the film just uses the good parts of films and manga that’ve sold well in the past. It’s rubbish. As a person who’s been involved in anime, there wasn’t one second of your name. that I thought was interesting or moving. Seriously, the story and script are awful. Even comparing it to the artistry of Hayao Miyazaki’s films is a mistake.
Does that sound like it’s been dredged up from the swamps of IMDb, or is it just me? This isn’t the voice of a respectable expert. He doesn’t seem to recognise that Shinkai, as a fellow professional anime creator, deserves to be critiqued as Okada’s equal, whether he enjoyed his movie or not. While he’s at it, he manages to shrug off a significant percentage, if not half, of Japan’s anime fandom as unworthy of opinion, insipid in taste, and potentially destructive to the future of anime. Let me just blow up this pearl in Okada’s oyster of wisdom:
“A lot of women…are saying the film is a masterpiece, and it has me worried about the future of Japan.”
I know Japan’s social environment is different to ours in the UK, parts of Europe and the US, and I won’t pretend their ideas of gender equality are the same as ours either. But in shunting off Japanese women and their supposedly dangerous thoughts on what anime can be, Okada has broken through cultural boundaries of misogyny. Anime is becoming more of an international market year by year, and he’s suggesting that if we enjoy or support a show or movie that appeals to ‘feminine’ sensibilities – romance, dreaming, caring or agonising over love, all these things he feels are “rubbish” – we are destroying the very thing we invest ourselves in.
We have an intelligent and respectful community here, so I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how insulting the implications of Okada’s words are. As a woman and an anime fan, I count the romance drama NANA as one of the most inspiring and transformative shows – not just anime series, but series full stop – I have ever watched. It taught me that being sensitive and shy is not weakness, but having a dream and attaining that dream takes the strength to face your fears. The punk rocker Nana Osaki pushed through abandonment, heartbreak, loneliness, self-doubt, panic and pure despair to get that record deal, to be a star. And yet, some old man who could have no clue of the experiences of any woman who’s been uplifted by that show, or any other romance, has told us all that we are grinding a stain into the art form we adore. As someone who enjoys Ore Monogatari!! and One Piece, where am I on that slider scale between ‘acceptable’ and ‘scourge on all anime’? For that matter, where is Gen Urobuchi, writer of Madoka Magica and the first Godzilla anime movie?
If any of you have been hurt by his words, or thought for one moment that we might be wrong by seeing your name. as worthy of celebration, put it out of your mind. We are all worthy of opinion of the art we consume, like it or not, and any artist who can reach a wide audience with their work are just as deserving of admiration and respectful criticism. Okada’s dump on Shinkai is not criticism. It’s an attempt to lash out at something modern and popular, with a universal message of determination in love, by someone who has lost their passion and relevance in the medium that gave them their fame. I’d say let’s prove him wrong, show him what anime means to all of us. But with your name. still at the top of the Japanese box office, in consideration for the Oscars and about to make its journey overseas…aren’t we doing that anyway?