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.”

Image result for certain scientific railgun misaka

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?

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26 Comments on "Your name, our anime: defending the new and female otaku"

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mudakun

The Otaking’s shtick is dismissing everything that has come after his glory days. He’s been at it for over a decade. He has to grumble and throw shade, it’s his chara.

OT: Search youtube for Shinkai + CM. Theres a few wonderful short commercials that he had a hand in, one is a 2min echo of parts of “name”.

Bonsai
He is looking at it in terms of issues that exist within his culture. And as women in the West are keen on supporting women in general, when they view and support in terms of Japanese produced entertainment should be considered in light of how women and children are treated in Japan. It is not to say you can’t enjoy it from your own cultural perspective, but it is socially conscious to look at the whole picture and being open being objective in that sense. Whether he is right or wrong on this one, I’m glad he is thinking about… Read more »
MyNameIsNotImportant

Now that it (your name) won best animated film in Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards and pretty likely got an Oscar nomination, we can have the last laugh. Just sayin.

MyNameIsNotImportant

It’s pretty freaky on how I can relate to this post. I saw a lot of similar sentiment on the western side of the fandom. i know it’s not the same, but somehow feel similar. A lot of people were complaining about how more and more anime were made for girls/fujoshit (I remember it’s on 4chan). It’s pretty sad and honestly, cringey.

Elisabeth O'Neill

It’s terrible, just as we feel we’re getting ahead of this mindset, you see a load more people who believe so deeply in their discrimination that they can’t see it as such. There was no issue with so much being made for guys for so long, now it’s starting to show signs of evening up, however… 🙄 So fragile in their illusion of dominance.

oshaexclaimation
The irony of this is that Studio Trigger, staffed by ex-Gainax members and arguably Gainax’s spiritual successor, has made anime before that has kept classic Gainax sensibilities while treating feminine sensibilities as valid, You have Little Witch Academia’s focus on dreaming big and Space Patrol Luluco’s treatment of teenage girl crushes as valid. Trigger has been contentious for their male gaze fanservice, but even Kill la Kill has important messages about the importance of friendship as “the family you make yourself”, especially the bonds between women. While not often talked about, Trigger recruited female staff members that weren’t animators to… Read more »
Elisabeth O'Neill
Absolutely, it’s not like such themes are forbidden ground by any means, nor should it be. Turning Girls sounds like it’s an interesting watch, I’ll have to make a note of that on my already heaving to-watch list. I want to know more about expectations of women and ideas of empowerment in Japan, so I’m glad you mentioned it. It’s essential that more anime start treating the ‘old school’ and inclusive characters, stories and themes as aspects that aren’t mutually exclusive. No matter who we are, we have dreams and our teen loves belittled, they’re not ‘girl troubles’ by any… Read more »
sophiethestark

I personally haven’t watched your name. yet but your post resonates with me for many other situations. It actually pisses me off a lot so I’m not even go there.

I just want to thank you for this piece and hope you continue to defend us girls and your own personal views, even when it feels futile.

Stay strong 😉

Elisabeth O'Neill

I feel you, this one incident is an example of discrimination against women that eeks into every aspect of our lives. It’s all too real and affects every one of us in some way. This piece just came from me feeling pissed off, and at least sharing little things like this can add up to us feeling a whole lot stronger.

Thank you, and I will.

heyitszel
This is a great read! Well-written too! It’s unfortunate that he’s made such a misogynistic comment. In light of politics today (specifically what’s happening here in the US) it’s hard to just brush it off and let it go when we feel as if society is heading backwards. I’m probably just ranting and off mark with my comments but anyways. I’ve been wanting to see ‘Your Name’ but not because of the storyline- but because of the director and the fact that usually it’ll be a visual masterpiece like his other films. You’re right it’s success will prove him wrong!… Read more »
Elisabeth O'Neill

Thanks so much 😊 It does feel especially prudent with the current political climate in the States not to stand for hateful speech of any kind. When somebody’s saying that women’s opinions might destroy a country, it’s not a far cry from bringing abortion laws into question. We’re all going to see the movie anyway, and we’re going to share our opinions and call it a masterpiece if we want. So he can suck on that 😜

cloud0ix

Why does anyone listen to the guy? You want to talk about a total has-been, Okada is it. He bailed on Gainax when they hit financial rock bottom and was never a talent to begin with, just in charge of finances.
He’s just an irate washed up producer complaining about the distinct lack of the 80s in modern media as I see it.

Elisabeth O'Neill

Gee, what a stunt to pull on the studio that gave you a career. I don’t know who’s kept him afloat this long, nobody seems to be taking him seriously on this.

Karandi

I respect the right for him to say what he likes as I also my respect my ability to ignore his opinion entirely.
Thanks for highlighting this as it really is a problem when someone expresses the thought that listening to the opinion of women is going to ruin an industry.

Elisabeth O'Neill

Haha! Yes, exactly 😉

mattdoylemedia

Definitely agree. The implications of his words are not only insulting, but potentially damaging. I’ve not seen Your Name’ yet, but I thought that it looked stunning, and it remains on my ‘to watch’ list. As a side, as much as I like Oshii’s work, how anyone could take pops at Mamoru Hosoda is beyond me (to me, Hosada’s work is everything that I expected to find (but generally didn’t) in Ghibli).

Elisabeth O'Neill

The capacity of some people to see something beautiful and smear it with hate is astounding. Who sees a sweet romance like your name or a beautiful family drama with wolf cubs (wolf cubs gosh darn it!) and thinks “I need to write a speech about how offensive I found this”? Dear me. It boggles the mind.

mattdoylemedia

I do wonder if some of it is due to insecurity: they themselves are no longer the biggest names, and so they attack those that are rising to take their place for the current/next generation. It’s a shame, because they all have plenty that they can contribute to anime.

Elisabeth O'Neill

It seems like it. It’s a shame, because as soon as you give in to hating on others rather than creating something yourself, you’re lost.