Cinema goers across the world can’t seem to get enough of Makoto Shinkai’s your name., to the point that even the director’s sick of hearing about it now. It’s dominated the box office week to week in Japan, and arrived to equal fervour in South Korea this month. But on the industry side, Shinkai’s contemporaries have been somewhat less forthcoming with the rave reviews, and programming director of the Tokyo International Film Festival, Yoshihiko “Yoshi” Yatabe, feels there’s been more than enough of the movie’s prominent tropes.
Mentioning not only your name. but A Silent Voice and Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni, all of which were on the bill at last year’s festival, Yatabe said he’s tired of “schoolgirls and time slips”. He said too many anime movies rely on “blue summer skies, fluffy clouds, and sailor suits” to sustain their imagery. Don’t get him wrong, Yatabe says he considers your name. a wonderful film, but he thinks that in comparison with animated works being produced overseas, these tropes could come off more childish than anything else.
Positive reception of similar overseas animations in Japan is not nearly as common as anime being received well worldwide, and Yatabe wants more foreign work to be recognised by the TIFF. General opinion is stacked against him though, as the anime market shows “little interest in foreign animation”. One of the key reasons is simply an overload of material to choose from, and with the annual animated film output more than doubling in the last decade, that’s hardly a surprise.
As a result, animation fans in Japan are more focussed on their domestic blockbusters, and the festival scene reflects this attitude. Over 150 films from around the world screened at TIFF 2016, including recent hit flicks and digitally restored classics, but as far as animations went, all of them were Japanese in origin.
Here at the blog, we love the tropes as part of the anime experience, but we will concede that cute schoolgirls and accidents in time have become overbearing presences. It makes you wonder, what with anime-inspired shows like RWBY completing the circle by taking root in Japan, why can’t the inspiration come from both directions? After all, in any creative process, by closing yourself off to creations outside your medium, your own work will only start to stagnate.