Reassessing Anime: Japanese cinema and animation

Anime is a visual enigma. Its otherworldly allure and burgeoning popularity across the globe highlights its unique ability to be more than just another type of animation. Originally a novelty export from post-war Japan, anime has now become a subtle yet important part of Western popular culture. Furthermore, it remains a key area of audience and fan research that crosses all generations – children, teenagers, and adults. From Osamu Tezuka to Hayao Miyazaki, Akira (Katsuhiro Ôtomo, 1988) to Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995), anime’s extraordinary characters and oneiric content still enable it to be regarded as one of the most awe-inspiring visual spectacles going into and during the twenty-first century.
    Keenly aware of anime’s rich history, cultural and global context, and increasing presence and influence on Western art, literature and film, the theme of this issue of Cinephile is ‘Reassessing Anime.’ The six articles included herein aim to address and tackle some of the overlooked aspects of anime. Such a reassessment by each author hopes to encourage future academic scholarship into the evolution and value of anime and, moreover, its impact not only on film but also on TV, comic books, video games, music videos, and corporate marketing strategies. [Jonathan A. Cannon, Editor’s Note, Cinephile, ‘Reassessing Anime’, 7.1, 2011. FSFF‘s hyperlinks]

Film Studies For Free is delighted to announce that the Spring 2011 issue of Cinephile, the excellent film journal edited out of the University of British Columbia, Canada, has just been made available for download for free as a single PDF file.

As signalled above, this issue is dedicated to “Reassessing Anime” and it features great, original articles by internationally renowned animation scholars Paul Wells and Philip Brophy, as well as illustrations by Vancouver-based artist Chloe Chan.

The issue’s table of contents is given below, and below that, FSFF has also provided a handy, clickable index of its own popular posts on anime and Japanese cinema.

The latest issue of Cinephile, available for purchase now, is on Contemporary Realism. It features original articles by Ivone Margulies and Richard Rushton. There is also a call for papers on “The Voice Over”.

  • ‘Playing the Kon Trick: Between Dates, Dimensions and Daring in the films of Satoshi Kon’ by Paul Wells
  • ‘The Sound of an Android’s Soul: Music, Muzak and MIDI in Time of Eve‘ by Philip Brophy
  • ‘Beyond Maids and Meganekko: Examining the Moe Phenomenon’ by Michael R. Bowman
  • ‘Reviewing the ‘Japaneseness’ of Japanese Animation: Genre Theory and Fan Spectatorship’ by Jane Leong
  • ‘The Higurashi Code: Algorithm and Adaptation in the Otaku Industry and Beyond’ by John Wheeler
  • ‘Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence: Thinking Before the Act’ by Frédéric Clément 

Film Studies For Free on Anime and Japanese Cinema

Brokeback Mountain Studies: Through the Queer Longing Glass

Films accumulate meaning through, at times, very subtle moves. From one colour to another. From one shape to another. The latter is the case with Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005).

While much of the film’s affective meaning is conjured through quite obvious (but no less moving for that) figurations of absence and presence, such as Ennis’s discovery of the (now ‘empty’) bloodied shirts in Jack’s closet, and their (still ‘empty’) reappearance in Ennis’s own closet at the end of the film, there is also some mourning and memory-work carried out through considerably less conspicuous, visual shape-shifting and graphic matching.

This very short video essay traces the long journey from Jack’s desirous looking at Ennis through round glass (as he shaves his later-to-be-bruised cheek) in the early and middle parts of the film, to Ennis’s touching association with squarer, straighter vistas, at the end of the film, an un/looking through ‘longing glass’ in which Jack can only be figured invisibly, metaphorically, through his absence.  [Catherine Grant, ‘Through the Queer Longing Glass of Brokeback Mountain‘]

Film Studies For Free‘s author was doing a little bit of teaching on Brokeback Mountain last week. It was windy up there, but this pedagogical outing inspired the above little video essay as well as the below list of links to online, and openly accessible studies of Ang Lee‘s 2005 film and Annie Proulx‘s short story as well as of the ‘gay cowboy film’ more generally. Yee ha!

>30 Online Film Studies Books and PhD Theses from OhioLINK

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Image from When Night is Falling (Patricia Rozema, 1995), a film discussed by Jamie L. Stuart

Film Studies For Free shakes itself out of an uncharacteristic, unseasonal, hot-weather related torpor to bring you one of its regular reports (and lists of links) from a University research repository. Today, it’s the turn of the utterly brilliant repository at the OhioLINK ETD Center, gathering theses and books (in bold below) by film studies scholars at Ohio State University, Bowling Green State University, Ohio University, and Case Western Reserve University.

As usual, these links will be added in due course to FSFF‘s permanent listings of Online Film and Moving Image Studies PhD Theses and Open Access Film E-books List.

>Study of a Single Film: Forbidden Planet (in memory of Leslie Nielsen)

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Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis star in Forbidden Planet (Fred M. Wilcox, 1956)

Film Studies For Free was sad to hear that the king of deadpan movie humour, actor Leslie Nielsen, has died at the age of 84. Of all the films he starred in, the one that has most often been the subject of scholarly studies was the hugely influential science fiction movie Forbidden Planet, a film in which Nielsen played a sincerely serious role.

In (metonymic) memory of Nielsen’s wonderful career (the straight part standing for the mostly comic whole), FSFF has assembled a list of links to openly accessible academic studies of this 1956 film. With its groundbreaking electronic music score by Louis and Bebe Barron, its highly personable robot character, its loose adaptation of a high culture text (Shakespeare‘s The Tempest), and its well elaborated allusions to classical (and post-classical) mythology, as well as to Freud (the Id monster), Forbidden Planet will probably keep film academics in business for quite some time. But, FSFF hopes some will also turn their attention to Nielsen’s comic performances, before too long.

Shirley, they merit that, at the very least.

>Narratology and Narration in Film and Transmedia Storytelling

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Image from Storytelling (Todd Solondz, 2001)
Narration in the Fiction Film


[David] Bordwell bases his theory of cinematic narration on the work of the Russian Formalists. It is a theory that assumes a distinction between ‘the story that is represented and the actual representation of it’ (1985: 49); a distinction between the narrative as it is constructed by the spectator (the fabula) and the formal systems of representation employed in a film (syuzhet and style). Bordwell describes the spectator’s activity in constructing a narrative in the following terms:

Presented with two narrative events, we look for causal or spatial or temporal links. The imaginary construct we create, progressively and retrospectively, was termed by the Formalists the fabula (sometimes translated as ‘story’). More specifically, the fabula embodies the action as a chronological, cause-and-effect chain of events occurring within a given duration and spatial field. … The fabula is thus a pattern which perceivers of narratives create through assumptions and inferences. It is the developing result of picking up narrative cues, applying schema, framing and testing hypotheses. … It would be an error to take the fabula, or story, as the profilmic event. A film’s fabula is never materially present on the screen or soundtrack. … What is given? … The syuzhet (usually translated as ‘plot’) is the actual arrangement and presentation of the fabula in the film. It is not in the text in toto. It is a more abstract construct, the patterning of a story as a blow-by-blow recounting of the film could render it (Bordwell 1985: 49-50. Original emphasis). [Nick Redfern, ‘Film as Text: Radical Constructivism and the Problem of Narrative in Cinema’, Amsterdam International Electronic Journal for Cultural Narratology, No. 2, Autumn 2005]

Unreliable narration in film and literature


As discussed by Volker Ferenz (Ferenz 2005) in an article on the status of the concept of the unreliable narrator in film studies, the present scope has been wide and highly diverse. Seymour Chatman – one of the few who deals with film and literature equally well – uses it to describe a character who appears to be our source of the shown (i.e. in control of the image) and who turns out to be unreliable (i.e. the picture has not been true), and to describe voice-over narrators whose telling is undermined by the image-track. (Chatman 1978: 235ff, Chatman 1990: 131 ff.) These two uses are pretty much in agreement with what literary studies have been doing. But others, like David Bordwell, George M. Wilson and Gregory Currie, have applied the concept to films with non-personalised narrators where important omissions of information lead the spectator to draw his or her own or false conclusions as the film progresses (Bordwell 1985; Wilson 1986; Currie 1997), and yet others have applied it to films where the normal causal-logic of reality is suspended – either in favour of metafictional manoeuvres, as seen in Alain Resnais’ L’année dernière à Marienbad (1961), or as in ghost stories like Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others (2001) or M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (1999)[2], both partly constructed around the axis of what Tzvetan Torodov labelled the fantastic-marvellous (Todorov 1980). Ferenz shows that Tamar Yacobi’s five strategies for the naturalization of textual ambiguities and inconsistencies (Yacobi 1981) is an excellent tool for sorting out some of these (mis)understandings. In Yacobi’s taxonomy it is the ‘perspectival principle’, by which the reader brings discordant elements into a pattern by attributing them to the peculiarities of the speaker or observer through whom the world is mediated, that are congruent with what literary studies label as an unreliable narrator, and Ferenz shows that many of the films described as unreliably narrated are better understood in accordance with Yacobi’s other principles – i.e. as a matter of generic or functional principles. [Per Krogh Hansen, ‘Unreliable Narration in Cinema: Facing the Cognitive Challenge Arising from Literary Studies’, Amsterdam International Electronic Journal for Cultural Narratology, No. 5, Autumn 2008-Autumn 2009]

Film Studies For Free presents one of its regular bumper links lists to openly accessible scholarly materials. Today’s category of choice is an essential one for our discipline: the study of narratology in film and transmedia storytelling.

As it’s such a long list, FSFF will start off proceedings by singling out two particularly useful resources with which those new to this topic might like to begin:

  1. Manfred Jahn, ‘A Guide to Narratological Film Analysis’. Poems, Plays, and Prose: A Guide to the Theory of Literary Genres. English Department, University of Cologne, 1.7. August 2, 2003 
  2. Dino Felluga, ‘General Introduction to Narratology’, Introductory Guide to Critical Theory, Purdue University, 2003

http://books.google.com/books?id=0O6w1mmy95YC&lpg=PA154&ots=CvztoAB-dH&dq=%22Seeing%20or%20Speaking%3A%20Visual%20Narratology%20and%20Focalization%2C%20Literature%20to%20Film%22&lr=lang_en&pg=PA154&output=embed

Tenth Anniversary SCOPE !! On Cultural Borrowings: Appropriation, Reworking, Transformation

Hooray! It’s OUT. Film Studies For Free has been checking almost every day for a couple of months now because it knew that an amazing issue of Scope: an online journal of film and tv studies — its TENTH anniversary issue — was just about to be published. It’s here now *Scope* # 15: an issue and  an e-book — see the contents links below — and contains some fantastic items of film and media studies. 

Congratulations to the whole editorial team at Scope, who do a fabulous job. These have been ten great years of remarkably high quality and FREELY ACCESSIBLE scholarly works. Thank you.

Cultural Borrowings: Appropriation, Reworking, Transformation
Edited by Iain Robert Smith

Acknowledgements Iain Robert Smith
Foreword: Scope’s Tenth Anniversary  Mark Gallagher and Julian Stringer
Introduction Iain Robert Smith
Part I: Hollywood Cinema and Artistic Imitation
Part II: Found Footage and Remix Culture
Part III: Modes of Parody and Pastiche
Part IV: Transnational Screen Culture

Storytelling sans frontières? On Adaptation, Remaking, Intertextuality, and Transmediality

Still from the trailer for (The Twilight Saga:) New Moon (Chris Weitz, 2009)
Another rather long links list today, this time on one of Film Studies For Free‘s author‘s main research specialisms: adaptation (and remaking, ‘remediation’, ‘transmediality’) and intertextuality. The list — as always of direct links to openly-accessible scholarly resources — is particularly meaty in celebration of a very cool happening. A proposed contribution by her on these topics to a panel at the Los Angeles Society of Cinema and Media Studies annual conference in 2010 was accepted this week (woohoo!).

A video-essay version of this work — entitled ‘Intertextuality and Anomalousness: Luis Buñuel’s The Young One (1960)’ — part of a great panel calledLooking Backwards and Thinking Forwards: Engaging the Cinema of 1960 with Multimedia Scholarship’ will appear on this website in due course…

So, in celebration of the above, do please enjoy the following links to very high quality scholarly resources on adaptation and narrative transmediality, with a nice little video embedded at the very end:

Archives and Auteurs: conference papers online

As part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research project on ‘The Cinema Authorship of Lindsay Anderson’ (see detailed project outline), a conference on Archives and Auteurs was held at the University of Stirling from 2nd – 4th September 2009. The conference brought archivists, academics, curators and researchers together to discuss the ways in which the study of the archives of filmmakers and the film industry can provide new perspectives and insights into the history of cinema.

Film Studies For Free was delighted to see that the excellent papers from the conference are now freely accessible online at the Stirling University website.

Direct links to open pdf files are given below. In addition, check out Kathryn Mackenzie‘s wonderful blog — Archives and Auteurs — devoted to this project. A selection of Anderson’s photograph albums from 1940s and 1950s have been made available on the University of Stirling Archives flickr pages. These albums provide a rich visual record of Anderson’s early years as a filmmaker, documenting the early industrial films he made in Wakefield, his trips to the Cannes Film Festival and his contribution to Free Cinema. Those interested should also read this related article by Isabelle Gourdin-Sangouard, ‘Creating Authorship? Lindsay Anderson and David Sherwin’s collaboration on If…. (1968)’, Journal of Screenwriting, Volume 1, Number 1, 2010. And finally, Moving Image Source published a great article on Anderson (August 14, 2008) by Steve Erickson, entitled ‘Anarchy in the U.K‘: 

>Vampires, Vamps, and Va Va Voom: Recordings and Abstracts

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The ever-wonderful Adrian Martin made it all too easy for Film Studies For Free today and very helpfully pointed it in the direction of a wonderful online Film Studies resource: recordings and abstracts of the papers for Vampires Vamps and Va Va Voom: A Critical Engagement with Paranormal Romance, a Two-Day Symposium, organised by the Sìdhe Literary Collective, Monash University, 19 & 20 September 2008. Below are the all important links:

FSFF says Fangs Adrian!