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Broderick, Mick: "Superflat Eschatology. Renewal and Religion in anime." In: Animation Studies <http://journal.animatio ... -superflat-eschatology/> (29. Aug. 2011)
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BibTeX citation key: Broderick2009a
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Keywords: "Appleseed", "Spriggan", Animation, Apokalypse, Japan, Randformen des Comics, Utopie
Collection: Animation Studies
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As anime scholar Susan Napier and critics Looser and Lamarre suggest, apocalypse is a major thematic predisposition of this genre, both as a mode of national cinema and as contemporary art practice. Many commentators (e.g. Helen McCarthy, Antonia Levi) on anime have foregrounded the ‘apocalyptic’ nature of Japanese animation, often uncritically, deploying the term to connote annihilation, chaos and mass destruction, or a nihilistic aesthetic expression. But which apocalypse is being invoked here? The linear, monotheistic apocalypse of Islam, Judaism, Zoroastra or Christianity (with it’s premillennial and postmillennial schools)? Do they encompass the cyclical eschatologies of Buddhism or Shinto or Confucianism? Or are they cultural hybrids combining multiple narratives of finitude?
To date, Susan Napier’s work (2005, 2007) is the most sophisticated examination of the trans-cultural manifestation of the Judeo-Christian theological and narrative tradition in anime, yet even her framing remains limited by discounting a number of trajectories apocalypse dictates. However, there are other possibilities. Jerome Shapiro (2004), for one, argues convincingly that the millennial imagination, as a subset of apocalyptic thought, is closer to the Japanese spiritual understanding of heroic mythology. Elsewhere Thomas Looser (2007) reflects upon 1990s Japanese media and art and interprets the obsession with apocalyptic images from the Superflat school and Gainax anime as a preoccupation with the postmodern crises of capital and its limits.
To develop this thesis the following essay reads key anime sequences not covered in Napier’s lengthy critique through various strains of apocalyptic discourse, namely Spriggan (Dir: Kawasaki Hirotsugu, 1998) and Appleseed (Dir: Aramaki Shinji, 2004), while referencing others in the genre (e.g. Steamboy, Dir: Otomo Katsuhiro, 2004 and Metropolis, Dir: Rintaro with Otomo Katsuhiro, 2004). It considers the utopian teleology of the chaotic, transitional period each narrative heralds (the ‘middest’ as Frank Kermode describes it) that creates a pathway to a new order, or returns balance to a corrupt and moribund world, often through trans-humanist, technological hybridity or psychic/supernatural human evolution. While catastrophic imagery of wholesale destruction and vengeful violence is certainly present in these works this article will consider the often ignored, complementary apocalyptic themes of regeneration and renewal that are drawn from both Japanese and Western mythic or religious traditions.
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