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 V.16 No.50 | December 13 - 19, 2007 

Idiot Box

Back to the Drawing Board

Anime: Drawing a Revolution on Starz

Is it possible you’ve lived for the past seven years amid the wreckage of post-20th-century pop culture and you still don’t know what the hell anime is? Well, if that’s the case, Starz is coming to your rescue with Anime: Drawing a Revolution, a documentary primer on this wacky new thing called Japanese animation.

Most of the commentators presented here come across as rather random. Jon Favreau? Michael Madsen? Rob Zombie? Lauren Holly? They all seem to think anime is a really cool style, but few of them have much insight beyond the fact that “it’s pretty adult/mature/grown-up sometimes.” We do hear from a handful of actors who’ve done voice-over work on the American versions of anime series. While it might be mildly exciting for young fanboys to hear from Veronica Taylor (the voice of Ash in “Pokémon”), some comments from actual Japanese people involved in the production of anime might have been a bit more insightful. Eventually, we get a few words from master animator Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell), but he doesn’t even rate as much screen time as Billy Martin, that dude from Good Charlotte.

For historical context, Anime: Drawing a Revolution impresses us by going all the way back to “Transformers” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Wow! Way to cite American-produced shows and ignore at least 30 years of history! Pioneering manga king Osama Tezuka (Mighty Atom/Astro Boy) does get a mention, but the documentary spends as much time discussing Frank Miller, the American comic book artist and filmmaker responsible for Sin City and 300. Yeah, 300 was neat and all, but it’s not Japanese and it’s not actually animated and it’s certainly doesn’t qualify as anime.

Lip service is given to topics like sex and robots and sexy robots, but Drawing a Revolution never provides any actual analysis. Yes, there’s a lot of tentacle sex in Japanese anime. Care to hazard a guess as to why? No? OK, let’s just move on then.

Anime: Drawing a Revolution is on more solid and convincing ground when it’s examining how anime has influenced fashion, movies, music, clothing and general pop culture around the world. Listening to Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA talk about the confluence between Japanese animation and American hip-hop is worth any 10 random interviews pulled from the floor of the San Diego Comic-Con. Michelle Rodriguez? C’mon!

As a really broad overview, Anime: Drawing a Revolution features lots of kinda cool clips (Akira, Battle Angel Alita, Spirited Away, “Speed Racer”) and plenty of enthusiastic cheerleading about the art form from people in the business. If you think anime is super cool and want to listen to an hour or so of other people saying anime is super cool, Drawing a Revolution fits the bill.

Anime: Drawing a Revolution premieres Monday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. on Starz.

 
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