Fisher Center Hosts Special Animation and Gender Events
As a part of its 2008-2009 Fisher Center Series on Animation and Gender, the lecture series will host a special four-day event centered on Japanese Anime and its impact on Western culture and the world as a whole.
The event will begin with a screening of the ground-breaking Anime film, “Grave of the Fireflies” (or ” Hotaru no haka“) at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 2 in the Sanford Room. This seminal 1988 film, which stands in the pantheon of founding Anime, is Isao Takahata’s masterpiece based on the novel by Akiyuki Nosaka. The film tells the story of Setsuko and Seita, who are a brother and sister who struggle to survive in wartime Japan. Their lives are battered by deaths in the family, air raids, starvation and finding solace as well as entertainment only in the light of the fireflies.
Following up on Takahata’s “Grave of the Fireflies,” the Fisher Center will present a special screening and panel presentation on screenwriter Anthony Weintraub’s “Tekkonkinkreet” at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3 in the Sanford Room. “Tekkonkinkreet” is an innovative Anime adventure directed by Michael Arias, drawn by Taiyo Matsumoto and written by Weintraub to tell the story of Black and White, two heroes who move about Treasure Town as if they owned its very streets. But when an old world Yakuza force moves in on their town, these two enemies will have to become allies. After the film’s screening, a panel presentation will feature Weintraub himself as well as Japanese Anime and culture expert Roland Kelts.
The following day, at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4 in the Geneva Room, Kelts will offer a Fisher Center Lecture, titled “Pop Culture in a Multipolar Japan.” During his lecture, he will examine pivotal questions related to Japan, such as: Is there something more to the U.S.’s fascination with Japanese Anime and Manga? How are Animé films and Manga comics cultural channeling zones, opened by the horrors of war and disaster and animated by the desire to assemble a world of new looks, feelings and identities?
Professor at the University of Tokyo, Sophia University and the University of the Sacred Heart Tokyo, Kelts addresses the movement of Japanese culture into the West as sign and symptom of broader reanimations. With uncertainty now the norm, style, he argues, is trumping identity, explaining, in part, the success of Japanese pop and fashion, design and cuisine in the West. As Western mindsets encounter a rapid decline in longstanding binaries – good/evil, woman/man, black/white – Japan’s cultural narratives evolve in borderless, unstable worlds where characters transform, morality is multifaceted, and endings inconclusive. Animation allows an aesthetic freedom wherein these transformations and gender ambiguity may be given fuller play than in live action films. Nothing appears fixed. No surprise, perhaps, argues Kelts, coming from the only people to have suffered the immediate transformations of two atomic bombs and the instant denigration of their supreme polar father: the Japanese Emperor.
Author of “Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the U.S.“, Kelts is also a contributing writer and editor for A Public Space and Adbusters magazines, and a columnist for The Daily Yomiuri. His articles have appeared in The Village Voice, Newsday, Cosmopolitan, Vogue and The Japan Times. He is the editor in chief of Animé Masterpieces, an Anime lecture and screening series.
As the fourth and final day of Anime-, animation- and gender-filled events, Kelts will continue his lecture’s topic with a morning roundtable discussion from 9 – 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 5 in the Fisher Center (Demarest 212).