Radical Sight Lines

Seeing through Japanese animation

Mar. 20, 2013
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  Anime, the distinctly Japanese genre of animation, is inherently subversive. Not necessarily by supporting any particular ideology but for undermining the Cartesian philosophy and aesthetics that insists upon dividing the world in two—body from mind, subject from object… This binary system is fine for computers, but shortchanges the great possibilities available to humanity.

Such are the implications of Mechademia 7: Lines of Sight, the latest in the book-length series on anime and manga published by University of Minnesota Press. In his introductory essay, “Radical Perspectivalism,” Thomas Lamarre points to anime’s fraught relationship with realism. In the defiant unrealism of its imagery, anime opens new worlds of thought that tend to be opposed to the established order of things. Anime contradicts the realistic aspirations of Hollywood-style CGI; Lamarre cites some fascinating examples of tension between the two modes within the same films. In Rintaro’s Metropolis (2001), inspired by the great Fritz Lang film, cel-animated anime is used to portray the fluorescence of life while CGI depicts the Ziggurat—the mammoth tower where society’s rulers dwell and exercise their power.

In much of anime, Renaissance perspective is ignored. There is no vanishing point and perspectives are unbound by Cartesian principles. And this multiplicity has implications for one of anime’s persistent themes: the exploration of identity, specifically, the ability of characters to inhabit simultaneous identities. Heady and challenging, the essays in Lines of Sight provide penetrating insight into the often-baffling world of anime.

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