What we have here, for those that don’t have their Tivos already rigged to record it, is a Starz cable special that documents the rise of anime’s popularity in the US, from its origins in Japan to the way that it pervades many facets of our culture today. After a quick opening by film critic Richard Roeper, the hour-long study of the medium kicks off by shedding some light on its highly stylized nature as relative to American animation, as well as the way that anime was poking around on domestic airwaves long before people called it anything other than “cartoons.•bCrLf
Before getting too deep into the animation side of things, the show steps back to look at anime’s roots in manga, a section that features knowledgeable commentators, including Otaku USA manga superstar Jason Thompson! The focus here is mainly on Osamu Tezuka, and they do a pretty bang-up job of detailing his impact on the world of comics and cartoons while remaining concise and keeping it simple for newcomers.
The subject then switches back to anime and the flow of commentary continues, as the likes of comic legend Stan Lee, actors such as Dante Basco (Hook, Avatar: The Last Airbender) and Lauren Holly (Spirited Away) and others (not leaving out creators on the Japanese side, like Mamoru Oshii) lay down thoughts from the structure of anime to the technical aspects of the style. Case studies peppered throughout give a closer look at individual titles. Not limiting the coverage to things that were produced in Japan, these segments also focus on the products of their influence, such as Frank Miller’s Sin City.
There’s a lot of information crammed into the show and, being made for premium cable, it sure as hell doesn’t solely depend on footage of PokÃ©mon and other lighthearted fare. This helps when topics range from Miyazaki to “sexy cyborgs,” and it’s refreshing to see a run-down of anime history that can fearlessly show the dark and gritty moments alongside everything else; not shying away from the blood and the bile, while also informing the audience that it’s much more than raunchy sex and gritty violence.
I’m sure most anime fans approach these types of programs with great trepidation. Either that or they’ve got their finger hovering over the buzzer waiting to call out any miniscule mistake that may rear its head. However, with the wide variety of clips, talking heads and topics, “Drawing a Revolution•bCrLf is a very solid and entertaining spotlight on the industry and its artform that manages to be expansive without being overwhelming. Non-fans and new enthusiasts will likely find it illuminating, but even veterans will get a good deal of entertainment out of it.
Starz is airing “Anime: Drawing a Revolution•bCrLf at 9pm ET on Monday, December 17.