Controversy has arisen over the recently released music video Shelter, by electronic musician Porter Robinson. It sure looks, sounds, and feels like anime. So why did the moderators at /r/anime see fit to remove its hugely popular, 98% up-voted post?
That is most certainly anime. Why do I say that with such definitive sureness? First, it was produced by A-1 pictures, the Japanese animation studio responsible for Sword Art Online and many better series. That should really be the end of the question right there, but the moderators of popular subreddit /r/anime have other ideas. In their words;
“[We] do not consider music videos produced by animation studios to be anime specific. This is a music video by an artist that contracted out a studio that happens to also produce anime. If A-1 was contracted to produce episode of Spongebob, we wouldn’t allow that either[.]”
I would kill for an A-1 version of a Spongebob episode. Either way, the moderators start to filter their already thorough rules with this comment. You can find those rules here in their full glory, but you will find no mention of music videos. Banning an entire subsection of anime is an odd thing to do though for a thread about anime. Are short OVAs without a pop song over them off-limits? The video in question might be a music video, but it is also a ‘specific anime’. If you would like an example of something more specific than an actual original anime, here’s the number two post currently on /r/anime – a bubble tea from New Zealand with Ichigo drawn on it.
“But it’s a video with music and story by non-Japanese musicians!” you might cry. And Karigurashi no Arrietty, one of my favorite Ghibli films, is a re-imagining of Mary Norton’s 1952 novel, “The Borrowers.” It’s arguing the semantics of how much of the production has to be Japanese, and if anime can be anything beyond fully made-in-Japan. Well, the people who you should probably be asking what defines anime are Japanese. In this fantastic Answerman with Justin Sevakis over on ANN, the subject of why animated shows in the west are primarily for kids is discussed. The answer is long and interesting, but in that explanation it comes up that even western cartoons like X-Men are referred to as anime in Japan. Yes that’s right, anime literally means animation. It can be as simple as that.
Well it can’t really be as simple as that. Kotaku goes in to quite a detailed analysis by sociology experts in their look at this controversy, but I’ll give a few of my thoughts here. There’s a certain culture to Japanese animation that people around the world love and cherish, and the thought of that culture being ‘corrupted’ by outside influences is a common concern across many different types of fan-base. So what happens when an outsider remains faithful to the culture and style, with collaboration from a major production studio in the industry? Arguing against that practice is similar to removing your own right to draw anime-styled characters and even understand anime in any way. If you’re reading this as non-Japanese and are against the idea of anime being anything but fully Japanese, you are your own enemy.
(Not really a fan of the music, but great story and art direction!)