Australian press remains condescending towards anime

March 23, 2006 on 9:31 pm | In Media coverage | Comments Off on Australian press remains condescending towards anime

From this week’s “The Guide” from The Sydney Morning Herald:

Samurai Champloo

By Karin Bishop
Don’t miss this first episode of a new 13-part anime series, colourfully described as hip-hop samurai action “stir fried in cool”. It’s fast, with lots of fighting and whirling, a very cool soundtrack and a few wincing moments of finger-breaking, all with tongue firmly in cheek.

The storyline (although who needs one with all that going on?) revolves around three characters who set off on a quest. Juu, the ditzy waitress, wants to find the samurai who smells of sunflowers. For some reason the warrior Jin and the arrogant fighter Mugen agree to defer killing each other to carry out the quest. Why is never explained. In the end you can only take the advice at the start of the show: “This work of fiction. Is not accurate historical portrayal. Like we care. Now shut up and enjoy the show.”

And we wonder why anime gets the raw end with the mainstream in Australia. The Herald is a generally reputable publication, but it has in the past sparked controversies after reviewing Evangelion in its late teens, deeming it “incomprehensible” – because everyone knows you should watch a serial at this point. Worse than that was its review of Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 which included the utterly appalling line “it brings me to my jappa knees”.

Their review of Gunsmith Cats was a veritable mud sling, but that was due to being caught up in the fan service. I have long thought that there’s no such thing as a real “gateway” anime, as so much anime has some sort of impediment to “normal” people enjoying it. The Herald‘s TV reviewers – otherwise sensible people – perpetuate this stereotype something fierce.
If you want to be acceptable anime in Australia, you have to be Miyazaki.

For a little balance Doug Anderson, one of the more wry critics at the Herald, wrote the following in his TV column today (I chose to format it):

Samurai Champloo

10pm, SBS: A new anime series, combining hip-hop music, droll humour and martial arts, is horribly ringbarked by no-frills woeful dubbing.
The principals are Mugen, a spunky but taciturn warrior in the samurai tradition, who has developed a unique fighting style inspired by breakdancing. Well, of course! Why didn’t someone think of it sooner! His accomplice in the endless fight against corruption and brutality is Jin, a louce wanderer with refined manners and his own eclectic fighting style. They don’t like one another but form an alliance to defeat mutually irritating nasties who reckon the duo could do with a major haircut – administered with a beheading sword.
Love interest – such as it is – emerges in the person of Fuu, a ditzy waitress with a cute bottom and considerable resolve, who they encounter in a teahouse during the initial fight sequence. Beautifully drawn and well staged, the flavour and subtlety – such as it may have been in the original – is diluted into the shambling mediocrity of a kids’ morning cartoon by the American-accented dialogue. Pity.

It’s worth noting that Anderson never complained about the dubbing when Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was on SBS; I guess he just doesn’t like Bang Zoom!

I don’t know if I’m the only one who feels this way, but I get annoyed when I read about anime being “drawn”. It sounds wrong. Doug Anderson’s review is closer to the way these things should be treated – he talks about every show in that fashion, which generally makes for an incredibly uninformative television summary column.

Personally I think the papers should learn about anime or shut up. It’s not as bad as Canada (the whole country) is right now – and it’s better than if these reviews were focusing on some sort of imagined sex and violence prevalent in the “genre” – but it’s still just not on.

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