Article by Eiwa Ishijima
Editing by Tadashi Nagatani
According to the Association of Japanese Animation (AJA), Japanese anime are celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2017. We had the chance to talk with the legendary anime producer Masuo Ueda about what happened over the course of the past 100 years, about the present and about what awaits the anime world.
- Masuo Ueda - Anime Producer
- After being an anime producer for Sunrise and working as a freelancer, Masuo Ueda joins Aniplex in 2003. He served as Executive Director at Aniplex and Director at A-1 Pictures. Currently, he works as an advisor for Sony Pictures Entertainment.
In 2017, he starts his very own net radio program, "Ueda Masuo no Anime! Masumasu Hogaraka", where he delivers talk shows with anime industry stakeholders and voice actors.
He was in charge of several animation masterpieces, such as Mobile Suit Gundam III Encounters in Space, Ginga Hyōryū Vifam, City Hunter, Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Cowboy Bebop, Black Butler, Sword Art Online and many more.
A story older than Mickey Mouse!? Japanese anime date back further than you would expect
However, another animation was released on June 30 of the same year: Namakura Gatana, or Hanawa Hekonai Meito no Maki, produced by mangaka Junichi Kouchi, and the film still exists. Whatever the case, we can be pretty sure that 1917 was the year when Japanese anime were born.
-- The first title featuring Mickey Mouse (Steamboat Willie) was released in 1928. This means that Japanese anime are born before Mickey Mouse!
In the past, video recording equipment was expensive, so news programs, singing programs, and even TV series were broadcast in real time. It's pretty obvious that it was hard to broadcast 30 minutes anime every week, since it would have required a lot of preparation. Astro Boy, which set the standards for contemporary anime productions, can really be considered a monumental work.
The current state of anime
Until a decade ago, works created in Japan weren't even broadcast nationwide, since they skipped rural areas. They couldn't be enjoyed in real time.
Currently, many anime are distributed on the internet and made available around the world. Fans can enjoy their favorite anime no matter where they are in the world.
I recently participated to Animazement, an anime convention in North Carolina (US), and I was surprised to see how popular Japanese anime are abroad. There are some productions which value goes beyond language barriers and nationalities, and I'm glad we're living in an age when speaking different languages is not a problem.
Is the history of anime over? What can we do about the future of anime?
For example: if we want to discuss the working environment in the animation industry, we will first need to know what kind of employees are doing what kind of job. If the people who know a thing or two about the industry increase, we can finally start some fruitful discussions that will hopefully lead to an improvement.
Luckily enough, 2017 representing the 100th anniversary of anime, many events and seminars are going to be held all around Japan. NHK proposed a special program called Nippon Anime 100. I think many more programs like the one mentioned above will start in the near future.
I'd like to invite all those who will be reading this article to attend these events and see these TV programs.
And I'd like you to think about what anime represents for you. Think about it, look it up and take action. I think the problems in the industry cannot be solved unless not only stakeholders are involved in the issue, but fans as well.
We need to overcome the problems in the current time in order to let people enjoy anime a hundred years from now.
Anime have been entertaining people for a hundred years. They are loved not only by Japanese people, but also by fans all over the world. However, this interview made us understand that this world is currently facing a crisis.
We don't want to think that anime will disappear one day. We should all think about what we can do to save this amazing form of entertainment!