Anime as a Transnational Cultural Product

Although anime has its origin in Japan, Japanese sociologist, Dr  Yoshitaka Mōri, argues that anime can be understood as a transnational cultural product welding together Japanese, Korean and Chinese histories. Mōri shows how some sub-genres within anime are tremendously popular in overseas markets, while others have yet to find a strong international audience.

It is clear that the anime that gains popularity in the Japanese domestic market increasingly has difficulties fitting into overseas markets. For example, there is a uniquely Japanese anime genre for young people, which is broadcast at midnight or distributed on DVD. Outside Japan, there are not many animations for young people, as animations are basically targeted at children and families. For this reason, anime in this genre used to be popular in the overseas market, particularly among young people who were not satisfied with animations in their own countries. It also has to be noted that anime in this genre is popular among anime/otaku critics both in and outside Japan for its sophisticated quality.

While anime is a highly celebrated subversive art form, due to its themes of anti-authoritarianism, justice and fluid sexual and gender practices, Mōri also shows that anime production is a ‘post-Fordist’ industry.

Much like the manufacturing factories that mass-produce cars, Japanese animators are exploited by unfair labour conditions. Despite anime’s narrative concerns with fantasy and rebellion, Mōri argues that anime is a lucrative cultural product that is highly regulated by social policy, particularly in China.

As such, the rich revolutionary discourse that often runs throughout the anime tradition, the real life conditions under which anime shows are produced run against such themes of social justice and disruption of the social order.

Image text: It seems to me that the existing production system in the anime industry is outdated and needs to be reformed. We need to discuss seriously and urgently how we can improve the working conditions of animators as well as preserve their creativity not within a nationally divided scheme, but rather through transnational collaboration in the age of globalisation.

Study: International Journal of Japanese Sociology. Image: Zuleyka Zevallos.