The International Manga & Anime Festival Reiwa Toshima (IMART), an international conference on the theme of the future of manga and anime, was held at the Toshima City Office from Friday, November 15 to Sunday, November 17. The conference featured 24 sessions and lively discussions on a variety of disciplines, including education, technology, marketing, and journalism.
In this article, I will send you the state of the session “The past and the future of anime journalism” held on the 17th. How has anime terpopuler (which means most popular anime in Indonesian) been picked up by the media and formed a cultural arena? They passionately discussed the pros and cons of forming a critical space in this medium.
The session was led by five industry-leading reporters and editors. The panelists are Atsushi Ohara, a reporter for the Asahi Shimbun newspaper who writes the anime column “Animage Bowl,” Kiyoto Sumi, the editor-in-chief of the anime magazine “Newtype” published by KADOKAWA, Naoshi Sudo, editor-in-chief of the anime business website “Animation Business Journal,” who continues to cover the front lines of the anime business, and Ryota Fujitsu, who has been standing in the arguing position of anime for nearly 20 years. It was hosted by Toyoshi Inada, who had been involved as an anime-related editor and writer for many years.
The session, as the title suggests, traces how anime journalism has evolved.
The dilemma is that it has become difficult to form a critical space because of the fact that the production side and the two-person tripod magazine have been created, and how to improve this structure will be discussed.
When and how did anime come to be featured in newspapers and magazines in the first place? There are various theories about the establishment of a magazine specializing in anime, but the oldest remaining periodical is Tokuma Shoten’s “Animage” in 1978.
According to an investigation by Ohara using the Asahi Shimbun’s internal database, an example of an anime being widely featured in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper was found in the evening edition of August 5, 1977, in which the popularity of Space Battleship Yamato was socially reported. “As far as I searched, this was the first article in Yamato,” Ohara explains.
The following “Mobile Suit Gundam” first appeared in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in March 1981. However, this also reported on a social phenomenon in which a large number of fans lined up for the movie version, which was at the height of its popularity at the time, and did not report the charm of “Gundam” itself.
Ohara recalls, “Newspapers are old media, so it was difficult to cover anime itself, which was an emerging culture at the time. In order to decorate the front page of the newspaper, it was necessary to be reported as news of a social phenomenon.”
However, since the 1980s, there have been gradual changes mainly in Ghibli, such as the fact that “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds” was featured in the front-page column of the morning newspaper, “Tennōjingo.”
On the other hand, in terms of magazines, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds” was featured in the movie magazine “Kinema Junpo” and “Totoro Next Door” won first place as the first Japan film in 1988, and it is said that the views of cultural people at that time gradually changed.
The turning point came in 1997 when the blockbuster hit “Princess Mononoke” and the movie version of “Neon Genesis Evangelion” became a social phenomenon. At the same time, the Asahi Shimbun began to establish manga awards such as the Tezuka Osamu Culture Award, and before it held the manga awards in-house, it changed so that manga works themselves were taken up on paper.
Later, in 2001, “The Hidden Treasures of Chihiro and Chihiro” became a national smash hit. After winning awards at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Academy Awards, Ohara analyzes that the general public’s recognition further increased, and anime became more common with “Your Name Is Mine” in 2016.
“Anime has become popular in the last few years,” Sudo said, citing the example of overseas film awards.
There was also a discussion on the topic of “Does journalism exist in anime?” In the first place, does journalism fall within the scope covered by anime magazines? For example, if a scandal occurs when a voice actor commits drugs or the like, sports newspapers will report it, but there was also an opinion that readers of anime magazines were looking for such a topic.
He then moved on to the question, “Isn’t criticism the role of specialized journals?” Commenting on this, Sudo said, “I feel like there used to be a medium called ‘Nikkei Characters,’ and this was anime journalism. I guess the fact that it is no longer there now is something that readers didn’t want very much.”
Although Sudo himself has a desire to “be a journalist”, from his experience of running his own web media, he is worried about whether he is really wanted by readers, and in fact “Anime! When he was the editor-in-chief, he tried to do a plan centered on reviews, but it did not last long because it did not come to terms with the cost.
In addition, Sudo said, “I have been focusing on the Web, but with the Web, everything such as page views is quantified, and it is difficult to continue rigid planning such as reviews. I think it is advantageous to have a magazine that can be mixed into one book.”
In response, Fujitsu said, “I feel that I can write more freely after the web has become a magazine than a magazine. In a magazine, scene photography is essential, and if you use this, even if it is a review, of course, the other party will check it. The web gives you more flexibility in your manuscript.” However, he added, “It certainly doesn’t make any money [in terms of writer’s manuscript fees].”
From the standpoint of a newspaper, Ohara said, “In my case, I am trying to write because I basically thought it was interesting, so there is little need to bother to write dry criticism. However, if I judge that I have no choice but to include dry criticism due to circumstances, I will do it in the form of a cross-review, etc. We try to keep the dry criticism from being noticeable.”
Here, Fujitsu confided, “I have submitted dry reviews to newspapers in the past, and since then I have not received any invitations to [the company’s] preview screenings.” In relation to this, Sudo asked, “I think Mr. Ohara’s newspaper columns are characterized by saying refreshing and harsh things. Do you have any complaints?” Ohara said, “I’ve never been offended, I don’t check it with the understanding that it’s a newspaper manuscript.”
At this point, the topic shifted to the issue of checking the manuscript. In the case of anime magazines, it is customary to request picture materials to be checked by the publisher or the production committee.
The editor-in-chief of Newtype said, “[Checks] are pretty much everything in it, including the layout, and I used to be in a TV magazine called The Television, but here I did almost no checks. When I moved to Newtype, I was honestly surprised to see that I was going to show you everything.”
However, Ohara of the newspaper said, “I use picture materials, but I do not check them,” highlighting the difference in customs between newspapers and specialized magazines.
Commenting on the custom of checking these articles, Sumi said, “It is true that we borrow materials, and I hear that the game industry is also tough. II think it’s different for each industry.”
Sudo recalled, “I was once told clearly by a packaging manufacturer that characters and scenic photography are assets of the industry, and since we offer free places that would normally be lent out for 5,000 yen or so, I was once told that this was a collaborative effort.”
Ohara says, “In the case of newspaper companies, not only anime, but also TV station banjo staff have a long relationship, and movies have always had relationships with distribution and publicity companies, so there are many forms of wanting them to be picked up from the other side,” but “There is one exception, and once I directly interact with the production company if you want to provide images, checking the article is a must.” In the end, I didn’t borrow the image, but when I told them about it, they confided, ‘I think that’s better.'”
In this episode, Sudo nodded, “It seems that many people on the rights holder side think that article checking is a rather troublesome system. There were many times when I was suggested by the other side, ‘I can lend you a loan, but since article checking will occur, it would be better to write freely without images.'”
Perhaps based on this experience, Sudo wrote in his own web media, “My policy is to always check interview manuscripts, but not other articles. As for the material, unless it is sent from the other side, I will not say ‘please’ from here. Instead of using materials, you can say as much as you want.”
In the future of anime journalism, the focus was on how the industry can nurture future talent.
When the moderator, Inada, expressed his concern that “culture manuscripts are cheaper than business manuscripts, and partly because of this, there may be few young writers in the industry,” Fujitsu said, “I feel like there are young people in places where they rewrite releases on the web or do small interviews.”
“When I go to places like ITmedia and NewsPicks these days, many of the reporters who come out are from newspapers and magazines, and these people are starting to write quality articles on the web. However, this can also be seen as the web reaping the education that newspapers and publishers have cultivated,” he said, adding, “Twenty years from now, it is already happening in the anime industry. In other words, there are many people who are active now who have trained at major trade magazines, but the fact that there are no young people now makes me feel that I am losing the physical strength to nurture young people in such specialized media.”
Finally, the audience asked how anime magazines should be involved in the event of a social incident related to anime, such as the Kyoto Animation arson incident.
In response, Fujitsu said, “Of course, professional anime reporters don’t abandon such work, but I think that newspapers have a social role. Realistically, these incidents have to be covered by the police. In this sense, I think we should leave it to the people who are interviewing the primary source.”
Sudo also concluded, “When it comes to a big incident like that, there will be many layers of newspapers and major magazines that have the power to cover the news. Rather, what we should do is to remember such a tragic event three to five years from now, and to arouse it even if the major media no longer report it.”