Question of Inquiry
In Condry’s article he looks at creativity in anime production. Many people believe that the complex stories of anime set it apart from cartoon; however, after spending time at Animation Studios he began to think about anime differently. Condry (2009) started to look at anime in terms of the “logics that guide anime production” (p. 140). Focusing on “key concepts of characters, premises, and world-settings” (p. 140). Condry (2009) was also interested in looking into the notion of anime as the “flagship for ‘cool Japan’, a catchphrase referring to the hoped-for economic and political influence of the nation’s content industries” (p. 140).
By looking at anime creativity Condry (2009) hopes to “clarify some of the particulars of anime production in the hope to expanding the opportunities for comparison with other media” (p. 141); more specifically, he wants to consider “what anime can add to media and cultural studies” (p. 142). Condry (2009) believes that by studying anime it is possible to see how the idea of anime as a national resource relates to todays concerns in a production house (p. 142).
In order to gain insight into the creative production of anime and the notion of ‘cool Japan’ Condry observed meetings; conducted interviews with the directors, animation directors, writers, producers; as well as observed voice recording and evaluations of licensed merchandise.
Character –related business and content industries
“A character based analysis of collaborative creativity gives us a critical perspective on ‘cool Japan’ discourse which aim to link the content industries with national identity” (p. 144). Content industries are often characters based – because characters provide the link across media. “If an artist or company can develop a character that audiences desire, the possibilities for making money off that character can ramify in many directions” (p. 145). In a study that Condry (2009) read a producer at Shogakukan states that anime series that continues over time allows companies of anime characters to supply goods and spend time on developing quality goods (p. 156). In a 2005 study that Condry (2009) reviewed it was found that “the market for licensed merchandise based on fictional characters is ten time that of anime itself. This is one reason to consider that what the anime industry ultimately produces is not so much TV series and films but, more importantly, fictional characters and dramatic premises that can be parlayed across diverse media” (p. 155).
In his study Condry (2009) notes that “In the character goods business the tension remains … in reproducing not only the visual design but also the larger worlds in which the characters come to life” (p. 154). At one of the interviews a creator of Zenmai Zamurai mentioned her mixed feelings on the mass amount of licensed goods, “on one hand, she was happy that the many companies’ interest in making merchandise was evidence of their appreciation of their characters, but she also worried that not all the goods accurately reflected the atmosphere of the world they had created” (p. 154).
Characters, premise and world-setting
In order to see how characters, premises, and world settings work as the fundamentals of creativity for anime today Condry focused on four TV series; Dekoboko Friends, Zenmai Zamurai, Samurai Champloo, and Afro Samurai.
The following describes what Condry (2009) saw during Zenmai Zamurai weekly script meetings, “it was the combination of characters (Zenmai and friends), the premise (Zenmai must do something good, and he has a magic sword), and the world-setting (Clockwork Old Tokyo with no black box) that formed both the raw materials and the rules within which plots and scripts were evaluated” (p. 152). In this case all of the fundamentals combined made Zenmai Zamurai, “we can see in Zenmai Zamurai some of the touchstones for anime creativity” (p. 154). Condry (2009) said, “To spend time in a meeting like this was a constant reminder of the collaborative process of media creation” (p. 152).
Afro Samurai, directed by Kizaki, “illustrates another way in which the idea of a character can launch a project” (p.158). In an interview the producer Calderon told Condry (2009) about how a toy inspired by a limited edition comic that was only six pages long, after months of negotiating develop a pilot animated film. “What makes the example of Afro Samurai interesting is that it shows how the glimmer of a character can be enough to get a project going. Okazaki made a small, cult-level comic, which was picked up by a cult-level figurine maker, which wound up on a desk of a worker at an anime studio, which caught the eye of a producer looking for new ideas” (p. 158-159).
Dekoboko Friends, is another example of how characters themselves are the driving force of some shows (p. 147). Kuwamoto, one of the show’s creators, explains to Condry (2009) “we only think about the relationship between the character and the child watching the show. We use such different characters, we hope to show how there are all kinds of ways to be in the world” (p.150). After this interview with the creators Condry (2009) concludes that, “Dekoboko Friends illustrates how characters themselves, without stories around them and without relationships between them, can in themselves generate a dramatic series” (p.150).
Samurai Champloo, directed by Watanabe Shinichiro, “rethinks samurai using hip-hop music” (p. 156). The director uses hip-hop creativity which involves sampling and remixing, “With the scritch-scratch sounds of the DJ’s turntable, the series moves back and forth between the three main characters” (p.157), which is how the characters and the premise of the show are introduced. “What we can see in Watanabe’s work, then, is an emphasis not on Japanese culture as a thing separate from foreign culture. Rather, he uses hip-hop as a tool for rethinking creativity, specifically, sampling and representing as touchstones though which to imagine characters, premises and world settings” (p. 158).
Condry used the Ethnographic Research Method for this study. Condry attended many script meetings during his field work though-out the summer 2006 at Sony’s Aniplex Studio, in Tokyo Japan, where he was able to observe the creative process of anime production. It is in those meetings that Condry (2009) learned about “the collaborative creativity of anime and how it arises from the foundation of characters, premises, and word-settings” (p.160). As well as how the “building blocks – characters, premises, and world-setting – were put into motion to create stories” (p. 152). Condry also conducted interviews with various people involved in the creative production of anime, directors, producers, writers, animators, and actors, which gave him inside views and opinions on the creation of an anime series as well as the content industry that goes with it.