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Tuesday, May 09, 2023 

Anime veteran worries Japan could lose out to China in competition

In an interview with AFP, Japanese industry veteran Masao Maruyama is worried that Japan will lose its status as a leader in animation to China, though there are parts to this item that're questionable:
Japan's powerhouse anime business risks being overtaken by rising Chinese competition because a tilt towards commercialism has stifled creativity, industry heavyweight Masao Maruyama has warned.

Maruyama, a protege of manga great Osamu Tezuka, said he fears Japan is losing its edge.

"In Japan, people are no longer trained in animation," he told AFP in an interview.

"The only reason China hasn't quite caught up with Japan yet is because of a bunch of restrictions imposed on free expression there," he said.

"If more freedom is unleashed, Japan will be overtaken in no time."
Whether or not Japan's got enough new trainees in animation, what annoys me is the suggestion he believes it's a bad thing if China lessens their restrictions on free speech? Let's be clear. Communism has utterly destroyed the country, first and foremost with their birthrate via the one-child policy they had until a decade ago. If more freedom comes about in China, that's a bad thing in itself? For now, considering what damage China's done via the Coronavirus, one could say most westerners won't be keen on investing in their products in such a hurry unless they turn over new leaves, and even if they do, why should the west suddenly buy their stuff all at Japan's expense? Maruyama makes it sound like everybody's literally going to dump them as though they'd never been.
He fears Japan is so hell-bent on cranking out money-spinning genres, such as those starring "kawaii" cute female characters, that its anime "doesn't necessarily outshine" America's Disney or France's arthouse productions in terms of creativity.

He warned that occasional successes from this prolific approach have distracted Japan from systematically fostering next-generation talent, even as China invests aggressively in young animators.
I don't know about France, but what creativity is Disney offering nowadays? Maruyama's decidedly not looking hard enough under a magnifying glass at the far-left political motivations that have crippled art in the USA. I think it's also utterly stupid if he's implying something's wrong, or overly commercial, about kawaii girls too, in an era where physical attractiveness is being villified in the creepiest ways possible. And I may have noticed, does China specialize more in 3D animation than Japan actually does? While 3D can have some potential, it still pales considerably beside the simpler 2D approach more common even today in Japan. So what's he worried about?
Maruyama has risen from a protege of the late Tezuka, the "God of manga" known for the pioneering cartoon series "Astro Boy", to a force behind some of Japan's most acclaimed anime directors, overseeing three animation studios along the way.

It was partly a desire to keep Tezuka's works alive that convinced Maruyama to take on his current project "Pluto", adapted from a manga with an "Astro Boy" arc.

The upcoming series for Netflix, of which he is executive producer, is steeped in themes such as war and discrimination that some feel are particularly relevant today.
Tezuka, as I once pointed out, wasn't exactly a saint himself, recalling at least a few of his manga tales contained anti-war themes that were allusions to Vietnam, like in Astro Boy. And Maruyama's producing a program for Netflix, notorious for producing PC products over the past decade? So, what's this about commercialization muting creativity again? Seriously, what's so great about Netflix that isn't so great about any TV channel that isn't as woke? And how do we know Maruyama's project won't be politically motivated?
Like Tezuka, "I flip-flop all the time, saying something totally different from what I said a day before", Maruyama said with a chuckle.
In that case, I must wonder what the whole point of this is. He comes off making it sound like he's only worried about competition from China based on how much free speech there'll be in the future if they ease their communist policies, not for altruistic reasons. And he suggests he doesn't have much faith in genres and elements that can be crowd-pleasers, whether they turn a profit or not, and even partners with Netflix, which owns the publisher that's bowdlerized Roald Dahl's books. There may be valid worries regarding China and creativity, but Maruyama's arguments are so questionable, it's hard to credit them coming from him, based on his associations.

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