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Akadot - Ikuni Observation Journal - Marc Davis Lecture
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By Kunihiko Ikuhara's Interpreter, Ken Wakita

November 14, 2001 in Los Angeles

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held their 7th Annual Marc Davis Lecture on Animation on Wednesday, November 14 on the second floor of the Academy Foundation building in the heart of Los Angeles. Every year, the Marc Davis Lecture focuses on the medium of animation and the industry of animation. However, this year marked the first time that the subject of Japanese Animation took center stage, the evening entitled "Drawing from Japan: Anime and Its Influences." Invited as representatives of the anime industry, Production I.G producer Mitsuhisa Ishikawa (Ghost In The Shell, Blood: The Last Vampire) and BePapas producer and director Kunihiko Ikuhara (Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie) sat as the panel's star guests.

The panel was divided into five separate discussion sessions, each of which opened with a three-minute clip of animated feature films from Japan relevant to the topic and was then followed by a panelists answering a series of questions from moderator Jerry Beck, co-founder of Streamline Pictures. The sequences of film presentations and discussions was as follows:

    Panel: Jerry Beck, moderator, and Fred Patten, anime journalist and producer at Streamline Pictures

    Preceded by animated clips from:
    • Astro Boy (1963)
    • Akira (1988)

    Dominating the discussion, panelist Fred Patten, renowned Japanese Animation historian, discussed the origins of the stylistic features of anime drawing from one of the absolute first, Astro Boy, and one of the most revolutionary, Akira.

    Panelist: Director Eric Goldberg (Pocohontas, Fantasia 2000)

    Preceded by animated clips from:
    • My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
    • Porco Rosso (1992)
    • Princess Mononoke (1997)

    Eric Goldberg is a dedicated fan of Hayao Miyazaki animation and praised Miyazaki's many achievements.

    Panelist: Director, Mark Dippe (Spawn)

    Preceded by animated clips from:
    • Wicked City (1987)
    • Perfect Blue (1997)
    • Ghost in the Shell (1995)

    Mark Dippe, who has also worked with Industrial Light and Magic as a visual supervisor on such films as Jurassic Park, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and The Abyss, discussed the influences of anime on the visual and special effects of Hollywood films.

    Panelist: Lisa Atkinson, digital animation specialist

    Preceded by animated clips from:
    • Pompoke (1994)
    • Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
    • Princess Mononoke (1997)

    Lisa Atkinson lectured on her role in the production of the films Pompoko, Grave of the Fireflies, and Princess Mononoke.

    Panel: Ishikawa and Ikuhara

    Preceded by animated clips from:
    • Blood: The Last Vampire (2000)
    • The Adolescence Of Utena (1999)

    Producer Mitsuhisa Ishikawa and director Kunihiko Ikuhara held a discussion session with the audience as the nouvelle-génération for the future of anime.

Although some impassioned anime fans attended, most of the audience consisted of Academy members and regular visitors, a majority of whom were getting their first glimpse at anime. From this author's perspective, everyone seemed to be amazed by the boldness, such as the adult sequences and highly complex storylines, that Japanese Animation offered. For the audiences who only knew the animation medium through American and "Disney-esque" styles, mature renderings of gory action sequences, sexual innuendos and the naked female body noticeably astonished them. On the other hand, the comical sequences of Totoro and Ponpoko filled the hall with laughter. And the audience gasped with awe at the beautiful sequences of Blood: The Last Vampire and The Adolescence of Utena.

Here, I would like to recall two probing questions asked by the audience to Producer Mitsuhisa Ishikawa and Director Kunihiko Ikuhara. The first questions was, "To what extent do violent scenes in anime have an effect upon children?" The second question, "Grave of the Fireflies does not portray actual historical truth. In the United States, Pearl Harbor had given us a glimpse of historical truth. Why don't Japanese creators use the medium of animation to try to tell historical truth?"

Both questions are notable, familiar and invoke tiresome chuckles among creators of Japanese animation. These are typical observations by average Americans who have seen Japanese Animations. It is true that the popularity of Japanese Animation is growing in the United States (the author lives in the United States and can feel the extent of the phenomenon). However that doesn't mean a vast majority of people here understand it, and if the lecture's audience is any indication, it will be a long time before the American mainstream begins to understand Japanese animation as the diverse, expansive medium it is. Now, by saying this, I do not want to insinuate that the audience was antipathetic to Japanese animation. A majority demonstrated sincere inquisitiveness and engaged in the conversation with a vigor almost foreign to mainstream forums on anime in the past. The lecture closed with the distinct impression that a preponderance of the spectators had understood the basics, and scope of influence, of Japanese Animation. Getting back to the two questions. The first one is too vapid to address. American cinema is packed with an equal, if not greater, amount of sex and violence. The persecution of anime in the western world, then, stems directly from the deep-rooted propensity for western audiences to respond to animation as if it is only a medium for children. (Of course, shows like South Park and The Simpsons have been changing that perception.) The second question is far more interesting. So in conclusion, I would like to quote director Kunihiko Ikuhara's answer to the latter question concerning historical truth:

"Truth has never been interpreted nor conveyed through film. Whether they be documentaries or newsreels, it is only one sequence commanded by the perspective of one person through the eyes of the camera lens. Truth can never be put into a frame of a camera and edited. Therefore, no motion picture can convey the truth in its exact form."

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