Monday, February 9, 2004

What separates good entertainment from great entertainment?


I pondered this as, this weekend, I watched Animation Runner Kuromi 2, which is a comedic anime about the production of anime. It’s by the brilliant director Akitaroh Daichi, who also created the fan-favorite spastic comedy Kodomo no Omocha and the powerful SF drama Now and Then, Here and There.

In ARK2, Kuromi is doing her best to juggle three production schedules, when the president of the studio hires an actual producer to take the pressure off Kuromi. But the producer is more interested in efficiency than creating great anime, and his actions culminate in a downgraded level of quality in the series.

The tension between artistic integrity and production schedules forms a common thread in the ARK films. In anime, you can either accept low quality and go home at a reasonable hour, or go for high quality but work nights and weekends to get it done in time. The ARK films prize the latter choice; you do what you need to do so you can create good entertainment.

So Kuromi eventually rebels against the producer and goes searching for the studio’s director, who’s taken a vacation. At one point during her search, Kuromi pauses, looks out over the city, and murmurs to herself, “I will create Japanese anime.”

That moment surprised me with its power. I felt Kuromi’s determination, and the underlying meaning of her words: anime has meaning. It’s important. It’s not just ink on paper; it’s a work of art (at its best).

How did Daichi imbue that moment with such power? Setup, probably. He’d established all these pieces beforehand. But I’m not sure; I can’t see the entire puzzle. I need to ponder this more.

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