The Anime Paradox: Anime and the traditions of Noh and Kabuki

by dm00

Sengoku Collection will ensare even the most jaded.

Slow, fast, faster: Sengoku Collection will ensnare even the most jaded.

If you are interested in Japanese history, you should check out The Samurai Archives, particularly if you are interested in the Sengoku era.

(Not so) Recently, they hosted Stevie Suan, talking not enough about his forthcoming book, The anime paradox, in which he examines anime through the lens of traditional Japanese theater.

Part one. This episode is mostly about the idea of viewing anime through the precepts of Japanese dramaturgy, in particular, the idea of Jo-ha-kyu, “beginning, break, rapid”, or “slow, fast, faster” — a fifteenth-century framework for Noh that has been inherited by kabuki, and plausibly applies to anime as well. Sadly, they just touch on the thesis and evidence for it, but they certainly make the book sound interesting (I haven’t looked to see if there is any discussion of the podcast in the Samurai Archives Forum). Stevie Suan sounds like he knows his anime, and is on to something in comparing anime to traditonal Japanese drama.

(Amusing aside: one of the podcasters, a military historian known for his disdain of anime, spends a bit of time marvelling at the way he’s been sucked into Sengoku Collection — and how Sengoku Collection illustrates part of Suan’s jo-ha-kyu framing.)

Part two. This episode is mostly about anime as a gateway drug for Japanese cultural studies, and the general trend in the humanities of cross-fertilization (e.g., 16th-century Japanese politics through the lens of modern political theory).

The book is forthcoming enough that Amazon doesn’t yet have it up for pre-order, but keep your eyes out for it.

And check out the Samurai Archives podcast. I spent many happy hours last year going through their archives. There’s some great stuff in there, especially if you’re interested in the Sengoku era.

Update: Here’s the publisher’s prospectus for the book. Eek, $133. Maybe a university library near you will get it.

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