09
Dec
12

Mechademia in Seoul Day 4

For the last day of the conference, the first panel that I attended was Affect Structures/Affective Epistemologies. Heard from Miri Nakamura about Death Note and copycat murders. She raised an interesting point about how Japanese horror exhibits a fascination with screens, and the connections between visuality and violence.

I then snuck out to Andrea Horbinski’s paper on Ooku and counterfactual history. She drew out the similarities between Ooku and Atwood’s Handmaiden’s Tale, and addressed issues of power and balance in the text’s gender relations. She also talked briefly about speculative reality ; what if historical figures were female?

(This paper reminded me of a conversation with a friend on the gender dynamics of Othello. What if Othello were female? What if a gender-reversed version of Othello were staged? How would this affect our readings of characters? What about Richard II?…..)

Bryan Hartzheim’s paper on Toei Animation looked at the developmental process behind Pretty Cure, an interesting look at the intersection between product placement, advertising and anime. For example, some ads that are broadcast during the anime’s run prime viewers to certain products even before they are introduced into the text itself.

But the highlight of the day has got to be an interview with Watanabe Hideo, who was a key animator in numerous texts such as Gundam, NGE, Fist of the North Star, and even certain American cartoon series such as Transformers and GI Joe.

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Watanabe Hideo

 

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Storyboards from GI Joe. Not that Channing Tatum nonsense but the 80’s animated series.

He talked about is work with Toei – beginning as a cameraman, then working with animation. Watanabe talked about his experiences with robo-anime in the early days, before moving to Taiwan. He moved back to Japan shortly after. The co-production of animation with Marvel Comics in the 80’s led to a boom, resulting in a need to outsource labour to Korea. Collaborating with Marvel also brought challenges, such as workflow issues and differences in cultural interpretations.

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A timesheet denoting the exchanges between US and Japanese animators.

An interesting comment made was the significance of still images in NGE. We might interpret the use of stills in NGE along the lines of an artistic premise, but Watanabe revealed that this arose more out of a need to save money! Intricate characters and character movement necessitated more cells to animate, resulting in higher costs.

Watanabe also addressed the depiction of movement in his approach to animation; he uses timesheets, zooms, tracking camera movements, and storyboards. These techniques suggest a greater affinity with the medium of film than is outwardly discernible.

All in all, it was a great conference. It was possibly the best conference that I have ever been to. Other than travel costs, the conference was free, and I have learnt so much from it, particularly since I do not have a background in Japanese cultural studies. Bottom line is, pick your conferences carefully! The organisers as well as the conference administrators at the Korean Film Archive and Dongguk University deserve to be commended for their efforts in overcoming the logistical nightmare of organising a conference in a country that does not have English as a first language.

All I can say is…..

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'horror': Middle English: via Old French from Latin horror, from horrere ‘tremble, shudder’.

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