Friday, August 21, 2009

Authentic Anime...?


I've been eagerly awaiting "Ponyo", Hayao Miyazaki's newest animation (or anime in Japanese). I'm glad to see that it received favorable reviews in the NYTimes. And it's even MPAA rated "G" - you don't see that very often these days!

However, am I asking too much to see this anime in it's original language with English subtitles? Does this make me a film snob? A purist for Japanese language?

Walt Disney Studios (who does the American production and marketing for Miyazaki's films) REALLY loads up the star-studded voice actors: Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus (Miley's little sister), Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas (yes, one of the famous brothers), Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman...and the list goes on. So I have no doubt that they will do a great job portraying Miyazaki's characters. But is it too much to ask to release BOTH versions in the U.S. theaters?

I guess I got spoiled living in Japan. Whenever we would go out to see Disney's animated films (Tarzan, Toy Story, etc.), we had a choice: English with Japanese subtitles or Japanese dubbing. And, hey, it's Japan...so why not show it in both languages? Now the reason for this was simple: Japanese people LOVED to see the animations in English...to learn English! Or people who didn't want to engage their brains as much could watch it in Japanese.

I would be grateful for the same opportunity when it comes to finding an authentic anime. I live in a pretty urban place - with a Japanese neighborhood not to far away. Can the Ritz (or some other "artsy" theater) help me out here?

I think that the U.S. of A. should at least offer a authentic screening in the original language in a second-run theater , don't you?

Although my hopes are high, reality tells me that I will have to wait until it comes out on DVD to watch it in Japanese.


2 comments:

pu5erfish said...

I have to say that while I agree with your point 100% when it comes to live action movies, I'm less artistically pure when it comes to animations. I remember years ago inviting my sister out to see a Japanese animation called "Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade". She asked if it had been dubbed into english and I replied, "yes J, they got english speaking cartoons to dub it. I think perhaps even Bugs Bunny." Animations are, by definition, not in any language, and are always dubbed.

Even the great Miyazaki, (whose films I love and eagerly await) does not make animated movements so specific that the films lose anything in cohesion by being presented in english. And, with his films especially, I don't want to have to read anything that takes my eyes away for a second from the extraordinary imagery that is on the screen.

The real question here is more one of cultural cohesion: is this a japanese story being presented in a foreign tongue, and is that conflict disruptive? One of the wonderful things about Miyazaki is that, although he begins often in specifically Japanese mythology, he quickly transcends that to find the universal mythology in his story.

I do understand and sympathize with the inherent argument. I would never want to see "Yojimbo" or "8 1/2" in anything other than their native languages. I suppose I just have a little more room to give when it comes to animations.

JBH said...

pu5erfish:
Thanks for your comment! Yes - I agree that Miyazaki's stories are universal, even when the movie scenery is set in Japan. And good point about not wanting to take your eyes off his animated imagery, no, artistry on the screen. Hadn't thought about that before!