Monday, February 1, 2010

Astro Boy

I feel compelled to write about a horrific poster i saw today of an American film ‘Astro Boy’ based on the manga/anime of the same name. It’s happening a lot recently, with unnecessary and mostly offensive remakes (even the karate kid, inexplicably set in China), but I was particularly upset with Astro Boy because of its completely gratuitous westernisation.
Obviously Astro Boy was always a commercial product. In true Japanese fashion, a huge amount of money has been squeezed out of the series in terms of manga, anime series, film, merchandise, games, sponsorship etc., so its not that I’m whinging about the studios just trying to net cash; its the apparent need to take original (and more importantly commercially proved) ideas, and conform them to western/hollywood standards. What will kids delight in by seeing yet another ubiquitous pixar-style 3D feature with the same plot again?
I’m currently watching Dennou Coil, a recent anime series which is the current inspiration for a lot of AR industry projects. It reminded me of the quiet, bittersweet character of a lot of Japanese childrens tv/fiction and how unexpectedly fresh and touching the character development and storytelling is. Children don’t seem to care that much about cultural boundaries either; Disney is huge in Japan, and Japanese anime is big all around the world. Astro Boy was a lot of fun, but touched on a lot of issues (death, rejection, obsession, war) that are maybe considered too adult for the kids of today. I think they can handle it though, and in the right hands Astro Boy would be a great vehicle to present some new storytelling methods and visual styles to the mainstream feature format. The original manga was a big smash in the US too, so the move to ‘update’ the visuals and dumb down the storyline seem ill-motivated. As it is, I feel slightly robbed.

Keiichi Matsuda

Source :Keiichi Matsuda blog, January 18, 2010.