While I never watched much anime when I was young, many of my friends did. In fact, a few of my friends obsessed over it. When they were over, they would tell me of the stories that they had seen on the tube. Many of them stayed up late to watch Toonami on Cartoon network where they would be able to catch a half hour of Dragon Ball Z. As they grew older, they fell away from the genre. I, on the other hand, have started to grow fonder to the artform. I am not alone either. There are many American young adults and adults who study and critique anime and manga.
The anime fanbase intrigues me. Somehow Anime and Manga’s demographic isn’t exactly specific. Adults and children both can get together and bond over Dragonball or Princess Mononoke. Why is this?
Takashi Murakami, a prominent Japanese graphic artist delves into the infantilization of characters in Japanese art in his art series titled “Little Boy” where he employs his classic Superflat aesthetic– the aesthetic he gave name to in his Superflat manifesto. An artblogger on the web blog Post Bubble Culture explains this aesthetic and movement in his blog titled “Pop Psychosis” He explains that Murakami’s artwork suggests Japanese anime and manga’s cute ‘kawaii’ style is a result of WWII. The country of Japan was completely emasculated after WWII by the laws that the United States had put in place. Many died in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Tokyo after the United States bombings. Murakami suggests that anime and kawaii imagery is a result of the escapist mentality that followed the war.
In his work, Murakami paints mushroom clouds with cute kawaii styled eyes. The internet blogger asks his readers if this style could be misinterpreted by a western audience. If so does it help or hinder Superflat arts statement about WWII?
While Murakami’s art is executed in a cute style, I am drawn closer to it because of its depictions of war. It gives me an eerie feeling that I cannot shake. I mean look:
Is this not terrifying? Everything about it is sharp. Even the colors are vibrant, bold, and in your face. What do you think? Is the Superflat aesthetic’s confrontation with WWII problematic? Could this be passed off as simply a formalist work, or are transglobal audiences pulled into inquiry because of the Superflat aesthetics contradictory cutsie and violent nature?