studio gainax

Little Witch Academia on “magic (anime) is dying.”

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“Luna Nova is reaching the end of its usefulness anyway. All I want is to collect on it before its value drops to nothing.”

-Fafnir to Akko Kagari, Little Witch Academia, Episode 5

How many times have we heard the phrase, “anime is dying?”

How many times have we heard its sister phrase, “anime was a mistake?”

Both of these memetic sayings have been repeated ad nauseam, accompanied by the latest screencaps or bits of dialogue from currently airing series, across various forms of social media. The latter is a misattributed quote to legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki, subtitled over scenes from the 2013 documentary on Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness.

Although “anime is a mistake” is a false line, Miyazaki has continuously and cantankerously expressed derision towards the modern anime industry — among many other things — in interviews and his own memoirs. His attitude is not a recent shift, but an opinion reiterated and repeated over time. “Almost all Japanese animation is produced with hardly any basis taken from observing real people, you know,” he said in an interview for Golden Time (translated here on rocketnews24). “It’s produced by humans who can’t stand looking at other humans. And that’s why the industry is full of otaku!”

Yet the inspiration of so-called lowbrow anime to a fledgling animator is what Little Witch Academia is all about. “There is the story about Hayao Miyazaki entering the anime industry because he was moved by Panda and the Magic Serpent,” Little Witch Academia director Yoh Yoshinari said in an interview about the original OVA. Then he watched the movie again afterwards and was disappointed by how bad it was (laugh). Yet, even if it’s actually not enjoyable at all, it can be irreplaceable for that person. What’s important is the feelings you got from watching it, and the fact that you had admiration for it. That’s the theme we were looking for.”

This will be a bit of a stretch for some, but another framework through which to view Little Witch Academia is a continuing celebration of the anime fan.

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Nothinglings: emotional connections in Space Patrol Luluco and Kiznaiver

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Hiroyuki Imaishi’s Studio Trigger have made a large name for themselves with admittedly few series produced — Space Patrol Luluco as a five-year anniversary celebration seemed a bit excessive — creating their own strong fanbase and distinct style rooted in Imaishi’s oeuvre and the studio’s first major project: Kill la Kill. Trigger’s Kiznaiver and Space Patrol Luluco easily invite comparisons, with the studio sometimes overshadowing both projects in the same way that series composer Mari Okada is brought up as a point of comparison between Kiznaiver and Mayoiga — her two series of the spring season.

Despite their different directors — Imaishi heads up Luluco while Kiznaiver is Hiroshi Kobayashi’s series debut as a director — the two properties find common ground in the way they address emotional connections with others.

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“Kids can’t choose the adults in their lives.” Luluco and FLCL’s Ninamori

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“Kids can’t choose the adults in their lives, least of all their parents. Ninamori’s father is the mayor of our town. I don’t really get it, but it must be hard for her.”

-Naota Nandaba, FLCL, Episode 3

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The New Adolescence of Studio Trigger: Kiznaiver and Space Patrol Luluco

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“I just wanted to live a normal life.”

“Nothing amazing happens here. Everything is ordinary. ”

These phrases summarize the two primary teen narratives found in anime — in addition to a myriad of other media and fiction. The former is from Studio Trigger’s latest short, Space Patrol Luluco. The latter is from the gold standard for male adolescence in anime: Studio Gainax’s FLCL. Naturally, the fact that Trigger is in many ways an offshoot of Gainax, founded by former Gainax animator and director Hiroyuki Imaishi is highly relevant.

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Royal Space Force and the Gainax Oeuvre

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My high school friend Andrea always wanted to be an astronaut. She took top honors in mathematics and sciences in high school, graduated with a combined astronomy and physics degree, and attended graduate school close to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas for her advanced astrophysics degree. In each level of education, she worked amazingly hard to receive the honors and heights that she achieved. Then one day, nearing the end of her secondary degree, she inexplicably left school completely. I was floored.

When I spoke with her about it, shortly after leaving, she explained that she didn’t have the desire necessary to be an astronaut. I prodded, because I didn’t understand. Everything she had done with her education up until this point, including grueling hours of studying and lab work, had been to be an astronaut. In my mind, she had more desire than anyone. Andrea then said that it wasn’t about the effort or amount of work, but the boundless curiosity. She was content studying and learning, but didn’t have the destructive thirst that her colleagues had.

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