TL;DR – This is a film that blends the idea of an advertisement with the presentation of a documentary and works about as well as you would expect
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Growing up, one of the touchstones in my early cinematic life was anime, you would get it in the morning on TV, which I had to tape on VCR for watching later. Indeed, I think every one of my generations loathed those opening sounds of the first episode of Pokémon because it meant that Cheez TV had run out of new episodes and was starting it from the beginning again. As I grew up, it was a part of my cinematic world that I just couldn’t keep up with, and every time I go to conventions I see an array of cosplayers showing my just how many shows I have missed. Well when I saw that there was a new documentary about anime on Netflix, I was really interested because it would be nice to walk down memory lane and to explore the future again. Unfortunately, that is not quite what we got.
The premise for this documentary is that Netflix set the director Alex Burunova of working out the answer to a question ‘What is Anime’? Alex, having no experience with the genre other than a tangential understanding of its influence decided to throw herself into the world of anime and manga and the sub-cultures that consume and make it. This, of course, meant going straight to the source and talking with the directors and animators where it is all made in Japan. It is good that right from the start, they make it clear where the genesis of this project came from, it was a Netflix project and Alex was hired to make it. So when the documentary goes to Adi Shankar the creator of the Castlevania Netflix series as its first interview it feels like the right jumping-off point for the show. Well instead of jumping off from there, this is where the show stayed.
rest of the hour-long documentary is meeting creative after creative of interesting
shows, but as the first line of the credits kindly reminds us “All anime titles covered in the documentary are
available and now streaming on Netflix” because this documentary on anime
explores very little of anime unless it is on the streaming service. This means
that there are whole swathes of the industry and the history of the art style
that is completely missing. Indeed, given that this is presented almost like a
gateway into the medium, it completely noticeable that many of the shows that
people use as a gateway are missing like Cowboy
Bebop and Studio
Ghibli. The first being particularly noticeable because there is a
whole section on music and anime in the documentary and also because Netflix is
making a live-action series. It also does not explore the medium critically at
all and given recent events this is very noticeable.
While dramatically limiting the scope of your documentary is an interesting choice, it doesn’t have to be a major problem. However, here it completely undercuts the narrative that they were trying to tell. The premise is that Alex is going over to work out what anime is and the documentary is framed around her exploring all the different facets to find out. However, while this is framed as an organic process, it is clear that the structure and interviews were all planned well in advance. Now, to be clear this is not the only documentary that creates a framing device like this to give their story structure. However here, it is so noticeable that you can’t help but feel that you are watching the sausage being made.
I do feel like I have been really harsh here in this review, for good reason,
but I don’t want to give the impression that there are no redeeming features
because that is simply not the case. While talking to the director of 7Seeds
Yukio Takahashi or Yoko Takahashi the vocalist of Neon Genesis Evangelion’s main theme A Cruel Angel’s Thesis was very much decided because of a brand
decision. It is still the case that they are interesting people with
interesting stories and when they get to tell their stories it is where the documentary
comes alive for those brief few moments. Also, the documentary is competently
produced with the visuals, editing, and general flow all being fine. Though, it
could have done with something other than stock-music.
In the end, do we recommend Enter the Anime? No, unfortunately, we don’t. Honestly, I am not sure who this is for. If you are already an otaku or at least familiar, there is not really anything new here other than the interviews which you have to wade through to get to. If you are someone who is completely new, then this is so limiting as to almost be unhelpful. If you do watch it, know that you are basically watching an hour-long ad for Netflix and if you are fine with that all the power to you.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Enter the Anime
Directed by – Alex Burunova
Written by – Julia Yorks & Meggy Garol
Story By – Alex Burunova
Cinematography by – Yohei Tateishi
Edited by – Ian Asbjornsen, Thomas A. Krueger, Vincent Moran & Amy Reedy
Production/Distribution Companies – Burunova Productions & Netflix
Starring – Alex Burunova, Tania Nolan, Adi Shankar, LeSean Thomas, Toshiki Hirano, Hisanori Yoshida, Seiji Kishi, Tetsuya Kinoshita, Yuji Higa, Kozo Morishita, Yoko Takahashi, Masahito Kobayashi, Naoko Ogigami, Rarecho, Yeti, Yukio Takahashi, Shinji Aramaki, Kanji Kamiyama, Hiroyuki Seshita, Keisuke Ide & Rui Kuroki with Aishi Shindou, Minoru Hagiwara, Shihei, Hiroki Misaki, Isao Tahara, Akiko Suziki, Kyoko Mizuhara, Mio Nakama, Ami Arai, Miyako Kiguchi, Shuji Kamigoshi, Hobayashi Fumi, Uchida Kanna, Uchida Kaede, Namio Sida & Konan Sida
Rating – Around a Australia: MA15