Akira Research Continued

I found whilst writing my essay, I would have to research along the way to gain maximum knowledge for the essay. Through exploring cyberpunk I was aware of the movie Tetsuo: The Iron Man and how  it reflected the genre the cyberpunk. not to mention it’s comparisons to Akira . i also had a look at tradition Japanese artists and combustible’s similarities

Here some more books i have found whilst writing the essay 

  • A Study of Japanese Animation as Translation By Reito Adach
  • Understanding Japanese Animation: the Hidden Meaning Revealed By Otto von Feigenblatt
  • Japanese Culture By H. Paul Varley

I found this interview which was helpful from Katsuhiro Otomo. I found where it came from and it was originally included on the Japanese Laserdisc of Akira, released in 1993 by Pioneer LDC.

I think now i have all the information i need for the essay, now all is left is to finish the essay!



Akira Research

For my essay I wanted to do it on Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo. I knew I wanted to base my essay on Japanese Animation but felt Studio Ghibli would have been done too often and I wanted to explore something that was familiar but not as familiar as Studio Ghibli.

I also love Akira so doing research and understanding an animation I already have a interest in is a bonus! I knew I wanted to do a comparison of the artist’s newer work and older work (Akira). One of his most recent works is Combustible. In style i find it’s very different, i’m choosing this angle to explore through my essay

I found a few web links that helped me in my initial research and quotes which outlined the impact of Akira and finding more about Combustible;

Akira: the future-Tokyo story that brought anime west

  • Internet lore has it that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas turned down the chance to pick up the rights to the exalted 1988 anime Akira, believing it to be unmarketable in America 
  • “I started thinking [Akira] was more than a great film,” Andy Frain, Manga Entertainment’s founder, later recalled. “This might be a phenomenon. Were there more films like this in Japan? If so, we could treat them in music terms like Def Jam, a genre in itself.” 
  • Led by Akira, anime expanded the idea of what animation could be: violent, abrasive, radically stylised, thoughtful and above all, adult. It arguably readjusted expectations ahead of the later revitalisation and maturation of the industry under Pixar – sweeping away the prejudice that anything with drawings was for kids 
  • The Wachowskis put their debt on the record with their spin-off The Animatrix in 2003, just as Quentin Tarantino did with The Origin of O-Ren, the cartoon segment of Kill Bill Volume I.But anime’s relationship with the western mainstream was elusive – all about influence, rather than grabbing the headlines directly itself. There was a lack of true breakthrough titles to follow Akira, which eventually grossed $80m globally

The Impact of Akira

  • Then again, Akira’s success led directly to Ghost in the Shell. Akira’s comic publisher Kodansha and Frain’s new British label Manga Entertainment both sought another world hit, finding it in Mamoru Oshii’s melancholy cyberpunk drama. Ghost in the Shell had vastly different pacing, narration and sensibilities from Akira, but the brand accommodated both. Interestingly, there were more echoes of Ghost in the Shell than Akira in the Matrix films, Hollywood’s most anime-flavoured franchise to date. Most obviously, the Trinity character played by Carrie-Anne Moss recalls Ghost in the Shell’s glowering cyborg, Major Kusanagi. It was also Ghost in the Shell’s studio, Production IG, that later made the animation in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1. While Katsuhiro Otomo has continued working on anime spectaculars, his work can seem subsumed in the brand he helped start, which now accommodates child-friendly anime in Britain: for example, Pokémon, Spirited Away and Naruto.And yet, the technical and artistic virtues perceived by Rayns and Maslin in Akira mean that the film still stands out as one of the best-made anime in the medium, as striking and pungent as it was in 1988. So far, its Western homages have been small-scale; they include the Kanye West/Daft Punk music video for “Stronger” (where West plays Tetsuo) and the 2000 animated film, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, where the characters are chased by an Akira-style weapons satellite raining fire, drawn by the original Akiraanimator, Hiroyuki Aoyama.

Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira Then & Now

  • The animators used 327 colours, including 50 specially created for the film and 97 shades of red, and every one shines through. The fat, meaty soundtrack is as visceral now as on first hearing. With over 160,000 cels, Akira has smooth, convincing animation. A brief flirtation with computer graphics, still in their infancy in anime, is well integrated into the glossy package.

Katsuhiro Otomo Interview

So, talking about your new work, Combustible, its theme is clearly two young people who are trapped in their society, and their attempts to break free from that trap. What inspired that theme?
The basic theme of the storyline is fairly typical of old Japanese literature, called kabuki or joruri. For example, the story of Yaoya Oshichi is, more or less, the same basic story as Combustible. I wanted to take that old theme that we used to have in Japan 300 years ago, and describe with recent technologies, in anime form.
Combustible uses a lot of modern animation techniques, but are their some methods you took from the old analog days of anime as well?
I like to work on both sides, with both hand-drawing and computer graphics. Back a couple years ago everyone was working only with computer graphics, using LCD tablets and the like, but now people are coming back to hand-drawing style. Some parts of the process use tablets, and coloring is still done digitally. But I’m trying to bring as much classic draftsmanship back to the craft as possible.


Otomo Packs a Lifetime in 12-Minute ‘Combustible’

  • “I’ve always wanted to create a story about Edo,” he tells Animag. “The theme of this work is based around classic tales from the Edo era such as Yaoya Oshichi and the comic Kaji Musuko, which are commonly used for Kabuki or Joruri programs. I wanted to take that old theme that we used to have in Japan 300 years ago, and describe with recent technologies, in anime form.”
  • “We relied on CG in order to complete the project within the development period,” says Ŏtomo. “The mob scenes, special effects and some of the other more detailed tasks would take a long time to animate had we chosen to do all of it with hand-drawn animation.”

I also found this article which makes the connections between history and Japanese animation

The deep influence of the A-bomb on anime and manga

  • “The message seems to be that adults can be reckless when man’s desire for power and ambition outweigh what is important on Earth. And the children, still untainted by the vices that overtake humanity in adulthood and innocent enough to the point of thinking rationally, are the ones who end up making the most practical decisions overall.”

  • “The directors and artists who witnessed the devastation firsthand were at the forefront of this movement. Yet to this day – 70 years after the bombs – these themes continue to be explored by their successors.”

Synopsis of Short Peace- Combustible (Doesn’t require quoting)

Short Peace Review

“ The artwork on this short was outstanding, done in a very traditional style, as if you were watching an animated film through the lens of an traditional Japanese scroll or painting. Otomo and his artists copied the intricate patterns of Owaka’s kimono from period fabrics, and the stylized flames are modeled on the prints of Yoshitoshi and other great ukiyo-e artists. The story was enjoyable, and was actually enlightening to see how traditional Japanese fire-fighting was conducted. Amazing story with a tragic ending, Possessions just barely edges this one out.”

Here is some books I was able to find that I could get access to:

  • Akira BFI Film Classics by Michelle Le Blanc, Colin Odell
  • The Anime Encyclopedia, 3rd Revised Edition: A Century of Japanese Animation By Jonathan Clements, Helen McCarthy
  • Full Metal Apache: Transactions Between Cyberpunk Japan and Avant-Pop America By Takayuki Tatsum
  • Nightmare Japan: Contemporary Japanese Horror Cinema By Jay McRo


With all of that research I can write my structure and even start the essay as I have basic knowledge in this post. I would say I need more information just so I can explore further into the essay!

Disney Animation

Today Helen Haswell came in to teach us on the history of Disney and Pixar animation. Here are my notes from the lecture.

Mainstream animation companies:

  • Disney
  • Dreamworks
  • Blue Skies

Disney (2014) $48 Billion company

It’s made up of:

  • 3 music companies
  • Merchandise
  • TV channels
  • theatre companies
  • Lucas Film (Bought in 2012)
  • Marvel (Bought in 2009)
  • Pixar (Bought in 2006, both Pixar & Disney were run by the the same two people)

Only 13% of the company is studio entertainment

Walt Disney- Pioneers of 2D Animation
First Experimentation

  • Alice’s Wonderland 1923
  • Alice Comedy Series 1924-1927
  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit 1927
    – Couldn’t go independent
  • Steamboat Willie 1928
    – Plasmatic
    -The creation of Mickey Mouse
    -First synchronised sound cartoon
    -We see Minnie Mouse
  • Snow White & The Seven Dwarves 1937
    -Highest grossing film till 1939
    -The start of using traditional fairy tales
    -Production started in 1934

Steamboat Willie

The Classic Era 1937-1988

  • Snow White
  • Pinocchio
  • Dumbo
  • Bambi
  • Fantasia
  • Saludos Amigos
  • The Three Caballeros
  • Make Mine Music
  • Fun & Fancy Free
  • Melody Time
  • Cinderella

Fantasia 1940

Becomes less of a fairytale > 2D cell animation. The company has shown industrial growth.

Renaissance Era 1989-1999

  • The Little Mermaid
  • The Rescuers Down Under
  • Beauty And The Beast
    – Hand drawn characters, CGI background
    -Mimmicks dance
    – A turning point sweeping camera
  • Aladdin
  • The Lion King
  • Pocahontas
  • Hunchback of Notra Dame
  • Hercules
  • Mulan
  • Tarzan

Beauty & The Beast – Tale As Old As Time

Neo Disney Period 1999-2004
-A period of experimentation and failure

  • Fantasia 2000
  • The Emperors New Groove
  • Atlantis
  • Lilo & Stitch
  • Treasure Planet
  • Brother Bear
  • Home On The Range
    –  This one especially didn’t do well

Home On The Range

Pixar was proving to be more successful than Disney with their use of CGI. Disney tried to recreate this and again it was not successful (Meet The Robinsons, Chicken Little)

Post Pixar 2008 –

  • Bolt
    -Initially called American Dog
  • Princess And The Frog
    -Returned to hand drawn characters
    -Diverse characters
  • Tangled
  • Wreck It Ralph
  • Frozen
  • Big Hero 6

The Princess & The Frog – At The Ball

Disney was progressively getting better. The Disney Princess Franchise began with characters based in aesthetic and were quite passive. They were considered not proactive and waited for prince charming to come.

It wasn’t until the Post Pixar period than the female protagonist becomes more independent, feminism is a growing theme.


  • was Lucas Film, Then Steve Jobs took over it , the Disney took over it
  • Had developed CGI
  • John Lassiter
  • Toy story 1995 > The Good Dinosaur 2015

Pixar Short Films 1984-1989

  • The Adventures of Andre & Wally B
  • Luxo Jr
  •  Red’s Dream
  • Tin Toy
  • Knick Knack

Tin Toy

Pixar Short Films 1998-2009

  • Geri’s Game
  • For The Birds
  • Presto
  • One Man Bond
  • Lifted Partly Cloudy
  • Boundin



Better CGI, this was the research and development period

Pixar Short Films 2010-Present

  • Day And Night
  • The Blue Umbrella
  • La Luna
    -Texture comes into play
  • Lava

La Luna

Landmark developments for Pixar

  • A Bugs Life -Crowds
  • Monster’s Inc -Fur
  • Cars-Reflective Surfaces
  • The Incredibles-Human Protagonists







Animation in Asia

Today we got a lecture from Yuan on Chinese and Japanese Animation. Below are my notes on from the two lectures.

Chinese Animation

First Golden Era 1957-1977

  • Not meant for commercial and was kept traditional

Chinese School of Animation

  • “A group of painters, writers, poets, etc. whose work is similar.”
  • Chinese animated films consistently won international awards Most critics claim this success rests their concentration on their heritage and tradition
  • These films are said to belong to a recognizable school, called the Chinese school of animation.

Wan Laming

  • Directed his second animation feature.

  • Expressed the style of traditional Chinese art

  • Based on a classic novel, Journey to the West.

Havoc in Heaven by Wan Leming 

Te wei

  • His first ink wash animation
  • Had international success winning awards in various countries


National Styles

Classical Chinese Painting

Mount Emei by Zhang Daqain


Peking Opera

  • Music of gong & drums
  • Stylised movement and poses


Second Golden Era 1977-2000

A Da

  • Served in Shanghai Animation  film studio 1978-1986 for seventeen years

Three Monks

  • Comes from a Chinese proverb: “One monk shoulders water to drink; two monks carry water and there is no water to drink for three monks”
  • Three Monks has received most international awards in Chinese animation history.

Super Soap & The New Doorbell

  • During A Da’s last period he directed two animations; Super Soap & The New Doorbell
  • They became less traditional with slightly westernised philosophy
  • They narrate more modern subjects involving wider topics
  •  The new doorbells reflects a time in the second era. Westernised modern art; Piet Mondrian

Three Monks by A Da

Super Soap by A Da

The New Doorbell by A Da

Japanese Animation

Important figures in Japanese Animation

  • Toei company 1948
  • The White Snake 1958
  • Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka

  •  Created the first animated TV series called Tetsuma Atom (Astro Boy)

Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka

Before 1970’s

  • Toei Company was established, along with others
  • A new Animation technique was developed – Full animation turned to limited animation.

After 1970’s

  • TV Animated series became very popular
  • Figures arose such as Hayao Miyazki,  Isao Takahata who founded Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli

  • Animated film studio based in Japan, Tokyo in 1985
  • The word Ghibli  coming from the Italian noun with the idea that studio would “blow a new wind through the anime industry”
  • Walt Disney bough over the rights to their works distributing internationally
  • In 2001 the museum was created in Tokyo

Hayao Miyazki

  • Is a director, animator, manga artist, producer
  • Co-founded Studio Ghibli
  • In 2013 , Hayao retired from the company.

My Neighbour Totoro

Isao Takahata

  • Worked in Toei Animation Company between 1959 to 1971
  • Co- Founded Studio Ghibli

The Tale of Princess Kaguya by Isao Takahata

Themes/ characteristics of Japanese animation

  • Dying/ Death
  • Spirits – Ghosts & Monsters
  • Violence
  • Steampunk
  • Pathos things – heavy handed


Canadian Animation – 1939 to Present

Michael gave us a talk today on Canadian animation and recommend to start with this website to watch an archive of animations: The National Film Board of Canada 

Here is a few animations that were shown in the presentation:

Norman McLaren 1914- 1987

Boogie Doodle

  • was drawn on film, frame per frame
  • It was also projected using light and laser
  • Optically synced and interpreted shapes
  • had to play the music out by ear.

Begone Dull Care

  • Painted directly on a film strip to jazz music
  • Similar to Boogie Doodle


  • Shown in the time of the cuban missile crisis
  • Highly awarded stopmotion
  • Experimental soundtrack, sounding digital for its time
  • Timed actions

Boogie Doodle, Norman McLaren

Begone Dull Care, Norman McLaren

Neighbours by Norman McLaren

Derek Lamb 1936-2005

The Great Toy Robbery

  • Parody of the wild west
  • Created in 1963

The Great Toy Robbery by Derek Lamb

Brain Lemay 

Rock and Rule

  • Brain was famous for doing TV specials
  • The film didn’t get a great reception due to the time it was done, out of date for audience
  • Had a budget of 8 million USD
  • Featured songs by Deborah Harry, Cheap Trick and Lou Reed.

Rock and Rule Trailer

Jeff Hale 1923- 2015

Thank You Masked Man

  • Directed by Jeff Hale and written by Lenny Bruce (Based on a comedy routine by Lenny Bruce )
  • Based on Tonto and The Lone Ranger

Ryan Larkin 1943- 2007


  • An observation of movement of different animated characters
  • Uses line drawings and ink wash painting
  • The first Canadian animation to be sold to a major American network (ABC)

Street Musique

  • Ryan’s last film
  • Animations choreographed to street music and featuring abstract images
  • Featuring ink washes and line drawings

Chris Landreth – ‘Ryan’

Chris Landreth is an animator who studied at Seneca College, Toronto. Himself and with the help of the National Film Board created a documentary about Ryan Larkin. It was a conversation between animator to animator talking about Ryan’s past and present. It’s very interesting to watch, would reccommend!

Ryan by Chris Landreth

Caroline Leaf 1946

The Street

  • Oil on glass
  • Frame by frame

Kaj Pindal

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

  • Based on a children song
  • Directed by Derek Lamb

Frederic Back


  • An insight into a part of Canada
  • French and catholic influences
  • multi- layered

Cordell Barker

  • Based not he classic children’s song the cat came back


European Animation

At the end of the 19th century  began new art movements such as cubism, futurism, dadaism and surrealism. At the same time photography was invented.

Avante Garde / Dynamism

Marcel Duchamp

  •  Born in France, american sculpture and painter
  • Explored surrealism, dadaism
Marcel Duchamp, Transition of Virgin into a Bride, 1912: Source

Giacomo Balla

  • Italian
  • Painter and poet
  • Explored futurism
Giacomo Balla, Dog on a Leash 1912 : Source

In early  20th century, cinema was a new phenomenon for artists

Why were they artists interested in this art movements?

  • Capturing movement in a new way.
  • It was the similar attitudes of people in early cinema; breaking away from the traditional arts and starting something new.

Walter Ruttmann

  • Born in Frankfort; Germany
  • Lichtspiel Opus 1  was thought to be the first screening of abstract animation – Showing movement and contains abstracts of colour and shape (Looking like brushstrokes)
  • Leonard Adelt comments his work as “seeing rhythm.”

Opus 1 by Walter Ruttmann

Viking Eggling

  • Swedish
  • focused on dadaism
  • His influences were opposites, exploring expressions
  • Used a ruler and a compass and shot work in the mirror

Diagonale Symphonie by Viking Eggeling

Hans Richter

  • Born in Berlin
  • Explored cubism & dadaism
  • Rhythm 21 looked at shapes and timings where it increases speed
  • The animation has cubist elements and is regarded as “Fourth Dimensional” by Theo Van  Doesburg due to the depth it creates

Rhythm 21 by Hans Richter

Oskar Fischinger

  • German
  • Has had a work span of over 30 years and commercial success with Studies 5 & 12
  • Due to living in Germany during World War II, abstract had to be renamed decorative due to Hitler’s demands.
  • Worked with Disney in ‘Fantasia’ however his experimentation style wasn’t appreciated by the company.

Studies 5 by Oskar Fischinger

Studies 12 by Oskar Fischinger

Komposition in Blau by Oskar Fischinger

Transformation through experimental and modern techniques.

Len Lye

  • Born in New Zealand
  • Colourbox made in England uses camera less film and involves drawing and painting straight on the film.
  • Trade Tattoos contained a discard documentary with stencils over the top.
  • Contained rhythm and jump cuts
Still from Colour Box. Source

Trade Tattoo by Len Lye