What is Japanese Film?
Commentary from Mr. Ryo Sakaguchi
Computer Graphics Supervisor at Digital Domain
March 30, 2012
Be it books, music or video games historically, Japanese entertainment has been created for the Japanese market due to the fact that Japan has a large domestic market of its own. This tendency has a positive effect of making the Japanese products very unique, but the flip side is that this has prevented a wider acceptance abroad. Some have achieved international status, such as anime, or video games but those are mainly in the minority.
What's ironic is none of these now globally accepted entertainment sectors that came out of Japan were ever designed nor marketed with regard to the global market. Overseas consumers seemed to find these products autonomously, since self promotion is not one of the strong points of our culture. This is an interesting characteristic of the products originating in Japan, and this makes the acceptance of these products a direct reflection of their value.
Japanese films are no exception to this. Japanese films are typically written and produced for the Japanese market. Even today, although the number of films targeting the international market is growing, a majority of the films are written for the local market.
Another aspect of the Japanese film is also very unique to our culture. Creative personnel in Japan can often be described by the term, 職人気質 or "Shokunin kishitsu," which means "pride of a true craftsman."
"Shokunin kishitsu" personnel tend to focus more on what he or she wants to create, rather than a commercial success or what other people may think. Another characteristic of these craftsmen is they tend to control the majority of the creative decision making themselves, sometimes too much, compared to decision making by a group of creative people. This makes the decision making process clear and efficient, but the weakness of this process is that it is typically not the best approach for creating a bigger product that requires collaboration of a larger team.
Creative production driven by these personnel is considered a virtue in our culture, and this craftsman personality is the source of the uniqueness of the Japanese craft. These creative personalities inspiration drives the products that cater to our own market and it is what makes Japanese films very unique and original. In the era where films with originality are key, Japanese films are exactly where you would find such films.
Commentary from Mr. Michael Chang
Legal and Business Affairs Executive at a Major Hollywood Motion Picture Studio
December 23, 2011
"Growing up and having been educated in China, Japan and various parts of Asia, my earliest memory of Japanese film and animation was when they were shown on television in various parts of Asia. My favorite shows were 'Doraemon' (in Chinese, 机器猫小叮当), 'Hutch the Honey Bee' (昆虫物語 みなしごハッチ), 'Born Free' (恐竜系アニメ、ボーンフリー, in Chinese 恐龍救生隊), 'Gatchaman' (科学忍者隊ガッチャマン), ジャッカー電撃隊 (an early precursor to the later popular ゴレンジャー and Power Rangers), 'Ultraman' (especially Taro and Reo, because they looked cool and had great weapons and final attacks), 'Kamen Rider' (especially V3 because of the memorable head-piece design), 'Godzilla', 'Time Bokan', 'Totoro', and the work of Go Nagai, such as 'Mazinger-Z' (including 'Great Mazinger' and UFOロボ グレンダイザー), 'Gaiking' (大空魔竜ガイキング), 'Devilman' (デビルマン), 'Getter Robo' (ゲッターロボ).
These shows continue to have an influence on my private life in a number of ways. For example, I regularly sing the memorable theme songs to Doraemon, Mazinger Z, and Gatchaman shows whenever I visit a karaoke in Tokyo or Hong Kong, which is pretty often. Another personal (and professional) benefit of having grown up with Japanese film and animation is that I partly learned to speak Chinese and Japanese by watching the Chinese-dubbed versions of these classic shows. I remember my UC Davis Japanese Sensei showing us clips from Studio Ghibli?s Totoro film during a classroom discussion of pop culture. It was incredible to listen to the type of spoken, colloquial (and cute) Japanese that we never really get to learn or practice in class. In order to speak the Japanese language (or any language, for that matter) well, it help to develop an understanding of the culture, and of the cultural context, of the nation and its people. I was very lucky to be able to gain insight into age-old Japanese and Chinese cultural traditions through an appreciation for their respective pop culture.
These days, I am fortunate to be able to work on projects that crisscross cultures. Perhaps it was my multicultural background that led me to pursue a career in the international promotion and licensing of film, television and animation content. Recently, I borrowed a copy (through Yasu and Emily Kutami) of the live-action version of the classic animation, Yatterman. I watched the entire film in the original Japanese, without the aid of subtitles. This lets me know that, somehow, I've 'made it' as someone who grew up with and can appreciate every form of Japanese anime."