With anime being one of Japan’s most popular exports, there have been several attempts by documentary makers to dive into the world of otaku and kawaii culture and see what makes it so appealing. The most recent documentary Netflix’s Enter The Anime, features various anime creators taking about their work. As a casual anime fan I was interested to learn more, but what I watched turned out to be a poorly constructed story that barely scratched the surface of the industry.
Hosted by Tania Nolan, Enter The Anime contrasts the politeness of Japanese society with the dark and gritty themes that are explored in anime shows like Kengan Ashura and Aggretsuko. While that might sound like a promising start, the documentary never truly gets to the bottom of that comparison for several reasons and one of them has to do with Nolan’s interview and narration style.
Despite making the documentary to learn more about anime, Nolan comes off as more and more confused about each person she speaks to. Whether this is through acting for the camera or not, it comes off as downright cringey. The humour feels forced and there is one clip where she speaks to a Japanese person on the street and says something like “I’m immortal. Sushi like anime.” What?
A lack of structure harms the documentary as well. Interviews are spliced together seemingly at random, with no real mention of who the target audience is. Although there are vague references to anime being for all ages, I couldn’t decide as to whether the documentary was meant to be an introduction for new fans or for experts.
Nuggets of gold
For all of Enter The Anime’s problems, there are nuggets of gold to be mined in interviews with creators like LeSean Thomas, Seiji Kishi and Rarecho. As Thomas is the developer of Cannon Busters, it was interesting to hear his thoughts on how anime has influenced American animation and how he wanted to combine both aspects by introducing jazz music into the opening score.
The interview with Seiji Kishi followed his involvement with Kengan Ashura and the development of the series’ CG animation. The Rarecho interview was intriguing as well because it put the spotlight on Aggretsuko and told the story of how death metal became integral to the show.
An interview with singer Yoko Takashi gave insight into the importance of music in anime. As the singer of Evangelion’s ‘Cruel Angel Thesis,’ Takashi admitted that her favourite line from the song is “young man become a myth” because of its philosophical connotations.
But these small insights are too few and far between to lift Enter The Anime out of the confusing funk that it creates for itself. All the anime creators come across as if they are beholden to Netflix and that the depth of their knowledge never goes beyond face value.
I wanted to like Enter The Anime, but the nonsensical format just didn’t do a good job of capturing the industry in detail. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the documentary. Did you like it or hate it?