Solo Animation in Japan

Empathy for the drawn body

Authored by: Paul Roquet

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Cinema

Print publication date:  August  2020
Online publication date:  August  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138685529
eBook ISBN: 9781315534374
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines small-scale and self-produced Japanese animations as a site of intensified engagement with the work of making drawn bodies move. Focusing on animations by Wada Atsushi, Mizushiri Yoriko, and Kuno Yōko, the chapter explores the afterlife of “independent” animation as an oppositional practice at a time when Japanese animation production as a whole is increasingly dependent on freelance and casualized labor. I introduce the term solo animation to designate works where the visual imagery onscreen is produced through the work of a single person. Solo animation is usually produced through great effort for little money, and with little to no expectation of financial gain. As this chapter argues, this turns solo animation into an important space for animators to reflect on the meaning of their own animating labor. The vulnerable forms of the bodies onscreen come to register external pressures shaping the practice of contemporary animation, including the industrial demands of the animation industry itself. In the process, these drawn bodies become a site of empathy for both animators and audiences alike.

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