Anime is (not) cult Gainax and the limits of cult cinema

Authored by: Rayna Denison

The Routledge Companion to Cult Cinema

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138950276
eBook ISBN: 9781315668819
Adobe ISBN:


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It should be easy to talk about anime as cult cinema. Few media are so obviously open to cult readings, and it is hard to deny the multiplicity of anime’s cult signifiers: from its textual connections to already ‘cultified’ genres like pornography, science fiction and horror (Jancovich et al. 2003), through to its subaltern spread thanks to transnational grassroots fan communities (Hills 2002), and on through to regular commentary about the liminal and socially transgressive nature of anime’s texts and, sometimes, its fans (Mathijs and Sexton 2011: 6–7). Big films like Akira (Katsuhiro Ōtomo, 1989) were hailed as cult as soon as they were released (Denison 2015) and have since been credited with the birth of anime fandom in places like the United Kingdom. So why then is the title of this chapter, ‘Anime Is (Not) Cult’?

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