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Historic moment in 80s Japanese anime Fandom (Repost)

Started by Senkusha, Thursday, February 23, 2023, 06:19

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(Original article written by Matt Alt)

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Feb 22 marks the 41st anniversary of a momentous occasion: the Anime New Century Declaration of 1981. Originally intended as a promo for the upcoming Mobile Suit Gundam film, it was held in front of Shinjuku Station. They expected a few hundred kids. 20,000 showed up.

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Gundam aired at the cusp of anime's evolution from kid's stuff into a more mature storytelling medium. A predecessor, Space Cruiser Yamato, had already energized older fans and spawned an ecosystem of mainstream anime magazines that connected fans in pre-Net era.

By the time Tomino took the stage in early afternoon, the police were warning that the crowd had grown too large to control. People were in danger of being trampled. "Everyone, take it easy!" Tomino's voice boomed. And then he launched into an epic diatribe:
"This is more than an event! It's a matsuri [festival]. I appreciate the passion that brought you here today. But you know what will happen if someone gets hurt? They'll say, 'that's anime fans for you. Just a bunch of idiots running wild.'"

By "them" he meant grown-ups: society at large. His own series Gundam was full of venal adults pushing kids around for their own ends. That's why the kids here loved it, saw it as more than just a cartoon. Everyone took a big step back; the crowd calmed and listened, rapt.

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A parade of heroes from behind the scenes took the stage: designers, animators, voice actors. Anime was "junk culture" in society at large. Now its architects finally were able to bask in the spotlight of adulation, see the effects of their handiwork on Japan's youth.

Two cosplayers (one of them Mamoru Nagano, who'd go on to be a legendary animator in his own right) read what they called The Shinjuku Declaration: "We the assembled have gathered here to declare the start of a new era. Our era. A new anime century!" The crowd went wild.
Today, the Anime New Century Declaration is remembered less as a PR event and more as a coming out: anime's Woodstock. It was the moment anime "grew up," daring to compete with mainstream literature and film on its own merits.

I write about this in much more detail in Pure Invention: How Japan Made the Modern World!