In TV anime series, narrative and character, among other elements, tend to be highly conventionalized. These conventions are a significant part of how anime is produced, recognized as anime, and interpreted. It is through the performance of these conventions that anime articulates its identity. In this study, I analyze how anime’s conventionalized patterns are performed within the context of shifting tensions between the local and global. This will be explored through an examination of Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (TSR: 2005), an anime historically situated during the peak of anime’s exportation boom and the JSDF’s deployment to Iraq (2004-06), and which can be read as thinking through identity, globalization, and military narratives. I examine how TSR performs anime’s established conventional patterns in a manner that questions the logic of those conventions, engaging with the anxieties of expanded exportation of a previously local, niche product suddenly exported on a global scale with government backing, and the contemporaneous media discourse on the expanded militarization of Japan. The identity crisis of the main character, Sousuke, acting as the core, conventionalized plot of the series, will be analyzed in relation to the identity of anime itself. Through Sousuke’s identity crisis TSR raises questions about anime’s conventional logic (the narrative and character conventions that appear commonplace), and their connections to the ethics of using lethal force (even in defense), problematizing conventional anime narrative structures and military narratives in general.
The Anime Paradox: Patterns and Practices through the Lens of Traditional Japanese Theater is an examination of the form of Anime—the repeated visual, aural, and narrative conventions performed in Anime texts—exposed through a comparison with the viewing modes and formal conventions of Asian theaters, primarily Noh, Bunraku, and Kabuki. This is not to push for a “cultural” reading of Anime, to construct a “Japanese” lineage between Anime and Japanese traditional theater. Rather, it is an attempt to consider different means of approaching Anime, providing ways yet unexplored of how Anime create meaning in their texts, and how they (consciously and unconsciously) distance themselves from other types of animation, even in Japan (e.g. Sazae-san versus Evangelion), through the repeated performance of Anime’s established conventions. Instead of looking to Manga or film or other mass-produced texts, this project looks to the theater, often overlooked multi-media productions that possess viewing modes and reading styles that can provide alternative methods for readings of Anime. Anime has become a site of various significant discourses (locally and globally), but before we determine what this performance is saying, we need to consider, on a very basic level, how it is saying it and explore various means of examining it; we need to reflect on the means of expression in the performance of the Anime form, often a crucial point of aesthetic attraction itself: Anime sells locally and globally because it exhibits itself as distinctly “Anime.” The Anime Paradox is thus an effort to provide an accessible discussion on Anime form and the mechanics of the type beauty represented through it from the standpoint of a critic and long-time viewer of Anime. This examination through comparison also works in the other direction, further endeavoring to enrich our understanding of theater through Anime.