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The Anime Machine

A Media Theory of Animation

2009
Author:

Thomas Lamarre

The Anime Machine

Presents a foundational theory of animation and what it reveals about our relationship to technology

Despite the longevity of animation and its significance within the history of cinema, film theorists have focused on live-action motion pictures and largely ignored hand-drawn and computer-generated movies. Thomas Lamarre contends that animation demands sustained engagement, and in The Anime Machine he lays the foundation for a new critical theory for reading Japanese animation, showing how anime fundamentally differs from other visual media.

Combining superb scholarship, a palpable passion for his subject, and a singular sensibility for the art of the moving image, Thomas Lamarre has produced a landmark work in cultural theory and media history. The Anime Machine navigates the intercultural and transmedia complexities of the worlds of anime with expertise and originality. Everyone from the anime enthusiast to the philosopher will come away with a heightened appreciation of one of the defining art forms of our era.

Brian Massumi, author of Parables for the Virtual

Despite the longevity of animation and its significance within the history of cinema, film theorists have focused on live-action motion pictures and largely ignored hand-drawn and computer-generated movies. Thomas Lamarre contends that the history, techniques, and complex visual language of animation, particularly Japanese animation, demands serious and sustained engagement, and in The Anime Machine he lays the foundation for a new critical theory for reading Japanese animation, showing how anime fundamentally differs from other visual media.

The Anime Machine defines the visual characteristics of anime and the meanings generated by those specifically “animetic” effects—the multiplanar image, the distributive field of vision, exploded projection, modulation, and other techniques of character animation—through close analysis of major films and television series, studios, animators, and directors, as well as Japanese theories of animation. Lamarre first addresses the technology of anime: the cells on which the images are drawn, the animation stand at which the animator works, the layers of drawings in a frame, the techniques of drawing and blurring lines, how characters are made to move. He then examines foundational works of anime, including the films and television series of Miyazaki Hayao and Anno Hideaki, the multimedia art of Murakami Takashi, and CLAMP’s manga and anime adaptations, to illuminate the profound connections between animators, characters, spectators, and technology.

Working at the intersection of the philosophy of technology and the history of thought, Lamarre explores how anime and its related media entail material orientations and demonstrates concretely how the “animetic machine” encourages a specific approach to thinking about technology and opens new ways for understanding our place in the technologized world around us.

Awards

Honorable Mention, 2011 Katherine Singer Kovács Book Award

Most Outstanding Publication in the Field of Japanese Studies from the European Association of Japanese Studies

The Anime Machine

Thomas Lamarre is professor of East Asian studies, art history, and communications studies at McGill University. He is on the senior board of Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and Fan Arts (published annually by the University of Minnesota Press) and author of Shadows on the Screen: Tanizaki Jun’ichirō on Cinema and Oriental Aesthetics and Uncovering Heian Japan: An Archaeology of Sensation and Inscription.

The Anime Machine

Combining superb scholarship, a palpable passion for his subject, and a singular sensibility for the art of the moving image, Thomas Lamarre has produced a landmark work in cultural theory and media history. The Anime Machine navigates the intercultural and transmedia complexities of the worlds of anime with expertise and originality. Everyone from the anime enthusiast to the philosopher will come away with a heightened appreciation of one of the defining art forms of our era.

Brian Massumi, author of Parables for the Virtual

With the help of thinkers such as Deleuze and Guattari, Thomas Lamarre identifies in anime an originary machinic force, one that traverses both animation and cinema, with a capacity for heteropoeisis through technological practices. This is an inspiringly sophisticated and imaginative book.

Rey Chow, author of Sentimental Fabulations, Contemporary Chinese Films

Lamarre’s contribution is a rare work of theoretical rigor and clarity that breathes new life into fundamental questions about studying Japan and raises new concerns about how media and technology can be understood in relation to their audience and the apparatus that produces (and is produced by) them.

Journal of Asian Studies

The Anime Machine is an excellent book and demonstrates clearly that the ‘frame’ and ‘shot’ of anime can never really be understood within the current conventions of cinematic film review, and thus, the need for developing the concept of the animetic.

Rhizomes

The Anime Machine is a brilliant text that will hopefully revolutionize the study of animation, Japanese or otherwise.

Contemporary Japanese Literature

Contemporary anime has come to be known for the richness and complexity of its aesthetic designs and the expansive transmedial networks of serialization and consumption it inhabits. Lamarre’s Anime Machine aptly mirrors these qualities both in terms of the impressiveness of its scope, and in the originality and sophistication of its emergent theory of anime: the multiplanar animetic machine.

Paradoxa

Breathtakingly ambitious and intellectually exciting work.

Journal of Japanese Studies

The Anime Machine constitutes a landmark within the study of animation and its relationship to technology and media.

ImageText

The Anime Machine is a milestone study that has significantly revised and updated methodological debates on Japanese popular culture. As a theoretical work, it straddles several areas, including visual studies, theories of modernity, and psychoanalysis, while introducing some useful and innovative models for consideration in viewing Japanese animation.

Monumenta Nipponica

After you have read this book, you will not look at anime the same way. . . . Lamarre provides brilliant concepts and precise terminology for features that you have noticed or felt, without quite knowing how to describe them.

Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

The Anime Machine

UMP blog Q&A: How does anime speak to the world?

11/18/2009
Former Prime Minister Asô Tarô’s appointment of the beloved manga and anime character Doraemon to the position of Anime Ambassador in March 2008 made it seem that anime (and manga) speak the language of diplomacy. Anime appeared to offer Japan a way to speak to the world persuasively and even authoritatively but softly, gently, diplomatically. Anime appears as ‘soft power.’ While there has been much criticism of Asô’s constant evocation of manga and anime at the level of national and international policy, it seems to me that Asô’s gesture does not only reflect his personal tastes and neoliberal opportunism (building on the widespread popularity of Japanese pop culture or the contents industry) but also tells us something about anime.
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