I know a lot of people don’t care very much, but I want to know as much as I can about anime and its surrounding culture. I’m willing to admit that I haven’t done as much research as I can, but I tend to consider myself fairly well-read when it comes to the broader otaku culture, especially in regards to my specific areas of interest. I want to know a lot about anime, and I’ve been finding more and more lately that it can be really hard to get the info I want.
Now, I want to be fair here. We’re in a fairly privileged position right now. Sites like Sakugabooru and Wave Motion Cannon are bringing us information on the industry to an extent that just didn’t occur in the past. Interviews are being translated more and more often, and with the growth of the community, we tend to be pretty up-to-date with what’s going on in Japan. But while we’re doing better, we’re hardly in the place that I want.
Lately, I’ve been working on a research project covering Kunihiko Ikuhara. It won’t be ready for quite some time, but suffice it to say that I did some digging on his background for the sake of the project. It hasn’t been fun. I wasn’t shocked that info on him was sporadic, given his somewhat odd nature, but it’s been even worse than I expected. Depending on whether you check Japanese or English Wikipedia he went to a different college, his birth prefecture is different on Google than on Wikipedia, and almost all other info on him is totally missing. Furthermore, many of his roles in storyboarding various OPs and EDs just aren’t listed on the English web. And this is just one man. One reclusive man, but one man.
The credits issue is widespread, something that can’t be fixed just by checking Japanese sources. It’s often very hard if not impossible to find out what animators did what cuts, and sometimes other staff info can be missing on sites like ANN. And that doesn’t even get into how inaccurate MAL and other sites are. ANN misses a ton and it’s the best, so it should be clear how lacking other databases are. This causes a problem for everyone, not just me.
And these are all complaints about whether or not the information is actually there. Oftentimes the info is available online, but I have no way to check the veracity of it. Interviews are great since they come from an industry source who’s probably pretty trustworthy, but tons of sites list info without ever citing their sources. Japanese wikis say that Ikuhara went to Kyoto College of Art, but how am I supposed to know that for sure if it’s not actually sourced from anywhere. I’m going to go with it, because I don’t have any other leads, but I’m not exactly happy to be relying on somewhat shaky information.
All of this is true for animators and directors, but at least we have a decent picture of them. It’s easy to see their effect on a work, and there tends to be a lot of interviews with them. The creative group with the least info is writers. I can only name a few anime writers, and many of those are more known for being disappointing than for being masters of the written word. It’s hard to tell how much impact an individual writer had on a script, and it leads to a lot of bad discourse.
The common talking point about Flip Flappers is that scriptwriter Ayana Yuniko leaving the show caused its decline. I don’t believe that decline happened but we’ll save that for a later piece. Let’s just be clear that there’s no real evidence behind this theory, and yet some treat is as gospel. We don’t know why she left the show and how much of the show was planned before she left, and yet people act as if her departure totally altered its direction. The role of writers in anime is woefully under-reported, and I want that to change.
We just need more people in the community who are willing to dig up this kind of content. I know it’s a bit unfair for me to say that, given that I’m not about to devote myself to it, but it’s just something that I would like to happen. For all I know Japan is just as bad about this, but it’s a problem either way. I’m way too interested in this culture to be satisfied when it’s so hard to find info, especially when I can’t necessarily trust that info. Like I said at the start, things are definitely getting better, and we almost certainly have a better picture of the anime industry now than we did 10 years ago. I hope we continue on this path because there are so many things I want to know but can’t find out.