Culture Matters in Animation, But Not As Much As You Might Think
Animation is a cultural thing, and like anything related to culture, there is national delineations and boundaries. For example, American animation is very, well, American. Canadaian animation is distinctly Canadian. Irish animation probably isn’t really coming from anywhere other than Ireland. And so on. However, the country of an animation’s origin is not the be all and end all of what it means to be animated.
Which brings us to an interesting video from Sweden. Created by a duo who call themselves makebabi.es, Senpai Club is a parody of sorts by Olivia Bergstrom and Eric Bradford and it is distinctly Japanese in style, scope and substance.
The video itself simultaneously pays homage to and parodies many of the tropes, stories and characters present in anime without being disrespectful in any way. In fact, it is quite funny to watch as supposed normal traits are highlighted for being as ridiculous as they really are.
There are two important things to note. Firstly, it is not entirely possibly to distil an entire country or indeed its culture into a series of tropes, nor is it acceptable. Unfortunately, this is how plenty of animated content is seen in countries other than its one of origin. Anime has particularly strong themes and characteristics, but the same could be said of American animation, and it’s preponderance for comedy over serious storytelling (for the most part.)
Secondly, an animation’s country of origin does not define what it is. Sure Senpai Club is a parody, but it is quite well made to the point where it could easily have come from Japan itself. The point is that national styles are a figment of many fan’s imaginations. Avatar: The Last Airbender is not anime, but it does contain many themes common to anime shows, and yet it is derided as a poor facsimile of actual Japanese animation by westerners.
We ought to be moving past the notion that a country defines its animated output. It can, and should influence it, but it should not be used as a crutch for analysing it’s artistic merits.