Since the 1960s, Anime has been a global cultural phenomenon that has captivated legions of fans beginning with the cultural classic ‘Astro Boy’ released in North America in 1963. Continuing sheer innovative and imaginative storytelling, like 2001’s Oscar winning animated picture ‘Spirited Away’, Japanese animation is a force in storytelling and artistry that is truly unique in scope. But as we come to learn from a Canadian expert currently residing in Tokyo, the phenomenon is much more than just animation.
In order to get a better perspective on the matter, we talked to Joshua Hardy, the founder, editor and key contributor to Honey’s Anime, a website that seeks to through promote Japanese animation amongst English speakers outside of Japan. Josh’s website relies on sorting through hundreds of anime series, compiling lists and making recommendations that cater to hungry audiences ready to digest any news coming out of Tokyo.
“Astro Boy changed the way we saw society and everything else. He’s truly revolutionary for audiences (…) After the destruction of the bomb being dropped on Japan, it is the idea of a truly futuristic society; and it set the stage for the space race that followed. Could you imagine Mickey Mouse in space?”
Most of all, Joshua fell in love with the way stories were rendered. After arriving in Japan in 2009 as an English teacher, what he considered a side hobby eventually began supplementing his income.
“Japanese Anime, at its best, is all about refinement. The way light is rendered, even food seems better than the real thing. Every single detail is perfectly mapped out and executed.”
Learning the language was not as difficult as Joshua once thought, but being able to memorize Kanji, the logographic characters borrowed from the Chinese, proved somewhat more difficult. For Joshua, who is a visual learner—his skillset allowed him to adapt quickly. Today, a lucrative international market has allowed the entrepreneur to grow the virtual company into its own office in the business district of Chiyoda, also home to the Imperial Palace.
As he explains, adjusting to a global culture in its original context differs from enjoying globalized aspects outside of it.
“In Japan, Anime refers to all forms of foreign and domestic animation. For international audiences, Anime represents something that is uniquely Japanese. The distinction defines the way both foreigners and Japanese people see Anime, and the lack of correlation makes a sort of disconnect.”
This simple idea defined a niche that Joshua was able to create a business out of. For his website, the idea defined a crucial aspect that formed the basic concept and mission to connect Anime to the legions of fans that don’t happen to live in Japan or speak Japanese (stationed throughout the world). Today, his website receives hundreds of thousands of visits a year.
For individuals making in-roads into the Japanese market, it may seem like the country’s sole interest in home products makes it hard to compete, or to establish the country as a home base (one of the reasons why Japan is almost entirely homogenous). Several barriers prevent foreign individuals from becoming Japanese entrepreneurs. This is based on a national interest to keep companies in Japan as almost exclusively Japanese. Japanese interests lie in Japanese culture, whether it be in the business world or in any creative or technological industry. For Joshua, the key to success was to create a business structure whose reference was entirely Japanese.
Unlike its Western counterpart, Anime has never been afraid to explore darker, or more adult subject matter. More recently, the Anime universe has exploded into a vast network of like-minded super fans who fill convention halls throughout the world dressed as their favorite characters (known as Costume Play or Cosplay). Adding a further dimension to the phenomenon the website is keen on documenting. For this Canadian, the power of Anime is an everyday adventure.