I’ve been thinking about this recently, as I’ve watched my way through Sailor Moon (subbed) for the first ever time (I’m on episode 96!), and something has become readily apparent to me.
Western countries don’t come up with stories like this. Can you imagine trying to pitch something like Sailor Moon to 20th Century FOX? Maybe a bad example, given their trend for cancelling anything that might be slightly outside of the norm (*coughFarscapecough*), but you get my point.
“There’s this girl, right, and she’s the reincarnation of a Princess who lived on the Moon, and she has a talking cat, and she can do magic when she dresses in a short skirt with a Sailor neckerchief.”
The questions would pour out. “If she’s from space, why can she do magic? How can they breath on the moon? Why do the cats talk?”
And Princess Tutu? “There’s a girl who’s really a duck, but she’s also a a magical warrior who can save people from evil spells through ballet dancing, and is supposed to rescue a prince who came out of a book.”
Not to show favour to magical girls, what about Gundam Wing? “There’s this massive war going on between Earth, and these space stations they built for people to live on when Earth became overpopulated. And the space stations send a load of teenagers down in giant laser robots to fight for freedom, because their giant laser robots are stronger than Earth’s giant laser robots.”
Akira? “A giant psychic blast takes out Tokyo and is mistaken for a nuclear attack, and then the military start kidnapping psychics.”
These sort of bizarre concepts give us, however, some truly brilliant stories. At work I notice more and more that films are becoming homogenous – so few are willing to try anything different. This has led to a split in films, between middle-of-the-road, forgettably, lazily-made films like The Bounty Hunter, or Clash of the Titans, or any of the Fight Factory Films, and films where they have really tried to make something different. Kickass, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, In Bruges, Waitress, Juno… People rave over these films, but still films like The Back-Up Plan are getting made, with neither style nor substance to set them apart from the crowd.
The Western media industry could learn a lot from Anime and Manga. Japan rarely seems to worry about pleasing as many people as possible, and thus pleasing none. They seem to work more on a Field of Dreams style of media production. “If you build it, they will come”.
And so it’s true – Princess Tutu would not have been made if people had worried about who their ‘target audience’ was. And by just daring to be itself, it got much more respect.
But I love Princess Tutu. And perhaps, eventually, I will review it (and maybe one day get around to cosplaying it). I love that it subverts traditional fairy tale elements to make a whole new story. That it focuses on the power of stories.
In the same way that the stories of other anime build worlds to fit them, and thus make the logic unquestionable. Yeah sure, there’s a magical princess of the moon. Of course it makes sense for the military to be hoarding psychics. And at the end of it, who doesn’t love ducks?