Sometimes I’m accused of nostalgia for older anime.
My youth makes that impossible, though: a person can only feel nostalgia for something they’ve known. I’m relatively young. I feel nostalgia about Gundam Seed and Code Geass (rest assured that I harbour no illusions about their quality).
Since older anime is new to me, it attracts me because a significant chunk of it excels, a bigger chunk surprises, and almost all of it contrasts nicely with the newer anime that I watch.
A recent interview with Katsuhito Ishii about Redline prompted this line of thought.
The interview frames Redline for those nostalgic for an earlier era of anime: Akira, Cyber City Oedo 808, et cetera. That makes sense! No doubt the film felt that way to those in the right generation.
For me, though, Redline itself sits in nostalgia’s borderlands. I first saw it on 17 August 2011, which is not far enough in the past for full-on bliss-it-was-in-that-dawn-to-be-alive feelings, but sufficiently far that the memories give off a little glow.
Now, Oedo 808, since the article mentions it, I watched more recently. I like shuttling back and forth in time like this. And I think it natural and legitimate for some to find parts of anime’s past more attractive than the present. Is there, in fact, anything really wrong with nostalgia?
That said, I’ve no truck with laments about the state of today’s anime. A demand that the present should be like the past focuses still on the present. Such thinking becomes just as ‘presentist’ as the fan who has seen three anime and will argue in cold blood that Demon Slayer surpasses all else. I try to be too busy watching anime to worry about the present.
Some anime seek to meet the demand for the old made new. Yet their newness conditions their reception as ‘old’. For example, I like Yamato 2199 well enough, but I like it for what it is, and what it is is an anime from the 2010s. Our treatment of this title—or of, say, (let’s be more topical) Vlad Love—as in some way old undercuts itself at once: no one received Space Battleship Yamato in 1974 or Urusei Yatsura in 1981 as ‘retro anime’. In their own times, they were the present.
We should pause to remember that all mass-audience commercial anime ever basically count as one period. In full historical perspective, you can, if you want, see anime’s story as one of continuity, not change. In truth, I see lots of changes, and many of them interest me. In the fullness of time, though, when enough decades have passed, the backwards gaze will unify all this
We must also distinguish nostalgia from an attraction to the past for its very pastness, its perceived authenticity and difference. I shall say more on that in future!
Do read the interview, which holds more interest than my meanderings here; apart from anything else, the explanation offered for the choice to avoid 3DCG made me grin. And if you’ve not seen Redline, consider it: much might be said of the film, but the most important thing about it is that it’s tonnes of fun.