Animeta by Yaso Hanamura

Apologies for another long-ish absence. As has been mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been watching a lot of anime, but I’ve been less good about remembering to follow up on whether or not the things I’m consuming have a manga counterpart. Gomen!

The state I live in (Minnesota) is opening up (despite rising Delta variant numbers in the US in general,) and so my wife and I made a trip to the public library–a place I have not been to since I quit work there. In the intervening months, the Roseville library got a huge influx of new manga titles! So, I filled up my cart. You will be seeing my hot takes on what I’ve picked up, hopefully over the next several days.

First thing that caught my eye is this slice-of-life pictured above: Animeta by Yaso Haramura. The story follows Mikyuki, a mediocre artist, trying to stay afloat in the anime business.






I’m sure that the “Meta” part of Animeta is the fact that Miyuki is 100% a Mary Sue, and no one is even pretending otherwise. She is the idealized stand-in for all of us otaku who would like to believe that our enthusiasm for the genre could garner us a real job in animation in a major studio in Japan. I mean, to be entirely fair to Hanamura-sensei, I literally used to regularly tell my friends in college that my dream was to run away to Japan and work for an anime studio. And, much like Miyuki, I had no actual skills (besides a few art classes) and no real idea what that job might entail.

So, Hanamura-sensei walks us through it.

Miyuki gets her dream job entirely by chance. One of the members of the hiring committee likes the fact that she took judo and so gives her a shot. Apparently, so many new hires wash out that this is actually a thing? You could get hired for a random fact listed on your resume. So maybe I could have gotten a job at a major studio as a novelty, i.e., let’s hire the weird American–she’ll wash out anyway! I don’t know.

Like me, Miyuki has zero clue about how anime works, but, even so–and here’s the Mary Sue bit in play–she catches the eye of the hottie director (above) , Kugo. Kugo sees something in her that he wants to cultivate. Possibly it is the anime heroine’s deep enthusiasm for the art? WHO KNOWS.

A lot of the pacing/tension of Miyuki’s storyline is waiting to see if her talent will actually bud… and or her enthusiasm will actually cause a real break-through. I will tell you? Three volumes in? NOT SO MUCH. But, I am still hopeful??

Interestingly, several times throughout the first three volumes (all I have, though the library has all five currently available in the US) a character will morosely say that you really can NOT survive in this industry on enthusiasm alone. Yet, Miyuki persists. She is aided by mysterious post-it notes of encouragement….

Like a lot of slice-of-life there is actual information about what animators do and how the job works. So, if you’ve ever been curious about the processes that go into anime creation, this might be one to check out.

I’m enjoying it? But, keep in mind that I have a HIGH tolerance for stories that are kind of about nothing. I am big fan of slice-of-life and have literally enjoyed stories about people shopping and fixing up their motorcycles (see: Super Cub, et al,.)

Ironically, so far as I can tell, Animeta does not have an anime. So, it doesn’t ACTUALLY break the fourth wall since it is a MANGA about anime, not an anime about anime. However, the title is clever and I’m learning some stuff? I rather like Miyuki, even though she is a complete stereotype of a perky, endlessly enthusiastic otaku. There is a scene in the third volume, which I just finished, where she is forced to go on vacation and Miyuki goes home to her family. We learn that her mother, in particular, does not approve. Manga and anime obsession, she says, is for children and weirdos. I mean… that punch landed! I felt that! Interestingly, as a counterpoint in real life, I just got a letter from my Japanese pen pal, an older woman, probably around Miyuki’s mom’s age, who said much the same thing. Though she admitted that she an her husband watch the occasional anime, her feeling is that manga is for children….underscored by the fact that she translated manga to “comic books” for me. So, Hanamura-sensei is drawing on real attitudes here.

The other really interesting character is Date Maria. Date is the daughter of a famous mangaka, and is… troubled. We find out in volume three that she is carrying a heavy burden. Most people don’t think she deserves to be at the studio either and assume that she got in because of her famous mother’s reputation.

Turns out she’s hoping to break her mother’s depression/writers’ block by producing an anime worthy of her mother’s perfectionism. OOF. I mean, given that this is senien, I don’t necessarily trust that to work out as you might hope? But, it is certainly an interesting storyline.

All the characters are actually quite fully developed. I also really like the head in-betweener (an actual job title) Fuji (the woman pictured above) who is being harassed by her mother to get married already, since she’s approaching the dreaded 3-0, and might be a lesbian? (There’s a scene when she’s drunk that reminds me of some of my friends who would suddenly be VERY GAY after a few beers.)

So, there’s a lot keeping me reading? I will likely follow this one for as long as the library buys it.

4 thoughts on “Animeta by Yaso Hanamura

  1. That’s weird about your Japanese pen pal saying that she and her husband occasionally watched anime, but manga was for kids. Most of the manga/anime experts (admittedly non-Japanese ones) whose books and articles I’ve read claim that virtually everyone in (urban) Japan, including middle-aged businessmen, routinely reads manga on the subway, while anime tends to be regarded as the province of kids (presumably this refers to non-R-rated anime) and those creepy unable-to-function-in-proper-Japanese-society otaku. Of course, since a number of anime movies have reportedly been big hits in Japan over the past four or five years, this can’t be entirely true at this point either. Maybe attitudes toward the two types of media vary depending on the region, age, and social circles of who you ask about it.

    This incident actually reminds me of back when I was writing a series of articles for the online feminist comics zine *Sequential Tart* about why so many anime and manga characters have non-steretypically Japanese (or even human) hair and eye colors, with the assistance of some behind the scenes input from a pen pal I’d met through the website who was teaching English in Honshu at the time. I asked Rebecca whether one of “Fruits Basket” heroine Tohru’s friends really teased another character, Kyo, by calling him the Japanese equivalent of “Orangey” (that was TokyoPop’s translation) rather than the more-expected-by-U.S.-standards “Red,” because of his orangey-red hair. Rebecca asked one of her Japanese fellow teachers whether the Japanese version of the word for the color orange (I think it was something like “orenji”) could be used that way. The co-worker said yes, but she was horrified by the hypothetical and protested that no Japanese person would give anyone else such an offensive nickname. (She probably didn’t believe bullying in Japanese schools exists, either.) I guess Rebecca neglected to mention that Uo-chan, the girl who routinely annoyed Kyo by calling him “Orangey,” was supposed to be a semi-reformed juvenile delinquent, who presumably would be less preoccupied with proper manners than the average Japanese high school student.

    • To be fair to your point, I should have mentioned that not only is my pen pal in her sixites, but she also lives in RURAL Japan. So, attitudes towards manga very well may differ in the bigger cities? But, also person to person? So, I would not take Eiko’s word as The Word of God, you know?

  2. Oh, also, while there’s no anime of “Animeta” (which I’ve also read the first three volumes of), there is a somewhat similar-themed anime called “Shirobako” that deals with life behind the scenes at an anime studio. It actually follows a group of five or six young women who were members of the same anime club in high school and vowed to go into various aspects of the industry so they could make an anime together themselves someday. The primary POV character is a sort of production manager at the main studio that the series focuses on. One of her friends is an aspiring voice actress, another is an apprentice animator, and the others all have some sort of jobs on the technical side whose titles I can’t think of offhand. Anyway, the anime is really good and often quite funny, and it’s available for free on Crunchyroll (unfortunately interrupted by commercials at regular intervals).

    • Interestingly, you may have noticed that in one of the tankoban’s back matter for _Animeta_, they mention _Shirobako_ as a place to learn what a production manager does. I am tempted to watch it based on both yours and the mangaka’s prompting! Thanks!

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