The dawn of the 21st century (and the new millennium) marked a surge of popularity in the Dragon Ball franchise, as well as other titles such as the various Gundam shows and Pokemon (all of which remain major pulls). The U.S. market proved very receptive to anime, ever since the previous decade, and the upcoming decade would see more shows being released (particularly on the Adult Swim block). As far as television in general goes, a few live-action dramas debuted (including Ikebukuro West Gate Park, which received a manga adaptation), and TV viewing had been astounding from the 1980s onward. But what did the anime scene look like in that year?
Well, that's what we're going to examine with this article. Sit back and enjoy; 2000 had some great releases, and this article looks at three.
Gekiga Sonjuku, Rumiko Takahashi received the Shogakkan New Comic award in 1978 for the one-shot manga Katte no Yatsura, a science-fiction tale where a young boy unwittingly has small nuclear devices implanted in him. Those responsible realize their mistake, as their bumbling could cause the destruction of the universe. However, as they cannot remove the devices, they're forced to protect the boy as he delivers newspapers. Nowadays, Rumiko is one of the wealthiest mangaka currently working, and success began with her first serialized work, Urusei Yatsura.
In 1996, Inuyasha's first chapter appeared among the pages of Weekly Shōnen Sunday. Nearly four years later, the manga received an anime adaptation. The manga is darker in tone than Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku, with life, death and reincarnation being major themes. This darker presentation extends to the anime, where Inuyasha and Kagome must locate the fragments of the "Shikon no Tama" in a hostile environment inhabited by yōkai. In the anime, Inuyasha begins as a self-serving individual, troubled by his half-yōkai identity; he searches for the Shikon no Tama in order to become a full yōkai. The series delves into a crisis of identity; Inuyasha feels inadequate, due to his human blood, but he retains fond memories of his mother. His half-brother, Sesshomaru, looks down upon him for his human heritage; for yōkai, humans are scum of the earth, and only so much means to an end. This mentality appears throughout, with antagonists like Naraku pursuing great power.
Inuyasha had two directors throughout its 167-episode run. Masashi Ikeda served in the capacity for the first forty-four; he would go on to work as director for Cluster Edge. He previously acted as director for Gundam Wing and worked on numerous other anime prior to this (including Yoroiden Samurai Troopers and some storyboard work for Infinite Ryvius). When he helmed this anime, the production team was concerned about adapting the dark elements that typify the series. Takahashi wanted to express Kikyo's passion and emotional release; this emphasis on Kikyo became an integral part of the story.
FLCL remains one of the most popular OVAs. The first episode alone contains plenty of innuendo about sexual maturity–Naota's "horns" represent sexual awareness, and Haruko comments that it derives from "trying too hard." This open sexual communication and playfulness makes FLCL unique–anime can examine human urges with both facetiousness and seriousness. Naota's reactions to the world around him show his awkwardness, as he doesn't quite know how to handle an emerging sexual consciousness. Such awareness coincides with Naota's age; he's at that awkward transition from childhood to adolescence, and his body responds in new and mysterious ways. The show presents his ordeal as the result of an alien encounter, but his reactions ring true with many teenagers struggling with life on a "new frontier" as they age. Naota's "empty head" (as seen through an X-ray) in episode two provides viewers with a glimpse into his formative state; Canti represents the "opening" of his mind to the world, and his first steps into adulthood.
The characters in FLCL interact in various ways, and these relationships drive the plot. Continuing the theme of sexual maturity, Canti (a robotic entity) is the result of Haruko and Naota's collision. Canti acts as a sort of mediator and guardian for Naota, and his appearance belies the technological age he inhabits. Technology becomes an extension of the world at large; viewers are bombarded with images of robots, vehicles, video games and advanced extraterrestrial electronics. Naota's entering a new world, filled with symbolic representations of the maturity he will soon receive. Haruko is the instigator of all this, an alien "force of nature" who forcefully triggers Naota's troubles. She thus represents Naota's first real exposure to sexual feelings.
Mamimi, former girlfriend to Naota's brother (whose presence is primarily spoken of), has the interesting position of being a high school student who commits a series of arsons after playing the fictional game Firestarter. Technology's pervasiveness in the show trickles down to her, who becomes so fascinated with Firestarter that she is willing to start fires herself. Since she was influenced by a video game, this gives technology a rather sinister edge; it's an extension of people's lives, and can influence them to do strange things. Going back to symbolism, Mamimi's perception of Canti as a god shows that technology can be advanced enough to make people see robots as supernatural entities. She sees technology as a stand-in for her former boyfriend, who has moved on; with nowhere else to turn, Mamimi vents through video games.
The series shifts art styles regularly, even within an episode. The story feels disjointed at times, but it contains the overarching narrative of a boy coming to terms with his own identity and dealing with the world around him. This variation in aesthetics has a minor American analogue in Ren & Stimpy. The production team behind Ren & Stimpy purposefully went off-model to allow the characters a wider range of emotional expression; they can distort their faces in ways live actors cannot. With FLCL, the director went with a music-video approach to the series; throughout the episodes, one can notice numerous divergent art styles used throughout, including a shout-out to South Park. This off-beat approach to animation gives FLCL a great flair, showing that a studio does not have to rely on a single aesthetic for one production. The show also provides another unique aesthetic choice–the primarily rock-driven soundtrack, provided by The Pillows. Major scenes, in particular have their own songs to underscore the mood; unlike Inuyasha (and many shows before it), FLCL's soundtrack includes rock music as a means of emotional and artistic expression.
Ken Akamatsu began his career at Comiket, where he gained fame as an illustrator. Before long, he won the 50th Freshman Manga Award for Hito Natsu no Kids Game, which he worked on during his college days. This manga foreshadows Love Hina, the work that would establish him as a major mangaka. Love Hina revolves around hapless college aspirant Keitarō Urashima , who wants to enter the very prestigious Tokyo University due to a promise he made with a girl years ago. He becomes the newest inhabitant of his grandmother's inn, which (to his surprise) had been converted to an all-female dormitory. As he tries to settle in, the other, female residents develop a like/hate relationship with him, especially Naru Narusegawa.
Akamatsu's career really took off with the manga, and the anime adaptation soon followed. The show contains a good amount of fanservice, but with Naru, we see a rather self-assured (if flawed) character. She's not willing to accept Keitarō into the inn, as she knows him from school; the two are almost polar opposites on the academic achievement scale. Naru, being one of the most intelligent in her class, easily out-competes Keitarō academically, but she eventually accepts him for his faults.
In this regard, Love Hina shares the coming-of-age angle with FLCL; both show a critical moment in a character's time, where he not only has to address new feelings and experiences, but also love. Keitarō, being older than Naota, already experienced sexual maturity, but his awkward and self-conscious personality prevented him from looking for a girlfriend. His first real encounter with love came as a child; when he meets Naru again, and realizes who she is, he now has the chance to feel love once again.
Next time: It's time to cover 2...what? You want more coverage of 2000? YOU GOT IT.
Inuyasha Companion on the show:
Guitars, Drinks and Eyebrows: FLCL Symbols With Deeper Meanings?: https://wiki.rit.edu/display/05052130220101/Guitars,+Drinks,+and+Eyebrows+-+FLCL+Symbols+With+Deeper+Meanings
Interview with Yoshiaki Iwasaki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Highwind888/Interview_with_Yoshiaki_Iwasaki_script
FLCL World analysis: http://www.flclw.com/analysis/
Interview with Masashi Ikeda, Yoshihito Hishinuma and Shigemi Ikeda: http://www.furinkan.com/features/interviews/iystaff.html