Monday, October 26, 2009

Fred Schodt lays the Smackdown on the NYTimes

I had planned to not link to any external reviews of the Astro Boy movie, mostly because there would be just too many to cover, but I am going to link to this one by the New York Times. Not because it's any good (it isn't), but because manga translator and Tezuka associate Frederik L. Schodt has used the comments section there to set them straight and brings to light a very interesting point about the international nature of the film.

Here's what he had to say.

Astro Boy says OK!
As the English translator of the manga series, and the author of a book about Astro Boy (The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution), I went to watch the film last night with a certain trepidation. I am a great admirer of the original character and story, but I had also heard some grumbling from other fans about possible liberties taken in this new interpretation. I decided, however, to watch the film as entertainment, and to refrain from trying to intellectually analyze or deconstruct it or even compare it with other animated films. In so far as possible for someone my age, I also to tried to view the film from the perspective of the presumed core target audience, with the mind of a modern nine or ten year old child. In doing so, I found that I was never bored, but often moved. An adult friend from Finland, who knew little about Astro Boy, said she was moved to tears. So my conclusion is as follows: this film may not win an Oscar, but it works, and it is great fun.

There is another enjoyable aspect of this film, and that is the international nature of its production. Almost from the beginning, the plan to produce it faced great obstacles, not the least of which was the pressure to satisfy long-time fans of the character in both Japan and the United States, as well as the interests of the original rights-holders in Japan, for Astro Boy is the equivalent of a national icon there. Testifying to this difficulty, nearly ten years ago Sony Pictures and Columbia attempted to create an Astro Boy feature film for the U.S. market, but after years of work and anticipation by Astro Boy fans around the world the project collapsed. This time, the production is by a Chinese company (Imagi) based in both Hong Kong and Hollywood, the director (David M Bowers) is British, and there has been considerable input from the son (Macoto) of Astro Boy's creator, the late Osamu Tezuka. In China, where foreign films (and especially Japanese films) often face tough sledding, there also appears to have been enough national pride involved to grant this title co-production status with other Chinese films, allowing it equal access in the special month of October to the huge domestic market where Astro Boy--as one of the first Japanese manga ever published there--already has a considerable following. Osamu Tezuka created Astro Boy to be an emissary of peace, and in this new film he continues to function as one.
– Frederik L. Schodt , San Francisco
Very good points, huh?