If this is true, then what in the hell does Michael Arias think he's doing?
This director of the animated film Tekkon Kinkreet, which debuted in Japanese theaters in December 2006, is challenging the animated establishment. A Los Angeles native whose experience in animation touches on a number of Japanese animated productions westerners are well familiar with, Arias finds himself deconstructing an oft-implied hierarchy. Along with the well noted Studio 4°C for animation production, this director speaks the Japanese language fluently and has spent fifteen of his thirty-nine years in Tokyo, Japan. He is fluent in Japanese culture as well, and has developed his craft with the knowledge that good theatrical animation in Japan is beyond the notion of an industry's critique or establishment.
The purest definition of anime has been repeatedly blurred by a variety of creative lenses in recent years. A style of animation developed in Japan, chiefly by artists whose cultural perspective grant them a distinctly qualified and unique comprehension of the subject matter; anime termed as such excludes programming that exhibit the assisted development of an international company, western programs that merely borrow the stylistic resemblance and western programs that do nothing but mimic classic tropes of the medium.
Tekkon Kinkreet, which is the feature adaptation of a manga about two young boys and their adventure to save a city from redevelopment, is directed by an individual whose exacting description of Japanese emotions reflecting a Japanese circumstance have been analyzed, and approved, by several.
Prior to now, Arias has exercised his background in computer graphics and software development to help advance Japanese animated features in ways few moviegoers are aware of. According to a recently published article for the Los Angeles Times, entitled "An American Anime Film?," Michael Arias developed a software program that utilized shading in order to give CG the appearance of traditional animation--cel-shaded drawings. The computer animation software was apparently initially featured in the indomitable Hayao Miyazaki's Mononoke Hime ("Princess Mononoke"), and has since been used in the legendary filmmaker's subsequent projects.
Producer of the highly stylized animation amalgamation The Animatrix, Arias is well aware of the effort necessary in order to establish diverse relationships successful for a quality anime production. His latest project, Tekkon Kinkreet, features animation production by the highly skilled Studio 4°C and a staff whose résumé exhibits one of the anime industry's greatest feature animation productions in the past decade.
With the evolution of the medium expanding so dramatically into new platforms for new generations, the revelation of a non-Japanese directing a major anime film production may not come as a surprise to some. For many, talent is talent and a vision is a vision. Having nurtured his love for this project for close to a decade, Michael Arias, with a true love for the title in adaptation and the medium of animation, is fairly well qualified, traditionally speaking, for a directorial position. His birth as a westerner may raise an eyebrow for those eager for the most distilled anime conceivable, but for those animators and producers within the industry, Arias' ambition and talent make him more than qualified.