Our summer reviews in one place, with updated content warnings where available.
Visually eye-catching but held back by tired tropes around women and shock-value sexual assault.
The team’s top favorites from a packed, high-quality season.
Proving a show needn’t always be “sakuga” to be great.
‘I Have Some Horror Stories’: Animator Talks Industry’s Problems, Hopes for the Future (Anime News Network, Kim Morrissy)
Joan Chung discussed her decision to leave Science SARU due to its crunch culture; following this article’s publication, SARU threatened legal action against Chung.
Chung’s colleagues were similarly supportive and friendly. “One of my supervisors taught me how to skateboard during lunch time,” she recalled. “I was continuously impressed by my coworkers’ ability to play while keeping their head up under a breakneck schedule. I’ve never experienced this kind of ethic in a western studio.”
Unfortunately, Science SARU was not immune to crunch culture. Chung was initially taken under the wing of a trilingual Korean animator, who later left the company due to burnout and considerations for his family. Chung herself decided to leave at around the same time as a production manager did after the two realized that the pressure, hours, and pay they had to sacrifice were not sustainable for their futures.
“I have some horror stories from this studio, which are thankfully fewer than some of SARU’s competitors. But – and this is a big one for me – a studio should not have its twenty-something girls crying in the bathroom, doing all-nighters. Neither should it have a production schedule that is so tight that it is unable to accommodate the mental health of the aforementioned production manager. I had to speak on her behalf to her supervisor and the CEO – and though they responded compassionately, practically there could not be much change. A culture with this much production pressure necessitated the long hours.”
The problem, as Chung sees it, is not in the studio’s workflow; she described Abel Góngora, the studio’s animation lead, as a skilled animator and adept teacher. Rather, the studio has spread itself thin working on too many productions.
Podcast discussion about localization and advice for those seeking to join the JET teaching abroad program.
Mercedez Clewis is a Japanese to English localization editor and proofreader as well as a pop culture writer and critic with websites like, Anime Feminist, But Why Tho, and the Anime News Network. She also has previous worked with Siliconera, which is where she got her start with Japanese to English translation. After earning her Bachelor’s and Master’s in History, she taught on the JET Program in Fukushima Prefecture for four years and is currently in the process of returning to Japan. See her website here.
Tokyo 2020 organisers accused of excluding Olympic opening ceremony musician for being ‘African’ (The Independent, Lawrence Ostlere)
Latyr Sy has lived in Japan for over 20 years. This follows news from last year that an Ainu cultural performance was also dropped from the opening ceremony.
In May he enquired to find out why there had been delays in sending through his contract, and in the meeting which followed it was explained to Sy by a PR company that organisers had rejected plans to include him in the ceremony, questioning why an “African” should be in the show.
Sy alleges he was told that a representative of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee was concerned that if they allowed him to perform, they would then have to hire many different ethnicities and nationalities.
“It’s totally racist,” Sy says. “I was told they said ‘Why this guy? Why this African guy?’ I’ve seen a lot of stuff, I’ve felt a lot of things, but this just doesn’t fit with the Olympics. Why should I be silent?”
Why Tokyo Turned Against the Olympics (The Nation, Chelsea Szendi Schieder)
The Japanese government’s failed handling of the pandemic has led to mistrust and anger, with fears that outbreaks will worsen due to the Olympics. Individuals on Twitter continue to report poor communications and shortages of vaccines.
Some citizens are turning to the courts to try to get some traction. On July 9, a group sought a court injunction to stop the opening of the Olympics and Paralympics, on the grounds that organizers have not effectively shown how the Games will be “safe and secure” in the midst of the pandemic. This failure, they argue, violates their constitutional right to live.
Professional organizations and some companies have entered the debate as well. In May, magazine publisher Takarajimasha ran a full-page ad in three national daily newspapers likening preparing for the Tokyo Olympics to preparing for an Allied invasion in the 1940s, featuring an image of a giant red coronavirus imposed upon a historical photograph of children practicing with spears. It declared, “At this rate, politics will kill us.” Shortly after that, the Asahi Shimbun, a progressive newspaper but also an official Tokyo Olympics sponsor, published an editorial asking Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide to “please call off the Olympics this summer.” Many medical professionals and groups like the Japan Medical Women’s Association have consistently objected to holding a global sports event that could strain Japan’s medical institutions. Reflecting how poorly the public views the upcoming Games, corporate sponsors are also distancing themselves. Toyota has announced that it will not run Olympics-related advertising.
My neighbor and others I’ve chatted with in Tokyo over the past few months often feel powerless in the face of this large event descending upon our city—an affair curated for a television audience since the only local spectators will be dignitaries. We share our fears that we will be at the center of a great experiment at a dangerous new phase of the pandemic. Because Covid has been framed as an “outside threat” to Japan, there is also the risk that a disastrous Olympics will deepen xenophobia in Japan. Throughout the pandemic, Japan has had some of the strictest border closures, which at times even excluded current visa holders, long-term residents of Japan, and non-Japanese spouses of Japanese citizens. Now we have thousands of visitors pouring in from abroad into what seems to be a porous “bubble,” under incredible media scrutiny. The whole situation seems manufactured to maximize misunderstandings.
“Protected Again And Again”: How A Fencer Made It To The Tokyo Olympics Despite Sexual Assault Allegations (Buzzfeed News, Brianna Sacks and Melissa Segura)
Though third party SafeSport is allegedly in place to investigate claims of harassment and assault, many survivors have found it an active hindrance. Article includes detailed survivor accounts.
In interviews, 30 fencers, coaches, and referees described a climate in which some athletes say they’ve been told to sit on a coach’s lap, have been groped in hotel elevators at tournaments, or threatened with violence if they didn’t engage in sexual acts. A woman University of North Carolina fencing coach filed a civil suit last year alleging that a male assistant coach at Penn State groped her in view of other athletes on a flight from a fencing tournament. A survey of women fencers conducted in 2018 found that of 218 respondents, 129 said they’d been sexually harassed by another member of the fencing community. Forty-one of those respondents said they’d been sexually assaulted by someone within the sport. Yet, the survey found, only three sexual assaults had been reported to SafeSport.
Much of the hesitancy to report to SafeSport is due to what dozens of athletes described as the center’s spotty reputation in the fencing community.
“The quality of the investigations do vary widely, depending on the investigator that you get,” said Lindsay Brandon, a sports attorney who has represented both those lodging and defending misconduct claims.
At least five fencers who have filed complaints to SafeSport told BuzzFeed News that the agency got basic facts of their case wrong, didn’t interview key witnesses before clearing an alleged abuser of wrongdoing, or took too long to investigate abuses.
THREAD: Collection of Black public figures in Japan and their works.
TWEET: Paralympic athlete Becca Meyers was forced to withdraw from competition due to insufficient disability accommodations.
THREAD: On critiquing fanservice in shows versus fanservice shows.
THREAD: Highlights from a recent US manga publishing roundtable (with link to the full video).
TWEET: Images of prominent voice actor Kimura Subaru (HypnoMic, Jujutsu Kaisen) in blackface (warning: photos in expanded quote-tweet)
It’s cool when an anime looks pretty, but it’s definitely not the only thing that makes a work stand the test of time.