Sunday, December 16, 2007

anime journalism circa 1987

This article originally appeared in the July 26, 1987 issue of IMAGE, some sort of Bay Area based publication. I somehow obtained a photocopy of this article and subsequently reprinted it in the C/FO Atlanta Newsletter, which appeared in the winter of 1987. It’s an interesting look at American media beginning to discover Japanese animation, as well as a glimpse of what fandom was like at the time.

From IMAGE, July 26 1987

Japanimation: Creating A World Without Smurfs

The room is filled with punk teenagers sitting silently. All their attention is focused on the large TV screen, where elegantly drawn cartoon characters move with a fluid energy that rivals reality. After countless battles, Space Pirate Captain Harlock has returned to earth, only to watch the woman he loves die in his arms. Sniffling sounds are audible. Even the kid with the Mohawk has tears on his cheek.

“It affected people,” recalls Owen Hannifen. With his wife, Eclare, he runs the Japanese Animation Archives in San Francisco, where the screening was held. “I teared up at that scene the first time I saw it, too- and I hadn’t cried at any animation since Bambi’s mama bit the big one.”

The artistic quality and complex, no-holds-barred plots of what is called “Japanimation” has brought it rising popularity in America. A few recognizably Japanese cartoons such as Robotech, dubbed into English, are broadcast regularly in San Francisco, but many people watch Japanimation without knowing it; more than half of the cartoons with American characters and plots are drawn by Japanese animators. And San Franscisco is now the home of what Owen believes is the nation’s only archive of Japanese animation.

The Hannifens, whose love affair with comic books dates back twenty years, realized in 1985 that they were sitting on a gold mine; a private collection of 5,000 Japanese comics and animation books and 1,000 hours of taped animation. So they decided to open their library to the public. In addition to the tapes and comics, the archives contain more than 200 records and compact discs, both animation background music and songs composed especially to read Japanese comic books by.

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To visit JAA, located in their home, is to enter another world. Every available space, from the walls to the knickknack shelves to the TV screen, is brightened by Japanese cartoon characters. When Owen sits down to give a rambling discourse on Japanimation, a different story line seems to slip in every time he tries to make a point. He illustrates one tale by revealing a Captain Harlock tattoo on his arm. He will gladly show visitors whatever Japanimation tickles their fancy, from comedy to soft-core porn.

The Hannifens started videotaping in 1976 when a local TV station broadcast Yuusha Raideen, one of the seminal giant-robot shows. “We said, ‘My my, my, this is certainly different from Huckleberry Hound,’” Owen says. “Unlike American animation, which has silly animals doing silly things with dead comedians’ voices, Raideen used a multiplane camera and good music. We taped every episode religiously.”

While anyone can visit the archives, the Hannifens are trying to make it self-supporting by charging a $25 membership fee ($15 for students and senior citizens). There are about 150 JAA members, who get access to the archives, discounts on comic books and related merchandise and some free copying services.

Owen sums up the reason Americans prefer Japanese animation in a word: “Quality. In Japan animators are considered artists. They have their own fan clubs. Even the voice actors have fan clubs.”

Appointments to visit the Japanese Animation Archives can be made by contacting the Hannifens at PO Box 4151, San Francisco CA 94101; (phone number deleted)

Owen Hannifen passed away in 2000 after a long and colorful career in California fandom.

20 comments:

Mappy said...

I suppose mocking the statement "elegantly drawn cartoon characters move with a fluid energy that rivals reality" would be redundant to the 120th X-Tream, right? Japanese cartoons: Rivaling YOUR reality 3 frames a second.

Also, what's wrong with silly cartoon animals violating the corpse of Buddy Hackett?

Eeeper said...

Man, it's brilliant reading about the proto-fan culture in its infancy.

Did you attend any meetings of the JAA?

d. merrill said...

Did you attend any meetings of the JAA?

No, I was on the other side of the continent at that time. However, I know somebody who did.

Tohoscope said...

That was something I always hated about anime fandom. The whole, "Japanese cartoons are SO much better then American cartoons," thing got really old really quick.

And sadly it still seems to be around.

d. merrill said...

That was something I always hated about anime fandom. The whole, "Japanese cartoons are SO much better then American cartoons," thing got really old really quick.

Well, to be honest, if I hadn't thought Japanese cartoons were better than American cartoons, I wouldn't have started an anime club. I still think pound for pound I'd rather watch Raideen than, say, "Yogi's First Christmas".

Admittedly in 1987 American cartoons pretty much bit the wax tadpole, and have made great strides since then in not sucking, but most of their gains have happened because they started learning from the Japanese side of things, or that they finally gave Matt Groening free rein and lots of cash.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Tohoscope said...
That was something I always hated about anime fandom. The whole, "Japanese cartoons are SO much better then American cartoons," thing got really old really quick.


It was a fluff piece, of course a fluff piece that is still being played constantly over time. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or not to the line "Creating a World without Smurfs" personally. :-P

If anything, this makes me wonder about the Detroit News article from 1983 I've read about that is said to be the first media-related piece on anime. I just don't feel like wanting to get to a Detroit library's microfiche to find out.

d. merrill said...
Well, to be honest, if I hadn't thought Japanese cartoons were better than American cartoons, I wouldn't have started an anime club. I still think pound for pound I'd rather watch Raideen than, say, "Yogi's First Christmas".


Ewww, I never realized how LONG that special/movie was! I used to see that one as a 5 year old, but watching it on Cartoon Network years later, I went, huh? Despite that, I included it with my bit torrent file of Xmas specials I had up on a few places!

Admittedly in 1987 American cartoons pretty much bit the wax tadpole, and have made great strides since then in not sucking,

The 1980's was a dead period indeed. I think 1987 was the year "Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures" showed up on CBS and it was the first time I was waken up over what animation could be (and it wasn't about begging your mom to buy you that cruddy action figure's accessory or playset)!

but most of their gains have happened because they started learning from the Japanese side of things, or that they finally gave Matt Groening free rein and lots of cash.

Probably (why are we getting Futurama OVA's all of a sudden)!

Tohoscope said...

I was enjoying Speed Racer just as much as Johnny Quest back when I starting hanging out at anime clubs. I remember enjoying Fantastic Planet more then Angel's Egg back then...

d. merrill said...

You know, for years I would read books about animation and Fantastic Planet was always held up as some kind of amazing science fiction animation masterpiece. Now, of course, I realize that the editors of those books only knew of one animated science fiction film, and that was Fantastic Planet. When I finally got to see it, I was underwhelmed, to say the least. Angel's Egg is at least really pretty.

Chris Sobieniak said...

d. merrill said...
You know, for years I would read books about animation and Fantastic Planet was always held up as some kind of amazing science fiction animation masterpiece. Now, of course, I realize that the editors of those books only knew of one animated science fiction film, and that was Fantastic Planet.


So damn true! Being reminded of noticing an old newspaper ad for the movie having been shown at a theater near me that mostly played X-rated flicks then (today they use a video projector and just sells/rents porno tapes like any other adult shop).

When I finally got to see it, I was underwhelmed, to say the least. Angel's Egg is at least really pretty.

True, you can also forget about "Time Masters" and "Gandahar" too (of course the last film got the Miramax treatment of having Isaac Asimov try to make sense of it, thank you Harvey Weinstein for even caring to bring this over). Of course I had only ever bothered to see "Time Masters", but anything else was better than that!

Chris Sobieniak said...

Speaking of "Fantastic Planet", a friend of mine I had known for a couple years, Phil Hall over at FilmThreat.com, had posted this review of a recent DVD release for the film (giving it 5 stars)....
http://www.filmthreat.com/index.php?section=reviews&Id=10460

Anonymous said...

A, shall we say, slightly different take on the JAA appears in JAPAN EDGE ^_^

--Carl

Superdeformed said...

I remember hearing about JAA back in the day in Animerica I believe.

This really takes me back (although I didn't get bitten by the Otaku Bug until mid-1994).

Good Stuff.

Annette said...

Wow, I didn't realize anime fandom had been around so long. In 1987 I was four years old and watching stuff like Rainbow Brite and the Teddy Ruxpin cartoon. I didn't become a bonafide anime fan until about ten years later when I saw Sailor Moon on Toonami for the first time.

Anyway, I was linked to your blog from Retro Junk, and I'm glad I was. Keep it up!

Chris Sobieniak said...

Annette said...
Wow, I didn't realize anime fandom had been around so long. In 1987 I was four years old and watching stuff like Rainbow Brite and the Teddy Ruxpin cartoon.


EWWWWWW! (sorry, gut reaction, of course, I know a guy my age who admitted he was a big Rainbow Brite fan himself, weirded me out a bit)

I didn't become a bonafide anime fan until about ten years later when I saw Sailor Moon on Toonami for the first time.

Where most in the 90's had their first glimpse of anime via outlets like Toonami.

Anyway, I was linked to your blog from Retro Junk, and I'm glad I was. Keep it up!

That would probably be my fault! I figured people there need to be reminded what came before their time! Another good venue to check out is the Anime World Order podcast, that should give you enough anime homework to last a while!

cyber said...

I knew Own from1980 on and his work at keeping the collection was grrwat but just before he died he wanted me to take it over(all the books not the videos) but all is storage and his wife is not able to get to all of it as right now and she isn't as well as she could be due to being highly allergic to trees and dust and has to were am mask to go out side now these days I am trying to help he out in find ways to save some of the older anime collectibles as some are out of print even in Japan.
She is still in woodland and was doing painting and art for living but with cost of gas and car repairs she isn't getting out as much and she is getting over loaded with too many people trying to get her to dump all of the collection in the trash. it would be a great lost if we lose this collection as it is we may have lost many of the tapes to age and being stored wrong(too many people going their place to clean up and just dumping stuff on top boxes and all in their storage) Eclaire Hannifen is a great lady and fact be know she was the power behind the two as Owen could speak but Eclaire was the one doing all the hard back ground work and getting the paper work out as it was to members.

the JAA closed door in SF due to the Hannifens loseing their money to a scam artist that was to do work on the house to give them more room for the Archives but he took the money and ran. They tied to keep all running with all the moving but after getting to woodland they just could not keep going. there was some person tings that went on but the hardest was Owen's heath and heart attract that hit every one hard He never let on what was going on and and just simple change in his life would have save him. I love them both miss him dearly. I met them at DunDraCon in 1980 and was very happy to have done so. i would look for them every year and they would even take me to Japan center in SF and show me the shops and book stores and where the best place to eat and get videos and all. I learn to understand Japanese anime and what it mean to many around the world. I started my own clubs and even worked with Animeigo at convention staffing the booth and also working with planing of some of bay area anime cons. I even come full circle and now help in the anime room at DunDracon these days. The Hannifens did some great things for fandom and need to be remember as the one that got many into anime. The would travel from the bay area to LA and up the west coast to SF cons and gaming cons and any con that would host them.
I hate to see the collection fad away .. so many thing like cells and videos and toys plus the mangas and roman albums and the records the audio tapes and CDs.
Laser disc and much more.

cyber said...

I knew Own from1980 on and his work at keeping the collection was great but just before he died he wanted me to take it over(all the books not the videos) but all is storage and his wife is not able to get to all of it as right now as she isn't as well as she could be due to being highly allergic to trees and dust and has to were a mask to go out side now these days I am trying to help he out in find ways to save some of the older anime collectibles as some are out of print even in Japan.
She is still in woodland and was doing painting and art for living but with cost of gas and car repairs she isn't getting out as much and she is getting over loaded with too many people trying to get her to dump all of the collection in the trash. it would be a great lost if we lose this collection as it is we may have lost many of the tapes to age and being stored wrong(too many people going their place to clean up and just dumping stuff on top boxes and all in their storage) Eclaire Hannifen is a great lady and fact be know she was the power behind the two as Owen could speak but Eclaire was the one doing all the hard back ground work and getting the paper work out as it was to members.

the JAA closed door in SF due to the Hannifens losing their money to a scam artist that was to do work on the house to give them more room for the Archives but he took the money and ran. They tied to keep all running with all the moving but after getting to woodland they just could not keep going. there was some person tings that went on but the hardest was Owen's heath and heart attract that hit every one hard He never let on what was going on and and just simple change in his life would have save him. I love them both miss him dearly. I met them at DunDraCon in 1980 and was very happy to have done so. i would look for them every year and they would even take me to Japan center in SF and show me the shops and book stores and where the best place to eat and get videos and all. I learn to understand Japanese anime and what it mean to many around the world. I started my own clubs and even worked with Animeigo at convention staffing the booth and also working with planing of some of bay area anime cons. I even come full circle and now help in the anime room at DunDracon these days. The Hannifens did some great things for fandom and need to be remember as the one that got many into anime. The would travel from the bay area to LA and up the west coast to SF cons and gaming cons and any con that would host them.
I hate to see the collection fad away .. so many thing like cells and videos and toys plus the mangas and roman albums and the records the audio tapes and CDs.
Laser disc and much more.

d. merrill said...

Is there anything we can do to help the situation with Eclare Hannifen? I am sure there are anime fan organizations in the area that can help find a good place for the Archives collection. Email me here or otherwise let us know how we can help.

Anonymous said...

Hi my name is Ashley Hannifen, I am the birth daughter of Owen and Eclare Hannifen...I was adopted at a young age and have little blips and memories of the archives and library but I would like to know more from you out there who got to know them in their "hayday". Thank you

Anonymous said...

I mean who got to know Eclare and Owen in their hayday haha.

Ian said...

TO the writer of the last comment - Ashley Hannifen :Eclare Hannifen, your mother, is my long lost cousin (-I have just found her after many months of searching the internet) -
Eclare's father Frank and my father were brothers.
If you see this post get in touch with me at imh888@yahoo.co.uk