The anime community often laments the Oscar’s lack of recognition of anything that doesn’t have the name Ghibli attached to it. However, it’s more jarring this year with Your Name’s snub despite topping the Japanese box office for half a year straight and becoming the country’s fourth highest grossing film of all time.
To be sure it’s an unfortunate snub but not a wholly surprising one. The Academy is a very insular institution. Many voters have probably never heard the name Makoto Shinkai uttered. And frankly the awards, like all award shows, are only representative of the consensus of a group of insiders. And it’s very money-driven. I’d give the equation for the average film towards Oscar consideration to be marketing budget over perceived artfulness equals nomination.
Yet it’s still a disappointment that a film as resounding of a success and as critically lauded as Your Name failed to garner attention this year. For as insignificant as the Oscars might be to me I acknowledge that the mainstream puts a lot of importance on them. They turn people onto movies they might not otherwise watch. I think that can be a good thing but it comes with a big downside: sometimes people will deem movies outside of its nomination pool to be less worthy of their time, or they may never even hear about them.
It’s frustrating to be sure. While I don’t need the Oscars to validate my hobby it would be nice if they could use their platform to showcase auteur directors coming out of other countries. There’s no reason that The Red Turtle should grab the nomination over one of the biggest sensations in recent memory to come out of the world of animation. It really does come down to that Ghibli brand recognition. Funimation just doesn’t have the budget to push through the muck.
I’d be remiss in ignoring the element of stigmatism at play here. Anime in Western culture is vastly misunderstood. It begins and ends with Hayao Miyazaki for most people aware of its existence in the first place. I don’t think any of us are looking for anime to become a huge mainstream phenomenon, I mean it’s arguably not even that in Japan. A greater understanding would be a step in the right direction though and a platform such as the Oscars would be a great starting point.
I think it’s a worthy cause to push the narrative that we want to see our favorite medium garner Oscar buzz but I doubt the anime community is impactful enough to get through to the insular Academy. We are best off remembering that we’ve never needed the uninformed masses to validate our passion for these weird cartoons that come from Japan and thus we don’t need it from some cranky film-industry bozos either. So fight the good fight but don’t be discouraged if nothing comes from it.
Here’s what you can do to get people talking about Your Name and other anime films: push their US screenings! Your Name is being shown in April and we should make sure those seats are filled so that distributors are encouraged to bring more films overseas with larger-scale releases. This is what matters, this is what keeps the Western anime industry healthy. Let’s resolve to grass-roots movements where it truly matters. Word-of-mouth is the best marketing there is because it’s genuine and personal.