There’s a storm blowing today. It’s rattling the windows. The sky is grey and there’s a thin, wind-blown rain gusting over everything. Meanwhile I’m reading about Anime.
I’ve been watching Anime recently and becoming fascinated by them. An expert named Philip Brophy drew my attention to the link between Anime and animism – something I feel the need to think a lot more about.
Far from being a variant of Disney or a poor relation of cinema, Anime might be traceable back through an entirely different, non-European representational tradition, one that involves calligraphy, ideograms, a non-hierarchical relation between surface and depth, and an experience defined by enigmatic energies rather than by a mentally rationalised sensual experience (just look at Hokusai’s most famous image of a breaking wave as one possible starting point on a potentially long journey into this idea) .
When you start watching Anime you soon encounter a slippage of worlds. A character might pass from a garden into a secret garden wherein lives the past or some fantastic creatures. Thus any distinction between the everyday world and the world of dreams and imagination is merely temporary and porous.
This ‘becoming’, this tendency to transformation, is not only intrinsic to the studio-desk-based drawn imagery of Anime, it is, as mentioned above, also illustrative of a world made up of energies.
According to the calligraphic and ideogrammatic tradition of certain Asian cultures (of which Japan is one) the energy (chi) that goes into the making of a mark (or any perfected physical gesture) is as important an aspect of its value as any other consideration.
And so, today, as the weather buffets the windows and the meteorological ‘low pressure’ creates the sense of a low, grey, moist sky, I don’t have to see myself as so distinct from all of that. I too am a little weather system, subject to periods of high and low pressure. And I am also part of the weather system that I might like to think of as ‘other’ and as ‘outside’.
It’s not just a polite English habit to connect moods to weather. Of course we are subject to and influenced by these swirling, broiling, and beaming energetic forces and are as likely to be cheered by the warmth of the sun on our cheek as we are to be dispirited by grim weather.
The anti-philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari were influenced by the Romantic anti-philosopher Nietzsche in seeking to understand human experience at a pre-linguistic and sub-cognitive sensual level, an experience of energies or energetics. Deleuze and Guattari coined the term ‘Body Without Organs’ to describe the way in which human experience can be de- (rather than dis-) organised.
Science likes and needs to ‘organise’, e.g. our bodies and our environments into distinct zones (and ‘organs’) and to attempt to comprehend them using vocabulary etc. But Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘Body Without Organs’ asks us to also consider something (though of course not a ‘thing’ at all) like a sky full of billowing clouds, or a desert of drifting dunes, as models of de-organization (they also use the term ‘deterritorialisation’).
We can still think of these as ‘bodies’ and yet see in them states of constant becoming and transformation, a kind of affirmed chaos that we can embrace to understand experience as a constant exchange and transformation of energies going on ‘beneath the R.A.D.A.R’ of the semiotic or linguistic realm.
Next time you watch Anime it may help to think of what you’re experiencing seeing in these ways. Good luck! Enjoy!, and I hope you survive the storm.