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The link between anime and science fiction fandom is all but invisible or forgotten today, but the dystopian future/techno-themes of Blade Runner, Snow Crash, Neuromancer, even the Terminator films or the Shadowrun games, made for a efficient gateway into anime like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and eventually Serial Experiments Lain. This is all second-hand knowledge, of course, I wasn’t there for any it but the dream of the 1990s lives on for anyone who’s still nostalgic for the days when the future still held the promise of gritty cyberpunk cool. None of those future visions came to pass, but so it goes for every generation.
The soundtrack to all this was the electronic pop music of the time, driven by drugs and technology (but mostly drugs), which teetered on the edge of new wave and rave and techno and whatever this was. This is a continuum that purely exists in my head, of course. The idea that real computer hackers, whoever they were, were all sitting in the dark and listening to electronic music (and not something like Rush or whatever) is pure fantasy but I won’t let you take that away from me.
This video is certainly a part of that tradition and for that I love it. And on its own, I just dig the vibe of it, which is just really chilled out and oozing with the style and attitude of the days when anime was still an exotic subculture and the Internet still felt like an unexplored and forbidden playground, vast and infinite and unspoiled by the forces that shaped the rest of our culture. Of course, after Hackers, The Matrix, Facebook and Farmville and an anime industry that begrudgingly releases one “hard” science fiction title for every hundred adolescent rom-com series, it’s hard not to feel cheated out of such an alluring future that, cybernetic implants and all, seemed so much more within our reach than the flying cars of our parents’ adolescent dreams.
Very “old school” editing, which is surely to be expected for any video this old, but worth mentioning if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s a hard to describe style (but it most definitely exists!), and probably declined in popularity over the years as this kind of visually-detailed animation became more and more rare. I guess I didn’t want to have to say it, maybe because it’s going to sound as painfully obvious as it is, but this decline in the overall look of anime (at least in terms of emphasis on visual detail and the time spent actually showing said detail, a shift caused more by economic needs than creative ones, to insultingly simplify a complicated issue) took away the richest and most striking visuals that, so often, lent themselves to a slower, more traditionally-storyboarded style of editing than what we have now. I don’t believe that any anime series ever matched the visual beauty of the film. Practically speaking, expecting that from a television show isn’t realistic. Only a few other films have successfully created such a astounding-looking world, at least in the way that Ghost in the Shell was able to make me feel like everything I was seeing was uncanny and yet familiar, realistic, believable in a way that shouldn’t be, completely foreign but immediately understood. So much of the film consists of shots, big and small, where nothing concerning the plot is actually happening, but which still look gorgeous and completely captivating all on their own. Whether in film or television, modern anime isn’t quite as interested in these atmosphere-building, symbol-laden shots. I could speculate on why but you’ve heard it all before. I’m definitely not saying that old anime is better than new anime. Don’t twist my words like that!
Something about living in a world where looking like this was actually something to aspire to just made you feel like anything was possible.