Enter The Anime can enter the garbage can
Enter The Anime follows the attempt by director Alex Burunova to “educate” herself about Japanese animation, a.k.a. Anime. What follows is a half hearted attempt, faux-edgy, poor excuse for a documentary.
The Netflix doc does minimal work to educate viewers on anime, but does plenty to advertise Netflix produced animes. Enter The Anime is filled with broad strokes like the definition of manga, and otaku, and does little to showcase some of the most prolific anime and anime creators of the medium’s history.
While it would be understandable that Netflix would not want to advertise for competitors, a good documentary leaves out bias in favor of truth. While Castlevania is a popular current anime, it does not warrant a seven minute interview with the creator at the onset of the movie.
“Dark and twisted” and “listen to nobody, play by your own rules” are just a few of the cliches Burunova uses to describe anime. These go to, hacky lines could be used to describe anything with a hint of a dark edge. This pigeonholes what anime is, and doesn’t even do a good job of describing all Netflix produced anime.
Taking a step further back to look at the production through a wide lense, Burunova does little to create a legitimate feel for the documentary. She places herself as an auxiliary subject of the film. The film isn’t so much about just anime, it’s about Burunova discovering what anime is. But she doesn’t. It feels like Burunova is too focused on people knowing she is the one being educated, she is the one telling you the facts, and she is the one making the movie.
The film doesn’t even have the heart of someone that did a deep Wikipedia dive on anime, instead it has the depth of someone who found a leaflet on the subject accompanied with a boxset of Netflix produced anime.
There is a large focus on the “crazy” and “wacky” nature of Japanese pop culture, namely cosplay, karaoke, fanboys, and “kawaii” culture. Looking at these things from arms length feels like you’re viewing Japense culture through a narrow scope. The fish out of water trope is in full effect as Enter the Anime tries to fit decades and decades of history of anime, as well as Japanese culture as a whole into less than an hour. Instead of interviewing everyday people, we’re getting an uninformed person doing their best to bullshit through a half finished book report.
What is being discussed changes quickly, without much depth or direction. One minute we’re discussing Toei Animation, an animation studio responsible for several successful shows like Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Sailor Moon, Digimon, and Yu-Gi-Oh. The next minute, we’re speaking to a singer. Then the next, we’re explaining what kawaii is. Even the slightest bit of focus or through line could help the rudderless ship that is Enter The Anime find a direction.
One positive is that, at times, the production elements are very fun. The title sequences are unique and look amazing. However, they spill over into interviews and quickly become another negative. In a documentary that has no direction, anything that steals focus is just pouring gasoline into a fire.
IMDB agrees that Enter The Anime falls short, giving the film 2.9/10 after only a week out.
It’s such a shame that such a rich subject was given such a poor, half-hearted attempt. Seeing what Netflix was able to do with the “Seventies,” “Eighties,” “Ninenties,” and “2000’s” documentary specials, it’s a shame that the same care couldn’t be given to anime and Japanese pop culture.