In “What is Superflat?”, Damage -> MP
‘s Eric Shorey and Sam Kusek delivered a deeper look at postmodernism in anime. The two began with a brief discussion on postmodernism, as told by philosopher and theorist Jean Baudrillard. According to Baudrillard, due to the advent of late capitalist culture, we no longer have access to reality, which is a reference to Plato’s three versions of existence. According to Plato, the three versions are the real, apparent, and copy. The real would be the perfect concept or idea of something (like a god), the apparent or a tangible object, and a copy, like a piece of artwork.
The concept of Superflat exists in the idea that, in a character like Hello Kitty, a character is a copy of a copy that doesn’t reference anything. Therefore, she is nothing other than an abstract idea, but rather a one-dimensional or superflat existence. Japanese artist Takashi Murakami originally coined the term, in reference to a specific set of artist and themes that include hyper-sexualization, infantilization, and general abandonment of linear perspective. There is no depth of field, nor clear distinction between fantasy and reality.
The duo bubbled through the topic, offering an intriguing, yet entertaining introduction to the topic. The duo displayed an impressive knowledge of the subject, as they took a very abstract concept, and tied it to anime fandom, from Kon’s Paranoia Agent, to FLCL, to the Persona series of video games. The comparisons were made clearly, and served up complex theories with plenty of visual aids, as well as a playful sense of humor that made the experience as enjoyable as it was informative. As the panel progressed, they began introducing more advanced topics into the lecture, with glimpses at intertextuality, with the same blend of humor and simple, down-to-earth explanations.
From a joke-laden deconstruction of Street Fighter, to a look at the American Power Rangers, the two built brilliantly on the concept of superflat. At points, the narrative broke from the confines of anime and Japan, as Eric began to discuss Kanye West’s megalomania, Lady Gaga’s eccentricity, and Murakami’s litigious nature, and how they played into the idea of Superflat. Nothing was sacred, and every topic became fair game.
The panel was incredibly entertaining, and surprisingly insightful. The presentation offered a much deeper, more thoughtful tone to the convention atmosphere. Personally, I hope that the two bring the panel back in the next Anime Boston, if only to flesh the concept out further and expose more fans to the idea of postmodern thinking.