23rd Entertainment Division Critiques
How Entertainment Will Contend with Post2020 Dystopia
The neo-Tokyo of 2019 that OTOMO Katsuhiro once depicted in AKIRA was an end-of-days utopia that, after a violent storm of artificial energy abruptly burns everything to the ground, concludes with an upbeat premonition of Japan rebuilding itself from the chaotic rubble. In contrast, the real 2019 that we experienced, as echoed in Weathering With You by SHINKAI Makoto, is what we might call reactionary dystopia. It is one in which layers of natural disasters and a build-up of supposedly inconsequential human errors slowly corrode our daily lives, while nostalgia and an obsession with our successes in the past century disintegrate our social environment like a slow strangulation. In 2020, the world changed dramatically due to the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic, but an unsettling cultural tone has remained unchanged. Looking back at the situation in 2019 again, one blatant sign that I, as a concerned party, could not overlook was none other than the controversy over an exhibited work at that summer's Aichi Triennale. The premature dissemination of the internet media that was supposed to empower communication and the creative process has now turned into peer pressure to intimidate any representation of those who are considered undesirable. As if to kowtow to the current of viral public opinion by applying post-censorship, the Agency for Cultural Affairs disgracefully withdrew its grant to the Aichi Triennale in September based on some inexplicable rationale. Fearing that this was a bad move that could seriously damage the branding of the Japan Media Arts Festival, which was in the process of accepting submissions at the time, I sent a written request urging reconsideration to MIYATA Ryohei, Commissioner for Cultural Affairs, and HAGIUDA Koichi, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The above incident was course-corrected later in March, 2020 through negotiation with the Aichi Prefecture, the applicant party, resulting in their decision to issue a grant of a reduced amount. I would like to reiterate my grievance, however, since this has bred mistrust in Japan's cultural administration. I do this because in my third and final year serving as a jury member at the Japan Media Arts Festival, I had no choice but to consider, as priority over anything else, how best torectify the serious damage caused by the mess that the Agency for Cultural Affairs created to only minimally help recover our cultural landscape. As such, since among the award candidates this year there were no clear attention-grabbing works like SHIN GODZILLA and Pokémon GO from the 20th Japan Media Arts Festival, or Chico Will Scold You! and TikTok from the 22nd, I pushed hard for New Logos Order. This work's world view exposes a speech dystopia, based on mutual censorship brought about by social media, that is directly satirized through short fictional stories recited in between musical numbers. The audience is simulated and becomes a fictional "resistance movement against censorship" through the use of a smartphone app. Giving the top honor to this worldview, I felt, would be the least we could do to send out a message of self-correction in response to the Aichi Triennale incident. Due to my inadequacies, however, I was unable to get others to agree with my assertions. Shadows as Athletes, the only work among the main candidates that aligned with the momentum of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with its beautiful videography that discovers a low-context, minimalistic viewpoint, collected many of the jury members' votes and won the Grand Prize. After the rebuff of my efforts to prevent Chico Will Scold You! from winning last year, this is the second consecutive year to be defeated as a lone proponent, and it was quite disappointing. If I were to allow my disappointment to push me to further elaborate, this year's prize may have signified that in this year 2020, the descendants of George Orwell and Leni Riefenstahl were really the two competing finalists, and we allowed ourselves to choose the latter only at the very end (And just how ironic is it that the 2020 Olympics ended up becoming an actual "shadow"?). On the other hand, the first-ever Social Impact Award went to Free Transport nommoc, which shoots a hole through the transportation experience madness by way of hacking the relationship between cities and advertisements. This is truly important as we look ahead to the future of entertainment. In the 21st Japan Media Arts Festival Jury Critiques, I discussed the effect of entertainment "blending into everyday life." This is because in the nommoc service, like in many works in the Jury's Selections, we can catch glimpses of a future path of entertainment in which its role to "reshape reality itself" will continue to strengthen. Will this all serve as a war against being obliterated, or invite further expansion of dystopia? As we reanalyze the true nature of humans as players, now when the unbelievable neo-Tokyo Olympics cancellation prediction became a reality, it was with the most unexpected delight that we were able to select YAMASHIRO Shoji, a man who has led Geinoh Yamashirogumi to continue his "active criticism of civilization" for almost half a century, for the Special Achievement Award.