The rise of the Naoko Yamada fanboys

Over the last year, perhaps even more so than the hype and acclaim surrounding Makoto Shinkai in the mainstream press, I’ve noticed an irrespesible degree of coverage around Kyoto Animation director Naoko Yamada. I’d call her a rising star – but truth be told, she already is a star. As any of the half dozen career restrosprctives she has from various bloggers and YouTubers will inform you; the remarkable rise and rise of her career (via shows like K-On and Tamako Market) and ambition is nothing short of astounding.

As part of a wider movement of staff/sakuga appreciation that has swept the anime community over the last year or two, the acclaim around Yamada and A Silent Voice has been a dominant trend within the tight bubble of the anime Twitterati and key bloggers – Even eclipsing traditional ‘staff’ / auteur favourites such as key figures as Studio Trigger.

The acclaim is thoroughly deserved – A Silent Voice is a masterwork, richly imprinted with a clear auterial style. But what fascinates me is the speed at which the ouvre of Yamada appreciation as a fan-created product has snowballed. A kind of mythologising that often usually happens well into a director’s career, is for Yamada happening in the very midst of it.

I’ve expressed thoughts in the past as to whether the current trend of sakuga analysis has lent itself to a kind of anime elitism that marks itself out above and beyond the populist crowd which is arguably the core consumers of anime (think Naruto or Sword Art Online). But equally, it’s hard to deny the evolving and essential nature of new fan discourse that gives further prevalanece to staff.

The question is one of an informed fandom – and on that front, were certainly in a better off place than we were before.


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