Why Eurovision is the most ‘anime’ thing on British telly

It’s that time of year again. May is nearly on us, and with it, the Eurovision song contest. Which calls to my mind something I’ve been musing on for a while, but that I’ve also heard expressed by the good folk at the UK Anime Network.

Namely, that Eurovision is – for one night only – the closest UK telly gets to ‘anime’.

Let me explain – obviously, Eurovision is distinctly ‘not’ anime. It isn’t animated. It isn’t Japanese. But what it does represent is a rare opportunity for two niches rarely catered two on British TV these days to get a brief, triumphant night of singular glory and spectacle. Those two niches are firstly, a product of non-Anglophone focus. And secondly, a pop-music show on prime-time TV (sadly a rarity these days).

Watching Eurovision always reminds me of one of my all time favourite scenes in anime – from Macross Plus – where digital idol Sharon Apple projects here holographic form over the city and we say a tour-de-force of lasers play out over the stadium of ecstatic music fans. Yoko Kanno’s euphoric music plays, and we are presented a kind of techno-utopia in which pop music commands a thrilling power to bring a mass of diverse humanity under its spell. That is the power of music. That, is Eurovision.

This aesthetic of surging, hi-energy pop tunes and a laser’n’light-studded night is one that I want to focus on – because for me, it’s always spoke of this kind of techno-utopia-futurism Eurovision seems to promise. From the little snapshot VTs that precede every song – to the lengthy, endlessly fascinating of seeing all of Europe ‘call in’ to the show, there’s a kind of majesty and spectacle to Eurovision that seems inherently tied in to the kind of ‘wired’ cyberism we saw in anime in the late 80s and early 90s.

From the extravagant costumes to the music itself – which, crucially brings us anglophone melodies and rhythms, watching Eurovision is like watching the worlds of cosplay and karaoke collide in a glorious festival of carnevalesque play. If we tout anime’s ‘otherness’ to traditional media as core to its appeal, then Eurovision plays to the same sensibilities – it offers a taste, for one night, of something so far beyond the rooted traditionalism of British aesthetic taste.

Some decry Eurovision as weird, tasteless or backward in its cheesy tunes or gaudiness. But in reality – these merely represent unfamiliarity of its disparate cultural origin points. And in its amorphous bringing together of all of Europe – it portrays a kind of futurist ‘Europe as superpower’ vision in which Europe is united via the medium of song.

Both message and visual allure – maybe I’m making a stretch here, but for me, these two aspects of Eurovision have always struck that same deep chord in me that watching anime does.

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