It’s been a bumper summer for manga and anime in London, with a series of high-profile events culminating in the British Museum’s titanic Manga exhibition. And now for the perfect coda: Anime’s Human Machines, a season of classic Japanese animated features, which runs at the Barbican, September 12–30.

The program is part of the Barbican’s Life Rewired season, a year-long investigation of what it means to be human in an increasingly technological world, and the films reflect that theme. As the program notes put it:

Japanese animation has embraced robotics, cybernetics and artificial intelligence as major themes. It uses these themes to explore complex moral and social questions: humanity’s responsibility for its actions, response to the other, greed, short-termism and a failure to care for the ecosystem that sustains us. What emerges from these films is how our own view of technology has changed since the earliest in the season was released in 1989, and how humanity still refuses responsibility for the impact of its actions.

There are eight features in all: seven animated titles, from master directors like Mamoru Oshii, Mamoru Hosoda, and Satoshi Kon, and the live-action Tetsuo, The Iron Man, a cyberpunk masterpiece which widely influenced the anime that followed. The films are:

  • Tetsuo, The Iron Man
  • Macross Plus: Movie Edition
  • Patlabor the Movie
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • Roujin Z
  • Summer Wars
  • Metropolis
  • Paprika

In addition to the screenings, there will be a talk and Q&A by Shoji Kawamori, the veteran anime designer-turned-filmmaker whose storied career spans four decades. A Forbes profile once described him as “the creator Hollywood copies but never credits.” The Barbican will also host concurrent illustration workshops led by artist Chie Kutsuwada aimed at those looking to learn the basics of manga character design.

Anime’s Human Machines is curated by writer Helen McCarthy, who was instrumental in introducing artists like Hayao Miyazaki and Osamu Tezuka to Europe and North America. McCarthy will introduce every film (except Ghost in the Shell, which will be introduced by Shoji Kawamori, the film’s mechanical designer). Tetsuo, The Iron Man will be followed by a panel discussion with Japan experts Jasper Sharp, Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, and Rayna Denison.

For more information, head to the Barbican’s website.

(Image at top: “Paprika.”)

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Deputy Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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