Review: Netflix’s Enter The Anime Documentary Is A Feature Length Advertisement For Netflix
The Enter The Anime documentary is an original movie from Netflix meant to explore the origins of the genre. The actual documentary itself, however, tells an entirely different story.
Enter The Anime is a great documentary that acts as an entry point into the anime genre for new audiences. Although, it’s hard to watch the documentary and not walk away with a clear sense of Netflix’s ulterior motives for creating it.
Netflix’s Enter the Anime Documentary is a Great Guide
What Netflix’s Enter The Anime documentary gets right, is that it’s a very easily digestible introduction of Anime. And it’s much easier to follow along when the director of the documentary inserts herself into the movie. The documentary follows the journey of director Alex Buronova, who begins by admitting she knows nothing about the genre.
This is simultaneously the best and worst thing about Enter The Anime.
Buronova’s initial admission succeeds in putting a new audience at ease. For any newcomer of the genre, it’s almost reassuring that the maker of a documentary that will supposedly explain to them the subject matter, is as much a novice as themselves. The documentary addresses and removes any intimidation or thought of not being able to ‘get it’, from the get-go. And thus begins her first-person narrative of the documentary.
Image via Netflix.
But then you almost immediately begin to have other questions. Like, what level of accuracy on the comprehensive subject could you possibly get from the creator who admits she knows nothing about her subject?
What Shines in the Enter the Anime Documentary
The documentary starts with Buronova’s admission and then desire to find out everything about Anime. Soon thereafter, she realizes she needs to travel to Japan, the birthplace of Anime, to do so. So you expect the first-person narrative of her journey. But that’s not what we get.
The documentary then follows a series of interviews with high profile Anime creators, new and experienced veterans, describing their craft, inspirations, and process. It really is an insightful look into these creators’ minds.
In that regard, it’s a fascinating look at Anime creators. Where their inspiration comes from, how they subvert already existing tropes. How their culture feeds into their storytelling styles. It’s incredibly interesting for any audience to get inside look at the minds of the makers of some of the world’s most interesting and quirky content.
And it’s all fine and good. Until Buronova intervenes.
Where Enter the Anime Begins to Show Its Cracks
Most of these interviews don’t seem to be happening with Buronova. Almost all are in Japanese, with English subtitles. We never see or hear anyone offscreen prompting the questions. Some interviews are happening with other Japanese interviewers. So that first-person narrative is completely misleading.
If this is supposedly Buronova’s journey into Anime, as a proxy of the audiences, should she not be on the receiving end of these interviews? It seems like an unnecessary plot device that Enter The Anime could have done without.
The documentary could have easily stood on its own as a wonderful look into the world of Anime creators.
Halfway Into the Documentary a Pattern Begins to Emerge
Enter The Anime is an original Netflix documentary. Buronova even mentions in the beginning how she’s creating this movie for Netflix. And all the creators in the movie, have created Netflix original Anime movies or shows, currently streaming on the platform.
So it’s a Netflix Original documentary about Anime, only featuring anime content that is exclusively on Netflix. It’s less an exploration of the genre that is a worldwide phenomenon, and more an advertisement for anime that is on Netflix.
This revelation creates some serious ethical questions about the documentary’s merits. The creators’ comments can be standalone, but the narrative contextualizing that information as a look into the origins of Anime is misleading. Most of the content featured debuted over the last 5 years. The history of Anime goes back much further than that.
This Documentary is Basically a Feature Length Trailer for Netflix Content
Don’t get me wrong. Enter The Anime is a documentary worth watching. The actual creator interviews are amazing. To be able to get into the minds behind some of the coolest, weirdest, and highly revered Anime is incredible. Not to mention how much these guys are personalities themselves.
For many, Anime has very much been this far-off thing that we’re fans of, or know about. But to see the inner workings of how it all comes together is pretty unique. Enter The Anime succeeds in that regard. Providing access and a behind the scenes look at the thought process of how these creators create.
The problem again lies with the narrative of the documentary. If Netflix just released small clips of these creators talking as additional videos available within each of these shows, it would’ve been great.
Enter the Anime Falls Short as a Documentary
The filmmaker inserts this unnecessary narrative with herself, and it completely takes away from the content.
Image via Netflix.
Firstly, none of her own ‘story’ connects to the creators’ comments or the Anime industry as a whole. Buronova comments on a trend, while we cut to an interview of a creator, discussing their specific content. The connection? Maybe that show is one of the many as part of the trend that Buronova mentions. But that’s it.
The creator himself doesn’t discuss the trend. They don’t talk about the show or genre from a perspective that is accessible to newcomers. They just launch into the conversation as if the people listening to him know who he is and what he’s done.
For example, the creators of shows like Ultraman, classic franchises that are reboots for Netflix, talk about their love of the original. But no voice-over narration, or even the filmmaker herself, bother to explain that the Netflix version is the remake a beloved original show. Whereas, if you did want to know which Netflix animes are remakes from other franchises, we’ve compiled a list for you on those Neflix anime adaptations here.
The Approach to This Netflix Documentary Almost Discredits Its Message
If Netflix had made Enter The Anime with respect to the genre and industry, then I wouldn’t mind a feature-length ad for their shows. Tell me why Anime is awesome, and what you’re doing to add to it, and I would be totally invested.
Where it feels intentionally misleading is that the documentary, and largely the filmmaker herself, pretends to be deep-diving into the history of the genre, only to just show clips of, and feature interviews with creators discussing their own shows for Netflix.
It’s frustrating, given that a documentary about Anime from the perspective of a novice, seemed like an amazing idea. It’s kind of the whole reason I wrote an Anime Guide for ComicYears as well. But Enter The Anime’s ulterior motives become very clear when the entire documentary doesn’t even feature a mention of Studio Ghibli.
Ghibli is a production house that has very much exposed and legitimized the Anime genre worldwide throughout their award-winning films. Their Oscar-winning films. But Netflix has no Studio Ghibli movies in their catalog. Which means that they don’t even warrant a mention in this documentary.
Enter The Anime documentary is now streaming on Netflix.
What did you think about the treatment of this documentary? Let us know win the comments below.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.