Sense of an ending

From the sludge: Expert J.R. Pepper explains Japanese anime often features creatures born of toxic chemicals and sludge, in a talk on the art form at the Gowanus Observatory.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

The end of the world is coming — and it will be animated.

For years, anime art expert J.R. Pepper has been analyzing the Japanese obsession with the apocalypse — and are they ever obsessed. Much of anime, whether it be in film, television, or in books, takes place in some sort of post-apocalyptic world.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact that the Japanese have been through so many devastations, like nuclear warfare and climate change and earthquakes,” said Pepper, who will discuss her critiques of end of the world anime at a lecture called “Bright Eyes at the Apocalypse: Exploring the End of the World in Japanese Animation.”

“They embrace it as a way to deal with it.”

Pepper claims the Japanese started using the trope heavily soon after the U.S. bombed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From kids’ shows including “Sailor Moon” to more graphic and adult works such as “Genesis Survivor Gaiarth” and “Viper’s Creed,” there has always been a quest to survive in a suddenly harsh and unforgiving landscape.

“In one of the films, they say that the nuke that woke up Godzilla was American,” she said. “A lot of science fiction is like that. It tends to focus on what people fear most.”

Pepper has the cred to back up her analysis. Even before she went to art school, she was doing the comic convention circuit. In the past few years, the 30-year-old has appeared on anime panels at Comicon, SalonCon and the Toyko in Tulsa convention. She also regularly writes for PinkRaygun.com, a site focusing on women’s love for science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Even if the subject matter is grim, Pepper believes that anime is the right way for the Japanese to explore such fears and horrors.

“In Japan, they tend to treat animation as a serious medium,” said Pepper. “It isn’t just a tool for children and entertainment.”

“Bright Eyes at the Apocalypse: Exploring the End of the World in Japanese Animation” at the Observatory (543 Union St. at Nevins in Gowanus, observatoryroom.org). Jan. 21, 8 pm, $5.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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