"Animating the Shell: Rethinking National Demarcations in Joint Production Through the Ontology of 3D Animation in Geisters"

Presented By: Chan Yong Bu (Princeton University)

This paper aims to rethink the articulation of ‘Korea-Japan joint production’ in promoting the animation Geisters (2001) by questioning the storyline’s demarcation of colonizer and colonized as well as the distributor’s emphasis on the labor division of ‘Japanese’ 2D cell animation and ‘Korean’ 3D editing. Rather than locating this instability solely within a postcolonial framework, I read Geisters as a case highlighting the ontology created by the amalgamation of 2D and 3D animation technology, thereby expanding Thomas Lamarre’s question of ‘how anime thinks technology.’ Specifically, I examine the ontology of 3D animated armor invented by the colonizer ostensibly oppressing the ‘(inner) essence of humanity.’ In the paper’s first half, I focus on how the armor was one of the few objects 3D edited and mapped by scanning cells, literally creating a ‘shell’ on the 2D cell animation’s multiplanar movement. Building on Anne Anlin Cheng’s conceptualization of the Asian subject’s ontology as a shell, I argue the armor is neither a token of colonial violence nor attributable to Korea’s technological superiority in 3D animation over Japan's. The paper’s second half investigates the connection between the armor and wild beasts, another object also 3D animated frequently. Here, I refer to Akira Mizuta Lippit’s theorization of the converging of media technology and animals due to the latter’s ‘undying’ quality for being located outside logos-driven modern humanity. Taking into account the series’ ambivalent depictions of beasts as both the colonized and inspiration for the diabolic armor design, I reflect on how the entanglement of animal, armor and shell-producing aspect of 3D animation unwittingly affords the armor an autonomy beyond the storyline’s ostensible refusal of it. Ultimately, this paper seeks to propose an alternative framework in analyzing ‘Korea-Japan joint produced animation’ by considering media technology’s intervention in narrativizing the postcolonial production of animation.