Artificial flavors : nostalgia and the shifting landscapes of production in Sino-Japanese animation

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
Journal / PublicationCultural Studies
Online published25 Jul 2022
Publication statusOnline published - 25 Jul 2022


Anime-style films have been produced within East Asia for many years by relying on a cross-border production network dominated by studios in Japan. In this production model, Japanese studios provide source material and creative development, while manual work is outsourced to animators in neighbouring countries. With China’s growing influence within the region’s creative economy, however, more transnationally co-produced animations are based on Chinese source material, offering a promise of enhanced cultural exchange while challenging received frameworks of knowledge and production in the region’s animation industry. This article examines how Japanese animation studios construct China as a nostalgic place by analyzing the use of nostalgia-driven narrative conventions in Flavours of Youth, a 2018 Sino-Japanese co-produced animation. The screen imaginaries yielded by such co-operative productions are contained within a familiar convention couched in an artistic language influenced by Japan’s centrality in the anime production network. This results in a visual rhetoric that transforms the uneven landscape of China’s transitions into a homogenous animation product. By outlining the theoretical terms of nostalgic representation expressed as sentiment: nostalgia as mood, and style: nostalgia as mode, we examine the way Flavours of Youth frames the interplay of the two nostalgic methods as a metacommentary on China’s modernization process vis-à-vis Japan. The creative process involved in reconfiguring China’s developmental transitions through anime conventions of ‘nostalgia machines’ creates a friction between the parasitic nostalgic form and the cultural host it attaches itself to, collapsing the film’s potential for reflection on the contemporary realities of a shared Asian experience. We argue that the transnationally constructed, disembedded–and therefore artificial–nostalgia found in the film is a symptom of Japan’s continuing ambivalence towards China manifested in the anime industry’s overreliance on codified styles over shared engagement with the alternative cultural contexts of its Asian neighbours.

Research Area(s)

  • animation, China, Japan, Makoto Shinkai, nostalgia, transnational co-production