Cassette Girl (Hiroyasu Kobayashi, 2015)

(Believe it or not, MMC!‘s next Criterion proposals are forthcoming. In the meantime and in anticipation of our next two proposals which deal with practices in appropriation, I thought we might consider another animated treatment of media ownership and access, this time from Japan!)

In a recent piece for Locus Magazine, Cory Doctorow laments the failed promise of digital media and selective rights management. In the article, Doctorow recalls how the digital revolution promised infinite distribution, customized rights to content, and cheaper prices. In fact, the opposite has occurred. Access is limited and often temporary, pricing remains static, and choice is dictated by owners who rights seems to be held in virtual perpetuity. Doctorow’s most pithy and salient point comes near the end of his editorial – “There’s a name for societies where a small elite own property and everyone else rents that prop­erty from them: it’s called feudalism.”

With feudalism comes poachers, bringing to mind Hiroyasu Kobayashi’s wonderful animated short Cassette Girl (2015). The film, one of the best from the Japan Animator Expo series, offers a beautiful pastiche of anime tropes, including a spunky young adventuress, her giant mecha companion, and an elaborate transformation sequence with obligatory undressing. The girl and her ‘bot search for vintage content on old video cassettes, causing them to run afoul of the tyrannical media police and initiating an elaborate battle that dominates the short. What makes Cassette Girl so impressive is its spectacular embrace of hard media and actual ownership. Physical possession is not merely a means to defeat Cassette Girl‘s media police, but a transformative process that remakes the world itself in favour of its media-poaching heroes (complete with full frame parameters and minor tracking issues). If only the battlefield over DRM were truly this awe-inspiring!

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