The five directors of animation works included in this volume – Kon Satoshi, Hosoda Mamoru, Miyazaki Gorô, Yonebayashi Hiromasa, Shinkai Makoto – belong to the so-called shinjinrui („new human breed”) generation, the commonly accepted Japanese correspondence to the Western X generation. Born into relative affluence and unfamiliar with the hardships their parents (the baby-boomers) had experienced, they came of age mostly after the end of the Cold War, and can be divided roughly into two groups: those born during the sixties – the former three – who take over fragments of the unbridled enthusiasm of the predecessors, lacking, though, their critical spirit as well as the acuity of social observation; and those born during the seventies – the latter two – who openly embody Simon Sinek’s (himself born during that decade) characterization of a „hard-working and overlooked” micro-generation. Therefore, they are more prone to look for innovative pathways to overcoming the „Japaneseness” of cultural products and to reinvigorating the socio-political paradigm of complacency, compounded by a gradually generalized indifference, loneliness and absence of moral orientation.
The animation movies released by these five directors reflect the tensions of late modernity, from its obsession with consumerism until its ecological anxieties and from its polarized gender debate until its decline in human interactions with the simultaneous shift towards AI and VR. They highlight the preoccupation of recent years with alternative modi operandi, even when solutions do not appear at hand, and reveal a profound concern for the human being in its universal totality which transcends history and geography. Being a „sandwich generation” between the baby-boomers’ unconditional optimism and the Millennials’ unlimited cravings and darings, the shinjinrui representatives share with their X-Gen contemporaries an almost compulsive need for balance and harmony or at least harmonization, so that they look into the future with a creative wholeheartedness that allows them both to learn from the shortcomings of the past and to savour the joys of the present moment.