Ξ May 26th, 2012 | → 0 Comments | ∇ The Anime Annals |
With five-plus years of anime-watching (studying, more like!) now in the books, I wanted to write a little essay using clips from the last post’s neglected “mid-tier” favorites from the current Spring Season (and other faves) as examples of why anime is considered great entertainment by so many, to the apparent consternation of so many others. My top shows are obvious showcases and were shown off in the last Post, but I feel that these “less-than-stellar” picks display why the medium is so satisfying. Simply put: there’s something for everyone!
Action-oriented and anti-fantasy? The gritty real-world realism of Jormungand might do it for ya:
Sure, it’s a lot like Black Lagoon, but how is that a bad thing? There are plenty of differences between the two, and since I enjoyed the original tale of a gang of mercenaries so much, it’s easy to see that this telling of a band of arms dealers is a different story entirely. It’s patently unfair to the show’s creators in comparing the two; I prefer seeing each series in its own light without saying “oh it copies this from that show and that from this show, so it’s just a knock-off”. Knock off that type of “thinking” and just enjoy it for what it is, which is “another show” that you might enjoy. I am
Besides, Black Lagoon IS different, as shown in this action-packed AMV which features a great cover of the appropriately-titled (for this anime) “Bad Company”. Revy is such a bad-ass LOL:
For me, the bloom is still very much on the anime rose Despite seeing comments from older fans decrying the lack of diversity and bemoaning the recycling of old plots (which is true to an extent), I keep finding bunches of new series every season that evoke the highest levels of entertainment and satisfaction for me. It requires a little work and research in determining which shows to watch out of the forty or fifty offerings each seasonal season, but armed with synopses, previews, and advance buzz, a lot can be determined about which shows should prove interesting for the upcoming season.
There are always, in every medium, those works that are content to plow the same field over and over, because it’s safe, it sells, and it doesn’t challenge anything. And that’s fine, for those who are satisfied with that. I’m not, and strive to find standouts that are different from the boring norm. And every anime season I manage to find at least eight series worth watching and following over the course of its run. Compare this to a TV season where I’d be lucky to find one or two shows of interest in a whole year. I don’t even watch TV anymore… probably because it doesn’t have shows like Dusk Maiden of Amnesia:
But I have to confess that to my family and friends my interest is still a mystery to them. They’re stuck with a westerner’s casual comprehension of what little anime they’ve been exposed to here, and (predictably) comment on the big eyes, big heads, lip-flapping & etc. and wonder what the draw is. I’m sure this scenario is repeated in many households across the U.S., as so little is known about anime aside from initial impressions from growing up watching the Saturday-morning “cartoon shows”, which the bulk of the country is apparently basing their uninformed opinions on. This is why, despite my heavy reliance on fansubs, that it’s a definite good thing that online streaming sites are offering up more of the better series out there, sometimes with English dubs. At least they’re trying!
So while I have this web-space mainly to support my novel, I’m also using my Blog to shed a little more light on this intriguing subject, and hopefully draw in a few more curious souls to anime, and anime-lovers to my novel, UNBOUND
I believe that there’s a huge potential audience for anime over here, but for two problems: the presumptions of “the masses” (i.e. society-at-large) that it’s for children, and their assumptions that those who enjoy it are somewhat immature. These (let’s face it) ignorant appraisals serve to damper any enthusiasm of fans to share their happiness with others, and further are castigated into silence by their peers who can’t accept it and who might consider them (god forbid) as “weird” for liking it. (Talk about immature LOL) The herd doesn’t like anything different or unusual compared to the “acceptable” fare of the day; in fact, they seem frightened or challenged by it. I say go with what you enjoy and to hell with what others think; it’s your life!
An example of a show I wouldn’t typically watch is Accel World; I’m finding it interesting due to its premise of a “real” virtual world, the use of an overweight and atypical main character (though he’s a tad annoying LOL), and an interesting female lead as well. Note: the following Pig is an avatar in the online game they are playing at, and no actual pigs were harmed during this series. I think.
Another suggestion: We have to resist comparing anime to cartoons, despite their obvious similarities. That being said, in this post I want to differentiate between the two using the following, well, comparisons. (I guess it can’t be helped!) True, they are both animated, but that’s their only connection aside from basic entertainment. Apples and oranges, to be sure. First of all, the budgets are miles apart; one source compares a typical average animated per-episode budget at around $140K and a typical Simpsons episode at around $2 million. So yeah; they’re gonna look a little different and frame-cutting is largely where the difference will lie, as far as the animation goes. But for whatever reasons, I’m finding the character designs in anime MUCH more appealing to my eyes now, and also find that the comic book characters I grew up with don’t come close in appeal. Never would have guessed at this delightful surprise as I used to be one of those “oh the eyes are so big it’s weeeirdd…” guys
Now I know better; it’s all about Feeling It
Here’s a notoriously potent (and classic) scene from Clannad After Story that delivers a one-two punch that’ll knock you right out, if you have any heart at all and allow yourself to feel it. This is probably my most-poignant and moving scene of all the anime I’ve watched (around 300 titles!). It’s extremely spoilerish, so be warned!
I’ll set it up: Tomoya has been an absent father for some time to his five-year old daughter Ushio, who had to be left in his in-laws’ care. Unwilling to ever address or even think about his wife, and troubled by his own disrupted past with his own father, he is “tricked’ into taking a trip with Ushio to his father’s mother’s home in the country, where he realizes that he must reach out to that tiny expectant hand that has missed his so badly. This is a bittersweet snapshot of two estranged people trying to cross a huge emotional gap of absence. And study the expert use of lighting, sets, camera angles, direction, sound, animation, and expression, along with the well-scripted dialogue and the superb voice acting that delivers everything so directly to the heart. No flinching allowed!
Western cartoons generally serve as joke-a-minute self-contained animated sitcoms, while anime provides much deeper characters, involved story-lines spread over multiple episodes, inventive animation, and top-notch voice actors. I think it’s amazing how they accomplish so much with so little. They’re two different types of entertainment, for two very different audiences and cultures. But, you know, it’s nice to share and exchange, and discover our similarities; it is this that brings us together
One of those things is Humor, and we find that what’s funny in one land is, more often than not, funny in this one too! Even the silly stuff, like Acchi Kocchi, this season’s guilty pleasure. I’m sure there are many other … let’s say “insubstantial” shows out there, but this is mine for this season (though I may check out the fanservice-y Moretsu Pirates show after it ends ‘cos I like pirates xD). Plopping an erstwhile love story into the middle of the tons of silliness lends a very sweet mortaring for all the jokes:
So I’m very grateful to have discovered this artform, as it’s been continuously entertaining, educational, and so much fun! I’ve learned more about Japanese culture than I ever expected and it continues to add desired and fresh colors to my life. Through the various creators’ eyes, I can watch stories that depict humanity’s strong points: people who care for each other, support one another, respect one another, treat others with kindness and compassion… things that I find largely lacking in today’s more-common, more-crude, entertainment. There’s an appreciated lack of cynicism and sarcasm present in anime that otherwise saturates everything else in society and its entertainment these days that is deadening to the spirit and soul, and anime provides a good countering to that negativity. Anime provides what should fill it, at least in my opinion.
And for slightly darker entertainment, slightly warped, askew, that’s provided for too, as in Sankarea, a story about a boy who loves zombies, in fact wishes to be with one… and then the line about being careful of what you wish for because it might come true comes to mind because – well, that would be telling! Here’s the show’s OP, since the full episode I’d posted got pulled already:
So I have an anime series for any mood I’m into, whether romantic comedy, mystery series, fantasy, sports title, action-oriented, horror-show, or even brainless stupidity. ‘cos I’m a man of many moods and I like pleasing them, even the stupid ones
I used to hate getting hooked on a television series due to that AWFUL week-long (at best) wait between episodes. The one thing I really can’t stand is that wait, especially with how unreliable stations are about airing shows on time and on schedule. We’ll see how Adult Swim handles the return of their anime block tonight; they ruined my initial forays into televised anime by butchering the airing order of Ghost in the Shell and Fullmetal Alchemist, both of which I’ve yet to see in their entirety. So I won’t watch anime televised until they guarantee a precise airing schedule. Otherwise I’ll use the reliable fansubs or streaming sites to get my anime.
It all really comes down to this: what kind of escapist entertainment do you enjoy? You can run as far as you like…
The above award-winning anime music video (utilizing music by Florence and the Machine) features scenes from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, one of the best shows in recent memory, and real escapist fare. Even finding a handful of such quality shows to watch each year adds tons of pleasure to one’s various methods of story-telling. Because that’s what this all is, depicting stories in animation. Really, once you get past the unusual-to-western-eyes character designs, anime characters begin to look the norm and our own cartoon characters look more “cartoonish”! Weird that, but oh well; works for me xD
Then there’s the obvious hurdle, and it’s a big one: the cultural difference. And this is the one I’ve found most fun in hurdling! What one finds out is this: we are more alike than we are different. There’s a precious “commonality” that each of us shares, and it resounds in our hearts, our thoughts, and our souls. Depending upon how dense (“thick-as-a-brick”) or sensitized (“aware”) we are, we each react to stimuli somewhat predictably, but differently: we fall in love; we fight; we are apathetic; we hate; we set and (sometimes) meet goals; we lose precious things and people; we overcome insurmountable odds; we prevail; we survive. We are beautiful
Western cartoons don’t really depict this reality; perhaps the reflection is too “uncomfortable” a topic for our audiences to want in their entertainment. But these animated series are every bit as moving as their counterparts on the silver screen (or TV screen), proving that if you are open to it comprehension will come. If I had a dime for every time I read a comment about how an anime “made me cry” I’d be rich! If it moves me, it works. Simple as that!
But that language barrier is (I think) off-putting to many who are unwilling to read subtitles. English dubs aren’t all that impressive to me due to the seemingly “non-serious” approach many western VAs bring to the shows, while I feel that the original Japanese voice acting feels more directly connected to the characters. I want the most direct connection I can get! What sounds “cutesy” in a Japanese voicing isn’t necessarily the same as a “cutesy” English-spoken one; something beneath the surface gets lost in the translation, and it isn’t the words. It seems forced whereas the original doesn’t (most of the time). But sometimes, you don’t even need words to get the sentiment across, as in this AMV using Kanon‘s extended OPening Theme, “Last Regrets”:
Another hurdle I’ve found is that reading the subtitles moves the eyes’ focus to the screen’s bottom, thereby missing the animation at the center, which is kind of the point of watching. People I’ve tried to turn on to anime have complained about it; I guess they don’t like subtitled movies either *shrug* My eyeballs get dizzy hopping from reading the bottom to watching the middle then down to read again @_@! I’ve learned to deal with it happily; it’s good excercise xD
I love Kyoto Animation’s techniques and am a big fan of their work (see the above clips); their animation of expression is a joy to behold. I’ve often watched the English dubs of their shows just so I can watch the actual animation at work (or is that at play?), and in Kanon‘s case, found Brittney Karbowski’s portrayal of major-favorite Ayu Tsukimiya to be awesome, proving that English dubs can be done right and do work much of the time. I’m really enjoying KyoAni’s Hyouka at the moment; it’s shaping up very nicely for my slower-paced tastes The atypical (for KyoAni) fanservice in the ED theme is delicious, as seen in this shared clip with the OP as well:
As for the “anime is for kids because all it features is adolescents in school settings” argument, it’s easily explained: The school years are where everything about Real Life unfolds and awakens, and kids passing through and dealing with it are the best actors to depict their struggles in dealing with these fresh, confusing, and powerful emotions. Adults can well remember their own furtive steps into the “grown-up world” and are able to relate through hindsight and not-so-rosy glasses. The moments of first love… the hazardous navigating of the politics and pitfalls of society’s expectations thrust upon you… learning how to deal with differences… on and on.
And that’s just the “normal” slice-of-life shows! While I do enjoy a good slice-of-life series, I much prefer the more… “unusual” fare, exemplified by this excerpt from a latter episode of Mawaru Penguindrum, another top pick from last year (CAUTION, SPOILERS):
So yeah… another anime guy will have the classroom’s window seat, someone’s stomach is going to rumble, there will be food displayed, eaten and enjoyed, a cute girl will show her clutzy side, moe-flavored shows are going to proliferate blah blah blah… I suggest we get over all our petty complaints and just search for whatever floats your particular boat and leave the other boats alone in their contentment. We all get to set our own courses and there’s only one Captain per ship
One thing we might do well to remember is that despite all the darkness and hatred evident everywhere these days, is that life is still beautiful, and that we inherit the world we make. So let’s make a beautiful world together! Thank you, Japan Until next time…