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jojo
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2008 1:47 pm

Re: Anime Recommendations

#151 Post by jojo » Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:15 pm

D_B wrote:Actually, I would argue that Aladdin is an example of one of the sporadic occasions Disney seems to be trying to emulate the feel of classic Warner Brothers cartoons (more Avery or Clampett than Jones though).
Only when it comes to the animations of the genie (and maybe Jaffar, though when it comes to over-the-top villains, arguably 101 Dalmations channeled Avery and Clampett better.). I was specifically referring to the animation of the human characters of Aladdin in my post, which stick to the standard Disney style of the 90s.
Of course good things can be done with 'limited' animation. There was a really nice-looking feature film recently "Sita Sings the Blues" that was done by one person in Flash for heaven's sake.
I hate Flash. Hate it. 'Sita' was one of the better ones I grant you, but I'll generally take anything over Flash, even still pictures. Flash is one of the reasons, in my opinion, for the downturn in design quality in many TV animation today. But, different strokes for different folks I guess.

I'm not particularly bothered by overdubbing. It's a process that, obviously, is borne out of budget considerations as animating precise lip movements would double or in some cases triple the budget of a film or TV series. I'm also used to watching a lot of older European and Asian live action films where overdubbing was a common practice from the 50s all the way up to the 80s (depending on various factors), so precise sound-to-lip harmony has never been a big concern to me personally, especially in animation where I view the medium as being more expressionist than naturalist. I can think of less than a handful of anime that synch lip movements to voices, and they were either really expensive experimental shorts, or a huge film that stretched budget and manpower to a studio's absolute breaking point (Akira comes to mind).

Overall, though, I'm not really the type of person who sits down and counts every frame every time I watch 2d animation, though. I do focus in on design (both in terms of colour and arrangement of shapes and lines), lighting, blocking, composition and editing, so my interest in animation is more from a pictorial standpoint rather than in terms of the technical aspects relating to movement.

If you're a real stickler for character movement, I'm afraid that it's best to just give up on anime, as it creates an entirely alien (and in the eyes of hardcores, just plain 'wrong') language of animation and production than many traditional hardcore animation fans are used to. However, when it comes to design, editing, and composition, I can discuss (and argue) in defence of many titles until my face turns blue.
Last edited by jojo on Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Bill Thompson
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#152 Post by Bill Thompson » Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:26 pm

jojo wrote:If you're a real stickler for character movement, I'm afraid that it's best to just give up on anime, as it creates an entirely alien (and in the eyes of hardcores, just plain 'wrong') language of animation and production than many traditional hardcore animation fans are used to.
As a hardcore animation fan myself, and friend to a few guys who are also hardcore animation fans who have taken their hardcore fandom to actually find places within the business this is a rash generalization I do not agree with. I don't find anything alien about anime, there are different styles within anime itself, just as there are within Western animation. The different styles within anime have, well, their own style and I think that's only alien to someone if they choose to make it alien.

jojo
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2008 1:47 pm

Re: Anime Recommendations

#153 Post by jojo » Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:46 pm

Bill Thompson wrote:As a hardcore animation fan myself, and friend to a few guys who are also hardcore animation fans who have taken their hardcore fandom to actually find places within the business this is a rash generalization I do not agree with. I don't find anything alien about anime, there are different styles within anime itself, just as there are within Western animation. The different styles within anime have, well, their own style and I think that's only alien to someone if they choose to make it alien.
Oh, I'll argue in defence for the different design styles that can be found in anime, for sure (anime like Redline and Ponyo look and feel totally different from one another, for instance), but with the exception of a small minority of productions, many anime do still follow the production rules that Osamu Tezuka originally popularized in Japan. Imprecise lip flaps, camera and editing tricks to get around lack of budget, etc, are all things that hardcore animation traditionalists would scoff at. Look closely and you'll find even many anime films still resort to budget saving tactics such as these. At some point in the anime industry, these "tactics" had become a language unto itself, in certain cases entire TV shows running solely on the "language" of these budget saving tactics (Neon Genesis Evangelion comes to mind). People who are familiar with seeing these tactics "get" it when these anime ask the viewers to fill in the blanks for actions that either have not or cannot be animated properly, and are instead implied through a variety of techniques such as montages, quick pans, freeze frames, voice overs over still images, etc,. That's what I'm referring to when I say a "totally alien animation language" for traditionalists. Without knowledge of its history or WHY they use these tactics, newcomers watching these productions are likely to find them baffling or cheap or both.

Digital animation technology has offset some budget problems but we're still talking about working with several times less of a budget here, when compared to their Western counterparts.

D_B
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#154 Post by D_B » Wed Jan 11, 2012 3:22 pm

jojo wrote:

hate Flash. Hate it.
Y'know, if I took that attitude I might reject "Night on the Galactic Railroad" out of hand on principle alone - but I think its best to accept that any medium or technique is valid if used with taste and good judgement. Heck, there are certainly some Disney films out there that have great animation but are still not good movies (say, "Robin Hood") - actually if this was a thread ON Disney you'd see me tearing into a lot of those films as a whole.
so precise sound-to-lip harmony has never been a big concern to me personally
It's not a matter of the 'lips' at all, its that (in the best circumstances) the full body of the character is informed by the voice and the actor's performance.

I say 'best circumstances' because I believe that a lot of (say) old Hanna Barbara cartoons may have been animated 'voice first' - but since these were made with a premium on speed and cheapness, bodies were not animated fully anyway.
If you're a real stickler for character movement, I'm afraid that it's best to just give up on anime
I have said repeatedly now I love "Night on the Galactic Railroad".
People who are used to seeing these tactics "get" it
I grew UP as a child watching and loving Speed Racer and Astro Boy (along with other sorts of animation), so I certainly 'get' the language of that type of animation. Its just as I grew older I developed a more exacting eye.

jojo
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#155 Post by jojo » Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:03 pm

D_B wrote:Y'know, if I took that attitude I might reject "Night on the Galactic Railroad" out of hand on principle alone - but I think its best to accept that any medium or technique is valid if used with taste and good judgement. Heck, there are certainly some Disney films out there that have great animation but are still not good movies (say, "Robin Hood") - actually if this was a thread ON Disney you'd see me tearing into a lot of those films as a whole.
Your first post quite specifically detailed your frustrations with anime in general so it would seem to me that you're kind of doubling back a bit here by saying "Well, anything can have merit if used with good taste and judgement." I don't think there's anything wrong with you not liking a medium/genre, and you can't keep throwing the same bone by using "But I liked Night on the Galactic Railroad!" as an exception forever. :wink:
It's not a matter of the 'lips' at all, its that (in the best circumstances) the full body of the character is informed by the voice and the actor's performance.

I say 'best circumstances' because I believe that a lot of (say) old Hanna Barbara cartoons may have been animated 'voice first' - but since these were made with a premium on speed and cheapness, bodies were not animated fully anyway.
I'm not exactly sure what you're trying to say here. Are you saying Western character animation is ENTIRELY informed by the voices? Because it isn't, actually. In terms of body language, it's entirely up to the animator's own impressions and observations of movement. The animator will refer to the voices for timing and synching when it comes to drawing the lip movements, but everything else in an animated performance is often entirely up to the animator sitting on a table in a quiet room with a bunch of visual reference material. How much of this attention to detail that shows up in the final product often depends on the budget.

(I'd also like to take an opportunity here to point out that the character animation in many Ghibli films is, in my opinion, actually quite decent, if not quite as broadly staged as the character animations of a Disney film. I'm not talking about frame-rate here, but rather how much of the character's animated actions inform the personality of the acting character, and what it tells us about them)

If, on the other hand, you're inferring that a character simply can't be built without an actor first, then that would be discounting the entire preliminary process of scripting and pre-production.

I'd also like to mention that in some cases storyboards can be done before the voices are recorded, and, depending on various circumstances, can be near-identical to the staging of the final product, in terms of body language. This is just some guy sitting at a table in a quiet room with no voices to refer to, nothing but reference books.
I have said repeatedly now I love "Night on the Galactic Railroad".
See, the thing with this is it's kinda like if someone said, "Well, I don't like vegetables but I do like asparagus." To me it means you like asparagus but it doesn't necessarily mean you like vegetables as a food group. :wink: It's cool that you like "Night on the Galactic Railroad" (and it is indeed a fine film, though I can't say it's one of my absolute personal favourites), but you don't need to soften your general dislike of anime as a genre/medium/whatever with an example like this. Let the griping flow, I really don't mind!
I grew UP as a child watching and loving Speed Racer and Astro Boy (along with other sorts of animation), so I certainly 'get' the language of that type of animation. Its just as I grew older I developed a more exacting eye.
Right, you demanded animation of a higher level of quality and budget. But my thing is, most studios don't have the resources to meet these higher standards of an "exacting eye." But it doesn't mean that there isn't creativity to be found in other aspects of cheaper animation production. A lot of people today brush off Hanna Barbera as being disposal TV animation, but I personally find the design work for many of their productions--especially those that involved the design work of Ed Benedict--quite appealing and more interesting to look at than many "better animated" productions.

Zot!
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#156 Post by Zot! » Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:03 pm

Manga is similarly stylized in terms of simplistic character designs and grew out of a specific cultural and artistic heritage that values certain principles over others. I agree that you can personally dislike the artform, but it's not unlikely that you just simply aren't fully acclimated to it. While I enjoy it a great deal, it certainly does feel unfamiliar to my Western eyes, even after many years. Consider that traditional Japanese music is very unusual as well, and while I can't say I enjoy or understand it, it is interesting.

D_B
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#157 Post by D_B » Fri Jan 13, 2012 12:39 am

jojo:

As I said, I grew up watching anime on TV. When I became an adult, i started to going to well-reviewed Anime features that got distributed to art houses (Space Firebird, Akira, Princess Mononoke). Since then I've seen quite a few anime films on DVD.

It was not until I watched the 'making of' extra on Spirited Away where it was shown how the actors record dialogue over the finished animation that I had an 'ah ha' moment where I found an explanation as to why I find this animation so alienating.

Probably if these films were not lavished with so much critical praise (as Hanna Barbara limited animation cartoons are pretty much critically ignored), it all might not bug me so much. But I think it at least SOMEBODY should step up and say the character animation is mostly second rate. People may defend it to the skies but I think if more time and money was put into the animation the films would be better.

You may get tired of me bringing up "Galactic Railroad", but if people are going to accuse me of hating anime PERIOD, I gotta bring it up.

Zoti:

If I were to pick a favorite 'live action' national cinema, it would be Japanese (though more of the 'classic' era than now). I can't say I'm an expert in classical japanese music but I sure like the way Mizoguchi uses it a lot in his historical movies.

jojo
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#158 Post by jojo » Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:26 pm

DB--

I have no problem with you finding this type of animation alienating, I just disagree with you on the insinuation that it's somehow lacking in terms of craft and expertise. It's done differently for sure, but it's not technically "bad" animation.

If we're talking strictly the craft of animation there really aren't many examples of truly "bad" film animation, actually. There are blandly animated films such as some of the Fox-distributed stuff during the 90s (Hey, I enjoyed Fern Gully but it is quite blandly animated), but nothing outright "bad". Maybe Ralph Bakshi's films could be considered a little rough, but they display a keen sense of craftsmanship as well. Bad animation would consist of character designs constantly falling off-model, poor and inconsistent use of light sources, poor or inconsistent sense of depth and perspective. Ghibli films don't feature those problems--in fact, on those points, they display a high level of precision. If I could point to an example of bad animation, it would be probably some of Akom's work for hire stuff, such as the early 90s TV show X-Men the Animated Series.

You mentioned that the films you didn't like featured "second rate" animation but you haven't really elaborated on a technical level aside from "Oh, they pasted the voices over the animation. That's bad." Despite me bending over backwards for the last 3 posts to try to explore the technical aspects of animation with you, I haven't seen you even try to go beyond the overdubbing thing, which really isn't that much related to character animation at all as I said previously.

As for why Ghibli films tend to be acclaimed, I could probably give you a bunch of reasons outside the technical aspects. For example, if you're judging Grave of the Fireflies solely on the fact that the animation didn't impress you, then I'm afraid the actual appeal of the film would be lost on you entirely. I could go on about its sensitive but assured pacing, use of colour, design work, sound, composition, its perceptive psychological character studies, and why these elements sets a film like Grave of the Fireflies apart from other animated films ...but if you can't get over the actual animation style itself, then nothing I say will be an adequate explanation for you on its appeal. And that's OK. But I have to disagree with you on the insinuation that they're somehow lacking craft-wise.

John Lasseter is one of America's great animation directors, and has been around great animators and great animation all his life, and he doesn't find anything lacking in Ghibli films craft-wise either. And if there's anyone out there whom I would consider having an "exacting eye" when it comes to animation craft, it would be a great animator like him. So I trust that if an animator like him doesn't see it, then whatever in Ghibli films are lacking for you, it's not related to craft.

I'm sorry to keep bothering you on this, but if you had just said that you didn't like Ghibli and that the anime aesthetic generally doesn't appeal to you (with the exception of Night on the Galactic Railroad! Right ahead of ya!), I would have been fine with it and left you alone. I just have to speak up when someone somehow insinuates that there's something lacking in terms of technical expertise or craftsmanship when it comes to these films that you didn't like, or if they didn't do something the way you felt was "proper."

Zot!
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#159 Post by Zot! » Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:57 pm

jojo wrote:If we're talking strictly the craft of animation there really aren't many examples of truly "bad" film animation, actually.
I don't know how much film animation is still being done at all, but with all the intentionally trash aesthetics of things like Adult Swim and South Park becoming pretty much de rigueur, I'm suprise you're singling out Anime as contributing to the decline of quality animation. Even moreso when you consider what is aimed for adult viewers.

jojo
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#160 Post by jojo » Fri Jan 13, 2012 3:19 pm

Zot! wrote:I'm suprise you're singling out Anime as contributing to the decline of quality animation. Even moreso when you consider what is aimed for adult viewers.
Are you meaning to reply to me? My entire post was a defence of Ghibli's craftsmanship and expertise in animation.

Zot!
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#161 Post by Zot! » Fri Jan 13, 2012 3:35 pm

jojo wrote:
Zot! wrote:I'm suprise you're singling out Anime as contributing to the decline of quality animation. Even moreso when you consider what is aimed for adult viewers.
Are you meaning to reply to me? My entire post was a defence of Ghibli's craftsmanship and expertise in animation.
No, no, sorry, just using your quote as a springboard for a tangential reply to D_B. I use an Japanes style of forum dialogue, you may be unfamiliar with it, written backwards and upside down and all :D

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Re: Anime Recommendations

#162 Post by manicsounds » Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:59 am

This may be not anime, as it concerns the live action movie "Gantz".

Although Manga (UK) released "Gantz part 1" on Blu-ray and DVD last fall, they've decided NOT to release "Gantz part 2" on Blu-ray, and will go DVD only.

Although both parts are or will be released in Japan, Hong Kong, US, Australia, and other areas in Blu-ray and DVD.

Bad part on Manga's behalf, especially people that were either waiting for part 2 to come out to match their BD (like myself) or people waiting for a double-pack.

D_B
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#163 Post by D_B » Sat Jan 28, 2012 12:50 pm

(forgive me - no formatting because my editor does not seem to be responding for some reason)

jojo said:
"If we're talking strictly the craft of animation there really aren't many examples of truly "bad" film animation, actually."

Honest to god, you can rationalize the 'worth' of any animation, any movie, any book, any drawing, any blog post - 'there are no bad movies, only bad spectators'. When I was an art student there was one life drawing class that was impossible to get into because the teacher had such a great reputation. When I finally got into it I discovered the professor's secret: he loved EVERYTHING. Personally I found this pretty unhelpful and ultimately almost seemed to foster a erosion of aesthetic standards.

I'd say a good general guide to the quality of character animation are the backgrounds. If they are lush and realistic, the animation should correspond in spirit. If the backgrounds in most anime were more stylized, it would make more sense that the animation be less 'full-bodied' and flat. The Simpsons and South Park are both cases where the backgrounds and character design/animation make sense because they are 'of a piece'.

As I don't have cable, I don't see most of the anime TV shows. Quite some time ago I saw a few episodes of Cowboy Bebop (sp?) and from my vague memory of it it seemed to look quite good and all of a piece.

These are all essentially aspects of visual design. You and others may like to slough that off as secondary, I think films are informed by ALL their elements, and design is as important as anything else.

In most feature anime films I've seen, though, the backgrounds are very showy and are designed with a great desire to impress with their extreme attention to detail and full-bodiedness. The way the characters are designed and animated, however, just does not match up.

As for Grave of the Fireflies, as I said before, in the 'making of' film about it on the DVD - the director himself bemoans not having more time to do the animation. I feel pretty confident these anime films would have more refined and less clunky animation if the animators were given more time to do their thing and not pushed to rush things through production.

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Re: Anime Recommendations

#164 Post by jindianajonz » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:32 am

I've dabbled in anime before, but never got too deep, and wanted to go back and watch some of the "classics". The two I'm looking at right now are Ghost in the Shell and Macross. The problem is, both these series seem to have been revamped with GitS 2.0 and Macross Plus. Normally I'd go for the originals, but only GitS 2.0 is on blu, and Macross Plus seems to be a much easier way to collect the series (or at least that's what the runtimes of various sets leads me to believe)

If anyone can point me to a "definitive release" of either of these, that would also be very helpful.

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Re: Anime Recommendations

#165 Post by zeroism » Wed Aug 06, 2014 11:20 am

The original, unaltered 1995 version of Ghost in the Shell is getting a BD re-release in the US and UK in September, advertised as remastered. I'd wait for that, as long as the reviews don't show it to have any major issues. Presumably, it won't take much for it to beat the 1080i transfer included as a bonus on the 2.0 BD.

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Re: Anime Recommendations

#166 Post by Shrew » Wed Aug 06, 2014 8:48 pm

Macross Plus is actually a sequel to the original Macross series. It was an OVA (Original Video Animation), or basically a short miniseries released straight to video. They were pretty popular in Japan during the 80s and 90s. Macross itself is really complicated because it was re-edited and dubbed for US release as Robotech. In order to meet the minimum number of episodes for US syndication, the distributors also combined it with two unrelated series from the same studio, creating an odd time-jumping mythology to link everything.

Anyway, it looks like there's actually a release coming in September that will have both the first 18 episodes of Robotech and 18 episodes of the original Macross series. Presumably, a second volume will follow, and then you'd have all 36 episodes of Macross (and the first part of Robotech).

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Re: Anime Recommendations

#167 Post by jindianajonz » Wed Aug 06, 2014 8:51 pm

Awesome, thanks guys! I guess I picked a great time to start looking into these two...

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Re: Anime Recommendations

#168 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Sep 10, 2014 6:26 am

King of Thorn (Kazuyoshi Katayama, 2009)

An interesting action-sci-fi tale in which after a 100% deadly virus starts turning everyone to stone - the Medusa (or to use its Japanese pronounciation "Medousa"!) virus - a suspicious organisation decides to freeze randomly selected people in their cryogenic facility located under a castle in the wilds of Scotland.

Unfortunately all does not go to plan and when the frozen subjects awake the castle has been taken over by thorny vines and horrible monsters. How did it happen, how long has everyone been asleep for, who is going to survive and what of the old world will be left?

So lots of material with interesting potential here. The Sleeping Beauty metaphors are apt but a little overwrought and hammered home. The film is really at its best in the opening scenes of panic, incarceration and growing group dynamics (with a wonderful Celtic-style warbling going on as the group are driven to their castle sanctuary).

However once everyone wakes up, and we go through the mass panic/murder scene as the surivors are wittled down to our core group of seven, the film moves into more disappointing monster action territory. There is a lot of 'stuff' going on but it just feels like padding to get rid of a couple of members of the group before the real plot starts up again. The film in this part plays a little like a disaster movie of characters having to move through dangerous environments crossed with an Alien film (the monsters in particular get moments of coming face to double-jawed face with their victims in a manner similar to Ripley in Alien3).

The final third picks things up again and gets impressively twisty and I ended up being quite satisfied with the finale. The film is toying throughout with ideas of whether the whole thing was a dream being created by the characters, or whether all the survivors are archetypal characters performing a particular function, or whether the two identical twin sisters (one of whom is our lead character being frozen, leaving the other behind) swapped identities at some point, and so on. Without trying to spoil too much, most of this stuff crops up but usually with an interesting twist to their relatively cliched themes.

The film does get into quite out there territory later on (a vined castle turning into a flying dragon in its gobsmacking finale!) and there were some opportunities missed for opening the world out or developing the characters better that was a little disappointing, but overall this is a fascinating anime more about coming to terms with loss, suicide and despair than its monster action surface would suggest.

The film that most came to mind while watching it was Pandorum (strangely released the same year) which is a film that I think is quite underrated and follows many of the beats of King of Thorn quite closely, including doubling characters, disorientated wake up scenes and monster action (though Pandorum deals with the monster sections in a more integrated and exciting manner than King of Thorn), just in a different environmental setting. So if you want more of the same, check out Pandorum, or if you have seen Pandorum check out King of Thorn!

Oh, and avoid the English language dub version of this. There are some terrible British accents for a couple of the characters including one main character who has that kind of Australian crossed with Mary Poppins accent that only Americans trying to do British accents seem to be able to do! The Japanese track is fine - you might have to suspend disbelief that everyone in the US prologue or the multi-national group of survivors in a remote Scottish facility are speaking Japanese, but it is easy enough to get used to (and it made one character suddenly announcing that they were a member of the "British SAS" very amusing in the way that it comes out of nowhere without even an accent to have suggested that!). And in the English language dub you have to get over the two lead Japanese sisters both dubbed with American accents anyway, so you have to suspend disbelief either way!
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#169 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Sep 10, 2014 8:18 am

We recently watched "Colorful" (2010) on Blu-Ray and "Letter to Momo" at the theater. I recommend both of these. I think Hara's Colorful was more impressive overall, in terms of conception and execution (and voice acting -- Aoi Miyazaki is great in a supporting role -- and I thought this performance was wonderful even before I knew who did it). But Okiura's film is more "scenic" (set on an island in the Inland Sea -- which I now _need_ to visit) and quite well done. I liked both of these more than any Miyazaki film since Spirited Away.

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Re: Anime Recommendations

#170 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Jul 22, 2015 12:26 pm

Somewhat serendipitously, after pulling the anime TV series out of my to watch pile on a whim on Saturday evening, I found out that the trailer for the live action version of Attack on Titan was also released. The live action film looks as if it will be pretty faithful to the storyline, although it seems that there has been some unavoidable changes to the characters due to it necessarily being cast with Japanese actors (I'm mostly concerned that Armin, along with a couple of other characters, isn’t a blonde anymore!), so I’m a little wary. This is the kind of material that might work better in a Western setting due to its alternate universe/fairy tale setting full of characters with German names. But the sense of the remains of humanity besieged but strangely impassively smiling giants, or Titans, should still come across.

I think the main concern in adapting the material is going to be the militarism angle and how the military and ruling class is portrayed this film, as they both get treated with a wryly satirical eye in the anime series at least, as our characters move from youthful naivete to working within the system for their own goals, to eventually realising they have to abandon the structure (which is only promoting short term survival or the status quo at best) altogether just to survive.

Anyway, I’m only about a third of the way through the entire series at the moment (episode 11), so even my opinions even of the anime might change based on future developments! I’m enjoying the series so far, which is coming across as mostly an alternate universe fairy tale mixed up with a bit of Game of Thrones fantasy period machinations and a long nod to the training section of Starship Troopers with the two episode training school section (there is even a freckle-faced naïve country rube character! And someone not in it to fight, but as a way of getting into politicing in the inner sanctum of power!) which gets suddenly and unexpectedly disrupted by the beginning of the first major assault from the Titans that takes up the next seven or eight episodes. It is difficult to bring this up without spoiling the twist in the first third or so of the plot, so I’ll spoiler this, but:
SpoilerShow
the whole horrible death of the hero/rebirth with new powers perhaps due to a connection buried in experimentation in the character’s past reminded me a bit of Go Nagai’s Devil Man series. If the character starts having a conflict between his human and Titan side, that will only strengthen that sense.

It could also be seen as similar to Tetsuo’s character arc from Akira too. And the smaller scale story surrounded by wider politicking and social issues could bear comparison to Akira also.
There’s also a hefty dose of the group decimation/slide into nihilism of a series like Gantz in there too. Lots of characters have inner despairing monologues overlaid over images of them staring in terror, or pinned to the spot (existential angst or saving money with animation? Maybe both!). This happened a lot in Gantz too, but in some ways the nihilism there felt all-pervasive and earned. I’m not quite so convinced by the dramas being quite so desperate in Attack on Titan so far, despite the overwhelming odds being faced, especially since it is the supporting cast or 'red shirt' characters who are consistently getting killed to motivate our main characters further. Currently I’d be more likely to tell people to check out Gantz for a much more powerful multi-part mission structure against a backdrop of real total futility!

My criticisms of the series so far would have to be that it gets rather overwrought, even for an anime! (Although characters driving themselves into single fixated manias just to amp themselves up for a horrible act, or to then fail spectacularly, or both, seems to be an important theme of the series), and also occasionally the flashbacks are a little too demanding of the audience to feel for the character’s plight, when the characters appear to be fondly reminiscing about events that were only shown moments before rather than anything wider in their lives than that! (Although again this criticism could be countered by the childhood experimentation followed up by injections to cause amnesia! Maybe Eren doesn’t have too much else to remember!)

I’m also back and forth on the art style, which occasionally feels a bit limited especially in its regular use of quavering eyes to express emotion and tears streaming down faces! The abstraction occasionally seems to be fighting against the moments when the art wants to be vivid and horrifically realistic (Sascha, and her insatiable food fetish of course is the main character this applies to but everyone else also seems to have these undermining tone breaking characterisations at certain extreme moments to some extent!)

But its worth a watch, even if I'm not quite fully on board with the more ecstatic reactions to this series.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Fri Aug 28, 2015 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Anime Recommendations

#171 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jul 26, 2015 10:16 am

I've finished the anime series of Attack on Titan now and am mixed on it. On the plus side it does a fantastic job of putting the viewer inside some visceral action sequences (the final sequence of the attack on Trost, with the slow but crucial background action of Eren lumbering through carrying the boulder as characters fight and die in the foregound involves a magnificent use of parallel action, and one of the best aspects of the show is the way that it juggles an enormous cast of multiple large groups of characters and manages to keep a lot of them distinct), and there are some really satisfying moments late on in the show that call back to the very first ones such as the decimated group of scouts coming back from beyond the walls to a grim welcome aside from the young Eren being enamoured by them getting repeated but with an injured Eren seeing a similarly starry-eyed young boy amongst the dour watching faces.

This series is continually threatening to become something greater and more profound. To move from 'just an action series' into a portrait of a culture under threat in the way that Akira is about both the tiny story of a couple of friends in a biker gang, the wider culture of politics and religion (which we get a bit of here in Attack on Titan inside the privileged central circle of Wall Sina, as a cult arises who worships the stability of the walls. Unfortunately, albeit ironically, they perhaps all shouldn't have worshipped together in a single, easily crushable by a giant foot, bunch within their temple!) and the even greater aspect of the sense of self on a cosmic level. The anime Attack on Titan gets at all three elements, but unfortunately seems mainly concerned about being the big action series when it comes down to it, though this is mostly because it breaks off without resolving any of the wider issues. The series has adapted about half of the manga and from a brief skim through the synopsis on wikipedia the second half does delve deeper into the mysterious past experiments, internecine fighting, the origin of the Walls and the Royal line feeding off one another.

So this is really crying out for a second series adapting the second half of the manga, as the current ending is the climax of an enormous battle within the otherwise previously untouched inner circle (bringing the horror into the heart of the last human stronghold, but also a fresh almost Victorian-looking looking new area for the two enormous Titans to wrestle each other in and destroy Godzilla-style, as little girls with pretty blue dresses splattered with the blood of their parents look on saucer eyed!) but feels like a bit of a digression from the much larger questions left hanging in the air about the world. Where has Eren's father disappeared too? (I have my theory that he was in one of the Titans that first attacked the Walls five years before, but I'm only speculating based on little evidence) What is in the basement of Eren's long destroyed family home in the abandoned outer circle of Wall Maria? What is the significance of the key around Eren's neck? All of this is built up to be crucial within the story but doesn't get paid off at all, at least in these first 25 episodes, which gets a little frustrating when the story breaks off for a final arc about a newly introduced female Titan decimating everyone and causing existential angst Neon Genesis Evangelion-style until our final literalised battle of the sexes city destroying rumble (I do like that the female Titan when captured in the forest screams for the other Titans to come, jump on and cannibalise the evidence of her body, which gets paralleled at the beginning of the final fight by the human controller getting similarly jumped upon by all the townsfolk trying to hold her back before she transforms)

I think though that my main issue is that notions of death and futility, though still present, have been entirely transferred over to the supporting and minor characters in the series in the final thirteen episodes. None of our heroes are really in any danger of being suddenly killed off Gantz or Game of Thrones-style anymore, even whilst thousands of civilians or anonymous members of the Scout corps get brutally killed. There is even a band of bodyguards to Eren introduced in order to have characters whose entire narrative purpose is to die nobly to protect him (though their bodies also get used for an interesting scene revolving around having to dump bodies rather than take them back for proper burial). The pointlessness and arbitrainess of death is not present as much (maybe it just wasn't something the series wanted to focus on), which I think is shown by the one relatively major character dying unnoticed in the battle for Trost turning out to have been a major factor in the traitor within the group being able to hide their identity by swapping their gear for that of the dead man. So the character who died seemingly for no reason did die for a reason - to act as an element in the mysterious traitor plot later on. This is compared to a series like Gantz killing characters off and you just have to live with it, and the worry that it was for no reason (even narratively) whatsoever.

I'm a little ambivalent about the militarism angle too. It is a series mostly about power structures being necessary ones: despite the few panicy or useless soldiers or leaders used for contrast, this feels a lot about coming into your own as a leader and having those make or break moments of proving your worth, or at least accepting your part in a failure. It is less a critique than a rallying cry, and I could start to feel the same kind of stifling inner circle cabal as in something like the Star Trek films (or Starship Troopers) where the naive know-nothing youths become the battle hardened veterans, and action is seen as far more worthy than political manoeuvreing
SpoilerShow
(the cadets having to make the choice between the Scouts or the inner sanctum Military Police is key here. With one guy who has stated throughout that he is only in training for the power and prestige staying with the Scouts and feeling 'self-actualised' by that choice; whilst the one girl who is adamant throughout about living being the most important thing and who ends up being the one significant character to join the Military Police, turns out to be the traitor within the ranks who is the female Titan)
, when really both sides are not helping the civilian population out too much! There's even a sense of the ending of Watchmen about unleashing a Titan (no, two Titans!) in the middle of the otherwise untouched inner circle of humanity, both because its 'the right thing to do' as the only way to finish off a conflict, and also because the horrific damage will work to jolt the complacent society into taking some action. As I once, rather callously, said about the reporting of the Japanese tsunami, you know there has been a big disaster when even the chandelier in the Prime Minister's conference room starts gently swaying!

But a fascinating series with a lot of food for thought. We really need that second series though as while the live action Attack on Titan film is apparently going to be in two parts, I doubt it is going to get much farther through the material than the anime has so far. (I wonder how the live action film is going to handle all of those key internal monologues? The voice over team might end up working overtime!)

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Re: Anime Recommendations

#172 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Sep 16, 2015 9:35 am

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (Hiroyuki Yamaga, 1988)

Still a fantastic portrayal of a kind of fully realised, completely made up world, mixing lots of humourous moments with some surprisingly deep philosophical issues around our main character's sense of purpose and his conflicting feelings around being built up into a hero by the media and as a political football to stoke up tensions with a rival nation by holding the rocket launch directly on the border.

One of the most controversial aspects of this film is the attempted rape scene between the main character and the religious girl who takes him in, which she puts a halt to by smashing a lamp over his head. Perhaps more disturbing is the way that when he apologises for his actions the next morning, she instead apologises to him for hitting him! But in some ways, though extreme, this is another example of her almost superhuman forgiveness, similar to the way that when she had her house demolished earlier on, she moves on with her life rather than fighting for justice. Is that passivity bad or the sign of a truly forgiving person, a bright light whose fundamental decency (and therefore tendency towards getting trampled over) stands as an inspiration to the rest of humanity?

I loved the scene just after this, which always makes me shed a tear or two, in which the main character asks his friend if they were in a written story what would happen if he realised that he was not really the hero, but the bad guy?

That in turn inspires the friend to respond that the only thing is whether a person is useful or not. If they have no use, they disappear. Which is a sadly pragmatic stance but it also pushes us into the final section of the film in which the main character, if not heroic in himself, becomes a pioneering symbol not just of his tenacity or his nation's superiority (though the final countdown sequence intercut with the invading army, with everyone stopping as the spacecraft lifts off through the clouds, past the battling warplanes and into orbit is magnificent) but a symbol of humanity itself. Shiro's speech about the way that we will probably mess up space as badly as we have done the Earth, but we should take a moment to think of those who light the way for us to follow being followed up by a magnificent montage of human development through history is still one of the most beautiful moments of animation, maybe of the sci-fi genre itself.
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#173 Post by Murdoch » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:24 am

Thanks for bumping this thread, colin, as it reminded me to write up something about what's become one of my favorite anime series - Parasyte: the Maxim.

For those not familiar with the popular horror manga, the series revolves around Shinichi, an unassuming typical shy guy who awakes one night to find an alien parasite burrowing into his arm! From there he and his body's new inhabitant form a codependent relationship; Shinichi relying on his parasite to protect him from hostile humans overtaken by parasitic hosts and the parasite Migi relying on Shinichi's body for sustenance. Despite this having the make-up of a very strange buddy movie, the series counters its odd body invasion with a perverse bleakness throughout. Migi and his kind approach humanity as a mere food source while wrestling with their inexplicable birth on Earth. It's quite a bloody affair that often dispels humor for its fascination with dissecting human frailty and compassion.

However, unlike the majority of science fiction centered around alien invaders - at least the majority of visual media on the subject - these parasitic organisms are given a degree of depth as they try to comprehend their place on Earth through cold logic. If anything the series is very supportive of veganism! The parasites often justify their murderous tendencies through the necessity for food, comparing their diet to the prevalence of carnivores among our species.

What really stood out to me with this series was its treatment of the social response to this new species. While it doesn't reach the broad commentary that Death Note achieved with its human demigod passing out capital punishment (with a prosecutor as his sidekick no less!), Parasyte does attempt to delve into the worldwide impact of humans being knocked down a peg on the food chain. Which is why it stood out to me above the other countless anime series from the same year, it had ambition. If there's something anime can do that is beyond the reach of many live-action series and movies, it's demonstrating the vast social and political impact the realities they introduce have on the world at large. Parasyte is much more low-key than its more ambitious predecessors like DN and perhaps Code Geass, centering on a microcosm of a small Japanese city against the world at large. Despite this it achieves a powerful conclusion, showing a ray of hope after a very pessimistic run of episodes.
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Re: Anime Recommendations

#174 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Jan 01, 2016 12:27 am

I've just completed the Ghost In The Shell: Arise series and am a little conflicted. It is doing a sort of 'reboot' on the entire show, which involves rewriting entire character introductions and motivations from the ground up. Bascially it is trying to do the same thing that the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot did, in telling the story of Major Motoko Kusanagi being headhunted and eventually coming to head Section 9 and of how she chose all of her cabal of colleagues from the various characters she encounters in the first couple of episodes. It works OK, but as someone who loved the original two Ghost In The Shell films (in which backstories were less important than the immediate threat and the uncertain future for the characters) or the mythology built up in the two series of the Stand Alone Complex TV show, it was a little underwhelming to see everything go back to the beginning again, and although I found aspects to like about this retelling and how it played around with familiar elements, I would probably still suggest that the other shows would be better starting places.

Perhaps my mixed attitude towards this Arise series could best be illustrated by my reaction to the content of the third out of the four episodes, which is the episode that I liked the best yet also plays around with the character of Motoko Kusanagi in a kind of initially frustrating way. In the original films the Major's background is rather obscure, with the character's identity being rather veiled in a fascinating gender and sexuality-blurring way (there is an implication that the Major could have been a man but instead of a male 'shell' chose to have a female body instead, but is that really the case or just some teasing of a woman in a position of power by her male colleagues? Or of a colleague being interested in starting a relationship, but a little wary due to that slight question over the Major's 'actual' gender?) which is something that leads extremely well into the main crisis of self that is the main theme of the first film beyond the 'terrorism' thriller antics. When the mind is all that is left of a human being, divorced from any ties to a biological body or even memories of what that original body may have looked like, does that mean the individual will even have a specific gender to particularly identify with anymore? And what happens once the mind makes the final leap into the internet, as happens at the end of the first Ghost In The Shell, with Motoko's new hybridised mind departing and in some senses bequeathing the shell of her latest body to Batou to guard in case of her return.

The TV series have played with this too, although on a slightly less deep level (they're more action and thriller focused, though still surprisingly philosophical at times). The previous series Stand Alone Complex still kept the idea of fluid sexuality (although Motoko is basically only into women in this series!), but has begun filling in the backstories more, so Motoko was definitively always female and has been a cyborg since a young child, which loses some of the mystery but brings in a whole new set of, for lack of a better term, "body dysmorphia" issues into the mix, of someone who has never experienced a flesh and blood body and has for example been 'transplanted' from shell to shell to recreate the sensation of growing up into an adult artificially (and at great expense, which allows the series to tackle issues of ownership of an individual, with the people funding you - mostly the military - expecting something in return for their investment in your regular tune ups), and the idea of a kind of lack of solidarity with the dwindling number of uncyborg-ed humans left in the world, something which comes up with the character of Togusa who starts off the series fully human and through the various episodes begins to need to get replacement parts fitted by necessity rather than choice!

This reboot series, Arise, keeps the backstory for Motoko but the idea of fluid identity and sexuality is almost completely gone here. The third episode in particular involves a love story betwen Motoko and a male colleague who was also the doctor who had looked after her for a number of years. The focus here is much less on issues of holding onto a previous sense of self in the face of outside upheavals which feel much more clearly defined (nobody is really having internal, existential crises as yet! They are much too self assured for that!), and instead it is more about Motoko being betrayed by her lover and having to deal with the way that his betrayal ties into the wider political-terrorism thing going on. That is a bit less interesting, but I have to admit that I thought this episode dealt with relatively cliched material extremely movingly, with everything leading to the final, tragic confrontation between the couple.

It is difficult then to recommend Arise. It is a reboot that doesn't really erase the memories of the previous works in the series, or become anything surprisingly different enough to particularly justify its existence (though I really did like the third episode for its tragic love story. And the fourth episode is where the actual plot stuff starts happening, as the team is finally brought together in the wake of a major shooting incident). My biggest issue is really that everyone, especially the Major, seems really casual about destroying their cyborg bodies! It happens in every one of each of the four episodes, with arms and legs being ripped apart or blown off, which lends an air of desparation to Arise that wasn't in the previous series (it feels as if the people making Arise feel that every episode needs its equivalent to the final battle of the original film, with the Major straining her body to breaking point to win. But instead of winning the battle of her life, it is just to catch this week's antagonist) and an unintended note of comedy to the proceedings, as everyone seems so casual about breaking and replacing their bodies, since it happens so often!

Anyway another reason for writing this series up, rather than writing it off, is that there is a beautiful little short in the extra features on the fourth episode's disc. There are a few shorts in what is called the "Border:less Project", so presumably they were little promotional things for the series. They also all feature the music of Cornelius (who score Arise - one of the best aspect of any variation of Ghost In The Shell is the great soundtracks, and Arise features some very catchy and beautifully shot end credits) in various ways, and the inclusion of that music seems to have been the only real brief for the filmmakers doing these shorts.

The best one is called Foreseeing 2027 (the year Arise is set in) and in just a couple of minutes brought the City of the Future scene from Tarkovsky's Solaris to mind (Is this what people were hoping for from that sequence? Something a little more futuristic-looking? If so, this short provides that sense of movement through a bizarre, reflective, sci-fi city. It does also make me think though that it is also in opposition to Tarkovsky in the sense that we're not 'sculpting in time' any more and building up images and movement through time through real world events but instead are potentially moving beyond that into the William Gibson-esque cyberspace era of an endless moment drawn out and held in perpetuity (or as long as is wanted) by CGI - a musical note, an image, a life), but also made me think that this is the kind of imagery that Wong Kar-Wai was creating for his futuristic scenes in 2046 as well.

Oh, and if Foreseeing 2027 also seems as if it could be like a particularly stylised commercial for perfume or something like that, I was interested to note that the end credits state that it was directed by Yoshihito Sasaguchi who is apparently well known as a fashion photographer. No wonder the imagery is so striking!

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Re: Anime Recommendations

#175 Post by Trees » Sat Feb 20, 2016 3:27 pm

I will echo your thoughts on ARISE, Colin. I'm a huge fan of the two films, and have seen all the Stand Alone series. ARISE just falls short for me. It feels like an unnecessary retread in many places. I just don't see the purpose of this "reboot" at all. Though it's nice to see the old gang together, so to speak, this whole endeavor feels misguided and the efforts of the artists misplaced.

Some of the backstory is worth forgetting.

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