Whenever I complain something about modern things, I notice how I’ve grown more and more old fashioned and conservative to the extent that I give my bias to shine through without any reservations. One of these things, to some extent, is the excessive use CGI TV and film. I prefer the practical effects and every explosion that’s on the screen needs to have been there in physical form, not as something added digitally in. Same with animation, where majority of the modern animations are just 3D models being played on the screen like bunch of puppets.
However, I was taken back as I realized how little there is actual appreciation for the modern in the communities and circles I usually roll in. The aforementioned example use of 3D is one of them. Sure, the likes of Toy Story and Frozen get good comments them in being completely animated in 3D, but then when 2D and 3D are mixed there seems to be people rising on the barricades. Giant robot animation is a very good example of this, as more and more companies have moved to animate their detailed and complex with 3D models rather than animate them by the traditional methods, even thou nowadays these are rotorscoped on top of 3D models already. The pros of this is extremely consistent footage and constant quality in contrast to 2D animation. This divides people, as there are so many of those who see this a plague killing their favourite high-budgeted hand animated series. The fact in this that they’re already dead and there’s no reason to hate the 3D taking 2D’s place. We’re at a point where the old is being replaced with something new ,and to some extent is already dead and replaced as cel animation died in the early 2000’s. Embracing the new way of doing things with more detail and smoothness with less expenses is hard when you’re grown up the multilevel-shaded hand drawn animation, but without doing so the new can’t flourish.
I wonder when it began. It is hard for me to pinpoint the time when popular culture had a paradigm shift, where the new was considered inferior to old, and old was put on a pedestal over all else and claimed to be superior. That has lead us to have all these remakes, reboots and sequels during the 00’s, so we can make an educated guess that it was during the 90’s where this shift took place. Before that all kinds of new stuff was not just accepted with excitement, but also embraced and taken to a next step level as the fans wanted to see all these new things grow and flourish. Nowadays it seems all the next steps are met with highly negative criticism and wishes to return to the old. Yet, we can’t return to old all the time, we can’t repeat same things in almost same form time after time nor we can have anything new if we can’t move onwards from the old ways.
I am contradicting myself philosophically here, as you’ve most likely noticed. As someone who wishes to work in traditional means is in a world where traditional means have almost completely replaced with something new and more efficient, and I can testify that to some extent it scares me. I may say that The old way is more efficient or whatever you usually hear, but the truth is that it is outside my comfort zone and the things I personally value and have positive stance on. This has changed with the first half of the year as you’ve read, and I have no doubts most digital luddites feel the similarly. All I can say that this is a point where we need to recognize the point of growing up and accept the facts that are there. I don’t think for a minute for it being easy, but a man’s gotta do what man’s gotta do.
Which is not burn the factory.
There is some basis in resisting modern contraptions to an extent in certain fields. For example, it can be argued that pretty much all low budget films that they should not be on high definition as it shows, quite practically, everything in high detail. For example, you can see all the maskings in Friday the 13th Blue-Rei and by all means see how fake everything is. This doesn’t happen with older medias like VHS and LaserDisc, and DVD seems to be in a sort of middleground depending on the release. This can be understood, as most older materials are not meant to be seen to that detail and are designed to be seen on film from a projector or on CRT TV from a cassette.
However, it doesn’t take out the point that these formats also demand higher accuracy and craftsmanship from the modern film makers and does no invalidate how older movies are seen on the screen. Much like one can take the luddite attitude, one could take a stance of wanting to enjoy all the details that they were able to put in making the movie and see all the details no matter how low-budget or not. A well done movie is a well done movie even if low budget after all. I guess viewers can be taken out of the movie and lose their immersion if they latch on issues in the movie. Then again, most people start latching on negative issues with movies when they turn for the boring. Then again, we are taught to be analytical on pretty much anything we come across today. We lose that child like wonder on things, the enjoyment for the sake of enjoyment disregarding the technical quality. I’m generalising this a bit too much, but the point should come across.
Of course, not all new things are good or better than old ones. Nevertheless, disallowing growth of the new will be a disservice on the long run, as all things are made to be replaced and made obsolete. I will always encourage the advancements that might make my work easier, even thou I would deeply hate them.
I have to admit that I have personally grown tired of the term mecha. It’s way too broad and really encompasses anything mechanical. It’s an imprecise and unpractical term if you know what you’re talking about. Robot animation on the other hand is more precise, and we can be more precise with additional terms to this, like Human Robot animation (Tetsuwan Atom) or Giant Robot animation (Mazinger Z) and so forth. Westernfandom of course uses the mecha-term simply to note that the show is about some sort of mechanical robots. Then again, it seems that people are using that particular term as a sort of loophole to include bunch of series that have no giant robots to speak of, vetoing to the Japanese use of the word… which then really is anything mechanical. However, I do admit that I use mecha very freely in its western context, but for the sake of this post I’ll have to narrow it down to giant robot. Perhaps giant robot sounds too childish to some.
So, to be exact, I’ll be going over a bit more about giant robot animation designs this time. We’re going to check how giant robots changed at certain point from all-around cartoon characters to more industrial thing.
At some point in the 70’s there was a paradigm shift in giant robot animation, where the creators of these series began stepping away from the older style to a new, more modern direction. This paradigm shift introduced us industrial design in robot animation and comics, which has led to an increased numbers of gimmicks and details in every robot produced since then. The exact moment where this changed happened isn’t really easy to pin down, but I’d guess Combattler V is one of the first giant robots that was more a complete machine than a cartoon character.
We can assume that this shift was mostly due to the need of marketing robot toys to the children. Overall it’s much easier to overdesign something than keep it clean and simple. Mazinger Z is a notable example, and there’s a reason robots like Ga-Keen and Gouwapper 5 Goudam was forgotten.
Toy design is a branch of industrial design, so it’s not really anything special to note that when toy companies notices how well Mazinger and Getter Robo toys were selling, they wanted in. Thus, the amount of detail and attention on how the giant robots would and should function increased, and continued to increase further during the next few decades. Incidentally, this also lead into a certain level of isolation, where giant robo animation got its own stigma within the general fandom where every design began looking the same. For example, any design that followed the “real robot” principles laid down by Gundam looks different only because of its added details. This is actually rather large problem, as it just creates a large gray mass of robots where everything looks more or less the same without notable differences, which then translates into lack of interest from the general public who has more money than the core group.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Gurren Lagann became a sort of phenomena. Looking back at the show, it follows more in the lines of cartoony robots rather than what its age usually produced. It doesn’t stress the viewer as much to see acartoony robot as it does to see ahighly detailed machine hulking on the screen. The best example of this would be the live-action Transformers movies. To take amore objective approach to those, they really are some damn fine designs. The amount of attention to the detailing and how the Transformers move is astonishing and has no rivals. By all means this is the highest peak the giant robot design has achieved, but also shows the problem that this isn’t what the audience wants. They’re too detailed, there’s too much too see and keep track of most of the time. Personally, I have no difficulties on following them on-screen, but I recognize the problem. It’s the complete opposite to what Mazinger Z is, where all the shapes and details are rather simple outside the head, which is both the most important aspect of the design and the most difficult to get down just right. Perhaps this is where the super/real robot thing comes into play, as most “super robot” shows are more cartoony than those we call realistic. However, there’s a thin line here, and I still stand by the idea that super/real difference can only be done in Super Robot Wars games and within the show itself.
Cartoon/industrial is a troubling dilemma. On the other hand the older audience wishes to see more detailed robots both on screen and in model form. Then again, making too much details will make the animation harder, even if it’s through 3D modelling and producing more detailed toys will cost more. Then again dropping the detail level lowers the cost of both animation and production, but it also might not sell nearly as well. In addition, the older audience might not like more simplified designs, so the whole thing may change the target audience. Thus, it’s more important to know your target audience and design accordingly.
Then again, we have Mazinger Z, which has broken pretty much all barriers and could and should be enjoyed by all ages. This is another problem in addition to cartoon/industrial, where the designer is required to juggle between the themes and tone of the series the robot is meant to be in. This is where cartoony robots shine much more than highly detailed ones, as they can be pretty much anything when portrayed just right. Industrialised designs often start acting funny and strange, and even change proportions to add to the comedy, thus breaking the strict design they’re in. Mazinger Z can be very lighthearted, just like the original series was and it can be a full-out drama like Shin Mazinger Chapter Z is. Could Gundam be a comedy with it’s machines? No, it really couldn’t. All the comedy would come from the human characters. SD Gundam is Gundam with intentional design choices to change the show to make it a complete comedy. For Mazinger Z such changes are unnecessary as the design already allowed the design to be used in comedy.
While Combattler V can be counted where the industrial design took hold of the design where the giant robot genre would go with its designs, and Macross then stepped up the game even further with VF-1 Valkyrie. The reason to this is that often the toy of the robot was rather different than in the show if it had a transformation gimmick. If the transformation was simple, then it could be replicated in the toy, but for its time Valkyrie’s transformation scheme was complex. On top of that, the transformation was completely replicated in the toy. However, this also meant that Valkyrie’s design wasn’t a cartoon character in any form anymore, but an industrial design. After Macross, almost every giant robot afterwards was industrially designed, thus enforcing certain direction there shows went. There are high number of exceptions where the marriage of cartoon and industrial design is mixed very well together, like Xabungle, but to an extent very few series have been able to survive to this day.
We can also question the need of cartoony robot design nowadays. Animation has changed drastically since Tetsuwan Atom and Tetsujin-28, but even then we need to ask why haven’t these iconic designs been dethroned? Why is that there’s a statue of the original Tetsujin-28 rather than its FX version? I’m not the best person to give an answer to this, as I am not either Japanese or lived long enough to see Tetsujin’s evolution since its birth to the current day.
What Japanese animation (and my Little Pony) has proved that adult people are going tovalue awell-made children’s cartoon even thou they’re not in the target group. Overall, wouldn’t it be for the best to create designs that would appeal to all? Well, this is impossible to do. However, it would be for the best to balance between all possible target audiences within one design, and do more targeted design and series only occasionally. This is why a lot of giant robot show have been failing; it’s not that there’s audience to be grasped, but because these shows keep cannibalizing the exact same audience over and over. This isn’t the design fault really, but the whole genre’s overall. If the giant robot genre would be able become more broader once more, then things could look more bloomy. However, seeing how Japan’s birthrate’s are down, giant robot genre is in larger trouble than most.
To design a cartoon character is actually very difficult. Designing a robot through industrial approach really isn’t. Industrial design is hard only when you’re not really accustomed to draw within what I call function set-rules, which at its core is function before form, but after than all that follows in that design is to compensate the function with the form. Cartoon characters do not really need to follow this, because they exist in the rules of the cartoon world.
Personally I think that modern comics and cartoon overall have gone far too much into the realm of realism in many ways both in stories and how they look. Lately I have found myself enjoying older comics simply due to their appearance as opposed of modern look. The logic also functions a bit differently as well, and even the most serious stories manage to maintain their comic-like approach.
There’s something I often hear; the modern designs are more prettier and detailed, they’re more pleasing to look at. This is due to the paradigm shift, and how it has integrated itself to the general mind. Giant robots are not thought nor treated as characters in their respected series, but just another machine. Not to say that this is a bad thing, but it has made the genre far too homogeneous, where all machines are machines. In Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, the main robot of the show, Machine Caliber Chamber, is more or less a character and is unique to all others in the series, but the machine itself is still industrially designed. There has been other interesting designs for some time now, but nothing what we could call new. I hope that during the next five years we will have a new breakthrough series that will not only bring in something new but also would slowly give way to a new paradigm that we’re sorely needing.
There are few things that really astonish me in local convention organizing, mainly how bad it is. Sure, the conventions are held by amateurs but that is no reason not toaim for the best possible outcome and professionalism. These people seem to think that they’re having a small event for their friends while in reality at the moment their event has taken a world stage step.
Norio Wakamoto is asomewhat famous voice actor within the animation circles, and pretty damn famous in Japan. For the first time he steps outside Japan to visit foreign conventions. This is a huge event inside the scene, and I do know aslew of people that are coming from other European countries to see this man in the flesh. Why do the organizers not realize this?
First of all, their site is still only in Finnish. The organizers need to realize that there is a need for anEnglish language mirror, but because these people are idiots such thing won’t happen. The second is that these people are asunderhanded as any scheming moneygrubbing bastard organization would be; there’s no signing event.
Now that link is in Finnish, so here’s the short version; Wakamoto doesn’t give out signatures in general, but the organizers are having a competition where five people get one. Then they explain how Japanese do their signing events.
I respect Wakamoto’s wish to not give out signatures. It’s the choice he has made. Nevertheless, we need to remember that this person is nothing special. He is here to work. He does not only represent himself while being in the convention, but the Japanese animation industry and voice actors in general. This sort of special event demands him to go all out in promoting his works and give out fanservice to apoint. Wakamoto has no real reason to refuse a signature event when all previous visitors have gladly taken part in them.
But Aalt, Wakamoto’s Japanese and Japanese people do it differently and we need to respect that. What are you, racist? When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I do respect Wakamoto’s wish not to give out signatures, but the competition turns the tables completely around. It’s not uncommon for signature events to last only for a certain amount of time, or only serve some fifty to hundred people. Even these would’ve been more preferable than a goddamn competition. It’s lazy and the fault is on the organizers’ back.
You do recognize that this is an event that celebrates Japanese cartoon, so going with Japanese standards is expected? This would be anotherwise solid argument, except we follow the American convention format with Finnish supplements, and previous visitors have agreed to go full out to make their event something special. Hell Tohru Furuya released the opening song of Kamen Rider Climax Heroes, which he also sang live on-stage. He specifically asked nobody to record it because the song had not yet been shown in Japan. I need to emphasize that this was a huge thing he did.
And the audience outside few selected individuals didn’t appreciate it. It’s like feeding pearls to pigs
To Wakamoto this seems to be a small vacation of sorts, and not anything related to work. For him this should be a huge PR event. While he doesn’t have any obligations to do anything for the fans, it would be in his own best interests to go all out, and spread positive view on everything he is associated with. Right now he comes out slightly asshole-ish.
Still, the organizers are money-hungry idiots of sorts. At least idiots. There is no chance in hell they didn’t know beforehand that Wakamoto wouldn’t give out signatures, so they chose to negotiate this competition and announce it a month after the tickets went on sale. They knew that releasing this information beforehand would also mean that the ticket sales would take a hit. If they didn’t, then these people are not even amateurs.
Where the organizers come out in this whole ordeal is beingunderhanded and holding out important information. Openness in this sort of events is highly important, and they fail in that on pretty much every occasion. Not to mention that these people are releasing information rather late. Well, the same thing can be applied to our local event, but that’s another story. I wonder if those people have realized that their ad campaign is already late…
I want to iterate; I am disappointed in Wakamoto’s decision to act according to Japanese standards in a Finnish event that follows other Western conventions. I am extremely disappointed and offended how the organizers have handled the whole situation surrounding Wakamoto. And I’m extremely disappointed in every single fan who eats the spoonfed propaganda without stopping and critically thinking for a while. I really hate to put it this way, but a lot of people need to stop sucking up on these organizers and voice actors. Ultimately, these people can only thank their fans. The fans are why they are in the position they are now. While I agree that they don’t have any obligations to do anything more than their job, it is in their best interest to go overboard and promote themselves. As customer we may ask them to sign something, but they have all the rights to refuse.
Of course there are too many fans who do not recognize that when a visitor steps down from the stage, he is off-duty. Ultimately, a Wakamoto producing a service, and not meeting the set expectations is not a job well done.
Kimagure Orange Road (KOR) is one of those shows that are defining classics across the genres. It’s one of the most popular romantic comedy comics from the 1980’s that most older animation fans know about, but the younger audience most likely has missed it. KOR’s influence is still seen in Japanese romance comedies, but let’s take a look at how many parallels it has with Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. Now I’m basing the introduction to KOR on the animated version, as the comic hasn’t been released in the West in English… yet. There have been promises about that thou. And oh yeah, spoiler alarm for all who have not yet seen KOR.
Damnit the 80’s had gorgeous TV-animation
The story of Kimagure Orange Road starts as our main character Kyousoke Kasuga is walking hundred steps stairs in his new home town. There Kyousuke sees a red hat flying low in the sky, grabbed by the wind. He proceeds to make a bold jump and catches the hat. The hat belongs to Madoka Ayukawa, a girl of his age. The two banter slightly over how many steps the stairs had, and the two seem to enjoy the newfound company. Madoka gifts the hat to Kyousuke as a present, and walks away. Of course, Kyousuke can’t get her out of his mind.
However, Kyousuke isn’t the most normal person. Actually, his mother and her family hold supernatural powers known as the Power. What the Power does varies between the family members. For example, Kyousuke can teleport whereas his cousin can’t. Naturally, Kyousuke and his younger twin sisters are forbidden from using the Power in public, as it would lead into series of difficult situations.
The following day is their first school day, where he happens to meet Hikaru Hiyama, a tough talking rapscallion who is two years older than her friend Madoka. She makes fun of a punk who gave her lift to school, and the punk swears revenge. She doesn’t seem to care for him, Kyousuke or his sisters, and she merely passes them.
Later that day Kyousuke and the twins witness a fight, where Madoka is beating up pun
. Hikaru’s also there, and Kyousuke just watches about, not believing that this is the same kind person who he had met previously. It’s the same punk that Hikaru made into clown of earlier, and now he has his gang in the mess. Still, Madoka kicks all of their asses, and just as she’s about to light a cigarette Kyousuke steps in to stop her by popping her cigarette with the Power and destroys it by hand, telling her straight that if she smokes at a young age, she won’t be able to have healthy babies. He gets slapped silly and Madoka refuses to acknowledge she ever met a guy like him.
The day after the incident Kyousuke reflects on his situation and about his powers. He could use them to win a basketball game, or he could’ve had influenced Madoka’s fight. Yet, he acknowledges that showing off with his powers to Madoka is kind of a real life cheat code and he doesn’t want to use it. As he is reflecting alone in the gym and bouncing a ball, Kyousuke musters up atiny bit of his powers as a test and throws the ball to the other side, and the balls slips right through the net. What he doesn’t know is that Hikaru had sneaked into the gym’s storage room to smoke and saw him do the throw. She’s completely astonished; her opinion on Kyousuke on that moment changes from generic creeper to pretty awesome guy whose also pretty damn cute. In other words, she falls in love that instant.
Later on Kyousuke bumps in Hikaru while chasing his two new friends down the hall, and there she gives him thepetname Darling. Naturally Kyousuke gets in trouble for doing so (laying on girls in the middle of school’s hallway is rarely a good idea) and it is Madoka who gets him out from the teacher’s lounge after some tough talk of her own to the teachers. It looks like she is a sweet girl after all, and stays with him for some time in the school premise. However, Hikaru is a girl who really knows what she wants, and manages to appoint herself as Kyousuke’s girlfriend and acts all lovey-dovey towards her, much to Kyousuke’s own dismay and to certain extent, Madoka’s as well.
And so, our love triangle is ready.
The parallels with Kimi ga Nozomu Eien are clear at this point; we have a main character falling in love with someone, and not taking real steps toward bringing his feelings out. Ultimately, he ends up dating his interest’s friend.
I’m quite sure that âge has taken this love triangle setup from Kimagure Orange Road almost directly, but without realizing it. They’re fanboys after all, if all those references to games, mecha series and more in KGNE and Muv-Luv didn’t tip you off. It’s not the most uncommon setup ever used, but it saw a large spike in popularity in TV and comics after KOR had started. While KOR keeps the love triangle all the way to the end, KGNE does break it with Haruka’s accident. Of course, it returns when she wakes up.
The main characters of both series, Takayuki and Kyousuke, share very few common elements outside of being somewhat oblivious about their situation and what to do. Takayuki even more so, but then again very few teenage boys do during their first relationship. However, Madoka and Hayase do share a lot of similarities. Both of them act though while hiding something within, and in the end they both are very lovable girls who have fallen in love. While Hayase’s toughness is mostly playful, Madoka is a straight punk beater with her own reputation. She’s sort of a legendary ring leader. Perhaps we can compare that to Hayase’s swimming career to an extent. Nevertheless, there’s some visual similarities as well, like the long hair. In personality the two do put their best friend before themselves, which kinda is the reason things never go anywhere at first, but it takes two to tango. In love triangle it’s hard when the third one has nabbed your man. Madoka especially remembers her giving up on certain memento for Hikaru’s sake. This kind of mindset of It’s OK, I’m close enough to him this way kinda sucks, and I know it first hand.
The comparison between Haruka and Hikaru might seem weird to some, but ultimately they both have a similar starting point. Where Hikaru just falls into mad love within two days after meeting the Kyousuke, Haruka has clearly watched over Takayuki for some time through Hayase’s interaction with him. The two do what they need to do to get their man, and I’m afraid Haruka’s the bitchier of the two, as she clearly acknowledges Hayase’s and Takayuki’s feelings before stepping inbetween them. Hikaru has no idea of the feelings of Kyousuke and Madoka, but as the series continues she clearly realizes that Madoka is not only her best friend, but also her rival in love. The sad thing is, I’m sure she realized at one point that she has no chance to win over his heart. Nevertheless, the two have their sides switched, where Haruka mostly keeps her stronger side hidden while being all girly, and Hikaru does the opposite at first.
There’s also the sister character. While archetypical, Akane does wish to see Takayuki end up with her sister, and Kyousuke’s more motherly little sister would want to see him end up with Hikaru. True, we can argue if this comparison is valid as Akane is Haruka’s sister, but my counterargument would be that Takayuki always saw Akane as a little sister to himself and nothing more.
The side characters are more unique to both of the stories, but a comparison between the café Abcb Master and the Doctor Kouzuki Motoko can be drawn. Both of these characters stand in the sidelines watching the main character’s life and decision while giving drops of information here and there, and supporting the main character when needed. Both of them fill the same role, and I have to say that certain warm element comefrom both of them, as they can be stern when needed. They’re not really the archetypical big brother/sister character either, as they live separate from the main character and generally work around the mainframe of the setting while directly affecting it. Not really the most common big brother/sister trope out there.
Then there’s the sex. Kimagure Orange Road dances around this subject quite well without directlyaddressing it any more than you’d expect a romantic comedy to. However, the two films that create a third alternate ending address this matter more directly and with heavy emphasize on the meaning of it to lovers. Kimi ga Nozomu Eien gives a bit more raw image of it mostly because of the VN standards with sex, thou in KGNE’s case it’s clearly about connecting one to another on all levels to ensure closeness. The characters in KGNE are not the most balanced ones, whereas in KOR they have not gone through anything that would make them go all mental with alcohol. I got to give praise to Touru Furuya on his voice acting in the end of the second movie, where Kyousuke tearfully opens his whole soul to Madoka. It’s a beautiful scene, that I won’t forget in a long, long time.
All this fetches something from the back of my mind; is Kimi ga Nozomu Eien a classic? The answer would be no, it’s not. This is because of its VN roots, and while it did affect series that came after and coined the popular tsundere term, KGNE has not become a similar classic as Kimagure Orange Road. The animation is infamous within the hobbyists, and it divides opinions quite a lot. While the story itself is somewhat timeless and can be applied to almostevery era with slight changes, it will never be able to stand on the same ground as KOR. I hate to say, but VN is not really a good form to release high calibre stories, unless somebody manages to lift it into an actually legitimate storytelling form in the eyes of the general populace. It’s put there, but if it had been a comic or a TV-series first, then it would have become more known and more popular. Not by much, but enough to allow me to call it a classic.
Kimagure Orange Road is a must-see classic. Its influence over Kimi ga Nozomu Eien is wider than the few bullet points I’ve brought up, but this kind of similar points can be pinpointed in various other stories as well. KOR didn’t just influence elements of these romance comedies, but also their way to tell it and what to emphasize. Sadly, nowadays the genre’s pretty much dead, replaced by perverted comedies that have some love thrown into them. Mysterious Girlfriend X has influence of KOR written in it, but it as well dances in the sidelines of the new generation of fanservice comedies.KOR wasn’t a hit just with the core animation fan audience, but in the general Japanese public as well. It was like lighting, and it’s cancellation was partly due to the declining sales of the comics, and the upcoming economic crash Japan had in the change of 80’s to 90’s. Still, it got published few times around, and the cut ending got expanded later on in the collected versions.
Kimagure Orange Road’s TV-series and films were released in English in 2001 by now bankrupted ADV. Sadly, these DVDs are rather high prices nowadays and are not remastered. If you want to see the series, I recommend getting the Japanese remastered DVD. In Katsucon 18 it was announced that Kimagure Orange Road has been licensed for English translation by Hivelinx, thou only for digital distribution via NTT Solmare. To my knowledge various European countries like France and Spain have had their own releases, so you might want to do some digging.
Unlike most 80’s stuff, Kimagure Orange Road is a significant piece of influence. Simply by watching it you can notice the numerous allegories made towards it in other works, and how it pioneered a certain genre to a better direction, and also expanded the readership (and the market) by large amount, captivating readers’ and viewers’ hearts for years and years to come.
And you know what’s pretty awesome? The original artist for the comic was influences by none other than Uncle Go himself.
If you look at movies made five years ago that have CGI you’ll clearly notice that they look, well, CGI. It might be that they look really plastic, too shiny or generally extremely unconvincing at best. At worst, they look completely CGI. Every year you see better and better CGI special effects, but even the most recent films can’t really convince the audience. Yes, they can entertain, but not really convince. Dark Knight Rises uses limited amount of CGI, and whenever you see it used it looks unnatural; inorganic. If the effects do not grow organically from the surroundings, then they look fake, and if effects look fake, the movie’s unconvincing, and if the movie’s unconvincing, then the movie is nothing short of stupid.
Believing in the world that is before you is essential. Whatever is showed on the screen has to make sense and work within their own setting. I’ll be frank; I couldn’t watch Avatar to the end. It was unconvincing CGI wankery which made little sense. For example; the flying mountains? If Avatar had been a fairy tale rather than a sci-fi story it would’ve made sense. And no, don’t start to tell me how it works, because it can’t work any way in the setting.
Take Ridley Scott’s earlier movie as a comparison; Blade Runner. Blade Runner is what you’d call an old-school special effects movie. Almost everything uses physical effects; buildings were costumed in strange devices, futuristic cars were build and matte paintings show the far horizons. Go watch the opening scene of the movie, and remember that everything in there has been physical. Few table models, a matte painting background and superimposed flames do not only look really good, but convincing. You believe in them. You see and believe in the world at large before you on the screen.
I’m not arguing whether or not physical /classical special effects are better than CGI, as there’s nothing to argue about; CGI will look inorganic and fake as long as they can’t match a good scale model work, like the ones in Blade Runner’s opening. However, CGI is the better option for modern film makers as it is cheaper and practically anyone can do decent CGI within few weeks. The tools at large are so easy to work an learn that CGI, and computer generated images in general, have become cheap and taken as something obvious and given. The same thing is going on in design, where people with nil-talent and wrong attitude as well as world view are punching through just because they’re good with computers. A designer who can’t make what he designs is worthless. In CGI there’s no limitation here; you create whatever you need in computer environment and that’s that.
Physical effects do not need an artistic take, they need a good craftsman, a master, to be pulled off well enough to convince the audience. Whenever I am talking about design and about my projects I seem to sway from the subject and talk about how it’s the craftsmen who do the art, not the artists, and it frustrates me. Currently there’s a confusion in the world who does what. Let’s use the convention where I had my showcase on Laserdiscs and such as an example.
The event’s organizers were stupid enough to have an artist to make all the images, designs and such. They also lacked certain kind of system that I call customer service. The artist sent pictures of her work as she was progressing with it, and the customers chose what looked the most ready to their eyes. Now, you see that there’s nothing wrong in this way to work, unless you’ve put even the smallest events that need proper papers and commercials. The blame can be put on inexperience over anything else, and I’m still feeling a little bad for the artist, as it wasn’t just the lack if information from the customers that made her work difficult, but the inexperience of the organizers as well. But I have high doubts that neither side knew what an artist should do when making commercials and flyers. Don’t put an artist to do a designer´s job. To put this in more common sense, don’t put artist to do craftsman’s work. I believe that this artist will become a master and crafter if she so chooses.
Seeing the behind-the-scenes fiasco the event was, I hope that the organizers learn from their errors. That, or ask from people who have been organizing events longer. There’s nothing wrong in asking question, but there’s nothing but stupidity to stay ignorant and fulfil your own artistic desires.
My dad usually gives the same response to my thoughts; there would be need to resurrect the old master-pupil institution, and I agree. I’ve said many times that Da Vinci wasn’t just a master craftsman, but an inventor and genius. He was an artist in his early days when he was a pupil, but a master has no need to be called an artist. This just makes me wonder why would anyone wish himself to be called as an artist, a pupil when they’re something more and beyond those initial steps. This also leads into question why so many wish to stay in that state of being nothing more than a pupil.
CGI special effects, as computer in general, really doesn’t demand you to become master any more, but that shows everywhere and in anything one does. What I call special effects are what people would call old-school special effects, physical, analogue or any other prefix that nominates other than CGI is just special effects to me. It would be wrong to call them any other than special effects, as they’re special and effects. However, CGI special effects are not special in any form, so we call them just CG effects.
Let’s use Godzilla films as an example of master craftsmen creating worlds. Take an hour long break and do watch the following documentary. It’s worth your time.
I have all the respect on Tsuburaya’s works (even thou I blame him on how Godzilla became children’s hero that he wasn’t) as he was a master craftsman. If you looks his films before Godzilla, the ones that tell about war, you see the insane amount of detail and care put on those details. Nowadays it would be unthinkable to create a physical model for a space rocket when you can make it in 3D, and make it more unconvincing. In the end of the film you see the explosion that they’re going to re-create, and what they do looks great. While the cheapest Godzilla films do look fake (as per diminished budget) the best of them will always look more realistic than anything that CGI can pull off. The reason to this is two things; CGI aims for real visuals (what special effects are by their nature) and that CGI is either not created organically from the scene, or inherently is inorganic. It’s an argued matter if CGI is inorganic by its nature or not, but that doesn’t matter if the artists working on them simply refuse to do them properly.
While special effects might look fake and pop out just like that, in most cases they’re completely convincing, because they are there physically. That itself adds to the movie’s world, and allows the actors actually act according to what’s there. One reason why the Prequel Star Wars trilogy is awful piece of trash is that the actors have nothing to act to. Even parts of the romance scenes were put together from different takes where the actors do not even talk to each other. Explains why there’s not chemistry between actors. The same is with physical effects, or in some cases source and cause of effects. For example, there’s a famous scene where King Ghidorah flies over a bridge, the bridge just falls. There was supposed to be a special effect where the monster’s gravity beam destroys the bridge. This scene might’ve been a failure in that sense, but it’s an interesting scene where you can see some of the workings behind the set itself.
From Western shores I’d we can talk about the original Star Wars trilogy, but to have far more camp and something to laugh at (because of awesomeness) please refer to the 1980 Flash Gordon movie. It’s a beautiful film in special effects, props and all that. It was made my masters, even if the superimposed scenes were a bit poppy. It’s really a sincere movie that needs more appreciation than it has had during the years.
And if you want honestly cerebral and interesting film with good technical execution, see The Man from Earth.
There is a place where CGI does work as a natural effect, and this is in a movie which is nothing but CGI, like the Toy Story. However, I’m afraid the CGI movies are misused and going the same direction as vast majority of animation as a whole; plastics. Avatar could’ve been one of the first and proper CGI film for adults, but it was not to be. Animation has incredible history of adult films, mainly the ones made by Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth, which utilised the medium in a whole new level and elevated animation to a different status. While Fritz the Cat is pretty bad film, I have to admit that it’s really an important one and has some good images and uses the medium very well. None of the CGI movies thus far have done that, as the film industry has concentrated on making the CGI better rather than using it in ways that elevate full-CGI movies from their kiddie status to something recognizable. Sure, kids stuff can be recognized as we’ve gone over before. In all honesty, the only real thing that CGI movies thus far have been recognized is how good graphics they have.
I find it kind of laughable that people are watching a Avatar and then calling Godzilla a kids movie, when it’s then other way around; Space Pocahontas (Disney version no less) VS the very embodiment of abused science awakened.
The death of master-pupil institution left a serious impact on every field, and in film industry you can see it by the lack of physical and real props, and it doesn’t help that current culture almost abhors master-pupil relationships and encourages staying as an artist. The question really is how can one create something real when he doesn’t even work with reality?
This is an additional part to ‘From LaserDisc to DVD; how original video animation paved way for modern consumer culture’ post. It is recommended to read it first for overall understanding. Also, notice that I have started adding links of interest to the right side column for your pleasure
There’s a concept called shit 80’s OVA. At its core this encompasses all 80’s OVAs that are hyper-violent, make no sense whatsoever, most likely have sex scenes for no reason and plot is totally and completely all over the place. I’m talking about series that either take themselves way too seriously, or have been made in the most coke dusted animation studios the 80’s Japan had to offer. Some of you might be very familiar with these OVAs, as they were cheap to license and easy to get hold of when ADV and other companies started their venture into releasing anime, or have followed numerous Internet critics. I’m talking about OVAs like Hon Ran, Angel Cop, The Dog Soldier and Megami Tensei. All of these mentioned are bad shows on their own rights, but all of them are so bad that they’re enjoyable.
A certain movement has taken slight flight in the last seven years of watching shit OVAs for their own value. This began as a spinoff from the shit movie watching that has been rampart for years now (and won’t end until the film industry stops producing this much shit.) Well, it’s not a new phenomena or anything, but for this young sub-culture it’s what we old folks do when the new shows just don’t cut it any more. Anyway, the 80’s offer insane amounts of OVAs unknown to the West (or to Japan) that we need to see. Who knows, there just might be gems upon gems upon gems that the mainstream audience has missed. Like Cosmos Pink Shock!
Finding the film itself is harder than finding its LP
For this post we’ll be visiting few OVAs of varying but low quality. Some of them are just plain boring, but some of them are well animated shit with nice visuals, but otherwise they’re completely bonkers. All of the listed shows are recommended to watch, as they’re all unique and they have an entertaining coda in there, but otherwise they’re just schlock. Let’s start with Hon Ran; Crimson Wolf.
Hon Ran is one of the hidden pieces of garbage that is missed in most lists of shit anime. I mean, the main bad guys are bunch of Great Men of China’s history, like Mao, and the fights consist of flying in imaginary world and using tanks as weaponry. No, not using tanks’ weaponry, but tanks themselves. Hon Ran also houses perhaps the worst sex scene in anime to date, and believe me; I’ve seen some shitloads of animated sex scenes. The story is something about a Hon Ran, or Crimson Warrior, who is destined to rise against evil entities and defeat them. Honestly, I don’t recall much about Hon Ran, but dammit it’s somewhat entertaining in a weird way. Hon Ran’s also just as violent as any stereotypical 80’s OVA, so it’s recommended to have children with you to desensitize them as soon as possible.
Oh, more ultraviolence! Spirit Warrior (or Kujaku Oh) is directed by Rintarou, the man who is partially responsible of such shows as Doomed Megalopolis, X/1999, Harmagedon and the ’69 Moomins. In the series bunch of manly priest warriors first fight atavistic cryptofacists in Tibet, until the series reboots itself completely and the same men then fight some of the famous men of Japan’s history while saving bunch of ladies in distress. Honestly, this is pretty bad, but what Spirit Warrior has going is that it actually has good basis to exist. The comic is pretty decent and the game for the Sega Mega Drive is infamous for being one of the first games where people noticed that there’s both Western and Japanese version on the same cartridge. This kind of brainless violence is always fun to watch.
Now let’s leave the ultaviolence for a moment and let’s concentrate on awesome 80’s America as seen by drug filled 80’s Japanese animators.
The very first thing you might notice about California Crisis is how awesome it looks. This has to be one of the most expensive single episode OVA produced, as the amount of lines and the colours, as well as the general style used has to fetch rather high amount of time, but also love, to produce. I’ve got no idea how much cocaine the staff took while doing this OVA (hint; much less than in Dragon Half) but whatever; California Crisis is hilarious on its own rights. Basically it’s a story about two people going all around California with a space McGuffin while the government or some other highly organized people are chasing them. California Crisis is high on my list because of how insane amounts of shading it has, and how it looks. It’s a joyride and an attack to the senses.
Go Nagai is well remembered as one of the most influential person to the modern Japanese animation culture in general alongside other masters, but I’d argue that this dirty uncle was one of the first people to draw a porn comic for kids. Because, y’know, kids need to be educated on porn! Go Nagai’s Abarashi Family is an old and oddly warmly remembered series from this old bastard, which got an animation adaptation much like his other works.
Much like some other works from Uncle Go, one needs to have certain kind of cold and analytical attitude towards Abarashi Family’s abundance of violence, sex, teasing, sleaze rape and all those things. It’s entertainment as hell, because just sometimes you need to have fun made of these things, and somehow Uncle Go just makes them fun. No, not really, but dammit this much sleaze just has to be fun as hell. Mostly because it’s also completely insane.
On a more light-hearted note, Scramble Wars sort of prototypical cross-over OVA, which took a lot of influences from Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Racers, where the animation studio just took shitloads of their licenses into one super deformed race of complete insanity.
Scramble Wars’ concept was later used in SD Gundam series and some other works, but Scramble Wars can be called as kind of stepping stone in this SD crossovers. It’s fun to watch after Abarashi Family has forced you to take a long, cold and cleansing shower.
80’s schlock OVA had a long lasting effect in both style and direction for better or worse. Certain hyperviolence stuck to the 90’s TV animation and movies and not only because the directors and animators got those jobs, but because the OVAs had such an effect. Their bold and insane effect can still be seen in the modern games, movies and animation in general. The generous amount of blood and gore, the certain stylistic approach that Obari and his masters were engineering and generally an attitude that never really seeped through anywhere else. While shit can always be shit, there’s also shit that’s beautiful to watch and entertaining.
One of the modern OVAs that have spirit of these shit OVAs is Mazinkaiser SKL. While not really shit, there’s unmistakeable amounts of similar elements there that the previously mentioned OVAs has, albeit in more modern form. I mentioned SKL to be the last of its kind in the previous entry to the History of OVA, but it demands repetition; as much as Mazinkaiser SKL is just “decent” it encompasses all the good and bad that the 80’s OVA had to offer, and it stands pretty much all alone in the 2000’s offering on OVAs.
At this point I have to give credit to Dr.Nick. His help on making these synopsis’ was a life saver.
Next time we’ll take a look at bunch of good OVAs from the 80’s, and if we’re lucky I’m going overboard and putting in some 00’s shows as well.
Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse aired yesterday. Koda Kumi’s song is awful. Now that we got that away, let’s discuss the episode proper (but short.)
DESPERATION TOWN, POPULATION; ALL OF US
We begin the series with nice introduction to the BETA and the alternate history the BETA-verse has. The newcoming viewers are able to see the first fight that humanity waged against the BETA, and lost; the First Lunar War. We who come from the main trilogy and the light novels already know all this, but like the newcomers this is the first time we see the Lunar War. It’s quick and rather painless, but for a moment you can see that the humanity has nothing against the BETA.
After “taking” over the Moon, the BETA land to Kashgar, and the viewers are given a chart of rapid BETA expansion, as well as the coda what the story is.
Fast forward to 1997, Kyoto.
This is a nice way to convey hints towards the genre shift Muv-Luv has. Soon after this scene we are met few Type-82 Zuikakus flying and landing, telling the viewer that yes; this is the world where hope burns with a dim light.
The school scenes are well thought out; we get nice exposition on surface pilots and the war against BETA in general while we get to know the current main characters. The daily bickering, playing and all is there, and we have very little hints towards what’s going on. The following scene starts with some mechanics working on Zuikaku’s head, but we pan out for some more character interaction. The news in the background give background exposition of the current world situation. There are things that are not right, the newcomer thinks. We Chickens know better, and as we wait for upcoming desperation we can enjoy the relatively happy life Yui is having.
Yui’s meeting with her uncle, and the pictures in the wall all give further hints that this is Imperial Japan, but the evidence is not yet concrete.
She is unnamed, and never called as such, but then we meet certain someone who shall become the Grand Shogun.
In war, let your objective be victory, not lengthy campaigns
Then we change for some fanservice.
While this scene is fanservice, it also provides somewhat important information how a fortified suit is put on. This is something that has not been shown before. Next minutes are spent on your normal TSF training, where we see that controlling a TSF isn’t the easiest, and the pilots are under constant stress while piloting.
These training sequences are not only service for the fans and newcomers, but also provide information how the visual information works with TSFs. The swords have the covering, but the pilots do not see them. We can deduce that the visuals given are most likely boosted to certain extent to give proper feedback to the pilot.
Cue for some more slice of life.
It’s a grim slice of life.
Fast forward 1998, when the BETA reach Japan’s shores at Kyushu. We see ships, tanks and artillery shooting towards the BETA with no effect, and the scene where the Destroyer Class charges forwards makes newcomers see the futility, and reminds the chickens of what the BETA are. The news in the following scene give a bit more exposition, and we are shown people fleeing from their homes due to government issued command. It’s a glimpse of their life, a glimpse that makes me gnaw my teeth.
Hear the earth thumping and the screech which cuts the air
It’s a defence battle. The BETA have advanced near Kyoto, and it’s our main heroines’ job as surface pilots to fight the BETA.
A glimpse but that’s enough for PTSD to kick in, and give the newcomers an uneasy feeling. Then we see two TSFs shot down by the Laser Class. Then it hits our heroine; the brutality of the war they have been born into.
I wonder when did we stop trying to count our dead? When indeed. This is the moment where Yui is face to face with the war, perhaps the first time in her life. She has seen two surface pilots shot down just like that. She knows that the fight she will most likely be her last.
And then the BETA arrive.
And Yui has becomes stern. She is filled with fighting spirit. For her country, for her friends, for those she loves. And so they go, the pilots of tomorrow to fight the battle of today.
The first episode lays a solid base for the second episode’s fight. The slice of life may be something that a hardcore mecha fan doesn’t want to see, but appreciating these scenes is important to fully enjoy what is to come. We are given a look at the normal day of a higher class citizen, and a glimpse to a commoner’s. It’s not a pretty sight after you’ve absorbed it all, as the newcomers might remember that most of Eurasia has been lost, and now Kyoto’s under attack. We’ve seen what the BETA do and how easily, be without anything special but their teeth but also what the Laser Class does. The training we’ve seen has been against another TSF, so one might wonder how is this training going to help with aliens from another world?
The newcomers might find the world a bit confusing, but the world is laid bare before them. The staff have worked within the limits they have and came out rather well. Perhaps a two episode premier would’ve been better, but at the moment it’s difficult to say. We’ll see in about a week what kind desperation await.
Getting this post out sure was a glitchy experience…
Violinist of Hameln is a strange animation series. It has a strong story, great music and compelling animation. However, it lacks what animation should have; proper animation.
From the get-go the Studio DEEN was in budget problems with Hameln. This shows in the series so much, that bulk of it is simply still screens of your standard TV-animation cells with voices. Sure, the most action intensive scenes are animated well, but Talking Heads syndrome is strong with this one. However, there are times when animation is strong and very well done.
Objectively, this brings down the whole meaning of having an animation overall. The story could’ve been told as a visual novel, light novel or something along those lines rather than making it into an animation with low budget.
I have to mention the music first, as the whole series has an orchestrated soundtrack filled with classical musical scores from Mozart & co. with the series own score, which serve their purpose very well and more. The first opening is a sort of 90’s techno influenced pop song that blends in surprisingly well, and the second opening is basically an opera I want to sing myself. The songs fit very well in their respective parts, mirroring the overall atmosphere.
A good, light and happy atmosphere…
No, that’s not a bass, that’s just one big ass violin he has there
There’s this joke that the Japanese has made the motionless picture into a moving one. Violinist of Hameln is perhaps the best example of this. However, this also has forced the animators to use these still images to convey a lot more than they actually can. A series of still images with perfectly set music and spoken lines still manages to tell a great story overall.
It’s interesting to notice how well received the series was despite its constant lack of animation.
While I’m still fresh from the series itself, I admit having a really soft spot for the series. While the comic its based on is very much light and full of comedy, the animation series is serious from the get go, allowing only few instances of comedy here and there. Granted, I’m not the best person to talk about comedy as I prefer more serious approach in my stories. That might be the reason I have such high regard of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien and MuvLuv, as they both blend tender comedy with heart stabbing drama.
The story, right. I will go with the animation series story as it’s the subject here more than the comic’s.
In this world, humans and demons fought a bloody war sixteen years ago. This war came to an end when the Queen used a magical field to protect the world with a barrier that turned all demons into stone.
Where these demons came from? The a box that a woman named Pandora opened for the man she so much loved.
The story is that of Hameln, a young orphan man who has lived in a secluded town. In this town, there is a custom not to let outsiders enter the, but for one girl named Flute they allowed him to stay. They grow up together with the double bass sized violin Hameln has, and with his “pet” crow Oboe.
One day a swordsman appears in the town limits, wounded. Hameln and Flute take him to the town, where Flute’s grandfather recognizes him as his old friend, a knight of the Queen Horn. His last words are “bring the Princess to her mother” before a demon consumed him from inside out. Here, Hameln shows what he would become known of; to play his violin to invoke the magic within music. With this, he realizes the wishes of the townsfolks defending the Princess, Flute, and gives them power to stand against the demons.
Flute, being a normal girl up to this point in her life, refuses her being called a princess, but after her and Hameln’s home town has been burned to the ground, she and Hameln have no choice but to embark towards Sforzend, the city where the Queen resides.
Along their way they meet Raiel, Hameln’s old friend he has no recollection of, and the tragedy of their home town where Hameln lost his memories. They are accompanied by Trom, prince of the Country of the Sword, whom finds courage and sadness among his new friends.
Of course, all this time Hameln and Flute are under constant attacks from the demons and their Warlords. They have little to no time to rest, as the demons are readying their full assault against Sforzend, to reclaim Pandora’s Box and to take over the world.
It’s very clear from the very beginning that Hameln isn’t what you would call human. When the assault of Sfrozend occurs, Hameln fights against the question whether is a human or not.
I’m struggling not to spoil too much for those who want to see or read the series, so just skip these few paragraphs.
It is shown, that Hameln is the son of Pandora and Chestra, the Demon king. In his veins runs the blood of the demon kind, and he shows this in order to slay one of the Warlords amidst the assault. Flute, claiming that she will love Hameln no matter what form he should have, never abandons him. After the assault the war is seemingly over, Demons defeated. However, during the victory party the demons attack the palace in the shadows, trying to reclaim Pandora’s Box. This Box the Queen holds is a fake, and thus the second part of the series takes place, one year after these events.
Here we see Hameln and Flute looking for the real Pandora’s Box, and ultimately they found more than they were looking; the truth behind Pandora, Hameln and her sister, and the destiny set for Flute. It all ends in Flute sealing away Hameln, the New Demon King, inside the Pandora’s box… until the temptation of love finally makes her to open it.
The ending is, by all means, a good ending. It’s a melancholic one filled with sadness and loss, and none of the characters really have their own personal resolutions. The world is saved, but with a high cost, only to be thrown away one day. While I admit to be a sucker for happy and nice endings like in MuvLuv, the animation’s ending doesn’t really leave me yearn for more; it ends the series and puts the ‘end’ in the end.
The comic has much more happier ending, a much more brighter future (with a sequel) where Hameln and Flute live happily through much of it all.
Thou the comic is far too gag comedy for my likings, at least in the beginning.
But fear not! The same animation company created a 30min TV-special before the main series and this special nothing to do with the series. It doesn’t suffer from from the budget issues of the series and follows the spirit of the comic. I recommend watching this after the series because it’s fun to see Hameln acting like a goddamn jackass, that is if you haven’t read the comic. If you have, then jump right in and leave the TV-series for later watching.
Indeed, the emphasize is different in each version, and quite honestly, if you don’t like the other, you most likely will find the other more interesting. Granted, even among anime folks this series seems to be rather unknown or at least infamous for its bad animation, but that never stopped me enjoying it through and through.
Yes, every time I listen to this song I sing along out loud, even the parts that go high and kill my throat
It certainly is a flawed series, but then again I am after these interesting shows and stories that are forgotten in annals of time. Sometimes you find a gem like this, that just needs to be dusted off, and placed on the shelf for the whole world to enjoy once more.
Now, I won’t make it a habit to make this kind of posts. Well, I wasn’t going to make a habit to post about video games either… Also, it seems my previous post about Langrisser IV has been deleted due to a glitch. Rewriting time.