Browsing the archives for the Anime category

Manga Multimedia

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Anime, Culture, Technology

Been awhile since I posted anything, so I’m going to pick up from an earlier post I made on Bleach — I didn’t want to totally dismiss the series out of hand having simply watched the anime. After all, anime is usually pretty debased compared to the manga versions. It’s entirely possible that the Bleach manga could have had fantastic artwork compared to the anime, as some of the comments on the YouTube version intimated. So I did a little searching and actually managed to find some of the Bleach mangas online.

One of the bad trends I noticed was people usually put these manga comics to music. I turned off my volume, as I really don’t care about hearing YouTubeKid99’s favorite song of the moment. But at some point after watching a couple of these, I turned my sound back on and was surprised — The chapters I was looking at actually had some thought put into the music choices, timing, panning of scenes and pages. Pretty cool stuff, even if it is for a derisible power up manga.

TonyCHRYSA in particular seems to post some awesome, well-composed videos. He’s the source of the video at the top of this post, and most of the others that I watched in order to get a feel for Bleach as a manga as opposed to an anime.

These videos didn’t change my mind about Bleach — The manga has the same poor art quality and general power-up fantasy substitute for a story as the anime. But I do find it interesting how people on YouTube can invest the time and effort into these black and white comics to set them to music, pace the video, do special effects, and so on and so forth to turn what you’d normally expect to be a simple visual experience into an almost-interactive one.

Bleach

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Anime

About a month or two ago my TiVo decided to record the television show Bleach off of Cartoon Network. This is a manga/anime that I’ve heard of, but I didn’t know anything about it and the name didn’t sound particularly appealing to me — What is it, a show about a kid with bleached hair?

I watched the one episode on my TiVo and actually found it somewhat interesting. There was some character who had come into possession of a parakeet that seemed to be cursed, causing accidents to happen all around it. Then there also seemed to be some characters who were part of something called the “Soul Society.” My impressions were sketchy, given that I was jumping in mid-stream to the show, but it seemed a little metaphysical and therefore interesting.

So a few weeks ago as I browsed PopURLs I came across a fansub of Bleach on YouTube. As it turns out, my impressions of the show were completely wrong. Instead of being some brain-stimulating show drawing you into a fantastic universe where the supernatural is a real element of day to day life and a mysterious organization called the Soul Society allows the viewer to explore the dimensions of this universe, it turns out that Bleach is just another Dragonball Z clone. How disappointing. Not really a surprise, as most of the non-fanservice, non-dating-drama, non-mecha animes out there seem to be this same formula of “Protagonist and his weaker compatriots fight opponents using glowing energy blasts and teleportation, usually justified as martial arts even though the characters rarely if ever actually have a legitimate fight without using anime conventions. During fights, protagonists and enemies “power up” and take on different forms.” The majority of anime is so formulaic that it’s a wonder to me why it’s so popular.

The funny thing I noticed when watching this Bleach show on YouTube was exactly how little “show” there was. Between the introduction song, the recap of previous episodes’ events, and a typically anime not-funny comedy sketch at the end of the episode, I think the total running time for the episode came in at about fifteen minutes. Factor in that a large portion of these shows typically involves: 1. Characters “powering up” attacks, 2. Characters standing-still as attacks bounce off of them, and 3. Characters standing around bragging about their “power level” or “skill” and it’s amazing how little content or actual animation must be involved in making a show like this.

I guess I should have remembered my general rule that any anime that appears on Cartoon Network, aside from Cowboy Bebop, must be tripe.

Fallout

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Anime, Culture

So Shamus recently made a post on, to put it broadly, the direction of the arts industry. The whole thing was apparently sparked off by an ongoing conversation on some other blogs about anime, “fansubs,” the open source movement, programming and art.

On the one hand, the process of creating anime as we know it does require a certain scale which makes it infeasible for anything but a well-funded company to produce. On the other hand, I’m pretty skeptical of accounts that fansubs substantially cut into profits. Granted, the extent of my knowledge of fansubs consists of watching a few clips on YouTube, and in interacting with rabid anime fans. My impression from the latter is that, outside of the corporatized piracy which is rampant in Asia, fan subtitled videos don’t represent a serious threat to anime sales in America. Fansubs seem to be thought of a stopgap allowing the truly rabid fans to get their fix early, but these fans are also the same obsessive personality type that insist on owning the releases anyway.

I guess I’m getting on a bit of a tangent from where I wanted to go. Darin, a commenter on Shamus’ site observes:

I have seen the end of Hollywood, and it is Open Art. CGI is getting very good at presenting realistic characters. And maybe you don’t even care how realistic they are. What happens once we get to CGV? Computer Generated Voices on the par where they sound “close enough”. And if computer power keeps increasing, I say that we’ll reach a point where someone will create a movie software package. Design the actors (CGI & CGV), write the script, gather the CGI scenery, and plot the movements and camera angles. Turn the crank and out pops your “movie”.

This strikes me as correct. I think we’ve still got another ~10-15 years before it becomes plausible for your average obsessive compulsive creative genius to make their own CG movies. It’ll probably take another 20-30 years or more before it becomes accessible enough for all but fringe elements. The confounding factor here, I think, is that it’s doubtful that existing media will survive that long. We’re already seeing a transition in how media companies distribute (and, to a lesser extent, create) their content.

Even though I can see a future where the bottom drops out for current media companies, I think it’s pretty unlikely we’ll ever reach a “tragedy of the commons” situation where all our resources (in this case, anime) have been exhausted. Human beings crave culture and entertainment, often in specific forms. I find it exceedingly unlikely that a sudden end to existing business models would wipe out a cultural movement that’s got, say, thirty years of material built up and generations of people weaned on its specific style.

The Trouble with Haibane Renmei

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Anime, Personal

Now that we’ve got Christmas mostly behind us, I figure I may as well mention one of the issues I kept running over in my mind until now. With how much I enjoyed Haibane Renmei when I watched it earlier this year, I decided that it’d make a great gift for several people I know.

I can’t think of too many movies or shows that might be more appropriate to give this time of year. Aside from the amazing, though subdued, visuals and audio of the anime, it’s also a fairly innocent series. The latter is a bit complicated though, because despite the initial innocence of the series, it does deal with complex issues of family and friendship, support, guilt, and so on. Even though I feel like the series is ultimately uplifting and positive, I wonder about the possible implications one could see in receiving Haibane Renmei as a gift.

Spoiler tag for safety…

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Haibane Renmei: What are Haibane?

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Anime

If there’s one question which I felt was central to the anime Haibane Renmei, it was “What are Haibane?”

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Haibane Renmei – Impressions

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Anime

We’re coming up on 2008 and I finally got around to watching this one. I’ve been meaning to watch it for a really long time, but had never gotten around to it. What’s a really long time? I first heard of the series in when Steven reviewed it in 2005.

Now, part of the time lag was intentional. I don’t usually like reviews to color my initial impressions. Even so, the reputation this little anime had built up made it an intimidating prospect to watch. In retrospect, the idea of putting off watching this anime because it seems too intimidating is a little ironic, as it’s one of the least intimidating animes I’ve seen. Funny to think that I’ll usually jump right in to something like Ghost in the Shell, which is the sort of thing you need to mentally brace yourself for if you want to comprehend the world that’s being presented and the stories that are being told, yet I spent so long avoiding this quaint little story. I’m actually a bit surprised at how inviting an experience it was to watch, certainly something that seemed fitting to watch around Thanksgiving.

If I hadn’t stopped myself I probably would’ve watched the whole thing in one day. That would’ve been a little bit overkill, but I did absolutely devour this series. Despite what is so little obvious plot, the whole thing is so well executed in every way that I found it extremely compelling. The series creates a little world that you can peek in on … but only for 13 episodes. It’s really a shame, because I felt like I didn’t want it to end. I don’t think there’s much more I can say to praise the series than that.

OS-Tan

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Anime, Art, Culture, Technology

or, “People Scare Me (especially Japanese people)”

I remember seeing this image awhile ago and thinking how crazy someone must be to make something as weird and fetishistic as this.

OSTan2

Apparently though, there’s a whole genre of fetishization of software, operating systems, machines, and all that kind of fun stuff. It’s called “OS-tan” in Japan. Gigantic surprise — yet another crazy Japanese fad. I found this link over on Reddit to a repository of this madness.

This second one isn’t quite as technically good, but at least it’s not quite as strange. I have to admit I find the concept of a fox-girl holding a giant ball between her legs a little … questionable, but, at least it’s not as overtly sexual.

OSTan3

The weirdest one I’ve come across is this one. I dunno, just the combination of the prepubescent little girl with the text blaring you to “Try!” … Yikes.

OSTan1

Serial Experiments Lain

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Anime, Culture, Visual

Possibly spoiler-ish musings below.

So last night I finished watching Serial Experiments Lain. My reactions are alternately,

“Wow.”

and

“What?”

I’m still not sure I understand what happened. If anything happened. The show reminds me a lot of Ghost in the Shell, not merely for the fact that both deal with science fiction ideas of identity/being and the internet, but also in that both seem to tell stories with a similar sort of incoherency. Ghost in the Shell is more of a Matrix-like blend of philosophy and action, whereas Lain reminds me more (to be kind of generous) of, say, the Sixth Sense, but a lot of the narrative techniques seem pretty similar.

Or maybe they’re only similar in that they are frequently incomprehensible to me. Any given Ghost in the Shell plot is going to try, if it can, to have a twist. Maybe everything you see is fake, an elaborate illusion conjured up by the Major. Maybe the person the Major is after isn’t the real culprit or, even better, doesn’t exist at all. Maybe a character we think we know is actually someone else, an action we see turned out to have happened an entirely different way, or some other trickery. Lain pulls from the same stock, but instead of eventually culminating in some [usually somewhat anti-climactic] reveal, it keeps pulling and pulling and pulling.

It must have the most complex plot I’ve ever seen in a story. But, that said, since it’s so huge, so incomprehensible, I don’t get the feeling of fulfillment when everything falls into place — Because not everything has fallen into place. In fact I only have the sketchiest idea of “what happened” and am mentally just not even bothering to try to string the other ninety percent of the anime into my conception of it. Maybe one of these days I’ll get around to watching it again, but I don’t know. I’m not one to really watch things repeatedly and I am kind of daunted by the idea of watching the series again with a mind to “Get” it. That’s not to say I found it difficult to watch the first time through, but a second time watching it would be purposeful and thus open itself up to becoming difficult.

I’m kind of happy with where it’s residing mentally right now. Basically, floating around free-form inside my head, not as some coherent whole but as bits and pieces — Fragments and associations that pop into existence and then disappear. It’s like the mental process of eating a meal, moving from experience to experience, enjoying the richness of each without appealing to a systematizing process of ordering and establishing hierarchies.

Maybe I’ll write about this more again later.

Adventures in Anime

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Anime, Personal

Via Steven I came across this posting by BeckoningChasm on his conversion into the otakusphere collective.

I kid, of course. I’m not an otaku, and I only use the term because, like BeckoningChasm, I don’t tend to use the conglomeration of jargon and adopted Japanese words that most other people who write about anime do. There’s really no point to using borrow words where English will do just fine. I’ve been watching anime regularly for going on a decade now, and it’s rather strange because, like BeckoningChasm, I don’t consider myself an anime fan. I think it’s kind of a unusual situation to be in, particularly when the fanbase of anime seems so often to be so fanatical that they swear off books, television, live action movies and start dipping into disturbing and obsessive practices.

Unlike BeckoningChasm, I’ve been watching anime for about a decade now. I can count the number of anime DVDs I own on my hands, but have a few friends who collectively must own almost every DVD ever burned. Where did I get started? That’s tough to say. My recollection of events that far back is definitely jumbled. I do remember the first two major anime films that I watched: One was late at night when everyone else had gone to sleep, I pulled out the DVD of Ghost in the Shell, which I had remembered being recommended by Siskel and Ebert. I sat down to watch it and was completely hypnotized. The other was a DVD recommended to me called Ninja Scroll, which was enjoyable enough but certainly not something I’d class as great. Presumably the latter is respected for its animation quality, but I really don’t care about the technical aspects of production so long as it doesn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the story.

From there I’ve gone on to watch a decent number of movies and series, although I am pretty passive insofar as my anime-acquiring habits. I recognize that almost everything out there is garbage; Either it has no redeeming qualities or it isn’t entertaining to watch, or both. By utilizing other people as my filtration mechanisms I can maximize the amount of good content I can watch while minimizing the bad. The trick, of course, is, as BeckoningChasm points out, finding out how other peoples’ tastes coincide with your own. For example: Big O and Full Metal Alchemist are both shows that became very popular because they were featured on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Both are trash, but worse, I didn’t even find them enjoyable trash. Big O had an amazing concept, but it was never developed, instead being used as a vehicle to ignore continuity and throw lots of big robots at each other. I hated all of the characters in Full Metal Alchemist, found the plot repetitive and far too graphic to be enjoyable. Lesson learned: The dreck the masses of Cartoon Network lap up like it were honey is not for me. I find this a pretty good rule, although I will watch that interminable series, Inuyasha, simply for the fact of analyzing it in terms of an ongoing D&D campaign, or DragonBall Z, which is a definite guilty pleasure.

Of course, personal recommendations are also hit or miss. While I enjoyed Ninja Scroll enough that I don’t have reservations about watching it, I was also recommended Plastic Little by the same friend — And I definitely regret watching that. Steven , just to give a more relevant example, has watched and liked enough harem/romance comedies, and rejected as many other good series or movies, that I know it’s probably hit or miss whether our tastes align.

In any case, I have run across a number of good recommendations in my internet travels, and will run across more no doubt. Now if only I had the time to watch them…