Category: film and animation

Rozen Maiden: Zurückspulen

yukishiro_(hitsuji)A little over a year ago, I wrote about the first two seasons of the Rozen Maiden anime adaptation (leaving out the OVA, which I haven’t seen). Now, an adaptation of Peach-Pit’s sequel has recently concluded, RM: Zurückspulen. I wrote last year that RM: Träumend is probably the best expression of Rozen Maiden‘s concept, but in some ways Zurückspulen may be slightly better. At the very least, if you liked the previous Rozen Maidens, you need to see this new version, as well.

I should point out that this is a sequel and though a newcomer may be able to make sense of events, you’ll need to have either read the original comic, or seen the anime adaptations, for the new story to be especially meaningful. For the rest of this review, I’ll assume that you have some familiarity with the RM prequels.

The backstory is a little convoluted, because it combines the comic and its (significantly different) adaptation; the first episode, a recap, ends with Jun making his decision to enter the N-Field as in the comic, but adds the (previously anime-only) Kirakishou as the main antagonist. Most of the rest of the story centres on Jun in a parallel universe where he rejected the invitation to “wind” or “not wind” and thus never met the Rozen Maidens. He’s now in college, though he often skips class, living alone, and working a somewhat lousy part-time job.…

Read More Rozen Maiden: Zurückspulen

Thoughts on Watamote

watamote_ep2

I’ve been following Tanigawa Nico’s comedic manga Watamote (short for the succinct Japanese title, translated: No Matter How I Look at it It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m not Popular!) for about a year, and like it enough that I’ve imported the first three Japanese volumes and am reading them at that slow, agonising pace that characterises my attempt at that language. When the anime adaptation was announced, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, Watamote is often almost painful for me to read because of my low tolerance for second-hand embarrassment, which is a constant in this series, and animation would likely only make that worse. On the other, some things do benefit from the switch to animation, especially if the writers try to expand on the story a bit.

So, our protagonist is Kuroki Tomoko, just beginning her first year of high school and optimistic about her prospects for enjoying her school years. Unfortunately, she also has to deal with more than her fair share of social anxiety. For example, she struggles in things as simple as returning a “good-bye” to a teacher, and congratulates herself for navigating an interaction with a convenience store clerk when buying snacks. So, at first glance, she seems like a rather sympathetic character, especially for those of us who were rather shy and introverted in high school, ourselves, and she’s not totally friendless; she does occasionally meet with a middle school friend, Yuu, who went to a different high school. Watamote‘s catch, though, is that many of Tomoko’s problems are her own fault, and though I wouldn’t call her a bad person, the show is frank about her other problems – she’s judgmental, a bit lazy, jealous of others’ success, and occasionally dishonest.…

Read More Thoughts on Watamote

The Aristotelian Argument for Animation

I’ve touched on why I like animation before, but I’ve been wanting to expand a little on why animation is particularly worth following, even if it’s less accomplished than other media (e.g., literature or painting). In particular, I find myself returning to near the end of the Poetics, where Aristotle considers whether tragedy is superior to epic poetry. He answers “yes,” in part because tragedy can use any of the same techniques as epic, right down to using the same poetic metre. This puts them on equal terms, but tragedy also has “a substantial role for music and spectacle, which engender the most vivid pleasure.” Aristotle stresses this vividness, and I’ll add that this vividness works to enhance whatever effect an artist wishes to impress on his audience, whether that be a feeling of horror, comedy, and so on.

This argument in favour of tragedy also applies to animation, which possesses most of the same tools available to other arts, e.g. live-action film, comics, and literature, but in addition is capable of a level of spectacle that no other form can match.…

Read More The Aristotelian Argument for Animation

On the Hobby of Collecting Hobbies

One consistent problem I’ve had throughout most of my life is that my principal hobby is collecting hobbies. Almost everything is interesting to me, and my shelves are stuffed with books of literature, history, philosophy; DVDs and glorious blu-rays of film and animation; plenty of music and comics. If I had the time, I’d get into even more – theatre, fine arts, sports, cuisine, and who knows what else.

So much dabbling does have its advantages. There are few people with whom I can’t find some common interest, provided it’s not too obscure – and even then, there’s a decent chance I’ll at least be aware of what they’re talking about. Having a wide field of reference also helps when dealing with authors or directors who also have a wide field of reference, whether I’m reading through T.S. Eliot’s tangles of allusions or Tanigawa Nagaru’s off-hand references in the Haruhi novels.

It also allows me to be especially selective as far as what I read and watch. The majority of the books I read, the films I watch, the albums I listen to, and so on, are at least memorable. Of course, it’s also possible that I don’t have as much appreciation for the excellent since I don’t have as much mediocre content to compare it to, but for now I’m content with the selective approach to media.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of free time, so even though I have a working knowledge of so many topics, that knowledge tends to be fairly shallow. So, for example, I watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica as it came out, and though I enjoyed it, much of the discussion of the show centred on how it relates to other magical girl shows. I had nothing to say on that, because I can count the number of magical girl anime and comics I’ve experienced on one hand. I did catch the Faust references, though.

I’ve occasionally considered focusing my attention almost entirely to just one, maybe two fields, but have never seriously attempted this. As much as I respect those who have an encyclopedic knowledge of a particular subject, I find the world too fascinating to devote myself to just one aspect of it. So, I continue to run about in circles, in a mental equivalent of getting a free sample of every item at the supermarket without actually buying enough of any one thing to make a full meal.…

Read More On the Hobby of Collecting Hobbies

Short Thoughts on Fritz Lang

There are very few directors (and no actors) whose films I’ll watch simply because of their involvement. Fritz Lang, though, seems to have joined that list.

The first film of his that caught my interest was Metropolis, several years ago and, I’ll admit, primarily due to the anime connection. I enjoyed it and even wrote a paper on it for a film class in my freshman year at university, but for whatever reason didn’t follow-up with any of his other films until recently, when I watched M and then, just yesterday, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse.…

Read More Short Thoughts on Fritz Lang

Impressions of Interstella 5555

Me being such a fan of animation as animation, Interstella 5555 is a film I should’ve watched a long time ago. It’s compelling and there’s little else quite like it, and even the background of its production is interesting. As Daft Punk were producing their second album, Discovery, they hit on the idea of setting a story to the album’s music, and wrote up a plot outline. Being fans of Leiji Matsumoto’s anime Albator, they got in touch with him and he agreed to take on the project of creating an animated film set entirely to Discovery‘s music.

interstella2

Read More Impressions of Interstella 5555

Uncle Walt-a-thon: Sword in the Stone

<– Uncle Walt-a-thon: 101 Dalmatians

Besides the English setting, Sword in the Stone has another common Disney trope in that it opens with a picture of a book with some narration. This may have had some novelty value the first time they did this, and I understand that they’re trying to create a certain feeling for the story, but setting up the story with straight narration like this is very easy, and having seen it multiple times now it also feels cheap. Was it just obligatory at this point?

At least the opening narration was partly sung and rhymed this time.…

Read More Uncle Walt-a-thon: Sword in the Stone

Uncle Walt-a-thon: 101 Dalmatians

<- Uncle Walt-a-thon: Sleeping Beauty

It’s another dog story set in London. This does allow some cameos from Lady and the Tramp side characters, but between these two films and Peter Pan, part of me wonders whether it’s just a coincidence that Disney chose to adapt three works all set in England so shortly after each other (more than that if one includes Alice in Wonderland and Sword in the Stone). Just a fondness for the setting?

Anyway, I watched 101 Dalmatians many, many times as a child, but one thing I didn’t remember is that the art style here really feels hand-drawn. Obviously every film has been produced prior to CG animation, but look at this frame, for example:

dalmatians2

Read More Uncle Walt-a-thon: 101 Dalmatians

Uncle Walt-a-thon: Sleeping Beauty

<- Uncle Walt-a-thon: Lady and the Tramp

In some ways, Sleeping Beauty is a revised version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, since both adapt fairly simple fairy tales that don’t seem to lend themselves to a feature-length film. Disney has covered wide variety of subjects in his films so far, so it’s sometimes difficult to compare them, but these two lend themselves to comparison.

Of course, Sleeping Beauty does offer better animation than its predecessor. The backgrounds are gorgeously detailed, and the first part of the film has an unusual, flat look to it from the lack of shading, making it reminiscent of simple storybook illustrations. Snow White is also visually appealing, but the extra two decades of refinement shows in the newer work.

The main difference between them, though, is in how they attempt to fill out an eighty-five minute run time. Snow White did so mostly with music. This kept the film entertaining without trying to pad out a very simple plot, but does have some drawbacks. We know next-to-nothing about the world outside the dwarves’ cottage; all we know about the prince, for example, is that he’s handsome, has a good singing voice, and isn’t afraid to kiss a girl while she’s asleep.…

Read More Uncle Walt-a-thon: Sleeping Beauty

Why I Watch Anime: An Internal Dialogue

In short, why do you watch anime?

A few reasons. One is that I enjoy the community. A few problems aside, I like exchanging thoughts with other fans on blogs, forums, and Twitter. Conventions and podcasts can be fun, too, and it also gives me something to share with my little sister.

Of course, there’s also my interest in Japanese culture generally; I’ve studied Japan’s language and history, and seek out Japanese films and literature. Primarily, though, the medium of traditional, 2D animation fascinates me, and Japan is the only nation that produces a lot of it.

What is the appeal of animation, then? If there’s a relative lack of material in that medium such that you have to go halfway around the world to find much of it, why not focus more on, say, its cousin film, which has a greater quantity and quality of work?

Read More Why I Watch Anime: An Internal Dialogue