Category: film and animation

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?

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Uncle Walt-a-thon: Lady and the Tramp

<- Uncle Walt-a-thon: Peter Pan

Maybe I should’ve saved that “still better than Cinderella” line for Lady and the Tramp instead of using it with Peter Pan. After all, Peter Pan is a different kind of story; it’s an adventure story, whereas Cinderella and Lady are “watch the characters not do much of anything except [in Lady‘s case] eat spaghetti and chase a rat” stories.

Now, I’ll willingly grant that perhaps I’m not being entirely fair; perhaps it is largely my fault for being bored because there’s not enough action. As I’ve said before, my main interest in animation is animation, and with a few exceptions I don’t have much patience for works that don’t play to the strength of their medium. Besides, I’m outside the target audience for these films, and I did like Lady and the Tramp alright as a child. I certainly can’t fault the quality of the animation, and there’s nothing major wrong with the plot, it’s just not interesting to me as an adult.…

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Uncle Walt-a-thon: Peter Pan

<– Uncle Walt-a-thon: Alice in Wonderland

Short version: it’s better than Cinderella.

Peter Pan is, simply, far more entertaining. The variety of settings goes a long way by itself, but there’s also a good deal of action, humour, and of course music. Even the plot is, by Disney’s standards, fairly complex, with multiple points of conflict, e.g. Wendy’s opposition to her father’s wish that she grow up, Capt. Hook’s desire for revenge against Peter, Tinkerbell’s jealousy of Wendy, and a couple others. Someone unafraid of a little overanalysis could even write a short paper on how the film’s like a cheerier version of Lord of the Flies, as the Lost Boys are quite the little lot of savages constantly fighting among themselves, and chasing after every novelty that comes their way, whether that’s acting like the Indians, joining a pirate ship, or following Wendy to London (as a side note, I’d watch a movie about the Lost Boys going to London). All Capt. Hook, clearly their leader’s greatest enemy, has to do to convince them to join his crew after capturing them is have his men put together a spiffy song-and-dance routine; it was a nice routine, I’ll admit, but show a little loyalty!…

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Uncle Walt-a-thon: Alice in Wonderland

<– Uncle Walt-a-thon: Cinderella

After the insipid Cinderella, a part of me dreaded what lay in store for the rest of this series; would the rest of the classic Disney films fare as poorly as this? Luckily, these fears turned out to be premature, because Alice in Wonderland is a contender for the best film yet.

The contrast between Alice and Cinderella illustrates Disney’s strengths. No Disney film has a complex plot, so a work like Cinderella which relies entirely on storytelling, though children may enjoy it just fine (which I realise is the primary goal), will almost always bore an adult audience. However, when plot is largely set aside and the animators are free focus entirely on their own craft, as in Fantasia or Dumbo’s “Pink Elephants,” the results are almost always spectacular.…

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Animated Opinions (on New 2013 Anime)

I’ve always been rather hit or miss about following new anime each season. Even with a Crunchyroll subscription, I’ll go one season following several new shows, or at least giving several new shows a chance, then go a season without watching a single thing. I hesitate to call this a “busy” season, since what counts as “busy” for me is light compared to the more serious fans out there, but I am watching a few things so I figured I would share my impressions of the handful of shows I’ve checked out. (Oh, and note that I’m only covering new shows here, so this is in addition to other things I’m watching, i.e. Fist of the North Star and my film backlog).…

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Wired Theology: Godhood in Serial Experiments Lain

I mentioned last week that one thing I like about serial experiments lain is how many ideas it incorporates, or at least references, throughout the show. Most of these relate to technology and man’s relationship with technology, but since a major element of the plot involves a (self-proclaimed) god, it does touch on a couple theological issues as well. Since the show itself doesn’t delve into these very deeply, though, I thought I’d put together a few thoughts about what it does say.

When Lain first meets Eiri Masami, he points out that a god cannot be a god without believers. I’ve heard that this idea is a relatively common trope in fantasy and science fiction, but I find it very odd. After all, in the Christian theology I’m familiar with, the exact opposite is the case. God, as the Uncaused Cause, does not need anything outside Himself; rather, it is Creation that needs Him, and Scripture often mocks man-made idols (e.g., Wisdom 13:10, “Unhappy are they[…] who have called gods the works of the hands of men”).

That’s a rather weak god who needs to have worshippers, and Lain (or someone else?) exploits that by destroying Eiri’s believers.…

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Serial Experiments Lain on Glorious Blu-Ray

As I mentioned in the second Anime Autobiography post, serial experiments lain is, by far, my favourite anime, and the show that really made me into an anime fan. So, when Funimation finally, two years after licensing it, released it on glorious blu-ray I felt obligated to pre-order it.

Now, I’ll focus on this specific release rather than the series itself for this post, but I will say that what I love about lain is the show’s ambition. Writer Konaka Chiaki and his co-creators really packed a lot of ideas into this show, and the result is a series dense with information. There’s a good deal of exposition and a few infodumps, and though the generally slow pacing keeps this from getting totally out of hand, it is fair to use one of the episode titles, “infornography,” to describe this show’s approach to storytelling. If you want to know a little more about the show itself, I’d recommend reading Lawrence Eng’s short review (his site, “thought experiments lain,” is also a great resource for information on the show’s many allusions and plot points).…

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The Anti-Waterworks – My (Not So) Emotional Reactions to Fiction

Last week, Charles over at Beneath the Tangles asked “What scenes from an anime or which series have evoked a powerful (and perhaps unexpected) response within you? Why?” It’s an interesting question, but I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head. So I thought about it some more later in the day, and found that even if I broaden the question’s scope from anime to media in general I still couldn’t come up with much.

I can’t think of any fictional work that’s moved me in the sense of changing the way I think or behave, at least not in any way discernible to me. As for a simply emotional response, I’ve never been an emotional person; I’ve never cried over a novel or film, and never really get worked up over real-life events, either. During an election, for instance, my father commented that he wished he had my stoicism. Even if we broaden the question further still to non-fiction, the only such work to effect an almost-immediately discernible change in me is Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno.

After some reflection, though, I can name a small handful of works that, even if they didn’t move me to tears, did provoke a fairly strong emotion, whether that be sadness, fear, or just a great sense of satisfaction.…

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Uncle Walt-a-thon: Bambi

<– Uncle Walt-a-thon: The Three Caballeros

After a couple films in a row that I wasn’t really familiar with, we make it to a film I’ve seen many, many times with Bambi.

My first impression is that this film is beautiful. It’s one of the best-looking animated works I’ve ever seen. I’ve mentioned that some of the previous films‘ backgrounds are soft and reminiscent of watercolours, and that’s the case here, as well, but Bambi has probably the most elaborate yet. The character animation is, needless to say, fluid throughout, and I imagine it took a lot of work to get such a variety of animals to all look right. The animation doesn’t go into any of the weird, experimental stuff I usually like; the closest it comes to something like “Pink Elephants” is in Bambi’s fight with a rival deer near the end. However, it does remind me of Fantasia‘s Tchaikovsky segment with the lush colours and use of lighting, so I would consider this as a culmination of everything the studio had been working towards so far in animation technique.…

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