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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Past the Checkered Flag

After watching Cencoroll two years ago, I recall feeling cheated. What I saw was completely different from what the two trailers I watched months earlier promised to deliver. These two trailers (here and here–watch them as a reminder) boasted hip and snappy pop music, deceptively simple monster designs, colorful, if a bit rough art and some bits of impressive animation. You know that the film was something to look forward to once you watched the two trailers–that’s how effective they both were. Ho-hum character designs aside, the short anime felt to me like a treat before even watching the whole thing. And the clincher? Cencoroll was apparently another solo animator work. All of that early thrill turned into a massively disappointing heap of bland composition/direction, meager bits of actually interesting animation, and sleepy, lifeless atmosphere. The final product wasn’t anything like the trailers. Even the likable music got removed. The one selling point of the film that I thought couldn’t possibly be tampered with got cut, except for the catchy ED.

As a fair bit of consolation from Anime Innovation Tokyo, the anime is getting a second shot. Whether they actually do put out a remotely likable film this time, I’m not so sure now, but still I appreciate the effort if only because these don’t come around everyday. Though I have to ask: if they were planning to put out two episodes of the anime to begin with, why didn’t they just combine the two into a full-length feature? It would have raised AIT‘s stock even more with the audience, and would have given them more publicity. Hedge your bets into one make-or-break product and see where it goes. Not only would it build confidence in the audience, it would also show that you do trust the actual creator himself. Putting out a disappointingly mediocre pilot episode and hiding behind the reasoning that “at least there’s a part 2” isn’t a very good way of making an impact, at least in this humble blogger’s opinion.

 

pilot episodes, pilot episodes everywhere

 

Tailenders (Anime Innovation Tokyo, Picograph)

Still, you can’t fault me for expecting good things to come from Anime Innovation Tokyo‘s next effort, Tailenders. I mean, just looking at this picture above tells you that it’s hip, stylistically sound, and it’s just oozing cool from everywhere. Even though it’s hardly unique in terms of art and style, I thought it was going to be fun. I didn’t catch a trailer for this one too, so I hadn’t had any expectations as to what it could be. Thinking about it again, I realize that it was a nice way to approach Tailenders, for it wouldn’t have lived up to whatever expectation I could have had of it. Much the same way as with Cencoroll, really–which was too bad.

 

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Rain and Speed

I actually don’t have anything worthwhile to write about today, but since I’ve been in the mood for blogging lately, I feel that I should put down my thoughts on a few pieces of animation/an animator that I’ve stumbled upon and liked quite some time ago. They were refreshing little pieces, each having its own quirk and flavor, and are interesting in their own ways. It’s a rewarding feeling when you find something interesting completely by happenstance.

I guess what interested me most about these two shorts was how different each of them are from each other. One is a hyper-kinetic splash of  flashy exaggeration and exciting speed, while the other touches down on the ground and tells a more subdued, personal story. The core of the works is the same, though. The detailed backgrounds suit the tone of the pieces well, and the animation is lively and quite convincing. I liked the way the switch from one approach to the other didn’t feel jarring. In the end, the underlying charm of the first film is retained in the next, albeit distilled into another form.

 

 

Fumiko’s Confession

The first short I caught more than a few months ago. I was pleasantly surprised when I sat down and watched the little 2-minute piece. It was fun, vibrant, energetic and refreshing. The short itself wasn’t that incredible, and the content not that unique, but the reason it’s most impressive is just that it’s fun. Animation without any kind of strings attached to it–it’s just something upbeat, also it’s something that can even brighten up a gloomy day. In TV anime, shots of animation that is unabashedly exciting happen to be few and far between, thus I was delighted when I caught this.

The creator, Hiroyasu Ishida, has his own youtube channel which you can find here, and his own website, which you can find here. The various production details and information about the creator is in his site, so you can see how the two pieces were made.

 

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Alternatively Alternative 2

Some time ago, I stumbled across a very interesting magazine response by the mecha maestro himself, Yoshiyuki Tomino. I’m not going to say any more at this point, but it seemed to me his nickname Kill-Em-All Tomino doesn’t only apply to his work in the industry, but apparently he’s also quite harsh in real life. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a point, though. While I kind of feel bad for the girl he responded to, I also think Tomino was right in telling her how demanding the anime/manga industry in Japan could be.

It’s still impressive how young people are inspired enough to even think about working in anime where the pay is low and the work can be tremendously hard, even today. Manga seems more enticing, but even there the demands are the same. After all, not every manga artist can make it big. It’s hard enough just landing a gig in a magazine. It just makes the people who do make names for themselves in the industry even more respectable, much more those who become household names. I just wonder how much young blood manages to enter the industry ever year and survive in it.

 

what

 

God’s Child (Nishioka Kyoudai)

Having only heard of the Nishioka siblings (brother and sister) in passing just about a year or two ago, I didn’t have any idea as to how they drew manga. As such, I didn’t know what to expect when I first sat down to read their latest work, God’s Child. The concept was intriguing, given the art I saw. As I read it, though, I felt like this just isn’t a manga you just sit down to read casually. It’s bleak, chilling, and unabashedly brutal. I didn’t expect the manga to achieve that kind of morbid effect with the spare, almost abstract art it employed, but I was surprised at how well it worked. The manga was an enjoyable read, even if it didn’t leave me with a good taste in my mouth. And I think it’d be the same for everyone else too.

 

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Working Through Pain

Talking about the terrible disaster that struck Japan only a week ago is something I’d rather not do. It just depresses me, and I don’t feel right just commenting about it. Leave it to the pros, I say (only the reliable ones, that is). I just hope that the victims keep safe and stay hopeful. The world is behind them right now, and I believe they can bounce back from it.

Anyway, the third episode of Gundam Unicorn came out some time ago, and once again it proved to be worth the long wait. The original UC universe of the franchise has made its transition to the world of HD in a big way. I’m not one to think that the OVA is good merely because of the universe it’s part of, but I guess it is kind of ironic that it is the return to the original UC time-line which takes the spotlight in the Gundam revisits in recent years. Episode 3 of Unicorn stays true to the style of the previous two episodes: a smooth, streamlined flow of information balanced with enough bits of glorious HD mecha action to keep robot buffs happy. The latest episode, however, has a few climactic and emotional moments that strongly cap off the first half of the OVA series. Kazuhiro Furuhashi (Le Chevalier D’eon, Real Drive, Kenshin) is no stranger to franchise projects, but his work on Unicorn is impressive. I assume this must be his first foray into Sunrise’s signature franchise, and I’m impressed at how he’s handled the proceedings so far. The next episode should come later this year, promising more excitement. The OVA series itself will end in 2012, and I expect the rest of the episodes to be worth the long wait, as well. I think I can now understand how the people who kept up with Giant Robo many moons ago must have felt.

 

i wonder what's going on with vagabond now

 

Miyamoto Musashi: The Dream of the Last Samurai (Mizuho Nishikubo, Production I.G)

I’ve only heard of this film two years ago when I was lazily browsing through the internet, and I remember being impressed by what I saw. The trailer did a good job at misleading people into thinking that it was going to be yet another action-packed animated period film like Bones’ 2007 film Stranger , and I admit being one of those guys. However, those thoughts were soon quashed when the familiar name Mamoru Oshii flashed through the screen. Now I dreaded the end result of the film. I feared it was going to be yet another droning, needlessly philosophical and meandering piece of animation–his recent mode of operation. Since the 1995 Ghost in the Shell film, he’s gone increasingly more brooding, capping off with 2004’s sequel Innocence. It was a technically superb film (as expected), but I felt it was bogged down with deliberately obtuse dialogue and emotionally distant presentation. But, that’s only speaking of his work as a director. He’s still an incredibly capable writer, as seen in 2000’s Jin-Roh. That facet of his talents as a creator should prove to be a consolation for some, for in this 2009 IG feature,  Mamoru Oshii is again credited as the writer (aside from being the original creator).

 

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Alternatively Alternative

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written out something here. The recent anime have mostly been quite pleasant viewing, but I wasn’t in the mood to put out my opinions on them on a blog post, as they didn’t strike me as anything particularly awesome in the first place anyway (that, or I’m just too lazy to do anything). While the current season has been surprisingly enjoyable thus far, my notion that the winter season is mostly a transitional season for the blockbuster that is spring looks like it could be true. There are a slew of new TV anime/OVAs/movies that look mightily promising, plus the sheer amount of anime in general next season is something I haven’t seen in a while. If you’re particularly bored of anime this season, then hibernating for a month should be a plenty good idea.

Or, if you’re not exactly the hibernating type, you could just read more manga. I’ve been really out of the loop when it comes to current manga so I can’t say anything about it, but surfing through past titles should also be a worthwhile activity. There are literally hundreds more manga than there is anime, so there are bound to be some gems to be found here and there. I’m sure most have also stockpiled a considerably extensive backlog, so it’s also a nice idea to chip at it bit by bit. I’ve hoarded a lot of stuff over time myself. The feeling of being impressed by a story that’s been put off for very long is a good, if not a rare feeling.

hang this up on walls

 

Obrigado! (Shinkichi Kato)

The main impressive thing about manga is that it’s just so vast. People could cover every kind of material (and then some) and have it released to the reading public. Just about every aspect of life (or anything under the sun, really) has been drawn about, but there still is a lot of impressively inventive pieces of work being put out. Of course the industry is a business, and everyone involved is out there to make money, but the sheer vastness of the industry itself has given opportunities to a multitude of excellent artists/storytellers to effectively exercise their talents and creativity in their own personalized styles. Not necessarily does commercial purposes mean the lack of individualistic creativity. The fact that anime has continuously approached manga for material over the years for its own stories gives proof to manga’s breadth. Just as there are a boatload of fluff on the surface of the medium, I’m plenty sure there are also a boatload of good stuff hidden beneath it. We just aren’t exposed to it heavily enough.

 

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