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Just use "that".
Kyosogiga (Rie Matsumoto, Toei Animation)
All right, before anything else, I’d like to wish anybody and everybody a happy New Year. It’s only about a week late, so it’s a little pointless, but I feel that I can’t move forward with anything without getting that out of the way. Well, the end of last year meant the end of the fall anime season, and boy was it a disappointing finish (I ended up dropping almost half of the shows I was watching). The most interesting shows–in my view–were those hold-overs from the past seasons, such as Mawaru Penguindrum (whose finale was on Christmas week) which ended in a rather satisfying conclusion, even if the show was lost one me at times, especially during the middle sections. As far as the most disappointing series of the fall goes, though, I think I’d hand the title to Bones’ UN-GO. I thought it was presented in a consistently sloppy and uninspired way, especially given that it was supposed to be a mystery show, and even the studio’s calling card–steady cool animation–was lacking. The whole show itself slowly fell apart for me until it inevitably became a complete mess when it ended. Awesome ED, though. Probably the best of that season.
Rurouni Kenshin #60
Studio Pierrot may be stuck animating whatever popular manga is running in Shonen Jump for the foreseeable future, but it seems they are not averse to producing non-franchise anime every once in a while, as was seen in their recent film, Onigamiden. I admit looking out for it after watching a trailer, since it boasted a barrage of thrilling animation, and the movie itself was crewed by some of the heavyweights in the industry. What I got in the end was, more or less, true to how I had envisioned the film to play out–a severely crippled piece of animation that hinges majorly, if not solely, on the power of its visuals to propel itself, rather than a truly effective fusion of both the technical and storytelling aspects. I appreciate the delectable animation put on display in this film, so I will not say outright that it was a bad film and that you shouldn’t watch it, but I almost detested the uninspired story it brought to life. The story could just as well have been lifted straight from the pages of a woefully simplistic, tedious shonen manga (well, apparently it was adapted from a light novel), from the setting to the characters to father issues to just about everything else. Now, I can enjoy works in this vein, but even I have to draw the line somewhere. There is a difference from being enjoyably conventional to being annoyingly cliched, as subtle as it is.
The IdolM@ster #18
I was wondering whether or not Makoto Kobayashi was involved in the newest Last Exile anime out of Gonzo, because I didn’t catch his name in the credits for episode 1, so I looked more closely as I watched the next episodes, and sure enough, there he was: credited under “production design” (or at least, I think that was him). And then, after I’d given the matter some more thought, I realized that I shouldn’t have been wondering about the matter in the first place, and I was made aware once more of my stupidity. The general aesthetic and design sensibilities of the new Last Exile anime is pretty much a straight extension of the style seen in the first series, back in 2003. Imaginative and creative world design is a big part of the mixture that makes for an effective fantasy story, and this is the highlight of both Last Exile series. I imagine the role of a production designer was to provide the basic framework and imagery of the world and the elements inhabiting that world–from clothes to buildings to environments to ships–and once more, Kobayashi exhibits his skill at crafting a beautiful landscape in which the characters move about. It’s just too bad for me that the overall quality of the work (as far as LE: Fam is concerned) doesn’t quite match up to its design brilliance. Without an equally imaginative and talented director holding things together at the top, the resulting anime remains rather insubstantial and lacking.
I’ve been in a sort of funk in the past week, so I’d been more than a little out of it in terms of the goings-on around the world of anime, and it’s also why I hadn’t been paying all that much attention to blogging anything. It happens every once in a while. I don’t go after anime news on my own anyway.
Well, I’ve just readjusted the wiring and returned to the swing of things recently, and I’ve almost caught up to the anime I was keeping up with for the past months (I almost wish I didn’t pick up all the anime that I did; catching up is so troublesome). Notably, I finally had the chance to sample the first episode of Bones‘ film series Towa no Quon, the posthumous work dedicated to director Umanosuke Iida (Tide-Line Blue) who passed away a year ago. It was supposed to be his latest original work, and it was continued by the studio after his unfortunate death. After watching the first film (out of 6), I’m sorry to say that I was markedly underwhelmed. The 47-minute film felt more like your ordinary 24-minute episode of an ordinary TV anime stretched to twice its length instead of a strong and effective, stand-alone film. Rather tedious fare, the film was. I’d expected something even a tad bit more engaging, not just a bland film acted out by flat characters amidst a typical sci-fi story. Granted it was the first movie out of 6, it’s not that bad of a job, but when asked to stand on its own as a singular film, it doesn’t really hold up well.
What did save the film for me, though, were the exciting action sequences, as expected of Bones (and the film staff). Since I didn’t know any better, I had expected the battle in the first few minutes of the film to establish the tone and direction of the rest of the anime, but unfortunately, whatever flashes of greatness those few minutes had gradually dissipated in the course of the piece. There were some nice action bits at the tail-end of the film, for sure, but they just weren’t able to measure up to the excellence of the opening battle. For that we have to thank, first of all, the master action animator Yutaka Nakamura, and the guys who’d helped him out in between, Masahiro Sato and Hironori Tanaka. Nakamura’s patented style of organically furious action animation was in full-force in his section, which is easily identifiable (he was the very first animator I became aware of when I began getting further into anime), and it was satisfying, as expected, as it was filled with wonderful choreography, kinetic speed, and beautiful drawings. In between his work came, supposedly, Masahiro Sato, who I guess animated the parts with the long-haired woman zipping across the background toward the boy, with all the zooming lines and fast action. Tanaka did the initial scene where the mutant boy was running away from the guys chasing him. The flattened backgrounds and brisk, exciting movement give him away. The three of them combined to create very thrilling action in the span of a few minutes.
It’s quite surprising for me not to have heard of Tanaka appearing in a lot of TV anime lately. He did some work on the second OP of Sacred Seven and the fourth Bleach film, but other than that I’ve seen nothing else. It could be that I’m just not watching enough anime, but it still seems weird to me, especially since just some months ago the guy had appeared in upwards of four TV anime in the same season…I wonder what’s going on.
A little word of warning before I proceed: this post is actually NOT about Mawaru Penguindrum, talking about either its latest episode or some other related subject worthy of lengthy discussion. I just chose this image after watching the seventh episode because it was just, well, interesting. Out of all the shojo manga artists whose drawings I’ve seen (that is to say, I haven’t seen all that many), Lily Hoshino’s art, in my view, has a little unique something in it that separates it from the others, though basically her drawings aren’t that distanced from standard shoujo manga fare. And I’ve also liked seeing the end title illustrations she’d provided for every episode of Penguindrum, where they are rendered spontaneously and are nicely done, at that. As for the series itself, I’m still very much interested in how it is going, especially after seeing where the plot took its story in the latest stint. It’s also nice to see those musical sequences make a return here; they’d given the ep some fresh touches of levity here and there that kept the whole affair lively and rich throughout despite the strange developments. That said, I’ll probably resume blogging the series by episode 9 at the earliest (because of some tasty rumors I’ve heard about it), but much of that still remains to be seen. We’ll see how the next few weeks go.
One of the manga artists I really like is Tetsuya Toyoda. To my knowledge, he isn’t that prolific (since I’ve only read two of his works), but based on what I’ve seen, his work just has that special touch of tone and dramatic flow that floats my boat. His art itself isn’t spectacularly detailed or amazingly rendered, nor do I think he’s got incredible technical skill, yet the way he draws people is appealing and very personal. Toyoda’s art has this specific look that’s distinctly his, in the sense that you could tell at a glance it was he who drew the picture, no matter how random it may be. And he’s also got a nicely sensitive approach to character emotion and dramatic flow, something that I’ve noticed in some of the excellent dramatic anime I’ve seen. Not too overblown or over-acted, but seamlessly woven in and convincing. He leavens it with some quick yet subtle specks of fun humor as well, which makes for a surprisingly well-rounded and natural reading. Essentially he could be writing an emotional story, but he generously adds in light stuff throughout that makes the flow and content feel utterly natural and even realistic.
The other day I finally finished watching what was a rough yet ultimately gratifying experience in the name of Texhnolyze, that one Madhouse show I’ve seen (make that read) people heap quite a lot of praise on for its unflinching grittiness and hard-boiled nature both in terms of narrative content and aesthetic stylization. On the one hand I feel that the show deserves what’s been said about it, as it indeed was tremendously consistent and unrelenting when it came to the ebbs and flows of its story, but on the other I feel that it was a bit too hampered by the uneven state of the visual quality, something I guess is to be expected in a TV production, but in here is just a tad too disconcerting. But that’s not to say I wasn’t moved by the gut-wrenching turn of events in the string of episodes comprising the final arc (from, I guess, episode 17 onward). They did a marvelous job of making me feel like the absolute dregs of humanity until the ending credits rolled in episode 22. I’ve been pondering for a while now whether to write some sort of a comprehensive write-up about the series as a whole, but doing that would mean me going back and looking over each episode again which, frankly, isn’t the most exciting prospect in the world. And there’s already been a lot said about the show, so I don’t want to add any more. So I’ll just make do with this (hopefully) quick run-down.
After a few weeks of steadily increasing build-up and excitement, every development in the show finally came to a head in last week’s finale. And boy, what a finale that was. The sheer impact of the episode alone was enough to wipe out all the doubts I’ve had about the show since the first few weeks it aired. Sure the first few episodes were a bit spotty, but little by little it caught its stride at the right time and sustained that drive until the end. Not only did the series slowly begin to deliver on the action front, it also managed to build and heighten the interest brought by the particulars of the story–namely, the stuff about the Financial District and such. Most of the economic mumbo-jumbo got over my head, but the presentation and the flow were dramatic enough that I didn’t care anymore. If anything, I shouldn’t have doubted Kenji Nakamura. He did bring the goods here, and then some. It just took getting past the halfway mark of the series to happen.
If not for anime databases listing this production as a TV series, I would have finished watching this anime thinking that it had been a movie or an extra-long OVA or whatever: with the fact that I watched a stitched-together version of the sixteen TV episodes definitely helping. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind that it was divided into sixteen parts, much less think of it as something that was aired on TV. But that’s just what happened–so seamless were the transitions from one ep to the next that the whole thing itself may just as well have been made as a movie. Part of the reason may be attributed to the guys who pasted all 16 eps together (in the version I watched), but I think much of that reason lies in the episodes themselves. There’s a really visible sense of fun and playfulness abound in all of them, stretching from the visual gags of the eps themselves straight to the slapdash, yet vibrant stuff in between. It’s clear that the guys behind this Colorful project enjoyed doing what they did, playing everything with a twisted eye for fun, but also with a careful touch to prevent it from sliding into over-indulgence.
Colorful (Keiichi Hara, Sunrise)
Back to blogging about cartoons I am after what felt like an eternity without internet access (that and other business). As such the backlog I’ve acquired is tremendous, and I think I may even have some of the shows I picked up, and now I’m also way out of the loop when it comes to anime…but anyway, I digress. Two weeks ago (or was it three?) I finally had the chance to watch this film, which I’ve been keeping an eye out on for quite some time (also after I watched Coo). Since I watched Coo, I’ve already taken a liking to the director, for his stubborn and almost methodical approach to his work, not only in terms of the framing and some such technical stuff, but also in terms of the content, like the dramatic aspect. And he does it while still maintaining a high degree of visual interest for the two hours or more his films run. 2010 saw Hara’s return to movies with Colorful, a film which more or less continues in the trend I’ve seen set in 2007’s Coo.