Category Archives: Anime Analysis

Is My Little Sister Can Read Kanji a Good Satire?

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My Little Sister Can Read Kanji is a novel I’ve complained about before. In a post from two months ago, I said that Siskan had an entertaining premise but was not a well-told story overall. I still stand by these opinions, even after reading the second volume.

And yet I haven’t stopped reading the series, nor have I stopped thinking about its themes. It makes me question my beliefs about literature, not because it’s a good satire, but because it’s a bad one.

This must be getting confusing for you, so let me take a step back and explain what the satire in Siskan is all about.

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Why Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga sucks compared to the first season

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There’s been something… missing in the second season of Blue Exorcist. It’s really strange. The production quality of the second season is high, and it’s adapting a well-regarded arc in the manga. There’s none of the filler that plagued the second half of the first season.

So why does it suck so bad?

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Did Yuri Propose to Victor?

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for episode 9 of Yuri!!! On ICE. If you haven’t seen it yet, catch up with the series today!

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Comparing the Film and Anime Trailers for The Great Passage / Fune wo Amu

fune-wo-amu-anime-teaser-009The Great Passage (or Fune wo Amu) is a novel by Shion Miura. It’s getting an anime next season, featuring character designs by the Rakugo Shinjuu artist and a spot in the Noitamina TV block. I suppose most anime viewers should have it pegged as a mature and down-to-earth drama, especially after seeing the trailers. This was my impression of the anime as well.

As it turns out, the anime’s style is only one interpretation of the novel’s story, and the live action film directed by Yuya Ishii appears to be quite a different beast, judging by its trailer. It depicts the story as a quirky romcom, complete with a socially inept male protagonist, before taking a melodramatic turn. The light-hearted approach to weighty topics is reminiscent of the “trendy dramas” of the 1980s and 1990s. (It’s worth noting that the novel, despite being published in 2011, is set in the 1990s.)

I haven’t read the original novel, so I can’t tell you how faithful either adaptation is to the story. Nor have I watched the anime or film themselves. I only have access to the trailers, so I can only comment on how these adaptations have been pitched to their audiences. The two trailers strike a completely different tone and feel, to the extent that I initially found it hard to believe that they were adaptations of the same story. This says something interesting about the leanings of their directors, as well as the perceived target audiences of the live-action film and television anime in Japan.

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The Basics of the Animated Mise-en-scène

vlcsnap-2016-06-18-19h23m22s129I’ve been having interesting conversations with various Twitter folk lately about the kind of anime-related criticism they would like to read. One of the main things people said they wanted to see was more writing about the nitty gritties of the animation craft and how it impacts the viewer’s experience (obligatory reference here to the excellent Sakuga Blog, a new animation blog on the scene which all of you should check out pronto). For what it’s worth, I happen to agree with this assessment, but I’m not terribly educated about animation theory, and I don’t think that many anime fans are.

And this is okay! I don’t think you need to know theory to love and appreciate anime. But what if you want to convey to others how much you appreciate the animation craft, beyond just “the animation looked cool!” or “the voice acting was good!”? I think that most of us are aware that the visuals and sound impact the way we perceive the characters and narrative, but we lack the vocabulary to describe what exactly is going on. This can be frustrating when we’re trying to explain why we like (or don’t like) something about a work of art to another person.

Also, for critics who take themselves and their opinions seriously, this sort of thing should matter a lot. Pure formalism may not be a highly-regarded form of media criticism these days, but it does lay the important groundwork for any lens of analysis. So let’s not disregard it out of hand.

Since I’m a beginner too when it comes to animation theory, I figure we can learn about these things together. This post is about the basics of scene composition. I drew most of the information here from the revised edition Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics by Maureen Furniss, which I think is a really well-written and accessible guide to the main issues in the field. I also encourage anyone with an education in animation theory to do us all a favour and leave a comment and/or some links to further reading. Your knowledge and insight would be very much appreciated!

(Note: While this post draws on general theories about animation, the examples I use are all from Japanese anime. While I’d love to discuss non-Japanese animation too, that’s a topic for other posts.)

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Everything You Need to Know about Qualidea Code

1468033439_2_4_4bdcd55acfeee6cd3d711c6dfc8e79f8The Qualidea Code anime started airing today! …leaving audiences around the world very confused. Thus, I have prepared a handy FAQ to explain what the heck is going on and how this series was conceived.

[NOTE: This guide uses Japanese order for names: family name first, given name last.]

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Re: Zero and the White Knight Complex

reinhardEpisode 3 of Re: Zero introduces a character who is, quite literally, a white knight. Reinhard van Astrea is a member of the Royal Guard and is apparently so powerful and righteous that he’s known as the Sword Saint. He is also, incidentally, a minor character.

As anyone watching Re: Zero would be aware, the character with the white knight complex is actually Subaru, a hikikomori who is summoned from modern Japan, armed with only a cell phone and his wits. If Reinhard is supposed to represent the unattainable white knight ideal, then Subaru is the white knight whom the audience can relate to, a hapless young man who struggles through life (and multiple deaths) in the best way he can manage. So far in the story, he is motivated almost exclusively by his desire to save the girls he meets from death: initially the heroine Emilia, and later the twin maids Rem and Ram.

We’re not told much else about Subaru (to the detriment of the storytelling, frankly), but we’re expected to immediately understand and accept his obsessive desire to save these girls he barely knows. Why?

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[sakuga analysis] Ushio from Clannad is a well-animated character

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Love it or hate it, here’s one thing Clannad undeniably excels at: character animation. If you observe the visuals closely, much of the characterisation is expressed through body language and subtle visual cues. Even when the anime goes for low-brow, physical humour, the characters’ entire bodies remain quite expressive and dynamic. This is in contrast to the rather “stiff” delivery in most anime comedies.

If you don’t believe me, just observe Nagisa’s drunken scene and Chitoge’s one in Nisekoi. It boils down to the same joke, but there’s a world of difference in the delivery. It’s not so much that Clannad is more skillfully animated (although this is definitely true), but rather the storyboards themselves were conceived with quite different intents in mind; each shot in Clannad draws attention to the movements of all the characters inside and outside the frame, leading to a natural escalation of the situation, whereas Nisekoi’s scene is full of choppy transitions from one key frame into another.

Clannad’s visual strengths were particularly noticeable in the After Story portion of the tale, especially as far as Ushio’s characterisation was concerned. It would have been so easy for her character to become Generic Moeblob #85934, especially given that her role in the overall narrative is mostly one of symbolic importance. Yet Ushio never failed to have presence whenever she was onscreen, and much of this comes down to the way her body movements were animated. It was clear that the key animators put extra care into making her move like a real child.

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Has Haruhi Aged Well?

HaruhiWould you believe that the first season of Haruhi Suzumiya started airing ten years ago in the spring anime season of 2006?

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Why do we need more goofy Cold War thrillers? The answer: Full Metal Panic

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I miss the Cold War sometimes. Not that I have ever lived through it, mind you, but man did some entertaining stories come out of it. The satire of Dr. Strangelove would never have struck so close to home if it didn’t come out of the paranoid political climate of the 1960s. There’s a kind of charm to those Cold War-era relics, in that peculiar mix of optimism (“We are the good guys!”) and pessimism (“A nuclear explosion will kill us all tomorrow!”).

As time has passed, however, the villains in your average trashy thriller have ceased to be members of the diabolical, all-encompassing Soviet Union, and the heroes are no longer unambiguously good guy Americans. Your average American action flick these days is more likely to be bogged down with cynicism and snark. I’m not a good guy, so let me take delight in being a sarcastic prick! (P.S. fuck Deadpool.)

Well, perhaps it is only with the passing of time and a change of perspective that one can appreciate the apparent “naive charm” of Cold War fiction without swallowing wholesale the assumptions of the time. Full Metal Panic wasn’t written during the Cold War, but its setting clearly harks back to it, and it is only made more ridiculous by the inclusion of moe girls and giant robots. While the series does go to some lengths to include some moral ambiguity and grittiness in the narrative, the goofiness never quite goes away, even in the most serious moments.

For me, Full Metal Panic is one of those rare types of stories that succeeds on multiple levels: as a spoof, critique and a straight example of its genre.

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