Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Bakemonogatari’

I said I was going to write this post quite awhile ago and now, weeks later, I’m finally getting around to it…big surprise there, I’m sure.

About a month or two ago, I took the time to watch through all of Bakemonogatari. I remember seeing the promotional pictures of it when it first came out…and while it did catch my eye, I’m pretty sure that it was going up against Gonzo’s Shangri-La in the fight for my attention at the time. And…being a lover of Last Exile…the character designs by Range Murata won hands down. It was a fantastic anime, by the ways…slow, but unique, and totally worth my time. I’m still hoping they’ll localize it in America eventually, but not really expecting it, considering how political the show was. Anyways…to get back on track…

Bakemonogatari

One review I read about Bakemonogatari that did NOT rave about how wonderful it was really caught my interest. While the writer made a point of saying that they did not hate the show, they did make what I thought was a valid criticism of the art style. For those of you who have yet to watch this show, Bakemonogatari spends a lot of screen time focusing on characters’ faces while they talk, if not still shots. It also has a habit of spending a lot of time on screens filled with words and no images. Also, if I remember right, there were quite a few scenic shots, all of which were extremely simplistic. So really…when you add it all up…except for a few fight scenes (which were far and few between)…the amount of animation in this show is minimal.

Close-ups, text-filled screens, and simple backgrounds

Not only is the animation simple, but this is also a very “talky” show. And by “talky,” I mean exactly what that sounds like. The show does have a little bit action, but it is mostly comprised of scenes full of the characters’ talking to each other.  While this may be considered by some to be Bakemonogatari‘s weak point, it is also very much its strong point. This is an extremely clever show, full of wordplay and witty humor. The only problem with this is that most of the humor is, as can only be expected, very Japanese. Being able to “get” all of the wordplay requires an extensive knowledge of kanji, and much of the wittier humor is steeped in Japanese culture. In other words…unless you are Japanese, have lived in Japan long enough to be fully integrated into the country and culture, or are otherwise able to be equally familiar with the Japanese way of life…most of the humor in this show is going to go over your head. I know it did it for me. (On a side note, I do have to say that the translators of this show deserve some serious applause for their attempts to get the humor across. Even if I still didn’t get all of the humor, the effort they put into this series was superb.)

Now…to get to the heart of my argument…I pose to you this question: Is this animation style artistic? Or a sign of laziness on the part of the directors and animators? Personally, I don’t think there’s a wrong or right answer to this question (unless, of course, you can hear the answers from the horse’s mouth). I think it comes down more to personal taste. To some the blank canvas looks like a blank canvas, and they wonder why on earth somebody hung it up in a museum. To others, though, it is genuinely a work of art. As one of the people who only sees a blank canvas, I can’t understand why they think it’s a work of art, but I can respect the fact that the piece is speaking to them in some way, even if it does not do the same for me. And while Bakemonogatari is no blank canvas, I think the same ideas can be applied here. On the one hand, some people are going to see this as how far an animation company is willing to go in order to make as much money as possible with the lowest budget. Others, on the other hand, will consider Bakemonogatari to be an incredibly clever work of art that knows how to really think outside of the box.

As for my opinion on what does or does not constitute as artistic by my own standards, I don’t really have a god way of explaining it. There’s no real words that can be used to define what I mean. I can tell you that I tend to like pieces that stand out in my mind as “beautiful.” They can be strange, like M.C. Escher-strange, or even in some cases Salvador Dali-strange, but there must always be some sense of what I call “beauty” about the picture. For example…I would consider the ef ~a tale~ series to be a work of art. There were countless jaw-dropping scenes that just completely wowed me. I’d never seen anything like it before in anime, and, honestly, I don’t ever expect to see anything like it again:

The Art of Ef

Where ef is what I would consider a work of art as a whole, though, there are plenty of series I can think of that have “artistic moments.” Elfen Lied, for example, has an extremely artistic opening sequence that draws inspiration from a real artist, Gustav Klimt:

Gustav Klimt (left) Elfen Lied (right)

Another series I could say has artistic elements would be Revolutionary Girl Utena. This series relies a lot on symbolism and suggestion to get certain themes across to its audience, and it uses the art to do this. One show that I have yet to see (but eventually plan to) is Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, another anime that has a very distinctive art style.

For Bakemonogatari specifically, I guess you could say I think that there’s more to the show than just laziness, but I also think the company utilized the artistic style to save themselves some time and money. I think this was more evident in some episodes than others. There were times where the tendency to focus on the characters’ faces really grated on my nerves…other times, though, I was perfectly fine with it. And I guess the reason I feel that it wasn’t all just the corporate desire to save some money is because when Bakemonogatari broke away from its usual simplicity, it really went all out. There were some incredible scenes in this show that really glued all of the visuals together and made the show stand out. The ending of the main part of the show (prior to the OAVS) especially shows that there was some serious talent behind the art of Bakemonogatari:

Simply stunning...

So, while Bakemonogatari is no ef (though, really, what show is?), it is, in my opinion, an artistic series. Even if it did overdo things sometimes, it did what it did very well. It’s a very memorable show to say the least…one of those that, once you’ve watched it, you can’t entirely forget about it.

Well…that’s all I have to say for today. Please feel free to give me some feedback…I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have any. Otherwise…until next time! 🙂

Read Full Post »

Let me tell you a little something about me. I am one of those people possessed by what I will call “wandering thoughts.” And by wandering thoughts, I refer to the tendency to begin with one thought and, via a series of tangents, end with a seemingly unconnected one. I cannot count how many times I have had to retrace my steps, wading through an hour’s worth of thought and discussion, before being able to remember just what the heck I was trying to figure out that got me started on this whole little journey to begin with. This post is the product of one such tangent.

I began by thinking about a post I have been considering writing about an anime series I recently finished, Bakemonogatari. And while I still intend to eventually get around to writing this post, during my brainstorming today, I got pulled way off track. Perhaps due to the nature of Bakemonogatari‘s subject matter, I suddenly began thinking about zombies and our culture’s obsession with these disgusting and horrifying creatures. Another post I will probably try to write at some point. So, as I was trying to figure out just why exactly people are obsessed with zombies, and why they have such an impact upon us, my thoughts diverted yet again, to none other than William Faulkner’s delightful short story, “A Rose for Emily.” And while this is not where my tangential thoughts ended, it is here that the main content of this post (and tons of spoilers) will begin:

For those of you who have yet to read Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” let me just go ahead and say that it’s worth your time to read it. In the meantime, though, let me go ahead and give you the briefest *spoiler-filled* summary possible, straight and dirty: “A Rose for Emily” is about a crazy old bat who, after dying, is discovered to have been sleeping with the skeleton of her thought-to-be-thirty-years-long-gone fiance. Now, of course, there is far more to the story than what I have just given you, but for the purposes of the points I wish to make, that’s all I really need to say about the plot.

Next I must go into a very intriguing interpretation of this story I once heard. One suggesting that “A Rose for Emily” is a symbol of the South’s refusal to let go of the past. Now…before I continue…let me go ahead and say I am not a fan of symbolism. I choose to believe that most of the bull English teachers throw at you about what Faulkner or Hawthorne or Twain wanted their readers “to get” from their writings is just that: bull. Yeah, that’s right. You heard me. Coming straight from the mouth of someone who has studied English for more than six years (including graduate school). Probably 95% of all that symbolism your teachers tried to stuff down your throat was pulled straight from their derrieres. Of course they don’t believe that…but I do. And we all know that my opinion is the only one that really counts. 😛

So…getting back on track…in spite of my hatred for symbolism, especially the kind that is forced into existence outside of the author’s will…this particular interpretation of “A Rose for Emily” that I heard really caught my interest. Somehow I liked the whole image of this old necrophiliac being a symbol of the Deep South’s inability to let go of its pre-Civil War past. Perhaps it’s because, at the time, my innocent self needed a way to reconcile the fact that I had just read a story about a necrophiliac. Accepting the story as being a pure symbol, rather than literal, would certainly have been an easy way to do that. Or maybe I just found it interesting. Who knows.

Anyways…this whole connection between “sleeping with the dead” and “being unable to let go of the past” really stuck with me for a long time. And when it popped into my head earlier, for some reason, I suddenly thought of the ongoing series I have been following from one week to the next: Mawaru Penguindrum. (Which, by the way, I am still head over heels for.) I believe, at the time, it was merely coincidence. If I remember right, I was trying to remember why my previous post on the series had gotten so many views (compared to my other ones), and was trying to figure out a way to write something about Bakemonogatari that would generate as much interest. And it just so happened that, at that moment, I had jumped to thinking about this from my reminiscing about zombies and “A Rose for Emily.” As it turned out, the timing was perfect, for it was then that I was blessed with that extraordinary moment some people like to call the spark (a.k.a. inspiration).

Amidst analyzing my previous post on Mawaru Penguindrum, I suddenly thought to myself rather jokingly in what I imagine to be my mock-snooty intellectual inner voice, “Ha! Speaking of zombies and obsessions with the dead…” Followed, of course, by that oh-so-dramatic pose: hand over chin, lips spread in a smirk, and eyes gazing knowingly into the distance. And just as I was about to move on from that thought, dismissing it as another tangent, I paused and thought to myself: “No seriously. Speaking of zombies and obsession with the dead…you have got to be kidding me.”

Lo and behold! What do we have in Mawaru Penguindrum? Some not-so-gross, but definitely creepy zombies (*coughHimaricough*) and people obsessed with the dead, (*coughRingocough*). Now wait a second, you may say, I’m pretty dadgum sure that Himari was alive and kicking until the last five minutes or so of the latest episode. And I say, why yes, she does appear to be that, now doesn’t she? I mean, it’s not like her skin is rotting off her skeleton, right? And she seems to be able to have intelligent conversations with her peers. But if we look beyond the seemingly-ok surface of Himari’s current existence, an ugly truth rears its head:

Since the first episode, Himari has, for all-intensive purposes, been dead.

And so...she dies.

With the help of a certain penguin hat (and the mysterious persona “who comes from the destination of Fate”) , though, Himari is miraculously returned to life!

I LIVE!!!

As wonderful as it is that Himari has been returned to life, we have been told on multiple occasions that this resurrection is conditional. And for those of you who could not believe this to be the case, you, along with Shouma and Kanba, found out the hard way in Episode 5:

Kanba's epic rescue scene...

 So, to put it all together, what does this all mean? That Himari is only alive thanks to the power given to her via the penguin hat by the mysterious someone possessing her. See where I’m going yet? If not, let me spell it out for you: Zombies are humans living a not-truly-alive existence due to powers given them by someone or something else. In the tradition of Romero, it’s some strange disease. With a more fantastical twist, it’s the result of a necromancer’s spell. In reality, it is, rather than a revival of life, a reduction of one, thanks to being injected by a psychosis-inducing drug. Different from each other though they may be, these many types of zombies are all the same at their core. The circumstances may be different, but they are the same in the end. And going with this most basic of principles, we could say that Himari qualifies as a zombie.

Strange, I don't seem to be myself...

So, if we continue with this thread of thought, we then find ourselves with a very interesting and deeply disturbing situation. Because if, indeed, Himari is existing as what is equivalent to a zombie, then what were already some questionable scenes…

Incest?

…have suddenly become oh-so-much-more disturbing:

Starting to see the connection?

Ok, ok, ok, so let’s move past the necrophilia and zombies and whatnot and move on to the second point I brought up (and began to touch upon with Kanba): obsessions with the dead. For this, I bring in Case Study #1: Ringo.

I'm going to grow up and be my dead sister!

Here we have a young lady whose desire to repair her broken family has combined with and been horribly warped by her loved ones’ (as well as her own) inability to let go of Momoka, her dead older sister. Brought up surrounded by people (specifically, her parents and Momoka’s best friend, Tabuki-sensei) who have been unable to move on from the loss of their loved one, Ringo has been raised in a situation that has left her feeling inadequate. Having heard Momoka-this and Momoka-that her whole life, Ringo has developed a severe inferiority complex, being forced to follow in the footsteps of a sister she can literally never hope to catch up to. And being forced to watch as her family crumbles into shambles (probably largely due to their inability to get past Momoka’s death), Ringo feels that the only way she can possibly save what matters most to her is by becoming the very thing that caused it to fall apart: her sister.

The sacrifices we make for those we love...

And after ten to fifteen years of living with this disturbingly twisted mindset, we wind up with this:

She's starting to look a bit zombie-ish too, don't you think?

Beyond her obsession with becoming Momoka, Ringo is an empty shell that has only recently begun to show signs of life.

Though I could go on and on about all of this, I am getting tired of writing, and so I am going to go ahead into my final example. For in Mawaru Penguindrum, not only do we have the living dead and the dead living, we also have a prime example of a person who is trapped by the past:

Case Study #2: Shouma:

Forced to shoulder the burden of his parents’ decisions, Shouma must live the rest of his life, knowing that his birth triggered a terrible event which resulted in the injury and death of many innocent people. Innocent people including Ringo’s sister, Momoka.

Tied by the past

Though Shouma may not be directly responsible for what happened to Momoka and the many other people hurt by his parents’ involvement in the Sarin gas attacks, he is inextricably tied to this past nonetheless. Now that I think about it, Shouma attempting to help Ringo is actually quite ironic. For the past several episodes, he has been trying to help Ringo break away from the very same past that he is trapped by. Not so different, after all, are they?

Now where have I seen this expression before? Oh wait.

So there you have it. I’m done for the moment, because it’s getting late and I have other things I’m supposed to be doing. So…that’s right…I’m going to leave you hanging. Piece it together for yourselves and give me some feedback if you like. I may or may not come back to this and discuss it some more.

Since I’m nice, though, let me sum up my thoughts for you really quick:

HIMARI=ZOMBIE

KANBA+HIMARI=ZOMBIE ROMANCE (A.K.A. SLEEPING WITH THE DEAD)

RINGO=OBSESSESSED WITH THE DEAD (WANTS TO BE MOMOKA)

SHOUMA+RINGO=TIED TO EACH OTHER THROUGH PAST

Er…and my final point…I guess I’m trying to say that these are some serious underlying themes I’m seeing in Mawaru Penguindrum. Perhaps if Utena was about escaping present social expectations, then Mawaru is about escaping the past that threatens to suffocate us. At the very least, it could certainly explain some of the disturbing feelings I’ve been getting as I’ve watched this show.

Final Picture: Don’t tell me you never thought these “stairs” looked like ribs…

Further evidence to support my theory that Himari is a zombie

Read Full Post »