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Posts Tagged ‘Ef ~a tale of memories~’

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! 🙂

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Whoa. Part 2. Bet you never thought you’d see this. Well…I figured since I’m on a roll with my posting today, I’d go ahead and knock this out while I’m at it. Plus, it would free up some space on my desktop…getting tired of those pictures I’m using for this taking up all the space. So here we are…Part 2 GO!

9. Koge-Donbo

Digi Charat, Pita-Ten, and Kamichama Karin

To an extent, Koge-Donbo is a guilty pleasure for me. Her art is sweet enough to give you a cavity just looking at it. But do not be fooled…Koge-Donbo is good at far more than just drawing painfully cute pictures. In what starts out as what can be compared to an ADHD three-year old that’s just been pumped full of sugar, Pita-Ten matures into an incredibly beautiful and heart-wrenching story. The only problem is that you have to get past the fluff to get to that first…and some people will probably not be able to last that long. If you’re like me and LIKE the cutesy stuff…or if you’re not, but you think you can endure it long enough…then Pita-Ten will certainly reward you in the end. Koge-Donbo definitely falls into that “more than what meets the eye” category.

10. Kiyohiko Azuma

Azumanga Daioh and Yotsuba&!

Kiyohiko Azuma is an incredible artist and a comedic genius. In both his works Azumanga Daioh and Yotsuba&!, Azuma successfully captures the humor of everyday life in a way that will bring a smile to your face (when it doesn’t have you rolling on the ground with tears streaming down your face). If I am ever in a bad mood, picking up one of Azuma’s books will put a smile right back on my face, whether I’m reading about the antics of high school friends or the innocent adventures of a precocious toddler. Not only that, but as I previously mentioned, Azuma is an amazing artist. Azumanga Daioh is a young series and so, while it does give you a glimpse of his talent, Yotsuba&! is the one to which you truly want to turn in order to get a better idea of his capabilities. Every time I pick up the next Yotsuba&! volume, I am dumbfounded by what I see…it is not just a manga…it is a work of art. Azuma takes the time to explore the different ways he can use his art to depict the beauty of life, and he succeeds with flying colors. The only downside to Azuma is that HE TAKES FOREVER TO RELEASE THE NEXT BOOK. But considering what I get from it in the end…the wait is TOTALLY worth it.

10. Short but Fun

FLCL and R.O.D.

What do these two series have in common? Absolutely nothing, except that they are both short and fun shows that any true die-hard anime fan should take the time to watch. I cannot promise that everyone will like them, but they are anime milestones…shows that give a new glimpse of anime’s true potential. To be honest, I hated FLCL at first. I didn’t get the appeal…I didn’t get it at all. The art was TERRIBLE, the plot made NO SENSE, and I didn’t particularly care for some of the characters. And then I got to the last two episodes. I don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden something clicked, and I fell in love with it. Suddenly the terrible artwork appeared stylish…the senseless plot had a point…and even the annoying characters were endearing in their own quirky ways. It’s now one of those shows that I can watch again and again without thinking twice…there’s just something so charming about it. Unlike with FLCL, I instantly loved R.O.D. Not everybody likes this show, but I did. I could instantly relate to the main character and I fell in love with the whole premise…librarians saving the world from dangerous books and the people who abuse them. Perhaps it’s because, down deep inside, even then I knew I wanted to be a librarian. But it’s impossible to really say. At only three episodes, it won’t waste much of your day and, you never know, you might just like it…so give it a shot.

11. The Sci-Fi Era: Phase 2

Last Exile, Shangri-La, and Ergo Proxy

Where the first phase of my interest in sci-fi anime tended to include those shows that were fast-paced, high-flying, action-pumped epics, my second phase focused on something slower, more thoughtful, and much more close to home. While Last Exile maintains remnants of what I enjoyed in such shows as Neon Genesis Evangelion, this is the first sci-fi anime that began to branch away from the idea that science fiction somehow involved outer space, aliens, etc. It was not about the survival of humanity against some foreign force…it was about humanity having to save themselves from…well…themselves. This carries on into other shows like Shangri-La and Ergo Proxy, two shows that have taken critical hits for being too slow, not interesting enough, and inconclusive. To me, though, both of these series had exactly what they needed: intrigue. Sure, they didn’t always have very much action, and sure they embraced a lot of confusing themes and philosophies…but I was okay with that. These shows met another need of mine: the need for a puzzle. I liked not knowing all the answers. I liked not knowing if everything was going to be okay. They set out on a very different kind of mission, and both, I feel, delivered.

12. Key

Kanon, Air, Clannad, and Angel Beats

Ladies and gentlemen, I must confess: I hate watching movies that make me cry. I do not go to watch a movie because I want to be scared…or to have my heart torn to pieces…or to be made to think that everything is going wrong in the world and that I am to blame. I go to be entertained. And entertainment, to me, means LOTS of action, LOTS of laughing, and a tiny smattering of not-disgusting romance. Key breaks several of these rules. There is not a single series I have watched by this company that has not made me cry…that has not torn my heart to pieces…that has little action, some amount of laughing, and tons of romantic elements (though not disgusting). And I absolutely LOVE every single one of them. I love how these shows have all been able to pull my heart-strings in such a way that I am able to cry from sadness…cry from joy…laugh and cry at the same time…and without feeling ashamed. Each of these shows is a masterpiece (though many would disagree). Yes, they are all technically “harem” anime…but they are only that on the surface. Yes, every single one of these FEELS like it was made by Key…once you’ve watched one, you’ve watched them all. And yet, at the same time, Key pulls different heartstrings every time. They bring up new aspects…make you look at life in a slightly different way…and make you bawl your eyes out every single time. Those tears are good tears though. And while some Key shows are better than others, I am a firm believer that they are ALL worth watching. (No, do not ask me, I cannot choose a favorite.) And believe me when I say…I am waiting on the edge of my seat for the next Key anime. (PLEASE MAKE REWRITE AN ANIME! PLEASE!!!!)

13. Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni

Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni

Much like all of the shows by Key, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni breaks a lot of my rules. (There’s just something about anime that makes me okay with it I guess.) Higurashi is scary. And not just a little scary. It is TERRIFYING. You are essentially watching children torture themselves and each other. No, not just mentally. PHYSICALLY torturing each other. We’re talking stabbing themselves in the head, tearing their own throats out, pulling off fingernails, gutting, beating with baseball bats, and the list goes on. You will cringe. You will flinch. You will wonder on NUMEROUS occasions why you are still watching this show. And yet you will continue watching. It is a gory, psychological horror fest that messes with the mind…and yet it has so many ways of keeping you hooked. Perhaps the strongest feature of Higurashi is the fact that this show is one gigantic puzzle. Though I know many people who have enjoyed the first season and the first season only, I am the type of person who likes it when my puzzles are eventually solved. Thus, if you are more like me, I recommend you be prepared to watch both seasons if you plan to begin this series in the first place. You have been warned. (Isn’t it oddly appropriate that this one happened to be #13? No, I didn’t plan it that way. I swear.)

14. Rip-Roaring Action

Black Lagoon and Baccano!

Two very different shows that are nowhere near being on the same level, and yet both succeed in providing the viewer with one heck of a fun ride. Black Lagoon is what I like to call my senseless violence anime. Ever had one of those days where you just want to sit down and play violent video games or watch a movie with a plot that consists of nothing more than characters shooting at each other? Black Lagoon fits that need perfectly. It is just plain fun. Senseless violence up the wazoo. A plot that you do not have to think very hard about. Completely unrealistic action and ridiculous characters that you don’t get tired of watching. That’s Black Lagoon. Baccano!, on the other hand, is very different. While this is another show that’s number one feature is being FUN, Baccano! is full of both strong characters and a strong story. In fact…you watch Baccano! just for that…the characters and the story. It is a “story” anime in every sense of the word. Does this mean it’s confusing? Does this mean you actually have to get to know the characters? Does this mean you have to pay attention?  Yes, yes, and yes. But the payoff is worth it. It is an extremely rewatchable show…one that I have no doubt I will be watching repeatedly in the future.

15. Ef ~a tale~

Ef ~a tale of memories~ and Ef ~a tale of melodies~

Last one! Can you believe it? And is that yet another harem anime you see me saving for last? You bet it is. And, let me tell you, it is a work of art. The Ef series is, hands down, my favorite romance anime. Yet, it contains some harem elements, and yet it has bits and pieces of fanservice like you’d expect in this sort of show, but it is, more than anything, a piece of great beauty. From the music to the characters to the story to the art and directing, Ef is a beautiful series. There is nothing not beautiful about it. Because this is a work of art, though, it has the qualities that one would expect to find in art: abstract, strange scenes that will throw a person off if they are not prepared for and willing to appreciate it. This is a slow series that one must take the time to digest…it’s like a fine wine…meant to be savored, not chugged. And I believe it is because of this that it did not obtain the popularity it deserves. It is because of this that it has not yet been licensed in the United States. In a decade where harem and moe anime are the trend, Ef is a breath of fresh air, but it is also misunderstood.  And so when I see shows like 11 Eyes and Koi Hime Musou licensed, yet Ef continues to be passed over, i can’t help but feel deeply saddened. I still have my fingers crossed, though, in the hopes that one day an American company will recognize this series for what it is and take the risk of bringing it over for the few who want it. It is worth the risk, ’cause believe me, those who want it will gladly pay the price for it.

Yay! I finally finished! Now that I’m done…I probably won’t post again for awhile. Who knows, though, maybe another interesting piece of news will catch my eye that I can’t wait to share. So yeah…see you on the flip side.

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