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Posts Tagged ‘Elfen Lied’

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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Alright…here is my first review. To begin, I would like to note that this format…a one-time review of a show upon completion…will probably be what I stick with. I know a lot of people review an anime series episode by episode, but I have neither the time nor the patience for this…at least not right now. Also, I prefer judging a show in its entirety rather than based upon its individual pieces. Some episodes will always be stronger than others…the animation quality will vary…characters will develop (or not)…and so rather than making judgments too soon, I will wait until I have seen the piece in its entirety. Because I will be doing this, you should take heed: These reviews will contain spoilers. So if you have not watched a show and do not wish to have all the surprises ruined, do not read my reviews. Finally…I will review these shows with the assumption that you have at least some knowledge about them. In other words…I’m not giving you any lengthy summaries. I might be willing to give you a few sentences as a memory refresher, but beyond that, you’re going to have to do the research yourself. Harsh, I know. Okay then…so let’s move on to my first review.

This Ugly Yet Beautiful World

This Ugly Yet Beautiful World

First, my brief, spoiler-filled summary: Takeru is your normal high school boy who feels apathetic about his future (and his life in general) and the world around him. One evening, he and his friend, Ryou, see a light falling from the sky that turns out to be an extremely dangerous force in the form of a human girl, named Hikari. As the series progresses, viewers learn that Hikari has come to Earth for a single purpose: to bring about the extinction of all currently-living creatures in order to make way for the next generation of species. As it turns out, the Earth has a natural defense against Hikari: monstrous creatures termed E.D.s (or Extended Definitions). And it just so happens that Takeru is one of these E.D.s. Unfortunately, the poor boy has fallen head over heels for Hikari, and so he must choose between protecting her from his fellow E.D.s and fulfilling his duty of saving the Earth by destroying her.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of this show is “disappointing.” Now…before running off and never giving this show a shot…don’t get me wrong…it’s a pretty decent series that would not be a waste of your time to watch. Easy-on-the-eyes art, an intriguing premise, and a decent music score all combine to make for more than just an adequate anime. The reason I classify this show as disappointing is because of its unfulfilled potential.

In all truth, This Ugly Yet Beautiful World had something really going for it. The plot might not have been all that unique, but it had tons of potential. It could actually be compared to a show like Elfen Lied. Unfortunately, where Elfen Lied went over the top, This Ugly Yet Beautiful World didn’t do enough. It simply did not have the impact that it was more than capable of leaving with viewers. A word that comes to mind is “lackluster.” It needed more…it could have given more…but it didn’t.

For example…I have a weakness for crazy characters. I am just a huge fan of the psychos, especially the ones that seem normal and then surprise you when they snap. Not just the ones who turn violent, though…it is more-so just seeing the mental change that gives the character another layer…another dimension…that makes you realize they weren’t what they seemed. Like Lucy/Nyu from Elfen Lied. Kaede from Shuffle! Kozue from Mahoraba ~Heartful Days~. Kotomi from Clannad. The list goes on. And Hikari can be added to this list. You always know something’s a little strange about her, even from the very beginning. But there a couple of points where the show reallllly teases you. I remember a couple of different times when I became so interested in the show because Hikari had all the signs of becoming another Lucy. I was on the edge of my seat, afraid to see what would happen next, and yet hoping to really see her snap.

It's the crazy eyes...gotta love the crazy eyes...

And then…you know what? Nothing happened. Or…to be more correct…things did happen…but they were sooooo…..not….epic. I was expecting something really bad to happen. And it wasn’t that nothing bad happened…it was just that the way it was portrayed was completely…empty. It was missing impact. I mean…don’t get me wrong…it’s not like I wanted characters to die. It’s not like I enjoy watching shows that are full of blood and gore, because I don’t. But in all honesty, this show needed some more blood…some more violence…some more death. Because, without it, the whole end-of-the-world premise simply wasn’t all that…well…threatening. And the end of the world should be threatening. We’ve got this character who is threatening to wipe all life from the face of the Earth aaaaand…it’s not doing anything for me like it should.

So…overall…I’d probably give this anime a B. It had all the makings of something great, but then it left me hanging. What I would really like to see is for somebody to try this again…to take similar ideas, rework the premise, and get it right. Elfen Lied does too much…This Ugly Yet Beautiful World too little…so if somebody can figure out how to reach that happy medium, I really think they’d have a great show on their hands. Also…it would be nice if they’d leave out all the nudity. I don’t know what it is with these type of shows…but they really like to show the characters naked. A lot. I can handle brief nudity here and there, but it is focused on waaaaay too much in these shows. So there you have it…cut out the nudity…give it the extra “umph” it needs without overstimulating the senses by including too much over-the-top violence…and I think you’d have a great show there.

Final Grade: B

Feel free to disagree with me as you please. I know some of you are probably partial to these shows that I review, but please avoid flaming…I prefer intellectual debates over uninformed arguments. So, comment as you please. Or not. Until next time.

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