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Posts Tagged ‘Shoujo Kakumei Utena’

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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So…let’s talk Mawaru a little bit.

When I first began seeing news about Kunihiko Ikahara’s latest brainchild, I had mixed feelings. The plot summaries that were initially released were extremely brief and vague, leaving me with the impression that this show was going to be about cute little penguins. As in…along the same lines as Chi’s Sweet Home is about a cute little cat. So, despite my familiarity with and devoted love for this director’s previous series, I honestly was not sure if this was a show that I was going to want to watch. Penguins are cute, but I just did not see myself enjoying an anime dedicated to the lives of these animals. This all changed, however, once promotional pictures finally began to be released.

The picture that changed my mind...

One look at the characters and I did a complete 180°. All of the misconceptions caused by the vague and uninformative plot summaries immediately disappeared and I found myself intensely anticipating what the director of Revolutionary Girl Utena had cooked up. Now, in all honesty, I did try my best to…and actually did a pretty good job of…keeping my expectations reasonable prior to the airing of the first episode. Yes, the twisted, disturbing, and powerful Revolutionary Girl Utena was what I most associated with this director, but I knew that this same person had also been in charge of my equally beloved and much more light-hearted Sailor Moon. Not only that, but it’s been more than a decade since Ikahura has directed a major project like this, and a decade is more than enough time for any person to undergo some pretty extraordinary changes. Keeping all of these things in mind, I was able to prevent myself from formulating too many ideas about the show before it began.

Now…9 episodes in…Mawaru Penguindrum has had more than enough time to make me establish some thoughts and opinions. And I can tell you…from episode one…I have absolutely LOVED this show. Clearly, Ikahura has not lost his touch, and a decade has proven to be more than enough time for him to come up with a comfortingly familiar, and yet refreshingly original concept. Where do I even begin?!

Oh the details! Ah the symbolism! The complex intertextuality! The literature lover in me is SMITTEN! We have here a series that is, thus far, proving to be very successful at weaving a complex and intriguing plot with depth, developing well-rounded characters, and maintaining a strong, high speed pace that has yet to falter. And then there’s the layered tone. Sometimes sweet, other times bitter, and always chaotic, Mawaru Penguindrum is an emotional roller coaster. By the end of a single twenty-five minute episode, I have found myself laughing, worrying for the characters, and…best of all…left not only wondering, but also thinking. To leave an audience wondering is not always the easiest task, but a strong cliff hanger usually does the trick. To leave an audience thinking, on the other hand…that, my friends, is an accomplishment on a whole different level. Society may define an author’s success by their paycheck, but literary scholars base at least part of their judgments of accomplishment more on the writer’s capability to imprint their words upon readers’ souls. In less fancy language…it really just means that…when a person comes away from a book with more than that with which they approached it, the writer has achieved at least some true success, be it great or small. And while Mawaru Penguindrum still has plenty of time to screw up royally, I am seeing signs that this show has the potential to join ranks with series like Utena.

And just what are these signs I speak of? To be as clear as I possibly can with such vague feelings…the clearest sign that Mawaru Penguindrum truly has something going for it…is the fact that it is bothering me on a deep and very dark level. More simply, there is something about this show that I find deeply disturbing. And the best thing is…I have yet to figure out just what that something is. It’s not like Mawaru Penguindrum has been hiding it’s true nature. The show has been dropping some pretty big hints that this brightly-colored, cutesy anime has something much more serious going on deep down inside. But I have watched and read plenty of serious stories…some quite dark…without feeling disturbed by them. And the fact that I am already beginning to feel hints of these disturbing emotions before it has even dropped it’s cutesy facade says to me that there is some pretty serious psychological stuff going on. Stuff that’s getting to me on a subconscious level. Exactly the sort of stuff that I love.

Oh, and I have to say…this show has GUTS. I have said it before…I am not a fan of vulgar language or behaviora line that Mawaru Penguindrum continuously crosses. But there is just something about it that is genuinely appealing. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I really love watching Himari when she takes on this crass, vulgar, and unladylike personality that seems to be as far from her true, innocent self as it can be. My ears burn every time, but the boldness of it is simply FABULOUS MAX!!!

Is she possessed? Or is this the true, repressed Himari?

Alright…I guess that’s all I’ll say about it for now. I’m probably raving on too much about this anyways…it’s still fairly early on after all. Still plenty of time to disappoint. Anyways…guess I’ll call it quits for now. I may or may not post more about this AMAZING show again later. 🙂

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I know, I haven’t posted in forever…and as a result, I’ve got a backlog of news bits. For a couple of them, I’m way behind on schedule, and so you probably already know about it. But I’m going to post about it anyways. So…here’s the first piece of news:

Thanks to Nozomi Entertainment, Revolutionary Girl Utena is making a come-back in the United States. Meaning you will soon be able to own the series without dishing out a hefty five hundred dollars! Whoo! The downside is that you’re still going to have to pay a pretty penny for it. This is because Nozomi made the smart business move of splitting the series into three box sets. Pre-ordered, this will cost about ninety bucks. Not pre-ordered, you’re looking at closer to one-hundred and fifty. Still far better than the five hundred that you would have had to pay if you tried to collect the older individual DVDs from ebay and various other stores. Oh…and for those of you who might be in the position I was in: Take advantage of the pre-order and DO. NOT. WAIT. I kept hesitating on pre-ordering and when I finally got around to it (about a week, maybe two, after they first made ordering available), the price had already gone up. So…while you’re too late to get the first box set as cheap as it gets, keep this in mind for when they start taking orders for the next ones. Also…be aware that Nozomi Entertainment has announced these box sets as LIMITED EDITIONS. There has been zero news about plans for non-limited editions, meaning if you want it, you should probably hop on board while the ship’s still in port.

And now, because it’s too gorgeous not to post, the amazing box art for set one:

Side 1

Side 2

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