Last post was rather anti-moe, now I’m watching Upotte!!, what’s going on here?!
Generally speaking, I shouldn’t like it. Character design is mostly so-so and the premise itself is so forced that were it a fruit, it would be orange juice.
Yes, this is that show about girls, that also happens to be guns, going to a gun school. And of course, since the girls are guns, different parts of the body correspond to different parts of the respective gun they “portray”. And I use the word “portray” very generously here. The first girl to be introduced, the FN FNC, has a skeleton stock, so that’s why she wears a T-back. Naturally. And during her first encounter with the male teacher, who just so happens to be human, she sees his perfect “assault rifle-posture” in the shooting gallery of a local fair and since then dreams about his big hands gently firing herohmygodwhatamIwriting?
That’s the level this show is on. I’ve seen 3 episodes so far and still I’m coming back for more. That sounds worrying, so what’s the cause?
Well….first off, I think guns are pretty cool. I wouldn’t mind having a few soft air gun rifles or pistols decorating my walls. In fact, I already have one, though it’s a cheap spring operated Sig Sauer P226, that I always felt looked very plasticy – until I noticed that so did the real one too. Hm.
Secondly, it turned out to be somewhat entertaining. I like my girls with guns anime as much as the next guy but I really just wished Upotte!! could’ve dropped this whole weird idea of girls being guns. Though they try -oh they do- it doesn’t even make much sense in the show. Especially not since they are also carrying around the rifles they are supposed to be. Seriously, don’t think about stuff like that when watching this show, it will end you.
Also, there’s quite a bit of interesting information dropped both left and right. I like that.
I guess I will stick around this show a bit longer, but no Lucky Star it isn’t.
It’s hard not to think about the state of the anime industry after just having watched the first episode of Eureka Seven: AO and reading a bit of ANN’s spring anime guide, as well as remembering some of the discussion on their forums when the Otomo Katsuhiro, creator of Akira said that that the anime industry wasn’t doing well and that there wasn’t enough money for the kind of big movie productions he would like to see.
Whenever the state of the anime industry is the subject of discussion, there’s always two opposite opinions that quickly shows up and starts clashing with each other.
The first one is that the industry is dying, having lost a lot of it’s past creativity and constantly pamper to otaku by serving one fan service-filled moe*-checklist anime after the other, in the hopes of earning money on merchandise and sales of DVDs & Blu-Rays which, in addition to slightly improved artwork, often contain less censoring.
The other one is that the industry actually doing pretty good (some parts of it, anyway) and that the ones who constantly complain about moe-anime need to accept that anime isn’t going to be the “their anime” forever and it now has new fans to cater to. It’s easier then ever to create anime, thanks to the digitalisation of the tools involved and we can now legally enjoy a new show in high definition through streams, pretty much the same time it airs in Japan. Complaints about an high amount of fanservice is often countered with that many old shows the old timers like, just like new anime, contains fan service, so it’s a weird point to get all worked up about.
I would say both of these opinions are, to a certain extent, correct. I don’t think the anime industry is thriving and I too have a harder time with each passing anime season to find shows I really like & care about. But at the same time, I know that franchises such as K-ON!, Madoka & Strike Witches are wildly popular and does great damage to the idea that there’s just too little money to be had in the industry. In some cases, a show like K-ON! might actually help another seemingly unrelated market, like, for example the market for musical instruments – since Yui & the others uses real brand instruments. Heck, it’s not only instruments, I want to remember there being a bit of a hunt for the particular pair of headphones Mio used. Clearly, there’s still money to be had here, maybe especially now when it seems companies and studios are quite sure what the fans like. So they make more of it, as is a usual and well proven business practice I’m having a hard time faulting them for, in a business sort of view anyway.
No, the industry is still alive. It has certainly changed, but I don’t see it go away any time soon.
What is at stake on the other hand, is it’s skill. The old guard of well known animators and directors have aged, some have even passed away and others are just not very active. Also, quite a bit of animation work is being outsourced to studios in other countries and the use of computer generated graphics seems to have become standard practice. It’s true that it saves time when creating complex scenes & special effects, but it also removes precious practice opportunities for the animators themselves.
I remember reading that they used CG for soldiers and horses in one of the upcoming Berserk movies because they didn’t have anyone that could animate that sort of thing well enough.
The fact that the tools of the trade has almost gone completely digital is probably the saddest part of all for me. Even though it makes the work easier and probably less expensive. I know we commonly get some pretty sweet animation in TV-anime now that a couple of years back would’ve showed up in an OVA instead. I remember when I watched You’re Under Arrest and how bad the TV-series looked compared to the OVA, even though it was a newer production. There is no lack of evidence that the quality of TV animation has improved. But here’s the sad part. Digital anime have a tendency to look too clean, sterile even, and sometimes the colors feel washed out as well. It feels like the human touch has disappeared in the end result. As for the colors, I think the problem lies with that you’re able to pick any color you want. That might sound a bit odd but let me explain: cells in older anime was painted by hand with special cell colors. These were strictly defined and even colors close to each other had a certain “gap” in tone. When picking a color digitally, and this is something I’ve experienced myself all to often, it can be hard to choose fitting colors that are not too bright or too dark, especially when it comes to add shading to another already colored area. Also, the way anime is colored have changed during the years, currently, it seems to be popular to use a quite minimalistic kind of coloring. At least when compared to the colorful explosion that was the 80s.
The digital workspace has another, very special drawback as well. The amount of leftover material from the production has diminished greatly. This might sound as a weird thing to nag about but, remember all those people that collected anime cells? Well, there is no such thing to collect any more.
To be honest, not every cell is something you’d want in your collection and the ones I see for sale online from time to time are mostly stuff that no one wanted to buy, for a good reason. But overall, it is my personal understanding that those whose appreciate the art of creating an anime, those interested in the actual production and the people behind it, are not a group you see too many of in anime fandom today. People gush over voice actors, idols & illustrators, sure, to a certain extent also character creators & directors, but not that many talk about their favorite animators and the like.
Therefore it is very refreshing to find a blog like Anipages and it’s forum community. I’m not well educated enough to be able to participate in such discussions, but I enjoy their existence. Probably even more now that my Laser Disc collection is growing and I find myself watching those older shows again. I love it because I appreciate the handiwork.
Does anyone remember those DAICON openings GAINAX did, by the way? Those are still pretty famous and gets thrown around a bit, but there are also other similar pieces of animation done by other grups, such as the opening for URACON III and maybe even more curiously, an opening animation for Anime Expo 1993. You read that right, even an American con had it’s own hand-animated opening sequence. That pretty much blew my mind when I found out.
DAICON IV opening animation. You can skip to 2:00 if you are impatient.
URACON III opening animation.
Anime Expo 1993 opening animation.
When trying to dig out gems like these, I’ve found a whole slew of newer, modern independent anime and they pretty much follow the same trends as their commercial counterparts. Many are experimental, but instead of experimenting with animation, they experiment with themes & storytelling.
This is turning out to be a little long winded and it feels I’m starting to go off-track, so I should probably stop spewing words now but, to sum it up, I think that the animation industry is doing okay. I’m not a fan of everything it produces and in the digital transition it lost some part of it’s soul, but we gained HD-resolution anime and streaming (which I’m not really interested in, weirdly enough). For those that prefer productions that still have a bit of the old feel left, movie-anime seems like a better bet, rather than TV-anime. Still, I guess things could be worse. As far as I understand, the manga industry probably have more of a problem.
But that’s for another day.
Geesh, this post makes me seem much older than I am. I didn’t even get into anime until the 2000s.
* It is a japanese slang word, that has become quite common nowadays.
It’s originally intended meaning is referring to a love for a certain character or a fetish however it can also now describe a non-sexual love for something, like a hobby.
This post was something I thought to myself I should do once I’d seen 2 episodes of each show I was interested in. That was what? 2 weeks ago? You’re probably already seen all of these now. Small wonder why my old animeblog didn’t go all that well…
Out of all shows that started this season, I only checked out three. I’ve also been following these three since. None is bad enough for me to stop watching but they aren’t exactly the most exciting things I’ve seen either. Though, some are still quite good. Enough of that, let’s give them a rough impression, one by one.
Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou
(Daily Lives of Highschool Boys)
I thought this was going to become my sleeper hit of the season. It wasn’t something I picked from those anime charts but rather something I seeked out after reading some other blog’s impressions, including ANN’s own winter 2012 coverage. It sounded like every other manga-based slice of life comedy and while I usually don’t mind that kind of thing, I was initially going to pass this one up.
Turns out people was surprised by it though, so I had to check it out and sure enough, episode 1 had me laughing as well. Even though I can’t say it was very original, it was the way it delivered that made it interesting and made it feel fresh. The second episode was just as fun, if not more. But sadly, the latest two episodes haven’t been reaching the same level as those before them, with jokes feeling strangely drawn out, forced or needlessly repeated. I really hope it picks up again though.
Visually, it’s nothing special at all. A quick google search suggests it being true to the source material but it really is a bland looking show. It’s pretty much the opposite of where KyoAni takes some cookie-cutter 4koma and totally maxes that shit out.
One last thing though, it feels good to hear Kyon…sorry, Sugita Tomozaki again, doing what he does best.
(Bodacious Space Pirates)
Classical ingredients space, sci-fi & girls are the order of the day in this modern pirating tale. Except there really haven’t been a whole lot of pirating going on so far. And that’s actually a good thing. The main character, Marika, lives a quite ordinary life and it would really feel jarring if they forced her down into the pirate outfit right away. The show manages to be interesting while having quite the laid back pacing and this is probably necessary in order to properly build upon Marika’s character (and everyone else’s) so that the situation hinted in the opening actually makes sense and doesn’t feel forced.
That said, there have been enough happenings every episode to keep things interesting. All negative things I can come up with lies with somewhat lacking, and sometimes quite odd, visual design and presentation. But that’s just what I think. However, the weapons are downright weird. What looks like an oversized sub machine-gun, using a proper magazine for ammo and all, actually acts like a laser cannon – with a ridiculously long charge time before firing (possibly for effect).
Visually, there is too much bland 3D graphics used and while the style is kinda nice, the overall look is still very generic.
But the story is interesting and I want to find out what happens next.
Ano Natsu de Matteru
Waiting in the Summer
This one, I was actually really looking forward to. Not sure since when but probably when I saw the promo art the first time. Then I became even more excited when I read that both the screenplay writer and character designer were involved in 2002’s Onegai Teacher.
This connection is so strong that AnoNatsu proves a bit difficult to judge. On it’s own, it’s a well made albeit sort of slow paced romance comedy, plagued by some less good design decisions – like, for example, the look of the main character :p The graphical style they went for feels a bit more like Ano Hana than Onegai but that’s probably because JC Staff is responsible for the animation. It’s really a good looking show, stylistic preferences aside.
When viewed as a part of the Onegai-series, however, I feel that both the setting and the characters aren’t as interesting, even though they are very much the same, technically. I don’t have easy access to either Onegai Teacher or Twins right now, and this might just be my nostalgia acting up but that’s how I feel about AnoNatsu.
Actually, I think the most magical thing for me with Onegai wasn’t so much the characters (certainly wasn’t Kei) but the location and they way it was presented. Both Onegai & AnoNatsu takes place in rural areas, with both Teacher & Twins using Lake Kizaki in Nagano as their backdrop. I like to think the fact that we get to know this place and it’s surroundings through a total of 26 episodes really helps explain why I don’t harbour the same feelings for the setting in AnoNatsu, even though it seems similar. Still, only 4 episodes in, we haven’t seen that much of it yet. Also, it would certainly not be too surprising should it too be based on another real location somewhere…
But returning to topic, so far, Ano Natsu feels like someone played it safe. It does take certain liberties such as a new (but similar) setting, new (but similar) characters and features a new (but similar) spin on the story from Onegai Teacher. Ultimately, Remon might be the new Ichigo but Ichika is not the new Mizuho ; )
And there we have it. Vague and non-helpful ramblings as per usual : )