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.
Sean over @ Retro Otaku wrote a post that made me sit down and think about these things.
Time to sit down and get serious for a moment.
All contemporary things will one day be called “retro”. Even the Xbox 360 and PS3 cannot escape that. This feels more relevant than ever, since rumours about their successors have been begun roaring their heads. Yes, both these systems are actually starting to get old – and I haven’t had them that long at all! Figures.
But when we sit there in the future with our new Xboxes and Playstations, I will probably have a hard time calling the old systems retro the same way I can do with for example the Saturn, SNES or PC Engine.
In fact, I will go out on a limb here and say that the last “true” generation of consoles that are now considered to be retro, is the 6th generation, that is to say the Dreamcast, Playstation 2, Gamecube & the original Xbox. Why? Because they’re easily collectable.
Think about this for a moment: With any of these systems, you can pick one up used (obviously, good luck finding a new one…that is not a PS2), a couple of games and be on your way. That sounds easy and simple, right? But so many things, security measures and “features” have been introduced during this current generation of gaming consoles (the 7th generation) that such a simple thing might not actually work a few years in the future. Or even now. We’ve got accounts connected to things like Xbox LIVE & Playstation Network, which may or may not need signing in order to access the systems features, we have always-online DRM, online passes, we have digital distribution and we have downloadable content, DLC. Owning a physical copy of a game doesn’t mean you can get away from all this, as you might still need to use a service such as Steam in order to access and play it. All of which lifts “power” from our hands and it also makes any sort of preservation bloody difficult. Oh and collecting. Better buy those Live Arcade games now before they cease to exist and hope that hard drive won’t break down.
What if, 10 years down the line you want to replay a game that’s out now, that isn’t a “game of the year” or complete edition, including all DLC released for it and so on, in order to enjoy “the full experience”, without having bought all that stuff earlier? Would you be able to do that? I don’t know. We don’t know. Some services might have the content stored for longer periods of time, like Steam, since the timeline for PC gaming is much more dynamic. If if was a 360 or PS3 game? Don’t count on it, unless you can get your hands someone else’s hard drive or something.
And that’s the problem we’re facing now and surely will continue to face with the next generation of gaming consoles. It’s probably safe to believe that your contemporary gaming system of choice won’t become a brick when the new systems arrives but I’m pretty sure we can forget having access to the complete library of games released. And that sucks.
Long live the last generation of truly collectable systems!
I was thinking of writing a few lines about the new anime season but I’m waiting for episode 2 of the shows I’m following, so that’ll have to wait. Instead, I’m going to do a little shoot-out here with two versions of the same game; 銀河お嬢様伝説ユナ (Ginga Ojou-sama Densetsu Yuna) or Galaxy Fraulein Yuna. I’m going to issue a 56k warning here 😀
I don’t have any proof, but quite I’m confident that a great many gamers and anime-fans haven’t heard of this particular title before. And I don’t blame them. With the third and last game released for the PS1 in 1998 and a series of OVAs released around the same time, Kagurazaka Yuna is indeed an icon of times past. There is a compilation of the first two games + sought after spin-off Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire released for the PSP in Japan, 2008, but I’m not really counting that.
With artist Akitaka Mika at the helm, Galaxy Fraulein Yuna is a classic multimedia franchise, including everything you would expect; games, anime, CDs…the lot.
The plot revolves around the cute but somewhat ditzy 16-year old Kagurazaka Yuna, who just happened to win an intergalactic beauty contest (the Ginga Ojou-sama contest – hence the name) and with that suddenly became an idol, with all that entails. However, not only does she receive fame, but also the title of “Saviour of Light” and must do battle with evil forces – in this case, her rivals from said competition, who have had their hearts “stolen by darkness”.
And that’s the gist of it. Sounds corny to you? It is. But I think the game’s straightforwardness works in it’s favour.
The series started out on the PC Engine, with the first game released in 1992. It saw a re-relase (the one I have) with some additional content in 1995 and also a sequel. In 1996 the first game got a re-make on Saturn titled “Remix”. So, you’d imagine that the Saturn version is quite the upgrade from the, by then, 4 year old original version. After all, the Saturn is known as a 2D powerhouse and the large number of high quality adventure, visual novels & digital comics in it’s library certainly speaks in it’s favour.
But you’d be wrong. And in this comparison we will see why. Before we get to the screencaps, let’s compare the opening:
Now, I used Magic Engine (PCE) and SFF (Saturn) respectively in order to grab some screencaps, from the beginning to the first battle with jealous rival Kaede. I used emulation because I’ve got both systems hooked up to a CRT-screen at the moment and we all know how well that goes with photography. Right.
PC Engine-version (1992 – quite small so enlarge them in your browser or something)
While the Saturn version features anime-cutscenes in the more modern style the series adapted as it series went on, everything is a mess. Let’s be honest here, the Saturn never had any luck with FMVs (I blame bad codecs) and when they replaced the pixel art cutscenes with the handrawn ones, we’re well on our way to artefact central. Speaking of artefacts, around all character portraits, there’s this almost halo-like pixelation, or what looks like the result of a poor job with the magic wand tool in Photoshop. Not to mention that many character portraits are re-used from the PCE-version, and thus doesn’t match with the newer character design. Other casualties includes the backgrounds, which now looks like they were made in MS Paint – and I’m not joking. The map-screen, which is displayed when you change location in the PCE-version, is absent and so is almost the whole GUI. We’re left with a very bare bones interface with only a semi-transparent blue bar for text and character portraits.
While I appreciate that the game now runs in full screen, it all looks so amateurish. The battle system also gets an “upgrade”. What used to be merely a rock-paper-scissors kind of thing now also has 3 quickly changing stats (attack, shield & evade) which needs to be timed correctly for maximum effect. The idea itself is good but the result is lacklustre. It makes my eyes spin. Also, the grainy FMVs make their comeback during the battle.
In fact, the only thing that can actually be seen as an improvement in the Remix-version is bigger character illustrations and the sound, and even then it’s not a very big difference. Voices sound maybe a little less compressed and the music is no longer chip-generated, but whether that’s a good or bad thing is debatable. This time, it’s a bad thing because no one seemed to care enough about the music to really make it any better. The PCE version actually sounds a bit more distinctive.
If you think I’m hard on Galaxy Fraulein Yuna Remix, it’s because an improved version of a game released on 32-bit system, should not be inferior in almost every single way to the original version, released 4 years prior on what essentially is an 8-bit system. If they just had actually sat down and harnessed the power of the Saturn, it could’ve turned out a great remake.
Now, I do enjoy this particular franchise, and some day I should really pick up the third game for the PS1 or Saturn…and maybe the PC-FX version, should I manage to get my hands on one of those.
Omake content! (Season backdrops from the Saturn version’s calendar mode.)
And that’s that. See you next post!
I did it. I finally got all achievements in Just Cause 2. Having gotten all in the first Just Cause (which was a guilty pleasure of mine) I swore to do the same in the sequel. A task that initially seemed neigh impossible have been completed. The number of games in which I’ve cleared all achievements have now reached the staggering number of…two. That is, JC 1 & JC 2.
…I hate multiplayer achievements.