Archive for July, 2010

Sexualization in anime: a short reflection

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

I discovered the flash game Mario is Missing! about a few weeks ago. The game should not be confused with one of the rather boring Mario games on the NES with the same name. It probably won’t, since the former supersedes the latter in a Google search. In contrast to the lofty target of education in the NES game, the flash game is a debauchery and a more plausible reality: when the cat is away, the mice will play. Unlike the virginal and pure Princess Peach most of us have grown up with, however, the Princess Peach in this game is quite a whore. Is the game any less fun?

Hell no. It’s one unique flash game, and one of the few I have played in the past few months. Even in this simple exercise in sexuality there is a dynamic alteration of gender roles and a catharsis of prurience that has not been widespread a few years ago: one has never seen Princess Peach save the kingdom all by herself, and one has especially not seen her do it through sexual intercourse. In this game, however, she does.

Yes, that's dripping.

Yes, that's dripping.

Amagami SS can be mentioned in the same vein as this game. It was jarring, even to me, because of the little plays of sensual affection Haruka’s arc showed. In retrospect, I still wouldn’t call Junichi and Haruka cretins: being idiots (of which we have a lot of in society, and which we are sometimes, whether we would like to admit it or not) in high school isn’t abnormal at all. It is relatively tethered and sequestered in good schools, displaced by positive feelings of creativity and the forging of one’s identity (especially effective in good students), but is fostered and made fecund in a lot of bad schools not because of instruction, but due to the relative absence of it. Do I see their actions stupid? Of course, I do. Do I see these as unrealistic? No.

In fact, these little games of theirs are rather tame compared to what I see in some high schools I’ve been to. The ending shows us of them being together with much love ten years into the marriage. Their relationship has been more enduring and more loving than most relationships between high schoolers: a lot fall apart some years, or some months into it.

I just believe that the more modern sensibility demands a shift from conservatism and austerity, towards liberation and sexuality. Amagami SS has been relatively successful with its viewers because it is one of those series that vanguards that shift: it admits of sexuality as a key component in relationships, and sex as one of its factors of coalescence, so long as it is done in the context of deepening the relationship and not mere debauchery. Those little games are as important in the development of their love as their confessions toward one another at the end of the arc. It is indeed crass, but that’s what human beings sometimes are. Yet sometimes, even this crassness is beautiful.

A polygon of animation

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Vendredi pointed out to me one of the unique offerings of anime from Russia. Recently, we were exposed to a Russo-Japanese collaboration in First Squad. I thought it was disappointing, especially because the Japanese part of the collaboration was done by Studio 4C, one of the more hallowed anime studios around. More of the blame, however, can be placed on the poorly told and executed story of the Russians. It didn’t help that the trailer was so different from the film itself: the viewer was made to imagine that the film was going to be a creative action film featuring a girl with a katana, and it was going to be done by Studio 4C. What came out was a quasi-documentary, quasi-feature film, and it was entirely a disappointment.

I became more wary of Russian animation after that experience, but I’m glad to say that Polygon changed that perception into something a little more positive: it’s a short animation that aged very well considering it’s more than 30 years old.

Quoting Vendredi,

Polygon was produced in the Soviet Union in 1977 with a completely analog animation technique known as “photographica”, where characters were coloured using two sets of cels, rather than one – having two sets allowed a very complex portrayal of colour which gives Polygon a rotoscoped or almost computer generated look.

It is only ten minutes long, but I liked how the short portrayed the dynamism of war’s spectrum. Something created to be a weapon of war was actually a weapon of pacifism: isn’t war just the other side of peace?

Enjoy!

The coruscation of Inception

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Last year, when I found out that Christopher Nolan was filming a movie that dealt with dreams and the architecture of the mind, I knew I was going to see it on cinema early in its release. It’s the kind of expectant waiting that I had with Tatami Galaxy: I had faith that it was going to be something good based on the track records of its auteur. Just as I was impressed with Kemonozume and Kaiba (to a lesser extent), I was also impressed with Memento, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight. My faith all the more solidified when I knew it was going to be performed by a stellar cast: what else do you expect from a group of Oscar winners and nominees? Even Tom Brady was excellent in his portrayal as Bronson, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in both his independent and blockbuster films was consistently great (I loved [500] Days of Summer).

Genius.

Genius.

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Amagami SS is a masterpiece

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Sounds like a troll, right? Seems like a troll, right?

To some extent, it is. But I do think that aside from being a masterpiece of hilarity, it merits a closer look than merely ‘this series sucks, I’m dropping it because I’m too smart for it,’ because it actually is smarter than it appears. I may be quite fond of cerebral series such as Tatami Galaxy, but I haven’t failed to see the charms of this series. If one really thinks about it, it wonderfully subverts the romantic comedy genre in anime. Most romantic comedies with high-school settings deal with the saccharine and more platonic aspects of romantic development: it always starts with mere acquaintance, then slowly develops into familiarity. Sex is often out of the question: Kare Kano is one of the notable exceptions of this, with the couple actually consummating their relationship within the series. Nearly all romantic comedies to this point, however, deal with a linear and solitary progression of the plot. A subtle or obvious competition among the prospective girlfriends appears sooner or later in the series, with the girl the protagonist truly loves being with the hero in the end: the element of competition is never quite removed, but there is always a relatively clear resolution by the end of the series, with only one girl being with the hero.

I do <em>as well</em>.

I do as well.

Amagami SS subverts that: why can’t the hero have them all (like Pokemon)? I believe it is the series that pioneers various pathways within the same series having different endings. The protagonist is not merely paired to one girl; he is paired to all of the prospective girls with the series tackling different paths. In addition to that, it tackles the more visceral aspects of romantic development early on in the series: as much as one denies it, physical intimacy is just as important as emotional intimacy in a relationship. I don’t pertain to all out making-out, but I can’t fault Tachibana’s efforts toward his senpai: his attempts at physically getting closer is successful despite the circumambulant method of getting there. Finally, it fearlessly panders to the more sensual side of a relationship, and the more sensual side of viewers. I must admit that I was quite aroused when I saw Tachibana kiss the back of the knee of Morishima as well as during their quasi-sadomasochistic role playing in the cafeteria. That’s something that has been bypassed before in most romantic comedies, or alluded to only vaguely: in love, it cannot be denied that there is a sexual element.

I find nothing wrong with that. Frankly, I think it’s added more spice to the series. I agree with lolikit in that there’s something more to the show. It must not be dropped even if ‘one values his intelligence,’ because it is also smart in a way that some people can’t see.

Yes, I watch Amagami for the plot as well.

The Nether Side: Cencoroll

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

I did not jump on Cencoroll‘s bandwagon. Back when it was announced in 2006 that the OVA would come out in 2007, I was already sold with the trailer I had seen back then. It still boggles me how Atsuya Uki was able to pull off being really just a ‘one-man show’ in releasing Cencoroll. He did everything from the writing to the animation, and the result was impressive taking that into account.

cencoroll

The short film came out sometime in October last year, near Halloween. I recall its release vividly because it was one of my best friends’ birthdays, and that friend of mine and I were both pining passionately for its release. Business with medicine and exams have prevented me from watching it: ironically, I was able to watch it recently because I was diagnosed with pneumonia.

There’s really little depth to be explored in Cencoroll. For my part, I think it was just Atsuya Uki showing his skill and talent in animation. The story is very simple: there are monsters that appear in a certain city, and people who control those monsters. A huge monster appears in the middle of the city causing alarm, while the controllers of those monsters pursue this huge monster for their benefit. One is more unscrupulous than the other, and among all this chaos is an inquisitive girl, Yuki, who is interested in these monsters as well.

It was brilliant as a short film, but clearly wanting in terms of character development and plot (as can be expected). As an ode to animation, however, it was majestic: Cenco was also very cute. For an excursion into the wonders of animation, I must recommend Cencoroll. There are other anime series and other anime movies that are more fulfilling, however, when it comes to story and characterization.

Ocean Waves: a beautiful aberration and a testament to loyalty

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

AHR asked me to comment on his analysis [more intensive stuff than mine, honest!] on the Ocean Waves film. It made me realize it’s been two years since I’ve watched the movie: it was high time for a re-watch. I’m glad I did, because I was also finally able to figure out the previously quizzical parts of the movie and contextualize it within the film. I am very slow sometimes, especially when the movie appeals more to my emotions than to my head: this was the case with Ocean Waves, and this was the reason that despite previous re-watches, I couldn’t understand some parts near the film’s end.

Before I delve into the nitty-gritty of the film, however, let me first elaborate on the film’s history. It was directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, director of House of Five Leaves. He was an upstart back then, and the film was done to showcase the ability of the animation students. While it spent more than its budget and went past its deadline, the result (at least to me) is a brilliant departure from most Studio Ghibli films: unlike the imaginative realms and worlds of Spirited Away or Totoro, the film was founded and grounded on human reality. This was a story devoid of the ostentation of other Ghibli offerings: it was down-to-earth, minimalistic, and realist in perspective. In other words, it was an aberration, a deviation.

It is beautiful because of its masterful execution and a working policy of its minimalism: more often than not, it shows, not tells. Morisaki never explicitly voices out how he takes his friendship with Matsuno seriously, but it shows in one of the earliest scenes of the movie: when Matsuno told him to come after he’s finished with his work, he instead immediately rushes to him with little regard for his employer’s and co-workers’ perceptions. One can always tell one’s friends when one is in trouble as to whether they are fair-weathered or true friends. I think the same occurred with Morisaki: when he stood up against an unreasonable decision by the school, only Matsuno was there with him. The rest of his friends didn’t come along.

This was beautiful cinematography: at the first moment Morisaki sees Rikako, he sees only her. He cannot even see Matsuno's face fully because of his attraction towards her. Great stuff.

This was beautiful cinematography: at the first moment Morisaki sees Rikako, he sees only her. He cannot even see Matsuno's face fully because of his attraction towards her. Great stuff.

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The great-grandfather of Naruto

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

In 2007, Ang Lee made a stir in the cinema industry with Lust, Caution. It was a film that was sexually frank and uncompromising, showing visceral scenes of sex and sadomasochism between Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Tang Wei. The exposure was not merely for art’s sake, however, as it illustrated how the couple’s relationship evolved through the film. It was basically an espionage film: a girl was to infiltrate a Japanese collaborator’s hideout (this was situated in China), make him fall in love with her, and then entrap him so that the rebels could kill him. The rebels did not take the heart of the girl into consideration, and she had slowly, yet inexorably, fallen in love with the collaborator. It was a simple film that was more evocative than intellectual, but it made waves with both the critics and its perceptive viewers. I myself enjoyed the spectacle: pundits in fact were quite certain it would have won Best Foreign Film in the Oscars had there been consistency with the film crew.

bandofninja

Thirty years before this film, however, was Nagisa Oshima‘s In the Realm of the Senses, which was practically a re-enactment of a real life incident in Japan known as the Sada Abe incident: a prostitute had erotically asphyxiated her lover in the act of sex, and it was a notable film because aside from the sexual frankness (even more shocking at that time) it had unsimulated sexual activity. This means that the girl actually performed unsimulated felllatio on the male protagonist. The film itself is part of the Criterion Collection, a compendium of a significant amount of critically acclaimed movies from all parts of the world.

Ten years before this experimental and seminal film, however, Nagisa Oshima offered his own version of a Japanese anime. It was the 60s, where Astro Boy was the first animated series to appear on television, and when anime was not yet as developed as it was today. Oshima made Band of Ninja, a film that is technically anime because it is composed of moving pictures, but is actually the slideshow Bakemonogatari was assumed to be: it is, quite literally, just thousands of pictures spread across a two-hour period, with added sound and dialogue.

The result is a film that seems to be Naruto’s predecessor: there are ninjas with mystical powers, violent confrontations everywhere, and a decent amount of mutilations. Sadly, the subtitles of the film are lacking, and the animation techniques obsolete. As a testament of its time, however, Band of Ninja is, at the very least, interesting to watch.

You can download the torrent here [the film is unlicensed]. I am seeding for at least a week.

The Nether Side: Band of Ninja (Ninja bugei-cho) [1967]

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Nine years before Nagisa Oshima released his extremely controversial and highly seminal In the Realm of the Senses film, predating Lust, Caution by about thirty years, he was already involved with much experimentation: his film, Band of Ninja, may or may not be considered anime, depending on how one defines anime. It has moving pictures, indeed: there is animation, but not the kind one has grown to expect in anime. Unlike the stylistic slideshow of Bakemonogatari, Band of Ninja is essentially a slideshow. Motion can be noted, but it is not even the motion that can be seen in the earliest forms of anime such as Astro Boy: it really is a slideshow.

This is the most illusive movie poster I've seen.

This is the most illusive movie poster I've seen.

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In celebration for four years: The Nether Side

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

It’s been four years since I’ve started to blog here at AnimeBlogger. I asked for suggestions in a previous post of mine, but it seemed no one had something in mind. I was thinking about what to do as thanks for my readers; luckily I was able to browse through a decent recommendation thread in /a/ (yes, I did not write that wrong). I saw a picture that was full of experimental and artsy anime offerings: I then realized that it was going to be what I will be doing in celebration of my four years. I will be talking about anime OVAs, series, and movies on the fringes of the medium: these are the entrees that even a significant number of anime fans are unfamiliar of, experiments and gifts that try to push the envelope of anime. Interspersed among my regular commentary on current anime series, I hope this segment brings more attention to these mostly unknown works of art. I won’t try to dissect them as surgically as I did with Tatami Galaxy; I’ll just try to invite more people to enjoy these works.

nadeko

I’m calling this segment The Nether Side, primarily to pertain to these anime being below the radar of most anime viewers. It’s also a colorful title in itself.

Kaiba vs. Tatami Galaxy: why Tatami Galaxy is better

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

After the end of Tatami Galaxy, I thought it was high time to re-watch Kaiba, because people could posit that I only like it as a series because it just ended. Re-watching Kaiba would address both of that, as it won’t be the most recent series I watched, and it’s also a work by Masaaki Yuasa so the two are open to interpretation, comparison, and contrast.

kaiba-anime

Whether before or after the re-watch, however, my heart remains the same: I think Tatami Galaxy is better than Kaiba. I’ll accede to the fact that Kaiba is more brilliant thematically, but that is all I will give Kaiba. For the most part, Tatami Galaxy is equal to or better than Kaiba from my perception. (more…)