If you are a fan of the Monogatari series, chances are, you have heard of Kubikiri Cycle (also called as Beheading Cycle: The Blue Savant and The Master of Nonsense in English) and know what to expect from this anime. I haven’t watched the Monogatari series yet and I didn’t know that Kubikiri Cycle is made by Studio Shaft and is written by Nisio. I only picked Kubikiri Cycle because I liked the cover art and the synopsis talked about a murder mystery. I was pleasantly surprised.
Here is the cover art. Doesn’t it look nice?
The ‘Master of Nonsense’ part in the title made me think that the detective in this series was going to be an easygoing fun guy. I couldn’t have been farther away from the truth. The protagonist of this story is the personification of apathy.
If you want to praise JoJo I think you would talk about its sense of humor combined with its unique narrative, especially the visual aspects of it. Like, it is fun to watch a vampire whose head was just split in half putting it back together, but having it a little off, so he has to adjust the two pieces, which seems to make him slightly annoyed.
Even better is to watch two dudes fight, where one throws a steamroller at another, and then both repeatedly punch it to make the machine hit the opponent. There are hundreds of awesomely stupid things like that in the series, and they all work because of how the show presents them. It is not all about actions scenes either, this anime can make even a static image work. Like this one, when an ark antagonist assumes a ridiculous pose and the anime treats it like focal point:
It isn’t just one particular antagonists, they all do the poses
The whole anime is like this. People act as if they are actors on a stage, they strike poses that look like they belong to an athletic dance performance; the events are unpredictable and ridiculous while the characters are always in dire predicaments. You never know what would happen, would they outsmart their enemy or would they just overpower him or her, or will they get out on a sheer luck.
Before we start let me say that this is not a review of Denpa-teki na Kanojo. If you want a review – we already have one written by Shaurya, you are welcome to read it. Here I want to discuss this OVA rather than to review it, so I’ll assume you’ve seen it. It is a good show by the way, and it is fairly short too, so if you haven’t seen it you can start watching it now and come back in 40 minutes =)
I decided to write about Denpa-teki na Kanojo because it gives me a great opportunity to talk about certain recurring setups in anime. Before we start though I would ask you to try not to let any negative preconceptions about these tropes to guide you as you are reading.
I am a big fan of good art and animation. If a cartoon looks great I would be happy to watch it, regardless of its other qualities. I would also like to tell other people about how good it was, but that is when things become difficult. Talking about art is hard in general, even if you limit yourself to a particular genre or style. Talking about modern animation where every piece may consist of a wild mixture of dozens of different styles is harder still. Not to mention that animation isn’t only about art, it is also about movement, which makes everything even more complex.
That is why when I see an anime that showcases one particular aspect of animation I feel an urge to share it with others, which is the reason I am writing this post. Project Eden is a comedy, a movie about two girls with bad enough reputation to be called Dirty Pair. Same as in other Dirty Pair movies, they are solving a crime case, blowing up stuff in the process. But more importantly, Project Eden is about an art style. But, what is an art style? I’d say it is a combination of the color palette the anime uses, common details of the character designs, the drawing and animation techniques and the choices of what to show on the screen. It seems arbitrary, but hopefully it will make sense in a moment.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is good example of a show that I normally wouldn’t feel like writing about. It is like trying to make a review of Confucius’s works, you wouldn’t attempt something like that just for fun. Innocence is probably the only movie so far that made me feel like I’m not educated enough to be watching it. The characters are literally talking in quotations, referencing European philosophers, Buddha, Confucius and some Japanese writers. And in my limited experience, quotes from philosophical texts make sense only in context. The text may have a couple paragraphs that build up reader’s intuition before delivering a few sentences that contain the core meaning of the text. Without a context these sentences are just mysterious collections of words, almost indecipherable. So because I wasn’t familiar with most of the texts cited in the movie, I just had to accept that I have no idea what characters imply by their words, which is a weird experience.
The movie is focused on questioning the boundaries of what a human being is. Not the word itself, but the classical interpretation of it. When you say ‘human’, you may think of one of the existing humans, or you may think of a being with the biological properties that we associate with being a human, or you may think of a being that looks and behaves as a human should, or maybe something else yet. The variety of the ideas that are covered by the umbrella word ‘human’ is interesting in itself. What’s even more interesting is how fragile these ideas are, and that is what the movie displays.
I’ve recently watched Colorful, a 2010 movie suggested to me by Shaurya. The movie follows a person who had died but was given a chance to redeem himself. He was reincarnated in a body of Makoto Kobayashi, a boy who killed himself with sleeping pills overdose. After the reincarnation the new Makoto needs to deal with the echoes of the Makoto’s life before the incident, the problems that lead up to his suicide.
I would say Colorful is a serious movie, at least compared to other things I’ve been watching recently. It might be a little hard to watch at times, but it definitely isn’t boring. Makoto’s mother acting is one of the best I’ve seen in a long while, I almost want to watch the movie again just to see it again (even though her role is such a sad one). If you like movies directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon, Makoto Shinkai, you should check this one out. It would be different, but chances are you’ll like it.
Puru Puru, sort of an angel that guides Kobayashi
Now time for spoilers. Though before the spoilers begin let me make a little detour and talk about stories in anime. Most anime do have a story, and it can be quite complex. The story can be told directly by the characters or a narrator, or it can be acted out; some of the events can be only alluded to without being shown. You can hide your story behind hints and metaphors, tell it through references, and since it is anime you can use words, pictures, sound and motion to construct those hints and references. Though if you aren’t careful no one will be able to decipher what the story was.
Porco Rosso is a movie about a former fighter pilot Marco who does bounty hunting work in a pre- World War II Adriatics. The sea is lawless and chaotic with bandits and bounty hunters being about indistinguishable; people still remember the WWI and the next war is approaching. It would make a great setting for a dark and heavy story, but the movie doesn’t go there, it tells its story with good humor and positive attitude. And it is not serious about trying to be a period piece. I mean, the pilot Marco is a pig, that kind of throws the realism out of the window from the start.
But regardless, just the settings alone would sell the movie for me. Such a specific time and place, and not even something obvious or well known, it was bound to pick my interest. Also it is a Ghibli movie and so far I liked all they have put out. Porco Rosso was made in 1992, directed by Hayao Myazaki. The art and animation look very good, lots of moments worth pausing to have a better look at. I recommend this film to everyone who like anime movies.
Now come the spoilers, so feel free to stop reading and watch the film instead.
I’ve recently finished watching Madoka Magica, a magical girl anime, famous for its unusually dark plot (at least by the standards of the time it was airing). Unfortunately for me I knew a fair bit about the anime before going into it, so the shock of seeing how different Madoka Magica is from other anime in the genre wasn’t that great for me. Maybe that is why today I chose such a weird topic, deciding to talk about whether or not there is a way to claim that Madoka Magica is a postmodern art, instead of just giving it the praises it deserves.
Here is a quick intro for those who have not seen the anime, but wish to keep reading (which is probably a bad idea, as I’ll spoil all there is to spoil in that show). Madoka Magica is an anime about a group of girls who were confronted by an alien creature (name is Kyubey) that offered to grant them one wish. In exchange they would have to become magical girls, fight witches, and eventually be killed in a fight. The anime makes sure to let you see that the stakes are high, showing you one death after another, revealing horrifying details of the contract Kyubey makes with the girls in exchange for the wish. The anime spends a lot of time with the characters, showing their normal lives, their parents, friends and loved ones, giving you reason to care about them. At times it almost is a nice and light-hearted slice of life story. But when they get to an action, especially when they show a witch fight, then the anime changes into something very unusual. I’ll talk about it below.
For me it started with admiring the artworks that are displayed during the fights (they are made by Gekidan Inu Curry, check them out). Let’s look at them together.
I started to wonder if there is a specific art genre they belong to. Eventually I started looking at what can be called postmodern art. I’ll post a few thumbnails here.
So today when having a lunch I watched an old Disney movie, called The Rescuers. I’ve seen it about a dozen times as a kid, liked it a lot. And I learned that I still like it. And I wouldn’t be writing this if it was just that, “I still like it”. It is an amazing cartoon. The way it is drawn, the scenery,backgrounds, character designs, facial expressions, all that deserves praise. You know how is some good anime movies you would have a scene or an entire section devoted to show off how things look, just to put you into a certain mood? Like Miyazaki puts some effort into portraying the forest in his Princess Mononoke, and Mamoru Oshii brings you a whole parade of awesome city life miniatures in his Ghost in the Shell. In The Rescuers you have something like that too, only here it is a constant stream of little details that accompany every action.
Sometimes you think that you know anime, you know how it looks like, what kind of stories it tells. Sure, anime is way more than high school boy and girls with big eyes eating cake in the club room, but still, you have watched enough to know what anime is all about. For example, if I show that cartoon I’ve written about a few months ago – The Old Man and the Sea – you’ll immediately be able to tell that this is not an anime, and you’ll be right, of course. This strange way of drawing using paint on glass, the way the story is told, even character designs, all that is just not anime. Hmmm, but wait, is that really so?..
That is oil on glass technique. Wait till you see how it looks in motion :P