Recently, I had the misfortune of going to the orthodontist. While I was lying on the chair with two sets of hands jamming sharp wire into my mouth, I had an interesting thought. I realized that, at least in my experience, it is quite rare to see a female orthodontist. Even though the dental assistants are generally women, you rarely see them in the director’s chair.
Now that the Summer 2016 anime season is fully underway, I have recently been watching Orange, the newest series from TMS Entertainment and Hiroshi Hamasaki, the director of Steins;Gate. The show is about a high school girl, Naho, who receives a letter from her future self, stating that she has many regrets. The letter contains instructions on how Naho can make the “right” decisions in the past to eliminate these regrets in the future. I was struck by this one particular scene in episode two and just had to write something about it.
Often in anime, dialog sequences are handled with a complete disregard for how framing and depth of field interplay with the dialog to enhance the dramatic narrative and characterization. In cases such as these, you inevitably end up with light novel-like info dumps, flat, uninspired cinematography, or excessive use of visual techniques that value style over substance. Orange is exceptional because of how much depth in manages to cram into a single setting by actually highlighting this interplay.
Let’s take a look at the scene from episode two that impressed me so much.
After having worked my way through Satoshi Kon’s entire filmography, I am left completely in awe of his filmmaking prowess. It is such a shame that Kon, one of very few directors in animation who made realistic, adult-oriented dramas, passed away at the young age of 46 from pancreatic cancer. Even though it has only been five years since his passing, you can already feel the lasting influence of his work.
Countless essays, reviews, and videos have been made about Kon’s masterful cinematography and pacing with some even going so far as to throw out comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. For this article, I will specifically focus on the opening scenes of Kon’s four films, which are unique because all of them open with a one to two minute sequence that establishes the overall concept of the film with just visuals and music alone. A lot of animated films used to do this historically, but it has fallen out of use in recent years. Satoshi Kon brought it back, and his opening sequences are among the best in animation.
The gentle blowing of a breeze near the sea. The sound of the water coming onto the beach, and then receding back into the vast ocean. The sounds of wind chimes and seagulls and cicadas during the warm summer months. All of this capped off with a sweet, nearly invisible musical score of piano, strings, oboe, and harp. This is the ever present soundscape of When Marnie Was There, the most recent and possibly last feature film from Studio Ghibli.
The Fate/Stay Night franchise is massive, spanning a multitude of visual novels, anime series, films, OVAs, spin-offs, manga, and video games. However, it all started with a visual novel from 2004 made by Type-Moon. Over the course of the franchise’s many iterations, the voice actors and actresses have miraculously managed to reprise their roles each and every time. The character designs have changed slightly, but overall have remained consistent with the designs from the original 2004 visual novel.
The biggest changes made to the franchise over time have been in the writing and directing, variations in adaptation styles, and the music, which is what I will be focusing on here. So many hands have touched this storied franchise, and it is all of these variations that make the Fate universe so rich. I am very much intrigued by how much the music has presented these characters and stories in such different ways.
One of the most important scenes from any show or movie, a scene that defined my childhood and instilled within me a vast array of emotions and ideals, is the now famous “whistle scene” from the original Digimon Adventure film, directed by Mamoru Hosoda. To adults who did not grow up in this generation, it can be hard to see why this scene, and the Digimon franchise as a whole, is so meaningful to me and the thousands of children who also witnessed this incredible work of animation.
I first watched FLCL during my senior year of high school way back in 2011. Back then, I had seen very little anime outside of Studio Ghibli, Makoto Shinkai’s films, and a handful of mainstream anime series, such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Bakemonogatari, and Fate/Stay Night. I had just started reading the popular animation blog Cartoon Brew, and was only just beginning to understand the many intricacies of the art of animation.
I have been on kind of a Gainax kick recently, so I decided to re-watch FLCL. Originally, due to the fact that my knowledge of animation was so juvenile, I thought that FLCL was simply an over stylized drug trip. Now, many years later, with my new acquired knowledge of the animation medium, I have realized that FLCL is…. An over stylized drug trip. That being said, there are so many things about it that I was unable to notice before. The design of this anime is absolutely astounding. The narrative, although short and filled to the brim with comedy, is still incredibly dense. The biggest change, however, was my reaction to FLCL. This time, I truly felt it. I felt the emotions imbued within the animation.
Ok. I got this. I understand everything now.
Clannad tells the story of Okazaki Tomoya, a dead high school student whose soul is put into a robot and sent out to a distant planet in an alternate, high frame rate reality to comfort a young, lonely girl, who is forever trapped in a gigantic field of light bulbs. These light bulbs represent happy memories of the past, and these memories are what make up the story of Clannad.
The first of these light bulb memories recounts the story of Fuko, an emo loli in a mental institution. One day, the doctors find her cutting her wrists while she is making thousands upon thousands of wooden carvings of starfish as a sacrifice to her imaginary god, the Great Starfish Heat. She looses an immense amount of blood and enters into a coma. Her spirit lingers around the school that our protagonist, Okazaki, and his friends attend. The only way that her spirit can pass out of the spirit realm is for Fuko to collect all 120 Starfish, defeat Bowser, and save Princess Peach. With the help of Okazaki and his pals Nagisa, Sunohara, Ryou, and generic tsundere girl, she is able to accomplish this task, see her sister find happiness by marrying a depressed, anti-social, former musician-turned-electrician, and move on to the depths of Hell. Uh, I mean Loli Heaven.
I am an avid fan of animation of all kinds, and I have recently developed a sudden and completely unexplainable interest in figure skating. I came to the realization that they are more similar than you would expect at first glance. The most important similarity the two share is the means of expression: The beauty of movement. The artistry is in the motion. For animation, this is thousands upon thousands of individual frames adding up to create the illusion of movement. For figure skating, it is the control of your body on the ice to create a mesmerizing program of dance, spins, and jumps. In other words: Movement.
I should preface this by saying that I am not an expert on either animation or figure skating, but as an avid fan of both, even with just a little research, I have found many similarities between the two. So many in fact, that I was simply astounded. This goes much deeper than you think.
Firstly, before I go into more detail, take a look at this scene from Walt Disney’s Bambi and this incredible performance from Yulia Lipnitskaya’s Free Program from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. I will be using these two videos as reference as I explain how animation and figure skating have many commonalties.
The first major similarity that animation and figure skating share is the technique itself; how the movement is created. In figure skating, all jumps have five main components:
“Kaguya-hime no Monogatari”, or “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”, is the work of master storyteller and director Isao Takahata of the infamous Studio Ghibli. It is an utterly beautiful film based on the oldest known Japanese folktale “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.”
On February 22nd, this film will battle it out at the Oscars in the Best Animated Feature category. Here are five reasons why I think “Kaguya” should win the Oscar.