Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
July 2006
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Archives for: July 2006, 21

Friday, July 21, 2006

10:26:40 pm , 462 words, 1040 views     Categories: Animation, TV

Welcome to the NHK

Gonzo is a reliable animation studio in a sense. You can rely on them to make a tremendously interesting first episode, and then let the rest of the series go down the toilet. I was prepared to enroll in the Speed Grapher fan club after the first episode, but was traumatized by the rest. It makes sense that Hisashi Mori didn't want to be too involved in it. Similarly, I can understand very clearly why Masashi Ishihama, character designer of NHK, didn't want to be involved in the actual series, and went so far as to use a pen name for his character designer credit. Who would want his name forever besmirched by association with a series in which his designs were guaranteed to be raped at leisure over the length of 13 or 26 episodes?

Well, it's deja vu time. I was enraptured by the first episode of Welcome to the NHK. Maybe it's far from perfect, and they seem to have compromised a lot in the adaptation, but I haven't read the original, so that wasn't a big concern to me. It was just great to finally see a show bringing the issue of hikikomori out into the bright light of day in an intelligent, non-pandering, believable fashion. I could relate to the main character in a way I haven't been able to relate to any analagous character in this sort of show in years. The humor was for the most part dead-on and not overdone. The sequence of Sato's triumphal march into the outside world to apply for a part-time job in a desperate attempt to break out of his three-year stint as a shut-in (going on four) was hilarious and tremendously poignant at the same time. I thought they really nailed the pathetic irony of the whole situation, with that great driving guitar ballad in the background. The music and sound design were great throughout. The animation was passable. The op by Ishihama was the animation hilight, with art by the Easter Gumi, who did the art for Cossette and a number of other nice ops in recent years.

In comes episode two. This is when I finally remembered that I have a short memory. Surprise surprise, it's ep 2 of Speed Grapher all over again. The dazed confusion. The disbelief. I was actually so appalled by the animation that I could not fully immerse myself in the story for a single moment. The story is interesting enough that I'll still follow it, but it's still disappointing. It is possible for a show to be worth watching for reasons other than the animation. But only barely.

On an unrelated note, the reviews have been pouring in for Goro Senki, and I've never seen so many one-star reviews of a Ghibli film.