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.
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Archives for: April 2010, 09

Friday, April 9, 2010

02:51:00 pm , 867 words, 3039 views     Categories: Animation, TV

The new season

The two Fuji TV Noitamina shows coming up over the next two weeks by Masaaki Yuasa and Mochizuki Tomomi are both going to be well worth a look, particularly the Yuasa one of course. The producer of Noitamina is a savvy guy with a keen sense for how to balance daring new programming with accessibility, and what he's trying to do is truly praiseworthy. Noitamina has thus far provided a space for the production of some genuinely impressive and daring programming - notably Mononoke and the same director's Trapeze - balanced out with anime of a more people-friendly, shojo-ish bent such as Honey & Clover. Which is not to say the latter are forgettable. Every show has stood out as having mature stories and directing and being refreshingly bereft of the hardcore pandering that plagues anime today, in line with the goals of the producer to reach out to audiences who otherwise would not watch anime. That's exactly what anime needs, so I hope the producer's daring gambit pays off, although unfortunately there is an inherent contradicting in attempting to do cutting-edge programming that the general populace will embrace. The double feature that commences this month provides a clever solution to this problem - air one that is a more creatively aggressive production that will cater to non-users looking for something different and new, and another that is backed by a popular manga with an original edge that will appeal to a broader audience. Perhaps some in the broader audience will be pulled in by the unabashed creativity the more daring show.

A newer contender in the late-night arena is TV Tokyo's Anime no Chikara. It purports something similar - slightly more daring, creator-centric productions than you'd see on regular daytime programming. But slightly is the operable term. The first show, So Ra No Wo To showed promise and technical proficiency that was torpedoed by cowardly adherence to the moe template.

Their second show just started, Senko no Night Raid by A-1 Productions (Ookiku Furikabutte), and I enjoyed it a lot more. I would actually be willing to follow the show despite it not doing anything new or daring with the animation, designs or overall concept. It's just very well directed, and the character acting is not repulsive, which is a refreshing change. The characters act low key, normal. There are none of the cliched expressive symbols or cliched behaviors. I found the first episode eminently watchable, which is a rare thing for me when the animation, designs or SOMETHING in the concept aren't strikingly original or creative. It's just good entertaining story anime, the way anime should be done, not perverted, pandering garbabe.

One thing I liked about the show was the fact that, for the Chinese dialogue spoken by characters who are Chinese (Shanghainese) nationals, they got actual Chinese speakers, and for the Japanese characters who are speaking Chinese, their non-native language, they got the Japanese voice-actor to speak the dialogue. So the Japanese characters' spoken Chinese has the appropriate bad accent, while the Chinese characters' spoken Chinese sounds right. (although if we're going to be anal about it (yes please) I'm not sure whether they're speaking period-appropriate Shanghainese). Anime usually never bothers with details like this, but they are crucial. So it serves as a positive sign that the director has his head on right.

I'm usually the big Bones cheerleader, but I didn't much care for Heroman. I will probably continue watching it simply because of the fact that the animation and designs are more creative and well-produced than any of the other shows this season so far, and Bones usually maintains that quality from episode to episode, but the show itself is utterly tame and unexciting compared to Soul Eater, which grabbed me from the first episode. And the concept is just so stupid and lazily conceived. They didn't even bother to provide some kind of plausible reason for why this kid's toy transformed into a big remote-controllable hero robot when lightning happened to strike it, which he apparently had guessed was going to happen because he was running towards the thing in panic mode. The pivotal scene was insultingly moronic. Of course, realistic directing is hardly the point of the hero shows that are the template here, but isn't it kind of bad if they can't be bothered to come up with something remotely believable to justify the central plot device? Or are they trying to making a smug point about the laziness of hero show plotting? Anyway... Takashi Tomioka was in the episode (presumably the action at the end) and hopefully some of the talent that graced the opening will pepper the actual show (Fumiaki Kouta, Yasuo Muroi, Kenichi Yoshida).

I checked out a bunch of other shows (when will I learn) but there wasn't anything else interesting. Shin Itagaki did do a crazy sequence at the end of the moefest Mayoi Neko Overrun, but honestly I'm not too big on his style. It feels like a copy of Imaishi, but even more jumpy and crazy, which is saying a lot. When movement reaches such an extreme level of overstylization, it ceases to be character animation and becomes incomprehensible noise.