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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Thursday, October 21, 2004

08:03:18 pm , 281 words, 1720 views     Categories: Animation

Hiramatsu & Beck

I was reading an interview with Tadashi Hiramatsu, the character designer and AD of ep 1 of Re: Cutey Honey and AD of eps 1, 3 and 6 of FLCL, and one thing that came up was that he approaches the act of designing a character (and he does not consider himself to be a designer but an animator first and foremost) with the animators in mind rather than as a means of personal expression. Obviously aesthetic plays some part in all designs, but what makes his approach exceptional is that most of the time these days it's taken for granted that the aesthetic side takes precedence over practicality. And the reason is obvious: most of the time there's no need to create a character that is easy to move because the designs are the end, not the means, and animation will be present in the capacity of spice, not meat. It was also interesting to discover that he shares my passion for pre-baroque music. I also went through my conductor mania stage many years ago, comparing the rubato or the tempo of this Walter 5th with that Weingartner or Furtwangler wartime or what not, and he makes an amusingly apt point about the similarity of this mindset to the that of animator freaks like myself.

Episode 3 of Beck was not in fact done by Osamu Kobayashi. It seemed unlikely that it would be. That's just too much work for one person. So it's not surprising that I was slightly disappointed by the results. Animation unimpressive, pacing and dramatic balance unconvincing. I realize now that without the sensitive directing of the first two eps this story is revealed for the stock growing-up drama it is.

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14 comments

Tony Mines
Tony Mines [Visitor]

At the risk of being yelled at by every otaku on the inter-mu-web…
What’s moe?
Ben, you know I enjoy your writing, but you could do with being a little more expositional at times. Especially when using specific japanese terminologies and referencing animators by surname without the luxury of context. I for one would find it helpful if you made it a habit to, after mentioning a persons name, you put one of their works in brackets - as is the practice in academic writing.
But then I don’t even know what moe means…

10/22/04 @ 03:32
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

I tend to write on momentum, and sometimes I don’t always edit as well as I should. And I’m away from home at the moment, so I don’t have the concentration to polish my posts as well as I know I should. Here I made an effort and mentioned both his first and last name, but I did forget to note what he’d done. If I don’t do that it’s usually because I’ve talked about the person in previous posts, which I try to mention. And I didn’t define moe because that had been done in a recent comment. I’ll fix the post appropriately. Generally I try my best not to even bother with this sort of terminology, but this time it was hard to avoid.

10/22/04 @ 07:02
Tony Mines
Tony Mines [Visitor]

Oh right1 Moe! Gotcha. Thanks for the updates Ben. Okay, I reread the post and I agree with you now. Moe boring. Though I don’t see it dissapearing any time soon, it goes back at least as far as Sailor Moon and is something entrenched in the otaku psyche - male and female alike.
Have to say though, only seen episode 1 of Beck, but I’m not convinced yet. If theres one thing that turns me off more than squeeling moe girls these days, its slacker anime. One too many anime boys leaning against a wall trying to look american for me. Same otaku self-indulgence as moe, far as I can see. Though i’ll say this for Beck - its always funny when anime backgrounds depict a western environment better than in any western animation I can think of.

10/22/04 @ 08:00
Otaprince
Otaprince [Visitor]

where did you read the Tadashi Hiramatsu interview? Any chance of translating it for fellow fans?

10/22/04 @ 08:41
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Like I said, I don’t think the story of Beck is the bee’s knees; that’s the part that’s the given (it’s based on a manga). The question for me was what the director could do with the material, as I said, and I think he did a better job than most anime directors would have in terms of the pacing and cutting and the adaptation of the original dialogue. I’m not saying it was perfect, but Kobayashi put a lot of effort into making the obviously limited material work, putting his own personal stamp on it, and I think that should be saluted. Personally, I actually kind of like the whole American-road-movie-through-the-eyes-of-anime feel of the opening. It feels, probably rightly, like it was done by a person who actually knows those road movies and was rendering homage to them, rather than just some new anime fad.

Honestly the point I wanted to make is not limited to moe. It applies to most anime. (It’s too easy to make fun of moe.) I just wanted to observe the self-perpetuating nature of anime designs (and stories), which has long perplexed and fascinated me. What interests me is to see an interesting new interpretation of the human form and the reality around me (one of the few anime that did that was Hakkenden episode 10), yet you don’t get anything like that in anime because the designs and the situations are nothing more than variations on what has been done before. Like painting a landscape from another landscape painting, rather than going to the landscape. Which is strange since so much of anime is purportedly based in the real world; the same high school situations are repeated over and over. So I just get to wondering why that is sometimes.

10/22/04 @ 08:44
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

The interview (in Japanese) can be read at the “Anata to Watashi no Gainax” page:

http://kodansha.cplaza.ne.jp/gainax/index.html

I might translate it in part, as it was pretty interesting. Hiramatsu will also be directing/storyboarding episode 3 of Aim fo the Top 2.

10/22/04 @ 09:00
Fan-Yi
Fan-Yi [Visitor]

Hi Ben, you really hate MOE, don’t you? But you forgot:
1. Nowadays Japanese anime stylistics originates NOT from classical US-animation films but from Japanese comics (and games). As classical Japanese film originates from theater not reality.
2. Animation can NEVER win over reality. So why always trying to be a copy? The basic and strengt of animation IS abstraction.
3. It’s an animation INDUSTRY. So if there is a demand for big-eyed-lolitas, the industry has to follow.
4. Your cited definition of moe is not very good, try http://ja.wikipedia.org.
5. Moe boom started already some years ago. Haven’t you noticed To Heart or Sister Princess?

So, the one to blame is this bad guy named Tezuka for inventing shoujo manga and limited animation. ;)

Oh, BTW I find BECK quite bad. There is more than only animation that makes a good animation film (i.e. voice acting and characters).

10/22/04 @ 09:44
jfrog
jfrog [Visitor]

You’re right, animation can never truly replicate reality. But just because something is an abstraction doesn’t mean it’s interesting - I love it when an animator finds some interesting way to draw things that we’ve never seen before. But when that happens, it’s because they came up with their own interpretation of reality instead of their own interpretation of anime character design.

As for Beck, I think it’s a great series. Slackers may be cliche, but at least it’s a cliche based on the real world and a hell of a lot easier for me to relate to than Kare Kano (much less Love Hina). What really bothers me about moe is because it reveals how incestuous and insular the otaku culture is - there’s nothing in moe anime (both visually and in terms of story/characters) that has anything to do with reality or human experience. Hell, I’ve read superhero comics with more heart than any of that crap.

10/22/04 @ 15:08
roxfan
roxfan [Visitor]

I think you shouldn’t link to Wikipedia rip-offs. Here’s the original article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mo%E9

10/22/04 @ 16:45
Neil Clingerman
Neil Clingerman [Visitor]

I’d have to agree with you in regards to this whole Moe anti otakuist rant, I think the biggest barrier to the artistic development of animation as a whole is the subculture that is perpetuating one and only one kind of design as a means of fullfilling personal issues with those who are adherants to that culture.

Art shouldn’t be ruled by a such an archane and strigent world, it should be free and open, and otaku should learn to appreciate the unfamiliar.

10/23/04 @ 17:58
Pedro M. Polanco
Pedro M. Polanco [Visitor]

I kind of like moe stuff, i really like the aesthetic it has, this “unearthly beauty” they give the characters when it’s done right.
Look at Yami to Boushi to Hon to Tabibito and To Heart for my favourite moe series (although i’m not sure if To Heart counts as one, might be too old for that term, and the new To Heart is pure garbage).
But i do think right now it’s a bit over the top, most shows these days have moe, even kids shows have moe scenes, its like its oozing down the animation industry.
I predict that the moe faze wont last for 5 more years, 2004 has been a good year for anime in my opinion, we got some nice productions this year, and i think they are going to increase…moe is on its way out.

10/28/04 @ 05:13
Pedro M. Polanco
Pedro M. Polanco [Visitor]

One more thing ^^

“that layer upon layer of stylization of the human form has reached such an advanced stage as for the orginal human to no longer be visible in the character designs being made nowadays in anime. In other words, the designs that are being created today no longer come from reality; they are abstract images that come from the nether depths of the human psyche”

That is what art has been striving to do since the impressionists, they stopped trying to copy the world around us, and went inward, to how people see images, and how images influence people, once art became free of the real world, that’s when we started seeing abstract ideas being put on canvas, and that gave rise to the idea of stylization, which is what most modern art is based on today, especially animation art.

It’s all about abstract ideas. :)

10/28/04 @ 06:00
Adam Stephanides
Adam Stephanides [Visitor]

I confess to being unclear on the concept of moe, despite having seen it referred to in several places, largely because I haven’t seen most of the shows that have been cited as examples of moe. (And I didn’t find the definition you linked to that helpful.) Aside from the ones mentioned, what shows licensed in the U.S. would be considered moe? Would Cardcaptor Sakura be?

Apart from this, I find your blog very educational. Keep it up!

10/28/04 @ 09:15
Sean Bires
Sean Bires [Visitor]

^^ see the above for an alternative article that cites examples (including CCS)

personally I consider Rizelmine to be the most explosive example of “moe” I’ve ever seen, and well… the animation studio behind it is named M.O.E., fittingly.

10/29/04 @ 07:23