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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« TV ToeiMind Game: First impressions »

Friday, December 24, 2004

08:47:51 pm , 761 words, 1288 views     Categories: Mind Game

Mind Game: More thoughts

Carollers singing something in... Russian? Romanian? Ironically, I don't think it was intended for my ears, whatever it was.

Unable to get to sleep last night for some reason, I spent the night out on a driveabout in the snowy mountains and got back nearly dead from exhaustion earlier today around noon. I have to thank Mind Game for reminding me that I'm still alive.

As I mentioned in the previous post, one of the aspects of Mind Game that most impressed me was the storytelling; the way the drama is presented. Yuasa has mentioned that he wants to focus on storytelling in the future (over action or what have you) and it seems likely that there will be a next production, possibly an original TV series, so I very much look forward to seeing him develop this aspect of his skills. I only say that because I was amazed how good he already is, and I'd like to see him get better, which I think he could if working on his own material.

I wanted to get down my various thoughts before I see the film again because Mind Game seems like a film that evokes different things as you get to know it better, and the first impression is quite unforgettable. I think I didn't emphasize enough the impact of seeing the film for the very first time in my first post. My jaw was open much of the time throughout the movie. Few films I've ever seen combined artistic experimentation and comprehensibility in as thought-provoking and mind-bogglingly imaginative a package as this one. I'd heard this before, but I can confirm it now: This is a film that feels spontaneous. It's hard to imagine how it all could have been planned out beforehand. It goes all out until the finish in a beautiful Olympian arc, but still has the time to paint a huge canvas of characters and background information.

Yuasa talks about wanting to capture the way the original manga feels like it was written in one go, without a blueprint, and that's exactly how it feels when watching the film - even though I have 550 pages of proof as to how much meticulous planning went into every single movement of every shot (Yuasa reportedly provided roughs for much of the film's movement). I think what I like about Yuasa's directing is that I can understand the theory behind it, and I can relate to it, which is a first for me. Other directing styles impress but alienate; Yuasa's seems unpretentious and honest in comparison. Yuasa already had a reputation as an animator, but it's clear that his directing talent is equally uncommon, and he has what it takes to become a great storyteller. Also, I noticed similarities to Cat Soup - the circular storytelling, the reliance on conveying of narrative information via the visuals rather than dialogue.

I've zoomed in on the less obvious qualities like the truly profound human element because the animation (or I should say the visual element due to the huge variety of media and styles that come into play) is the most obvious of the film's unique features. I can think of few films that come close to Mind Game in terms of exactly the qualities I value most in animation - movement, velocity, freedom with form. Never have I seen animation that was simultaneously so constantly interesting and exciting and that served a greater purpose than mere surface-level titillation. It all works together perfectly, and every moment has surprises. The variety and quality of the ideas is astounding, the deformation so extreme that it seems to bend the very fabric of the universe, but the acting is extremely nuanced exactly when and where it needs to be thanks to the precise directing. The film is "written and directed" by Yuasa, but like in the Shin-chan films, the script is in fact the storyboard.

I've been holding off on looking at any of the material that came with the set because I want to absorb the movie before looking at it in pieces, and it will take a while for that to happen. The set came with some postcards illustrated by various people. All of them were involved in the film somehow or related to someone involved in it - except one: Shinji Hashimoto. He was the only one not involved in any way. It's obvious from his work, and this gesture, that there's a spiritual kinship there, so it'd be neat if they did some work together in the future.

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2 comments

Jericho
Jericho [Visitor]

Apparently it is a merry christmas today…

If this movie is really that good as you say it is to be, then I might not know what to really expect. I very much adore the oddity value of particular anime, but this one is said to be so over the top, that it is revolutionary. I’m certain that everyone here has heard exclaimations on how a certain anime is the greatest and the most profound of them all, my personal one being the highly acclaimed FLCL, but you make it sound like MINDGAME really takes the cake in terms of contemporary anime. I think I want this DVD box set. The story boards, animatics, extras and interviews seem like it is worth the money.

From what I’m guessing you are from Vancouver no? PLease visit www.awn.com/qas to see the artist run studio that I frequent in Calgary.

12/25/04 @ 15:34
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Do note that none of the extras are subtitled. Sadly. Because they are worth the money.

I fear people being let down because I’ve been pushing this movie so hard. I mainly just wanted to get the word out that this movie exists, because it seemed to be at risk of extinction. We are definitely talking cult movie here. It will not be the be-all end-all for everyone. But I do think it has done a lot of interesting things, and deserves to be seen - especially by people bored with most anime like myself. Ideally this would be a movie to experience on a blank slate. Try to approach it with reasonable expectations.

Thanks for the link. Their resource library sounds great.

12/25/04 @ 16:05