Why I was Afraid to Watch Rozen Maiden: The Uncanny Valley

December 31, 2006 at 6:34 am (Anime, Movies, Theory)

If you’re a total weeaboo, you might already be familiar with Asian Ball-jointed Dolls. If you’re not, you can read up on it elsewhere, but here’s a picture!


Super Dolfie is slightly creepy

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You can have “that Will Smith movie,” but can you have “that Yui Horie anime”?

November 6, 2006 at 9:14 am (Anime, Movies, Theory)

I could not quite come up with an appropriate title for this post. This is a post about viewing foreign language film, viewing animated film, and identifying actors, directors, and other creative influences behind those works.

By identification I almost mean recognition, but not quite. If you watch a movie starring Harrison Ford or Will Smith, you might refer to it as a “Harrison Ford,” or “Will Smith” movie. This is true for a lot of Hollywood Stars. Their names alone will sell movies, and people will tend to identify them as the major sort of creative feature of the movie. That’s why it’s a “Will Smith movie,” not a “movie with Will Smith in it,” even if he’s just an actor, not a writer or director or whatever.

I was thinking though that this realllllly doesn’t happen with anime. Except I might be wrong (so hopefully I will get feedback on this).

One big reason I might be wrong is that I’m not fluent (or even competent, really) in Japanese. Since all there really is of the seiyuu in anime is their voices, I’m obviously not going to think of anime this way when there are only maybe one or two seiyuu whose voices I can even readily identify. So it’s hard for me to even be a fan of specific seiyuu, because I don’t often think things like “that seiyuu specifically really made that role awesome.” Actually about the only time I’ve had that experience was with Mai Otome where Tomoe should so obviously have been a trite and stupid villain, but Rie Tanaka somehow made her so ridiculous she was awesome.

One big reason I might be right is that I’m not sure the actors are as focal in anime as they are in live film, simply because they’re less visible. The focus, from my perspective, seems to be either on the production house or, in the case of adaptations, on the original author. Since directors (is this really true? I think it’s true, but I haven’t looked extensively) tend to work exclusively for a single production house, the studio gets as much identification as the director. Particularly when a production house uses the same animation team a lot and establishes a visual style (GAINAX, KyoAni) it becomes easy to identify production houses with anime, because the animation itself, rather than a particular actor, is then in the forefront. It may also be that the seiyuu just aren’t used as the center-of-attention to market anime in the same way Hollywood Stars are for their movies, but I don’t have the proper perspective to really say.

I think I have more to say about this, but that’s all for now.

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“But the BOOK was BETTER!!”: How much does loyalty to the source matter to you when watching an adaptation?

July 25, 2006 at 8:38 am (Theory)

“The book was better,” is one of those phrases that gets tossed around a lot concerning movies adapted from novels, and I’m pretty okay with it. It does bug me, though, when I hear people denigrating anime for not being loyal to the manga it is based on.

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Scope and Format in Anime (or Why I lurve the 13/26 episode counts)

June 21, 2006 at 7:12 am (Anime, Theory)

I guess I should check on these things when I start watching shows, but I usually don’t, so I only found out by word-of-mouth the other day that Nana was slated for at least 50 episodes, rather than 26. Normally this would be cause for alarm from me, but it’s actually not, in this case. Usually with a 26 episode count, I worry about the compactness of the story.

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The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, 01: Immersion Tactics

April 18, 2006 at 3:02 am (Analysis, Anime, Theory)

Immersion. It’s not just for saving the damned. Every fucking book lover in the world, and one blind starship engineer harp on about how books will take you to new and fantastic worlds. If a text doesn’t somehow steal my focus from the world around me, then I tend to become rapidly bored with it. Immersion isn’t the only way to engage a reader, but it is an important one. In multi-player (PnP, mmo, or larp) role-playing games, the issue of immersion is often significant, because it is so easy to shatter. I remember one pick-up group I joined playing Dungeons and Dragons online, where the team-leader refused to respond to modern English slang (“What does ‘yo’ mean?”), and tried to insist people precede every sentence with “ye” or “lo!” or “Behold!” or some shit like that. Alright, he was retarded, and he had a very silly concept of appropriate in-character language, but I at least understood his consternation. It’s sort of challenging to pretend you’re Gandalf the Grey if Frodo keeps saying things like “WTF. I PWND THIS RING QUEST n00b! Balr0g’d!”. While creating a truly immersive experience is a challenge, there is some basic requisite consistency necessary to bring the viewer / reader / player into the world of the text at all. This, I think, is why breaking the 4th wall is such dodgy business: it usually wrecks immersion.

John The Baptist
Boo! I’m John the Baptist!*

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Layer: 01

April 15, 2006 at 4:10 pm (Theory)

I will write beautiful ballad-symphonies on gender symbols in Utena, to the deafening echo of dismissive sighs and raised eyebrows, and I won’t be happy either, because my poor little pieces will be lost in a field of missing context. Chimeric and non-constant though it may be, I feel some need to establish a foundation. Some bricks, a cornerstone here, even if I replace it with one three times stronger later, or tear down the whole manse, blow it to dust, and begin anew. This is my demesne, and to maintain my glassen pride I will give it some semblance of structure. I wish to build, not to glitter this land by casting down stars from up high.

It’s an experiment. Bringing coherence to a maelstrom of ponderance of thought on reading, and writing, and viewing, and filming. Why think so much about it in the first place? Can’t you just enjoy a fucking book and let it rest? Sure, and I often do, but of late my consumption process has been upset by my curiosity. One thing that piques my interest not at all is any attempt to frame merit for art. Rather than “Is it any good?” I’m interested in “Why did I like it?” and “How did it work?” I don’t want to pull deeper meanings from some vast anal cavity; I want to reverse engineer the entire situation, so I can understand who reads what and why and why they love it or hate or dismiss it or buy it or write slash about it or read it to their children and grandchildren before bed. How do the flashing lights, and jumbles of words and sounds come together to do something to us. There’s a psychology of consumption that wants to exist. I don’t have the resources for a six-million dollar theory, but hopefully I can manage something better than straw. This place is only part of the whole, and it will have a cleaner focus, bringing my eyes to bare anime, with only occasional glances elsewhere. Well, hopefully; the best laid blogs of men and hogs have a heavy Scottish accent.

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