Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Hiroyuki Imaishi wackiness from Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi ep 12

Imaishi (better known these days for directing Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and to a much lesser extent Dead Leaves) did direction, animation direction, and storyboard for ep 3, and animation direction, storyboard, and layout (or "creative design" depending on your source) for ep 12 (the one I'm posting images from) of this series. I'm betting that all the more exaggerated and cute bits of these two episodes were drawn directly by him, since they're just so distinctive. These episodes are standouts from this series anyway (I just got done watching it, I enjoyed it overall, save for the horrible ending, but these are the only two episodes I really find memorable by themselves), but while watching it I thought this first scene stood out even from the rest of the episode.

And I'm just assuming Imaishi did all the drawings. Maybe I'm wrong, but this strikes me as a very energetic and creative person just smashing out the most expressive poses and expressions they can, and that's the kind of figure Imaishi sounds like from all I've heard of him (and the mark he leaves on his works in general). He's most infamous for frenetic movement and crazy poses (he was also responsible for the wild gunfights in FLCL episode 5), and that's certainly present in these episodes. In particular there are some very fast, chaotic cycles which I actually find quite hard to read (though horrible PAL conversions can't help: I actually rented this series on DVD rather than downloading it, which I do sometimes so I can complain about how shitty anime DVDs are here).

These don't even have any in-betweens, those are the whole sequences! (assuming I didn't miss any frames; given the number of blended frames on the DVD I had to skip past I may have missed some) In fact, that first sequence of frames up there doesn't have any actual in-betweens either, the characters just switch straight between the poses (maybe with some supporting secondary action like a cloud of dust from the closing book). In that case though, I feel it worked, the poses are so strong and so appealing they don't even need in-betweens. Try it yourself! Open them all in different tabs and just switch between them.

All this no-inbetween business reminds me of something John K once said about how, whenever he actually animates these days rather than doing layout or suchlike, he doesn't have the patience to draw lots of gradual in-betweens, he just wants to do funny drawings. That's exactly the vibe I get from this scene.

As I said it doesn't always work for me in what I'm assuming to be Imaishi's animation. Sometimes the characters end up looking primitive and over-rushed and often his compositions are cluttered and difficult to read, (don't have any screenshots). But he makes girls look really cute!

 I'm reminded of these pieces of Gurren Lagann artwork that were apparently drawn by the man himself.

Especially the faces. The big eyes.

Converts directly into forehead space when the eyes are closed or narrowed.

As I said, Gurren Lagann is probably what he's best known for these days, but it's actually very restrained compared to this stuff.  Perhaps because he didn't get to do so much animation, layout, or storyboarding for it: apparently he did key animation for eps 1, 8 , 15, 26, and 27, but even those episodes aren't as wild as this. Maybe he refined himself a bit since 2002, or felt such a wacky approach wasn't fitting for the series (the director's cut DVD version of episode 6, directed by Shin Itagaki, animation direction by Yuka Shibata, was more like this, and it was purely comedic rather than adventure centric). GL did still have problems of clutter in the designs and occasionally the overall compositions, though it was generally less flat than this, but not as crazy. Not that I'm complaining, since I love the fuck out of GL, I'm just making observations for the sake of it.

How much influence does a series director even have? Compared to, say, an "episode director"?

Did he do these drawings too? (from later in the same episode)

There's also this great bit of Sasshi (the boy, the girl's called Arumi) doing a crazy whipping motion. It reads very nicely in context compared to the sequences above. Did Imaishi or somebody else draw it? (I'd include more frames but it's largely on ones, so these are the only frames I could get that weren't blended)

Imaishi's two episodes are also the rudest.

The plot of episode 3 centres around Arumi's panties getting stolen by a goblin while she's in the bushes taking a leak (she pisses herself as a result), and subsequent attempts to get them back by having a giant robot battle. She ends up smashing Sasshi in the face with her bare crotch once or twice. Damn! I wish I'd taken screenshots now.

Um, not really sure what I meant to say next. I'm trying to figure out how to efficiently clean mould off a high bathroom ceiling! Not fun.

Oh, I finally rewatched Neon Genesis Evangelion (including End of Evangelion) recently. It's fun! Well, eps 1-14 are fun, I'd forgotten that the tone shifts and the budget slips from ep 16 onwards.

 Unit 01 trollface.

And EoE just doesn't make fucking sense. Mostly concerning the motivations of certain characters. Actually, it's like, "But Not Really: The Movie".

Misato slipped Shinji the tongue so he'll finally pull himself together to go pilot Unit 01!
But Not Really, because once he sees it's covered in Bakelite he's just going to sit there feeling sorry for himself again.
No worries, Asuka's managed to find herself and is going to beat the Mass Production Evas alone.
But Not Really, because she'll just get raped.
However, Shinji's really going to pull himself together now, and go save her!
But Not Really because he'll see Unit 02's mutilated corpse and completely flip his shit.
But Rei's going to defy Gendo and go save him instead!
But Not Really, because she's actually just going to activate Instrumentality anyway.
Oh wait, Kaworu's going to come back and help Shinji out because he's a bro!
But Not Really, because his comforting is actually just another part of totally breaking Shinji's mind so he'll let Instrumentality happen.
Oh no, hang on, Shinji is actually going to reject Instrumentality and resolve to continue to live his life, conflict and all.


(amazingly, this still manages to be better than Abenobashi's ending)

I do still like Eva, though. Anyway, I did this in preparation for finally catching up with the Rebuild movies. They're up to two out of four now. Hopefully they'll be interesting. From the sounds of it (though I've been avoiding spoilers) Anno may be setting up for some unholy, mind-bending troll by the end of it.

Maybe I should lay off the depressing/frustrating/rage-inducing endings for a bit before I watch them, though. I recently fell in love with a little-known manga and OVA called Alien Nine. I shan't review (at least not now), but my experience of it can basically be summed up thus.

Anyway, it's late. Signing off.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Another largely copypasta review because I'm awesome.

So recently I finally got round to one of the many mangas I've had sitting on my hard-drive waiting to be read (as opposed to ones I buy, which is "anything I can buy" since I hate reading scans), and it was a doujinshi titled Masturbation Master Kurosawa (all sources refer to it as "Onani Master Kurosawa", but I have a bug in my ass about leaving in Japanese words so I won't do that, also I am aware of the hypocrisy in this given that I refer to Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei as such). When I first saw people talking about this, I naturally made assumptions based on the title and the pages posted.

What I was expecting initially:

 Wank jokes, Death Note parody (it was sometimes referred to as "Fap Note", due to some obvious references early on, as seen above, and the fact that the protagonist looks and even acts a fair bit like Light).

However, as people talked about it a bit more (especially as translations got closer to the end of its four-volume run) I noticed readers saying that it was actually a coming-of-age story. To give the now overdue blurb, it centres on Kakeru Kurosawa, a solitary middle-school boy who, every day after school, masturbates in a seldom-used girl's toilet on the third floor, fueling this by fantasising about girls in his class. However, as things change, the story comes to focus on growing out of things and finding oneself, with bullying being a prominent theme.

What I was expecting at this point:

 A coming-of-age story, that somehow starts with a loner fapping in a girl's toilet. I filed it away in the "To read" section of my mind, eventually downloaded it, and, just yesterday, finally got round to reading it.

What I eventually got:
One of the most honest, genuine, true-to-life, and well-written coming-of-age stories I've read in the medium.

I'm trying not to spoil too much, since it's honestly too good a story to spoil, but, even with my mended expectations, it still surprised me constantly. The story kept going in directions I didn't expect at all, but it was never the Code Geass style "asspull plot-twist for sheer what-the-fuck value", everything felt natural and carefully considered. Characters constantly defied stereotypes and clich├ęs, and developed in completely believable ways. The artwork may look primitive but the writing and storytelling is brilliant, clearly produced by somebody with a real story to tell. Ultimately, it turned out to have more in common with Catcher in the Rye than Death Note (though it's been years and years since I actually read that so I don't know how precise this comparison is). I find it marred slightly by the "bonus" chapter, not because it's bad or irrelevant, but because I think the content would maybe have been better placed amongst the normal chapters, since the ending without it has considerably more impact. However, this is a minor quibble.

While I never really experienced true bullying at school, I found myself able to relate very well to one of the themes developed later in the story: that the awful things people may do or say as children can be either crucial to one's development, or end up not meaning all that much at all. Sometimes they can even seem to be both. All the events are so well-observed, though, that I'm sure almost anybody could find something specific they can relate to, and it's such a well-constructed story I'd recommend it to anybody regardless.

It's only four volumes so you've got no excuse! Go read it now!

(also I didn't think I would ever actually re-use that "bullying" label)