Monday, October 26, 2009

Animation Style - The Attraction of Anime

Before I discovered anime, I was a child of the Warner Bros, Hanna-Barbera, A.A.P.(Associated Artists Productions) and Disney generation. I was raised on Bugs, Jonny Q, Popeye and Mickey. My understanding of basic physics came from Professor W. E. Coyote. My early understanding of people came from B. Bunny. Yogi encouraged us to visit Yellowstone National Park and taught us not to feed the bears. Jonny Q made it cool to have a dad who was an international scientist. The Disney studio gave us the unforgettable mix of Hollywood spectacle, choreography and musical and also taught us the value of marketing, plus giving us a theme park or two. Anime has brought a whole new generation a different set of style, script, color palette, sound effects and cultural perspective.

Strong Female Characters: If you haven't noticed, the characters I have mentioned above were male. In anime, female characters are prevalent, strong and held in esteem or respect. The anime film, Princess Mononoke is a classic example of a story with strong female characters. Two of the three main characters are female; San a.k.a. Princess Mononoke (female), Lady Eboshi (female) and Ashitaka (male). The films' tag line of; "the fate of the world rests on the courage of one warrior", gives thought as to who of the three that one warrior is. Within this group each individual is a warrior with great qualities and strengths within their own scope within the storyline. If you have not had the pleasure of watching the movie, it is not my intention to spoil your experience by further discussing the plot. I only encourage you to view the film for yourself noting the roles and interactions of the male and female characters.

Timeless Story Themes: The timeless nature of the anime story theme is not merely the classic superficial good versus evil conflicts, but rather the deeper conflicts that arise in differences of opinion or point of view. Anime scripts have a tendency to reveal visually more information on a character's background which then gives the audience a more meaningful understanding of that character's personal struggles. In many instances the audience will feel a reflection of that conflict within their own soul.

Social Commentary: Traditionally much of Japan's writing has had a slant regarding the negative outcomes of technology outpacing cultural or social development or wisdom. The fact that Japanese anime has such a following in much of North America and the world at large suggests an importance in those concerns being expressed. In the film "Princess Mononoke", the conflict between the old traditions of agriculture and the holistic or animistic beliefs pitted against the progress of Iron Age technology has meaning in many areas of today's global issues. Anime stories traditionally expose and question the lines of progress, commerce, loyalty, honor and culture all within the graphic nature of animation.

Less Dialogue - More Meaningful Acting: North American movies in general use a lot of dialogue in scripts. A lot of traditional anime will "show the story" rather "than tell the story". As a directing style, the visuals usually concentrate on a close-up of a hand, the weather or environment, clouds changing and normal life scenes like people eating, gathering or building. The most famous style is the focus on the characteristic anime "trembling eye". Anime uses lots of eye, hair and clothing motion to express emotion in a scene. Anger is indicated as a flash across the close-up eye. Flushed cheeks and graphic expression lines are used to indicate embarrassment. (As a cultural difference - in American animation this indicates anger.) These and other techniques are used in the graphic novels from which the anime form evolved.

Strong Style and Color Choices: Anime style is beautiful to watch. It has a sense of poetry, it has a rhythm. Anime is not afraid to be art. You don't even need to have the speakers on to appreciate the story, the motion and graphic splendor. 3D animation always tries to push the envelope to be completely, believably real especially in the field of special effects. In my opinion, art should be allowed and encouraged to be art. Whether the anime film is a story of whimsy or a science fiction battle or anime vampire movie, I love to see where the director has taken their film that further embraces and complements the story.

The Future of Anime: As long as there is an appreciation for anime, the form will continue. There is a sense of craft, tradition and pride in this visual story telling technique which is the backbone of this genre. With the continuing development of flash animation software and 3D to 2D conversion software (to emulate anime) the creative edge is always progressing, making it accessible for the new generation of filmmakers. My only concern is that oversaturation of the market with anime products may turn the audience away.

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