Looking at Anime in More Ways than One

I’ve been swamped with work lately, and the Burning Crusade makes it even more difficult to put in some quality think time about this whole deal, let along writing it. I have some ideas floating around that I failed to write down, but just as well ideas that I did. Like that excuse that I just wrote down about work and gaming.

Sort of to bounce off on the Futakoi Alternative bad rap: just as we all hate to be bored while watching anime as a way to entertain ourselves, we hate it when the anime “goes out of bound”. In saying so I’m trying construct a framework to explain how I see anime–that I put on different hats watching different shows.

I’ll go through some example to explain.

Tweeny Witches. This is a curious little show that is full of visual flare and in a way it oozes a lot of “coolness.” But like Studio 4C’s shorts you have to take them straight on. In some sense you can live without the subtext and background information that the equally visceral Satoshi Kon works live within, but unlike those things Tweeny Witches is asking its viewer to be ready for it, rather than trying to ease you into it more casually. As 9-minute TV episodes, it might be kind of hard to do that.

OTOH, a thing like Paprika, because it is a feature film, means its viewers enter it with the mindset of “it’s a film.” They are not only prepared, the format itself demands a tight, timely package of the full narrative experience. You don’t need a hook as much as a serialized publication would. You’re truly looking for an experience.

It’s an entirely different thing than Zero no Tsukaima. I don’t even know if just calling both “anime” reveals all there is that the two share–the basic, medium-sensitive natures of the shows. Perhaps in a greater, “modern visual cultural” context they are together like Jessica Simpson and Colin Powell are both widely-recognized names in American culture. A rigorous dissection quickly reduces Zero as a parade of troupes hung on the skeleton of a simple yet charming juvenile high-fantasy. And because this is so, it is easy to enjoy and require little effort otherwise.

A little more can be said of something closely related, Suzumiya Haruhi no Uuutsu. What it has over Zero is rather unclear once deconstructed. Perhaps the best way to distinguish the two is in the hype and in the production quality: not only in the animation but in the direction, acting, and thoughtfulness to details. It goes farther to bring you more than just the same, tried tale using the same tried devices, even if it does that for a good bit. Perhaps the “Kyon order” of the story is its greatest blessing.

And there is more. Mushishi was a big thing for me. It’s a well-crafted show (although still using some common troupes, despite unusual for an anime) because it manages to package something very good around a form that I normally dislike in a way that I do like. The catch here is that while you can enjoy Mushishi as casual enjoyment, you have to be in the mood, so to speak. To me what makes Mushishi special, aside from the production value and submergence, is what it actually is–a consistent unfolding of themes upon human imperfection resulting from a lack of understanding, but ultimately bound by the ties that makes men and women who they are. Still, what is troublesome is the unwrapping–for the longest time I cannot just sit down and watch this show, even amply prepared.

I wondered why. I think aside from my own personal nitpickery and strangeness, I felt I just had to be in a certain state of mind, with a certain amount of empathy mixed with apathy. A show like Black Lagoon did well for me because it works both when I am emo-blue as well as when I’m cackling with glee. The show itself is a mix of many different things, and while the inconsistency can be a bit off-putting for someone looking for just one thing, it manages to deliver plenty of, well, a lot.

On the flip side is Futakoi Alternative. To make no mistake, it has great production values. However it’s also a little dry, it suffers from having too little spanned across too much time. The direction is also more fitting of a film format even if it took advantage of the serialized, TV format in some of the episodes, to deliver that slice-of-life feel. A lot of the show worked, but a lot of it didn’t either. It gave us a variety of things, but I don’t know if those things worked well together.

Just like some shows are seasonal, some are equally best-tasted when you’re in the right state of mind. For some, it may means until they’re old and tired; some when fresh and not jaded. Others still just needs to have a fresh day to look forward to, or with the right company.

3 Responses to “Looking at Anime in More Ways than One”

  • dm

    Have you looked at the DVD versions of [i]Tweeny Witches[/i]? They combine two of the nine-minute episodes and wrap them with an OP (or two, actually — a pan across a story-mural telling the story of the history of the witch world, followed by a narrated intro, followed by a standard OP) and an ED followed, not by a preview, but by an epilogue in a different style which gives you a glimpse into another part of that world.

    At any event, it’s a more complete experience and fills in some of those gaps. But it’s not a series to put on as background noise for vegging out — it demands engagement. I haven’t finished the series yet, so I’m not sure if it really rewards that engagement with much more than being an E ride.

    Some shows really want to be marathoned, and sometimes those shows get a bum rap because of inconsistent fansub releases (with intermittent DVD releases not being much better). In a marathon, you’re already in the mood, you’re already in the proper mind-set. A poorly-paced episode can feed off the energy left over from a previous roller-coaster ride. I wonder if [i]Futakoi Alternative[/i] might be one of those? Maybe I’ll marathon it sometime to see.

  • TheBigN

    Mindsets might explain why I’m one of the few people I know that like shows like YKK that don’t usually fit people’s mindsets, nor has people really wanting to change theirs to watch it.

    Your point about Black Lagoon is interesting. Sometimes there are shows that work well no matter what mindset you are in, or works at least for multiple mindsets, which makes them all the more special.

  • DickMcVengeance

    I completely understand how you feel with Mushishi. I actually stopped watching the series for a while simply because I wasn’t in the mood. Same goes for Jigoku Shoujo. I just didn’t have time to sit down and ponder the meanings behind the episode.

    Little side rant here, but even though Jigoku Shoujo and Mushishi had an extremely similar feel, I felt that Mushishi was a lot better than Jigoku. I think it’s because Jigoku just was TOO repetitive compared to Mushishi, in that there was no great change in situation or events. People just went through the same situations.

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