Not long ago I finished the last episode of ef – a tale of memories. It’s by far the most impressive anime of 2007. Sadly that’s just my impression and not a lasting opinion tested with time, but it was hard to deny that ef was a gimmick intended to impress. Much like Zetsubo Sensei and Hidamari Sketch, ef is the product of SHAFT, the same studio and pretty close to the same production team.
Well, except Shin Oumura, the credited director. He gave ef that touch that reminded me why Makoto Shinkai’s film will probably never break into the mainstream. Akiyuki Shinbo being the “supervising” director only contributed to how some of the scenes look. Can we say red and black railroad crossings? The other two works are Shinbo’s direct results, probably, with him labeled as the director (and who can forget his happy mug in the OP for Zetsubo Sensei?).
I can also really care much less about Sunshine Sketch’s healing properties. The serendipitous 4-koma original stuff is, I’m sure, good on its own. But that’s not here or there. The TV animation series is brilliant in how it transforms your typical manga adaptation into something unexpected, clever, but all the more expressive. And the stuff it expresses are not merely words from a book or plot points in an outline, but feelings and perspectives and attitudes. And you know Sunshine Sketch is good because, I guess, what was good to the animation staff has been transmitted through the show and to your soul! L33t haxxorz they are.
In fact, with all three series there’s this kind of connection that I see with the anime and its viewer. It’s a bridge, a protocol that transmits the beyond-mere-words content of a story to its viewer. Sure, it’s not unusual for anime to achieve this, but so few bridges are so weird and daring yet charming at the same time. It was fun.
Because, lol, can you say SHOESTRING BUDGET?
In the case of Seirei no Moribito, it was honestly pre-licensed as the flagship show kicking off Production IG’s 10th anniversary (IG is already one badass animation studio in Japan, not to mention the show is based on an acclaimed novel series to as well). In the case for Dennou Coil, it’s a primetime NHK project with 8 years in the making and a lot of anticipation (and no hype!). It bugs the hell out of me simply because I see what’s so good about those two shows, yet neither manages to make me care about them very much; yet I can’t stop talking about crappy shows like these SHAFT offerings.
One of the earliest thing I caught on regarding anime on the whole is that it’s cheap. It looks cheap half the time, and unless we’re talking about some high budget OAV or original film, it’s not really anything to write home visually. Lots of show have great designs, but that only goes so far as an attraction as episodes after episodes the quality of the animation falls slowly….and sometimes really fast. Reading some of the numbers back in late 90-early 2000’s said that the typical episode of anime is made on a budget around 100k-200k USD. Considering it takes Pixar like, 150,000,000 USD to produce one of their feature films… it’s not a surprise that anime looks so cheap. A show like Ghost in the Shell SAC, which took like 7M USD to produce, it held up rather well. And it was one of the most expensive TV anime ever.
It’s not much of a surprise Ratatouille turned out to be a great film. Imagine what Japan can do with that kind of money? Well, I’ll take that back–I don’t really want more Seirei no Moribito or Denno Coil. Maybe more Paprika or more Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo instead, but no Afro Samurai, or any of that silly nonsense that doesn’t sell beyond the adage of “you can sell anything with the right marketing.”
But Japan is doing well enough to rob my wallet of monies with silly trick like ef episode 10. Heck, I think if Tenmon were to just release random soundtrack-type CDs, I’d buy them. No need for the dramatic voice drama or even the “video” that went with it. Maybe I’ll feel less cheated about how lame it is, and how I’m falling so hard for it. Or maybe they can just sell the OP and ED to Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei as omake to the manga, and it’ll probably boost the sales of the manga by many folds. And it’ll work just as well as the anime. I can see another special bonus item being a CD with just a bunch of lines read by Akiko Yajima (Chie-sensei), if you know what I mean.
Or you know, they could spend their additional budget on massive seiyuu power ala Claymore. I’m fine with your standard fare seinen fighting storylines if they have such an epic voice cast. Just kidding.
Sigh. What can cure me of my ailment/niche for cheap anime? Maybe I should try to rewatch something like, lol, Night Wizard or Ninomiya-kun as shock treatment. But that’ll just remind me how out-of-the-box these three SHAFT shows are. It would remind me how they stretch my viewing experience beyond the boring norm, and makes me sad as the result. Maybe that’s what truly shines about these three shows.
This is the seventh post in a series reviewing some highlights of 2007. Maybe I should just write and finish post #8 instead of watching more crap cheap anime.