Viewing Bunraku through the Lens of Anime

I would like to briefly address the question of whether or not bunraku (traditional Japanese puppet theater) can be considered a predecessor of anime. There are multiple points on which this comparison can be made, including the use of constructed beings to represent humans, the use of type characters, plots which are enjoyed for their familiarity as much as their originality, exaggerated movements and expressions understood as signifiers of emotions by the audience, the tradition of adaptation from other sources, and so on. Many of these trends are not true of just anime and bunraku, but rather apply to a number of different forms both of traditional Japanese performance and modern entertainment. That being said, there are a number of points that I find to be of particular interest when viewing bunraku and its stories from a modern vantage point (as we inevitably must). Continue reading

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The Golden Ani-Versary: 50 years of anime, blog style

For those interested in the history of anime, check out the above blog. Following the history of anime year by year in chronological order, from serialized anime’s inception in 1953, the blog features a different author for each year. Coming from a great variety of backgrounds, each participant looks at their year from a different perspective, from focusing on larger historical context, to technology, to the experience of watching these shows as children. This blog therefore is not just an examination of anime from the past year, but of its fandom, and of the experience of going from the position of fan to that of historian or perhaps archivist.

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The Morality of Blind Pursuit in Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below

The representations of characters along the lines of gender and age is for the most part unsurprising in Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below. Yet, the way in which these tendencies are presented redefines strength through the course of the film, shifting from drive and physical strength, to the acceptance and embracing of life. While the film portrays itself as an adventure, it more aptly addresses the tensions between morality and blind perseverance. Continue reading

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Shinkai’s Portrayal of Strength in Loneliness in Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below

Shinkai Makoto’s newest film, Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below (星を追う子ども), was screened on at last month’s New York Comic Con. The newest of Shinkai’s works, it shows heavy influences from Miyazaki, with multiple scenes and characters strongly reminiscent of those in Miyazaki’s films. At the same time, the film is markedly different from Miyazaki’s works, bringing with it the breathtaking scenery and poignant portrayals of moments from our everyday lives that we have come to expect from Shinkai. Perhaps the most interesting point of connect and point of difference between Miyazaki’s work and Children are the young female leads. Continue reading

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Water in Miyazaki’s Mizugumo Monmon

Water is perhaps one of the most challenging substances to portray through animation. So challenging in fact, that multiple movies and series either feature live action cuts of water, such as in Samurai X, or computer renderings of it. While such an omnipresent substance would seem to call for an easily simplified representation, it is perhaps because of its omnipresence that the simple circles of blue that sufficed in our childhood drawings no longer seem adequate in the animation we watch. Water is extremely, undeniably important to not only us as humans, but to the entire world in which we live, and to cut it out or overly simplify it is to undervalue it.

Although the act of slicing into otherwise beautiful animation with scenes of actual water or complex computer renderings of it shows a sort of respect for the complexities of water, it also feels disappointing. We look to animation for representations, for the artist’s perspective on the world, whatever that world may be, and for a chance to revisit reality through the artist’s reinvention of it. Fortunately, there are some directors who, rather than ignore the intricacies of water, revel in it, thereby giving us the opportunity to explore the nature of water and its significance in our lives. Foremost among these is Hayao Miyazaki.

Water plays such a major role in Miyazaki’s works that to attempt to document even only the most touching and powerful scenes played out through the use of water would easily comprise an entire book. I will attempt to make do with a brief analysis of one of Miyazaki’s lesser know works, Mizugumo Monmon [Mon Mon the Water Spider]. Continue reading

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Light, Lines and Raindrops: Will Eisner’s Vision of The City

New York City’s MoCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) is currently exhibiting Will Eisner’s New York: From The Spirit to the Modern Graphic Novel. The exhibit showcases original pieces from throughout Will Eisner’s career, focusing on his portrayal of the city. It begins with original art from The Spirit, with a focus on splash pages where the comic’s title is embedded into the art. The exhibit goes on to examine Eisner’s portrayal of the city through various different lenses: the crowd that stifles talent rather than appreciates it in the tale of the boy who can fly, the tense yet deep relationships between tenants, and the simple city routine of nighttime trash collection. The exhibit also features Eisner’s portrayal of the progression of a section of the Bronx from when the first settler’s arrived, through its heyday, to its destruction, and on to its eventual rebirth. The final portion of the exhibit is dedicated to pieces influenced by Eisner. Continue reading

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Returning to Silence: Telling a Story Without Dialogue in The Illusionist

In trying to find a family-friendly movie a couple of weeks ago, I was faced with what appeared to be a slew of movies that were either too geared towards adults (True Grit and The King’s Speech) or too geared towards children (Justin Beber’s Never Say Never and Gnomeo & Juliet). Luckily there was one local theater that was showing The Illusionist, the newest film by the French group that created The Triplets of Belville. At first there were concerns about subtitles, until someone who had seen the film mentioned that the film had no real dialogue to speak of. While people occasionally spoke, it was all in unintelligible sounds.

Seeing the movie, there were in fact portions of the speech that were intelligible, though they mostly consisted of “hello”s. Rather than indicate specific words, speech was used to indicate to the viewer that dialogue was taking place, a bit of the tone of the conversation, and perhaps what language the speaker was using. Anything the viewer understands about the dialogue is through the visual context. The effect is similar to the sensation of watching a movie in an unfamiliar foreign language. Though the viewer maybe not understand what is being said, this is not to say that the viewer has no idea what’s going on. Yet, while in most movies the viewer would be left confused and lost without dialogue, The Illusionist uses this lack of dialogue to shift the viewer’s interaction with the film. Continue reading

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