How do you create the ultimate anime? Buy the best director and the best writer and give them infinite time and infinite money? Seems like that’d be obvious, right? Obvious, but wrong.
Leaving aside auxiliary questions like how one can actually judge who the best director and best writer are, there’s a much more fundamental problem with that idea. It’s an thought I often find expressed in critical circles, that the best successes come simply from good talents being able to do what they really want, free of any constraints. It’s the ideal of creative freedom unchained and free to race around the world with gumption and gusto.
The problem with this idea is that it’s too much yang and not enough yin, and it neglects the fact that a lot of the most creative ideas of our time have only come about because people didn’t have the materials or editorial approval to try their first choice and ended up doing something totally new. And how the choice that spends the most money isn’t always the choice that’s best for a particular show. Creative constraint is the polar opposite of creative freedom, but almost as vital in the production of powerful anime.
So a while ago I wrote about veteran Sound Director Katsuyoshi Kobayashi’s wizardly handling of Space Brothers’ audio. At the time, I had to look up his name on ann, but I didn’t check his specific creator page. The other day, I went back and finally did. It turns out this isn’t the only anime-of-the-decade candidate* he’s worked on with a director named Watanabe. In celebration of this individual who’s handled a number of sublime auditory anime experiences and yet has to date zero comments or favorites on his myanimelist page, I’m going to spend this column by talking about the musically crafted battle sequence to trump (almost) all others, the last 6 minutes of Cowboy Bebop.
(This post contains obvious ending spoilers for a 15-year-old show that you either have watched or will find yourself watching the moment you inform someone who has that you haven’t. So there.) Continue reading →
Seitokai Yakuindomo (SYD, for brevity’s sake) is a very strange beast. At a glance, it looks like a fairly run-of-the-mill comedy, and describing the bathroom humor-littered source material probably won’t win you many fans. As a novel, it probably wouldn’t have many. But, thanks to a combination of ultracompetent soundtrack and excellent comedic delivery, the series actually ends up being quite an entertaining ride.
If the past two episodes were about making Vincent Bold a huge jerk, then this one was all about making him a great, well-rounded character with surprising charm and principle. I’m impressed to the extent that Space Brothers always impresses me.
Recently, on an expedition through the netherworld of discount stores where old anime go to rust, I happened on a 2$ clearance copy of Tenchi in Love, i.e. the movie of the Tenchi Muyo franchise. I had enjoyed the anime on Toonami when it was on, and though I never made a serious effort to finish it, I was familiar enough with the characters. I also recently enjoyed the spin-off series, Isekai Seikishi Monogatari, and had heard recent scuttlebutt that this movie was a fairly solid piece of work. To boot, it was sporting labels from multiple clearance stores, something that plays on a fundamental portion of my nature as a regular customer of such stores. So I sunk eight gumballs’ worth of cash into the poor little Geneon dub, and popped it in my dvd player a week later. Before doing so, I got out one cookie to eat. 30 minutes later, that cookie lay untouched beside me, which is your first clue as to how I feel about this movie.
Here’s a somewhat open-ended question: what’s the best way to open an anime with a complex plot?
There’s a lot of information the user needs to absorb, so maybe they start with a quick opening narration to offload info about the world? If not, then what about a character going about an average day in this complex world, to make it seem more normal? Is it possible a battle right off the bat would make things more exciting? I argue that the best method is none of these, though it does take some of the better elements from each.