September 2009


Most of the time I fall decidedly into the camp of “serious business” anime viewers, the sort who would list Miyazaki, Kon, and Oshii in top ten lists, attend pretentious film festival screenings of various animated works, and wax eloquent on the stylistic affectations taken by various directors (all while swirling around a pinot noir or some other high-class alcoholic beverage. Unfortunately, anime of the “srs bzns” sort is decidedly rarer compared to say – K-ON, Saki, Lucky Star, Miname-ke, Hidamari Sketch, etc., etc. – essentially, the formula “Group of girls engage in loveable hijinks based around a certain activity/school”

Certainly I would not call them bad, but as my taste in anime goes I’m positively diabetic (In particular, this makes me somewhat unique compared to the other authors on this blog). Sure, I can watch a show here and there but inevitably moe fatigue seems to develop. Character types and designs feel like they start to blend together, and for some series more than others every move seems positively calculated for the maximum pandering value (K-ON feels particularly guilty of this). Consequently, it’s a genre I rarely appreciate.

It’s interesting then that I’ve recently picked up a couple of exemplars that have melted my heart, or at least the cold barrier of cynicism regarding this genre.

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Eat your heart out, Itano Ichiro

Itano Ichiro would be so proud.

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Out of the other bloggers here I am decidedly grognardly when it comes to certain sorts of anime – I have a soft spot for a particular aesthetic style that I find is exceedingly rare in the medium – anime that seems to want to pass itself off as a live-action show. One particular irony i derive from this categorization is that I really don’t prefer to watch live action, being more an animation buff than anything.

What do I mean by this “live-action paradigm”? Well, “live-action” anime exhibit a few characteristics:

-slow pacing; generally brief bursts of action, if any at all

-no special attack fetishism (a shounen trope)

-traditional live action pacing (discrete unrelated episodes connected by a meta-narrative, often climaxing in some sort of finale)

-heavy emphasis on dialogue and character interaction regardless of the genre

-some element of moral ambiguity (at the very least, more than a typical “good guy vs. bad guy” scenario)

-particular style of character design with emphasis on realism, often utilizing a 1:7 head ratio, sometimes with pronounced differences in character race and ethnicity

The essential conceit behind this grouping is that these shows would work equally if made in a live action format: there’s no sort of moe appeal completely based on the design of the characters (that could not be reproduced to the same degree with a live actor), or reliance on special effects that would look campy in a live action format. As an animation fan, the fact that these shows are done with animation (and with good animation, to boot) tickles me immensely. Almost all of shows that slot into this paradigm end up as favourites in my book.

Here’s the catch – as a category, I’m not really sure if this is all that distinctive. I mean, you could easily conflate this group as “good anime”, yet I am hesistant to do so. I’ll offer the following selections (that I have watched beginning to end) that I believe exemplify this particular “type”.

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This episode made me realize that Hanekawa is voiced by Horie Yui. HNNNNNNG.

Obligatory aneurysm aside, as usual I’ll skip the commentary on the character development since others more than adroitly cover it, and instead focus on digging into the supernatural nature of the plot…

First Note: Shinto is an animistic religion, based around the worship of kami – often translated as “gods” but can also be thought of as “spirits”. Essentially, natural objects have supernatural deities of a sort that watch over them – so one has kami for trees, kami for snakes, kami for birds, and so on and so forth. Consequently there are many hundreds of different kami, and plenty of temples dedicated to obscure kami to go around – giving us the starting scenario in Nadeko Snake 1.

Here is the text from the opening flash of Nadeko Snake #1 (brought to you by Zetsubou-honed pausing reflexes!), which I feel reveals HUGE amounts of what is to come.

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Various collected clippings from Ghostlightning’s episodic coverage of Bakemonogatari. To be cleaned up and made presentable in a future post. I present them here in mostly raw format, just cut and pasted so I won’t have to go digging later. Eventually I’d like to compile a sort of viewer’s guide for the show.

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