Thursday, May 19, 2011

Anime, oh Anime


I've been increasingly absorbed in the style of anime, and I must stress I consider it a style. It's been called both a genre and a medium, neither of which I find accurate. It's far too broad to be a genre, but it's not special enough to be a medium of its own. Like film noir, I find anime most appropriately considered as a stylistic choice within a medium.

The nice thing about the television series format is that the longer running time can really be a blessing. Whereas films generally need more focus and efficiency, a series can devote a whole episode to a single character. You see this a lot in Cowboy Bebop, Gunslinger Girl, or Evangelion, and I find it offers greater flexibility in how a character is portrayed. Like all other television, that runtime can also be a problem; shows like Naruto can spend half a season's episodes on a single, tedious fight. I'm all for long runtimes, but it's too easy to fall into the trap of "hooking" the audience.

The "hook" is really my problem with the entire television medium because it places too much emphasis on what happens next (AKA, the plot). I've never put much stock in plot, unlike so many others, because I feel doing so sets us up for disappointment; what actually transpires almost never lives up to the hype. It leads to a series having a bewilderingly large number of [mostly unnecessary] episodes, as if the writers weren't really sure when to stop. Generally, I find the 26-ish episode format just about right.

In regards to subs or dubs, I'll watch either, but by default I choose dubs. I understand subtitles are generally more accurate, but I've never understood how people can find this better if the dubbing is also well done. If you speak English, your ear is trained to pick up on phonemes and inflections in that tongue. As Truffaut told Hitchcock: You automatically lose 10% of the picture through subtitles. However many times I've seen Rules of the Game, I'd probably see it differently if I could understand French. It's an unfortunate compromise, but the nice thing about a good anime dub—and most these days are very good—is you needn't worry about the mouths not matching up... It's an animation!

I've definitely focused on television series and the odd thing is I've only seen a handful of Miyazaki movies: Howl's, Totoro, and Nausicaa. I should probably see them all, but I'm in no hurry. I seem to prefer the episodic format to the film-ic format. As much as I hate the idea of lists, I think I'll put one together soon. The top-tiers might look like:

Full Metal Panic!
Gunslinger Girl
Cowboy Bebop