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Quality, once seen, cannot be unseen

And I mean that in both the meme-ish way and to mean that excellence in art has a way of settling in and claiming mental real estate.

When I watch anime I tend to be absorbed into what’s on the screen.

Bad art can hold a show hostage

I make deep emotional connections with the characters and their situations, and in general am awed by the art. However I have begun to look with a more critical eye, not just at the tones that are used in the plots and dialogue, but in the art as well. Part of learning how to see for me was learning more about how anime is made. I learned about Studio Ghibli’s production process by watching the special features included on many of the DVDs (the best ones, I thought, were the specials that seemed to have been made for Japanese TV). A few weeks ago I watched the two Animation Runner Kuromi OVAs that Anime News Network was streaming. This show is seems designed to help novice viewers appreciate the work of putting together an anime by teaching about in between animation, the different roles that are played in getting the art together, and perhaps most importantly the work of the director in turning out good quality animation. While we’re on the subject of behind the curtain glimpses of industry practices the adaptation of Bakuman is proving to be both very entertaining and quite instructive about the long and winding road that goes into making manga.

So while I have a slightly better grasp on how to judge what I’m watching, unless the art is particularly great or particularly bad I don’t tend to take notice of it. Titles that deserve credit for drawing good attention to the art would be shows like Ristorante Paradiso which played with textures both in the character designs and the backgrounds or the first half of Otogizoushi where many of the backgrounds look like they’d been lifted straight out of classic Japanese paintings. There are shows that have me looking closely at the art, but not so I can praise it. Kare Kano’s animation fell apart as the show (that should have been excellent) drew toward its close. My newest complaint is lodged against the production of Togainu no Chi (and there are plenty of complaints to hand around for this title, but let’s stick with the art). Particularly in the last episode it seemed as if the images of what should have been the climax became frozen and without life, the characters (who’s design had always retained a bit of the computer games stasis) now seemed to have two frame type movements that divorced them from the environment of the show itself.

I understand about budgets, and that “after all these years the costs haven’t changed” as the song from Gintama teaches. I also know that this is a unique art-form that blends drawing and painting with acting and storytelling and musical performance. And that when it is done well that there is something almost magical maybe even holy about anime’s ability to draw a viewer into the experience of the story. That alone makes it worth doing well, and being able to say how it was that artists succeed in their tasks makes it worth being able to see just a peak of the man behind the curtain.

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