Saw it. No lessons here, yet.

I have a tendency to talk a lot about anime I have watched and have lot to talk about. And at the behest of a buddy, I made a list of anime I tried but couldn’t stand.

In between those two extremes are the anime that I liked enough to watch all the way through but basically have nothing to say about.

I keep coming back to the notion that in this blog I’m trying to look at anime and manga (to a lesser extent) to see what they can tell us, either from my perspective as a writer, or my perspective as an animator, or sometimes (rarely) both. Let’s be frank: there are a lot of anime out there that are bog standard in terms of both. They’re perfectly watchable and perfectly enjoyable; it’s just that I don’t see anything special in them to talk about.

That doesn’t mean I won’t think of something in the future.

Here’s a list of anime I’ve watched all the way through but not thought of anything special to say about yet: (I reserve the right to talk about them later if I happen to see something I haven’t seen yet)

Space Dandy
Speed Grapher – although it had a crappy final episode. Hmm…
Rin – Daughters of Mnenosyne
Desert Punk
Terror in Resonance
Magical Girl Ore
Shimoneta
And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online
Welcome to the NHK
The Melancholy of Haruhi-Chan Suzumiya (NOT the other series)
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan
Eden of the East
Kino’s Journey
Rage of Bahamut Virgin Soul
Okama-San and Her Seven Companions
Komori-San Can’t Decline
Samurai 7
Samurai Gun

Plus some feature films:

Porco Rosso
Spirited Away
Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven’s Door
Appleseed
Steamboy
Castle in the Sky
Ghost in the Shell (the original)

I mean, let’s look at one of them, again from the perspectives I adopt. Here’s one that’s pretty good: Porco Rosso.

Porco Rosso is a fun little movie. The titular character is a pig who is an aviator, although it’s revealed that his pigness is a spell (or perhaps a self-image). He has enemies that he needs to overcome by flying better than they; he flies better than they and wins.

porco rosso

I find Porco to be a very relatable hero, except that he drinks wine instead of beer.

Apart from the little psychological quirk (Is he really a pig or is that just how he feels about himself?) this is a bog-standard narrative. I like the airplanes and I like the characters; let’s be real: Miyazaki is just brilliant at creating characters that are relatable and putting them into stories that people like.

But it’s classic Overcoming the Monster as a meta-plot. Porco flies; Porco wins; end of story. It’s a great story well-told; if you want to mimic it to tell your own story, I bet it works. But I can’t think of anything special or unique about it: it’s genius lies in the quality of the execution. That’s not something we can learn from. That’s Miyazaki being a genius.

Same with Space Dandy. I like or love every single thing Shinichiro Watanabe has done. He is a great story-teller with a vision of what he wants to accomplish and so he accomplishes it. Space Dandy LOOKS great, and it’s hilarious.

But structurally it’s nothing special. Like with Team Titans GO! Watanabe decided that it wasn’t to be taken seriously, and so there’s no real meta-plot and the continuity is broken willy-nilly; Dandy is not especially interesting as a character – he’s Johnny Bravo with his hair dyed black. The series is sometimes surreal (which I like) but nothing special narratively.

I should have something to say about Ghost in the Shell. I’m just not sure what. I’ll sure have fun watching it again to figure out what it is.

Some of these are well regarded; apart from the Miyazaki films, there are a lot of people impressed with Eden of the East and Welcome to the NHK. I thought they were pretty good, too. But I don’t see any lessons in them. They are good stories well told; to my eye they are nothing special. That’s okay. A good story well told is something worth watching, and I don’t regret watching anything on this list EXCEPT Samurai Gun. Okay, I thought it was a historical, but it wasn’t. I still can’t tell you what the plot is…my eyes keep glazing over with boredom when I watch it.

And there are times when I’ll pull examples out of some of these series to illustrate a large point I’m making about something else. I know I’ve mentioned Space Dandy and Ergo Proxy in passing a couple times already. But I’m not sure I have writerly or animator comments about them sufficiently original as to want to make a full post about them. (Writer’s note: I found something to talk about in Ergo Proxy eventually.)

Anyway, that’s so you know: I don’t just talk about everything I’ve seen. I talk about things I’ve seen and can think of something to say about.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

3 thoughts on “Saw it. No lessons here, yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s