Saturday, January 28, 2006

Animania


Whisper of the heart

My first impression of Japanese animation was of futuristic robots, monsters and dragons. I can’t recollect how I adopted this point of view (Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon perhaps?). I had some glimpses in the anime world through Animatrix and Kill Bill and was very impressed by the animation there but somehow I did not dig any further into the world of Japanese animation. I am ever so grateful to TCM (Turner classic movies) for taking off my blindfold and introducing me to the world of anime. I feel like an explorer who has embarked on a new and exciting journey to a distant world.

Jaded by the land of Disney where I get an assurance of happy endings, anime came as a breath of fresh air. There was no commitment made to happy endings (Grave of fireflies, Princess Mononoke) and sometimes a villain was absent altogether (My neighbor Totoro, Whisper of the heart and Only yesterday). To me this was a much-needed jolt of reality in the world of animation plagued with sickly sweet fairy tales. Moreover anime had dark characters that were not just crazed deviants or purely evil (Princess Mononoke). They had their own aspirations and motivations that drove them to act the way they did.
Miyazaki: "The concept of portraying evil and then destroying it - I know this is considered mainstream, but I think it is rotten. This idea that whenever something evil happens someone particular can be blamed and punished for it, in life and in politics is hopeless."

I have to say that there were a number of things that I did not expect from anime.
1) The diversity in target audience. There was anime that appealed to every age group and demographic. Castles and magical creatures for the little ones, romance for teenagers, science fiction for the nerds and even erotica (hentai) for the pervy ones.
2) I did not expect animation to delve into intense topics as in ‘The grave of the fireflies’, which is a harrowing story of two kids, who are orphaned and victims of war.
3) I never ever expected to get so emotionally tangled with animated characters. I thought that with animation, the disconnect with reality (as in void of real actors) would always keep me aware of the fictitious nature of the medium and that would keep me from having any sort of emotional attachment. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
4) I loved the hand painted animation that these movies stuck with instead of the computer generated sleek images.
5) I was very pleasantly surprised to see such headstrong female protagonists in Miyazaki’s movies since the movies were made in the 80s.
When asked about women in lead role Miyazaki said: “That would be far too complicated and lengthy an answer to state here, so I'll just suffice by saying that it's because I love women very much (laughs).”
6) I also did not expect that I would prefer the subtitled version to the dubbed version of anime. The dubbing by Disney seems to take away the Japanese appeal from the movie. It was surprising how Disney-like Princess Mononoke felt in the dubbed version. I have decided to stick with the subtitled versions if I have the option.

So far I have watched five anime movies. Yes I know I have a lot of catching up to do.

Only Yesterday:
Loved the character detailing and the rich landscapes in the movie. There is a scene in this movie where this little girl is throwing a tantrum, as her family is ready to leave to go to a restaurant. Unintentionally the girl steps out of the house without wearing shoes (but she is wearing socks and is fully clothed). Her father gets very upset about her stepping out of the house and slaps the little girl!
I didn’t know what to make of it. I started wondering what the cultural implications of revealing ones feet were in Japan (especially if you were a woman). I realise that the Japanese have a fetish for small feet but the extreme outburst of the father in this movie makes me wonder why is it considered inappropriate to reveal your (mind you not legs) feet?

Whisper of the heart:
I felt like I was experiencing the city life in Tokyo in person while I watched this movie. The work ethic that comes across in this movie was also very striking and that’s something I have associated with the Japanese culture through whatever little I have seen or read about Japan. This movie has a very romantic premise. With Japanese romantic movies I also noticed that you could cut the sexual tension with a knife (just like in X-files with Mulder and Scully). The movies then typically end with the couple bowing to each other acknowledging their relationship. All I have to say is ... just make out already! But seriously, why the extreme censorship in the physical intimacy when the graphic violence is so over the top?

My neighbor Totoro:
Again the character detailing of the two sisters is simply brilliant. It’s a happy fun movie appealing to all ages and I loved that. The movie does not reveal certain aspects of the story. For instance, throughout the movie the kids are told that their mom is in the hospital because she has a cold. The audience does not find out what disease the mother is suffering from. To me that was very profound. In life, all your questions about the world may not be answered.

Princess Mononoke:
I have to say this movie did not grab my attention as all the other movies did. This movie is probably more appealing to the younger audience (not to say that I am old :p) But then again the violence was so graphic, how could it be a movie for kids? If it is targeted towards kids, I wonder whether the Japanese history has something to do with it. Has their past prompted them to accept violence as a part of life?

Grave of fireflies:
This movie grabbed my heart and wrenched it till I cried. I read somewhere that this movie was played in Japanese theaters back to back with ‘My neighbor Totoro’. I wish I could’ve done that. Without Totoro to cheer me up I was engulfed in a depressive cloud last night. (Note to self: will not subject self to harrowing movies without a neutralizing dose of Totoro like movies at disposal).

I could not resist digging around for more gems of anime. So I did some research and came up with a list of movies that I want to watch:

Kiki’s delivery service
Spirited Away
Ocean waves
Chie the brat
Cowboy Bebop The movie
The dimension traveler
Like the clouds, like the wind
Tokyo Godfather
Ghost in the shell
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
Vampire Hunter
Gauche the cellist
The cat returns
Perfect blue
Millennium actress
The aurora
Howl’s moving castle
My neighbors the Yamadas
Akira
Eternal Family
Dead Leaves

If you are an anime virgin, I hope that I have made enough ruckus to make you check out some anime. On the other hand if you have been there done that got the t-shirt then do recommend other must watch anime movies and/or I would love to hear your take on any of the movies that I have listed on my ‘to watch’ list.
Arigato gozaimas :)

38 comments:

Rohit Bhute said...

Welcome to anime - wondered how long it would take you to take the jump... I'm an Animax convertee (no anime/manga market in Mumbai... sad). Move up "Ghost in the Shell" to number 1. Its the original Matrix. May I suggest Haibane Renmei (Ailes Grise on Animax South Asia)? Also the Samurai X movies? Area 88, Wolf's Rain, Escaflowne... Once you jump in, there a long list. You won't ever want to come out.

And to those who say with disdain, "Japanese cartoons?", sniff and look down your nose on them. Pity their narrow minds.

inomorr said...

Too bad you don't access your email :)
but anyways. Of the movies listed, i like grave of the fireflies the best. Can't imagine anyone seeing it and not crying.
If you want the others you've listed as want to watch, perhaps I can mail them to you. Millenium actress is the best of the list. You would have ofcourse seen spirited away by now.
And you can perhaps add Porco Rosso, akira, ghost in the shell II, metropolis, and wings of honneamise to the list.

Tim Burton's animations are good too.

Dinesh said...

So you are quite a cartoon fan..
Good yar..

Mukul said...

Yeh sab to thik hai bhaiya par Chapter 7 kab aayega?

Hum kaam(=karm!) ki cheez padne ke liye aate hain aur tum yeh sab likh kar apna aur hamara waqt jaaya karti ho...

Anime DVDs maine bhej doonga tumhe, those kinky DVDs, sold in brown envelopes for 80 Pesos; you better get that rascal Vyasa talking again.

I mean really, what the .... ??? LOL

:-)

Crystal blur said...

Rohit,
Updating 'to watch' list furiously. Ghost in the shell was mentioned on quite a few websites so I will put it on the priority. About the Samurai movies...are they just action or is there more to the characters and plot? I find myself drawn towards the neo-realism type of movies than the fantasy based ones.


inomorr,
I access my email, but I am just a tad lazy in replying to emails :).
With grave of the fireflies, it was an unexpected punch in the stomach for me as I had no idea what to anticipate. Those movies should come with not for the faint hearted warnings.
From the descriptions for Millenium actress it seemed a little sad. But I still added it on the list (do I need to keep Totoro handy when I watch it?) I haven't yet seen Spirited Away bcoz stoopid Blockbuster does not have the movie for rental. And with Porco Rosso, I saw all the racoons and opted out but it seems to pop up on good movie list all the time.
Okay I have a lot more to say about all these movies, I will shoot you an email.

Dinesh,
Not all cartoons. I should say I am drawn to Pixar and now the wonderful Japanimation.

Mukul,
Ganapati is on vacation currently and Vyasa's advisor has cracked the whip and wants him to graduate soon. Vyasa also does not want to do a half ass job with his book writing, so he will be back in action after the work load simmers down. It takes a lot of time and thinking to write CCSL.

-Crys :)

mou said...

Hey crys..
I always thought i was the greatest fan of animations; but now i feel that i really am an anime virgin:(
will check out the ones recommended here. Wondering abt the scenario of animes in india. Would like to watch 'Hanuman'. Good luck with ur dissertation!
~mou

Rohit Bhute said...

Not just "the Samurai movies", ;-) , they are about Kenshin Himura, assassin and swordsman par excellence at the age of 14 in the Japanese Revolution (around 1865) who later vows never to take a life again. "Kill Bill" style kenjutsu action plus loads of angst. Look around for the Rurouni Kenshin manga (thats what it is based on).

Kausum said...

You should also try to read the Manga's. They are basically the Cartoon books from which Anime's are created. They too are awesome. Some Anime's are not movies but series which are adapted from these Manga's.

The 3 best ones I recommend are

1. Naruto
2. Bleach
3. DragonzBalls (or something like that is the name for this one)

grey said...

Inspired by your blog - i saw Spirited Away last weekend. It was nice - though i am not too sure if my view counts as i love All movies!

So specifically - it was very gripping.

Will now have to start digging through your list [sigh]!

Crystal blur said...

mou,
You know I was thinking about animation in India too. There is no dearth of stories or techies in India. I hope some of the Bollywood funds get diverted towards some stylized Indian animation. I heard that some rumors of some animation work being outsourced from US to India. Wonder if that might kick start some desi animation.

Rohit,
Thanks for clarifying, now that makes me want to rent it. Before you wrote this, mind was filled with visions of Tom Cruise and "The last Samurai", hence the skepticism. Will add the movies you suggested on my list.

Kausam,
Still ROTFL @ Dragonzballs (mind out of the gutter Crys). But I did read one translated Manga and I got the feeling that there is a lot thats lost in translation. Specially the word play. What do you think?

Grey,
I haven't seen spirited away yet but knowing that Disney dubbed it I suspect that it must've been too Disneyish? Trying renting out subtitled movies. I would start with Totoro.

-Crys

Kausum said...

Well its true. Translations from Japanese to English is not the most excellent ones I should say. Also you see effects in the Anime you dont find in the Manga but can only imagine.

However, I first started watching Anime's and now I am so hooked to the story that I need to read the Manga coz the Anime's are atleast 100 episodes behind the Manga's

NN said...

Damn! i didnt know there are so many anime fans around. i've always been an anime freak. started of with the japanese cartoons they'd show on cartoon network in the afternoons when they thought nobody was watching. The funny thing is now that i'm trying to mention some to you ... i can't recall any of the names, but i rememebr the stories and animation vividly.

Siddharth Nair said...

Hey. Big fan of comics, cartoons and anything animated (have a little baby webcomic myself). Haven't seen too much anime I've liked, though I must admit I haven't seen any of the stuff you've recommended. How does one get their hands on this stuff in India?

Kele Panchu said...

Hey,
I'm not a big fan of anime, but I've added 'Spirited Away' in my blockbuster queue. I like the Samurai movies :) but they might be little distracting during thesis writing!

Fleiger said...

Hey, thanks for introducing me to the world. I love cartoons, but to me (also) the japanese cartoons were pokemon style. I watched Princess Mononoke and tried to watch Grave of fireflies (could not finish it in one sitting) recently. Great movies.

Oh yes, I loved Princess Mon... :)

Anshuk Jain said...

I am all set to pop my cherry..

Tachyoson said...

#1 = Ghost in the shell (call me a Metalbot maniac :D)

also Escaflownye - The Movie.

Crystal blur said...

Kausum,
Are there anime anonymous groups for addicted entities like you and me :) So far I have been watching movies and so I haven't had the need to read Manga but ya never know right?

nn,
Okay so here is my gripe against cartoon network. I watched Spirited Away yesterday on CN and they ruined the movie with their puppet show during each ad break. Okay fine so it is a network for kids but do ya have to make it so painful. It was so annoying. I should stick to renting DVDs.

siddharth,
I wish cable TV had not killed all the movie rental stores in India. Are there movie rental stores in India? I know that my nephew rents out Hindi movie VCDs and games to watch on his computer. You might try your luck with some VCD stores, if DVDs are not available?

Kele Panchu,
Just don't watch it on cartoon network, rent it out. Also...all work and no anime makes Crys a dull gal.

fleiger,
I am so excited that I can share my enthusiasm with all you folks here. If you are a science fiction fan then you should rent out Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the shell next.

Anshuk,
That was hilarious! Since you never forget your first, choose wisely.

tachyoson,
Admit it that it was the naked cyborgs in the Ghost in the shell that made it #1 (just kidding). Thanks for the movie suggestion. Will add it to the list.

-Crys :)

Kausum said...

I am currently in the denial phase. But, looking at how I do not spend time on my research and more on Animes, I think I will soon need to join or make one.

NN said...

hey no affinity to CN. just that it was my introduction to anime. Was hooked to Animax. now no access to any form of satellite TV. my favourite while i was there was GetBackers. also followed .hack//SIGN very intently. I'm not even very choosy about what kind of anime i watch ..there are very few i wont watch. i love the charachters they build! the layering is so beautifully done!

Straight Curves said...

please oh please oh please write/post chapter 7!!

s! said...

look out for Samurai Champloo.. absolutely amazing.. you'll love it!! here's the website.

Anuja said...

you've quite converted me... I had been discounting this genre for a long time, but now I will 'check it out'!

Crystal blur said...

kausum,
Look at it as the break from grad school that revitalizes you :)

nn,
I wish they would start a channel dedicated to anime movies here... on second thoughts, I won't graduate anytime soon if that happens.

straight curves,
i don't want to do a half-hearted job with my writing so I can't work on chapter 7 just yet.

S!
I checked out the website and promptly added Sam Champ to my list. It looks fantastic! Since it is directed by Watanabe and I loved Cowboy Bebop (also directed by him) I can't wait to watch this movie. Thanks for suggesting it.

Anuja,
I have checked out a handful of movies from the list that I blogged about and so far I have no regrets. Wish you as much fun exploring.

-Crys

s! said...

Samurai Champloo is actually a 26-part series, 25 min each.. its on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.. you'll have to check the schedule for what days though. personally i don't like that version much cos its dubbed in english.

drop me a mail if you want the original japanese ones (w. subtitles).. have a great weekend!

Fleiger said...

Watched "Spirited Away" yesterday. Good movie, definitily must watch. More like in the mode of "Mononoke" with all the fancy talking creatures and all. But completely different premise.

Asterix said...

I have been sitting on a virtual goldmine of animes (campus LAN with loads of animes). Till now I had only went to the first base with animes (watching Kill Bill 1). Will definitely try out a few ones now, all thanks to your post.

-Asterix

sm said...

You might want to try out Howl's Moving Castle, one of Miyazaki's latest. While its not its best, the castle itself is worth seeing the whole movie for.

Hiren said...

Seems like a refined version of Walt disney

Kausum said...

Crys: Do you watch hentai? My friend explained about them ... Try them ... although I have yet to see ... U can recommend some of those too ...

Anand K said...

Japanese (or all Oriental for that matter) visual art has always been a notch above of it's contemporaries across the world. Be it Kurosawa's odes to the Samurai era; the spine chilling "dishevelled hair/pale skin" ghosts of J-horror like Onibaba, Kaidan, and recently Ringu and The Grudge; the demonic and mutually destructive venegance of Chan-Wook Park movies right to the old Noh theatre and Chinese Opera styles..... these guys simply set the standard for visual art. Hats off to them! No wonder their animation pieces are more advanced in spirit than the PG-13-happy-ending cartoon tales from Hollywood. Disney himself was a guy steeped in dark themes behind the fairy tales, Kabbalah and Apocrypha (as reminded to us in the Da Vinci code), but he could not sell the darker stories to his colleagues as they feared it might put off the target audience. At least, they are breaking the stereotype these days.... strangely, Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame(1996) was the first subtle attempt at Dark Anime. It bombed and was panned for the same reason too.....
Children of the 80s will remember the "Johnny Soko and his Giant Robot"..... it started out as a manga franchise. Though it looks remarkably cheesy (and hilariously lampooned in this website, http://www.vishalpatel.com/features/giantrobot/giantrobot.htm) now I remember how much of a craze it was in the late 80s. Battle Royale also started out as a Manga series...... the villain character, Kiriyama had more depth in those. I got hooked after a chance encounter with Spirited Away 4 yrs ago. (Boy, wasn't that something?!) I feverishly searching for some of the titles you listed, even in Bittorrent world these are difficult to come by..... Wish me luck!

atracus said...

Er...would I be out of line if I said that anime/hentai/manga porn beats the hell out of any other kind of porn? I used to think porn was trash till I came across anime porn.
Some of them take porn to a entirely different level - almost spiritual. You gotta try it.

bandar said...

Hey Crys,

Loved the Mahabharata and Rishyasringa series. Eagerly waiting for Chapter 7...:-).

U gotta try Bleach,Naruto and recently i started off with "One Piece", which again is turning out to be good.

Bout Rouroni Kenshin, I sincerely recommend u to try the OVA series first. For detailed info on the series u can visit this link
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rurouni_Kenshin

Hey Anand K,
U are not looking at the right places mate. Lemme know what animes ur looking for and id be glad to help u out. Anything for a fellow anime lover.

mandeepsg said...

Hey crystal.....there have you gone...people are still waiting for your Mahabharata series desperately...

Charu said...

except for the little fact that i hate anime, i like your writing. :P

mahabharat aNi rishyasringa series atyanta god hotee.
^:)^ ^:)^ ^:)^
trivaar vandan!

btw, tu kaay kartes? kuthe astes?
aNi tujhya flickr album madhale photos tu ghetlele ahet ka sagale? (plus, tyaatle kiti photos nakki photoshopped ahet? karaN jar te photoshopped nasale tar tuze light metering che fundae khoop changale ahet).

----
charu@iitk.ac.in

Charu said...

oh btw, i loved "grave of the fireflies" too...great movie.

what i hate are the anime serials...naruto et al.

ACHTUNG BABY! said...

hey..dont watch vampire bloodlust...pathetic..u must see getbackers on animax..and samurai X..flame of recca is good

raghu said...

dint read entire post but do u watch full metal achemist?