So, what is the state of animation a hundred years later? Let’s take a quick look at the winter 2014 anime season.
The only show I can recommend is the hellish comedy Hozuki no Reitetsu. Much of the humor depends on knowledge of Japanese legends and folklore as well as contemporary Japanese culture. If you’re not familiar with the story of Momotaro, for instance, you’ll miss many of the jokes in the first episode. Even so, enough of the humor survives translation, ((Sometimes excessively free translation; e.g., in the fourth episode, the rabbit’s victims are tanuki, not badgers, but “We don’t need no stinkin’ tanuki” doesn’t have the same impact.)) and this account of the life of a competent, dour oni in an underworld populated largely by flakes and silly people nicely illustrates the close relationship between humor and horror. It also features the second-most bizarre ending animation of the season, starting with the second episode.
If you’re interested in the art of animation, Space Dandy might be worth watching. (There are episode-by-episode discussions here.) The title character is an unsympathetic jerk, however, and the stories aren’t particularly interesting. It’s probably best enjoyed without subtitles and without sound.
Witch Craft Works has the winter’s most bizarre ending animation. It’s also the second series to feature an iron maiden (but not Iron Maiden). Five episodes in, it looks like the dweebish protagonist is caught in the middle of a war between the witches of order and the witches of chaos, and that every female he knows is more than she appears to be. It also seems that he himself has a past he doesn’t know about. I hesitate to give Witch Craft Works a recommendation. Every episode adds complications and new characters, and I will be surprised if the crew can bring the show to a satisfactory resolution in just twelve episodes. However, thus far it’s held my attention, and, despite the female lead’s over-ample bust, fan service has been negligible.
So the Japanese are going to get their own dub of My Little Pony ~Tomodachi wa Mahou~. Good for them; the first season, at least, (which is all I’ve seen) is often clever, rarely cloying, and probably better than nearly all other contemporary shows on western teevee.
Most of the actresses announced so far are new to me, but there are a few familiar voices. The Queen of Tears, Kikuko Inoue, is Princess Celestia. Fortunately, Celestia isn’t a weepy sort, and Inoue is a good actress when she isn’t bawling her eyes out. Rozen Maiden‘s Shinku is Twilight Sparkle, and Cardcaptor Sakura‘s Li Shaoran is Spike.
Dusty Sage found a “State of the Herd” survey of Bronies. One of the findings is astonishing if it’s accurate: more than a quarter of all MLP:FIM fans are INTJs like me. I knew that thoughtful introverts are far more common on the internet than offline, but this is bizarre.
You might notice some familiar names in the credits of this 1950 cartoon. You can download it here.
Without exception, everyone on the island clamors to the Skipper for help at every crisis. “Skipper will know what to do.” The Skipper is “brave and sure.” The Skipper calms the islanders at each emergency, not by alleviating the problem, but by standing tall, pounding his chest and loudly making magnificent promises that neither he nor any other person could possibly keep.
Gilligan, the Skipper’s “little buddy”, embodies every extraneous governmental agency, policy and program ever foisted on innocent people anywhere. It is “Gilligan’s island.” Gilligan is well-intentioned. He sincerely wants to help. Gilligan saves no exertion, refuses no absurdity, respects no boundary in his unceasing efforts to solve, or at least soften, any and all of the everyday problems of the castaways. More often than not Gilligan is the problem. At best he makes a bad situation worse. At worst, he makes a great situation completely unbearable.
I refuse to apologize for bittorrenting any longer, and I refuse to feel guilty, and I refuse to buy any series from anyone, anywhere at that price. Burn in hell, Japan.
If that is indeed what purveyors of anime have planned for us, and if they do finally succeed in eliminating torrents and downloads, then anime will be dead outside of Japan. However, there are other places where good animation can be found. France, for instance. Recently I made the mistake of browsing amazon.com and found both The Triplets of Belleville and Persepolis for $7 each.
Belleville was as good as I remembered, though I had forgotten just how fat the Americans were. Here are a couple of excerpts showing the eponymous triplets in their prime and in the movie’s present.
Madame Souza, who plays the bicycle wheel in the second clip, is one of the great heroic animated characters. She would have been serious competition for Balsa in the current poll had The Triplets of Belleville been a Japanese movie.
Persepolis is a girl’s-eye view of the Iranian revolution, with a sojourn in France. Despite its subject matter, it’s often quite funny.
I highly recommend both movies.
Other bargains I spotted include Chicken Run and The Corpse Bride, each for $5. I also found a two-disc edition of Coraline for $7 at the grocery store. It includes two pairs of red/green 3D viewers.
Even disregarding the price, the sad fact is that the product delivered by the fansub groups via torrents is better than what we can buy. It’s more timely, and the quality is higher, and the resolution is better, and it’s more comprehensive.
I wish it weren’t so. I would rather buy than steal. But two years ago it reached the point where it didn’t feel like virtue to be honest. It felt like being a sucker.
Even as big as the anime market was in North America three years ago before everything fell apart, we were still being treated as second class citizens. Usually there was a delay of between 1 and 3 years before titles got released here, if they were. And what we got was 480p, which these days looks like a postage stamp to me. (Especially on my 1920*1080 computer display.)