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Old 2012-07-06, 02:48   Link #1
Soliloquy
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Which anime are masterpiece?

I like to start by I've been thinking a lot about anime in general but after watching a certain game end, I came to some interesting theory. Whatever the medium is, if it's something almost perfect fiction of book, movie, game or anime, it all shares one certain factor.

I would like to specify anime in particular because it's the most flexible medium where you have the freedom to make anything. Having that creative freedom means more possiblility of achieving that near perfection. And from my observation, anime as a medium already did numerous times with the titles that would be quite impossible to recreate with the live-action.

While there are many factors that determine certain title deserve recognition, but there's one single common fact that all these near perfect anime series share. If a certain anime is a near-perfection, most of the characters are likeable, major or minor, good or evil. I guess most people would disagree but I have some basis to support this statement.

I think the first priority is defining what masterpiece is to me and the general audience. I know deciding what the near-perfect anime could be is subjective and maybe biased but I think this method is generally reliable.

When I think of anime where all the characters are likeable, I'm not talking about slice of life where the focus is all about the characters. I'm talking about anime that has actual story or plot and the characters driving the action. The characters that are good or bad that actually have motive, so even the bad characters are likeable or memorable in the end no matter how much of a bastard he was.

Cowboy Bebop is a very good example of what I talked about though I don't like it much at all. It does the characterisations pretty good while at the same time doing the tremendous job of foreshadowing and executing the plot. By the near end of the series, we already get the idea of the fate of the bebop crew when we finish.

Actually when I was writing this, I was thinking of Texhnolyze or Noein that I thought had superior emotional connection to me, at least more memorable for me. I also think they support my statement better. The characters in both series seemed to be just stereotype in the first episode fleshed out deeply at the end, I came to remember their scenes more than the main characters even though they are just minor characters.

I also need to say there are exceptions to the rule like Full Metal Alchemist that most characters were likeable but it had a problematic execution, in the end for me this anime is just a good introduction anime to newbies but still great for a anime targeting the teens demographic.

On the other hand of the spectrum, we have Death Note generally regarded as a near-perfect anime but to me nowhere near. It's great but not better than FMA. In this anime, the most characters were mere pawns to move the story. In the end it was if the viewers gave a damn about the main character or not.

It was hard for me to be coherent because writing is not my specialty but I would appreciate your thoughts, how you define the masterpiece after all this is the point of forum.

It seems like I have a plenty of time on my hands, I like to think and discuss the opinions. I apologise if I wasted your time also I'd like to ask you if possible don't derail the thread with a single sentence in the reply.
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Old 2012-07-06, 03:00   Link #2
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Old 2012-07-06, 03:02   Link #3
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For starters, any creator who deliberately sets out to create a "masterpiece" is either full of himself, incredibly naive or quite simply setting himself up for disaster.

Sorry for the one sentence reply as I'm typing this on my phone.

Masterpieces are rarely consciously created. Creators themselves are often as puzzled as their audience as to why any of their works would become so wildly popular.

Which renders much of this topic moot, to be honest. My idea of a masterpiece may well be your idea of pretentious rubbish.
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Old 2012-07-06, 05:29   Link #4
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A masterpiece is one that stirred emotions in you and made you think. The greatest works are ones that change the way you view something or simply make you admire the work that was put into it. It's something that's irreplaceable.

Of course, the opposite can stir the emotions for the wrong reasons. That doesn't count.
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Old 2012-07-06, 06:10   Link #5
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I would also like to add do you agree whether anime with generally likeable cast is near-perfect or not?

Sorry for not being so clear earlier but this was the main statement I was going to make. Along the way I have even confused myself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Masterpieces are rarely consciously created. Creators themselves are often as puzzled as their audience as to why any of their works would become so wildly popular.
There was also a point I wanted to make. Masterpieces are hard to create but I'd argue I don't think it's that hard to make something popular as long as this creator allies himself with popular animation production studio and put some familiar tropes the audience recognises, then it doesn't matter if it's done before or the story is lackluster, it will be popular.
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Old 2012-07-06, 07:15   Link #6
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A masterpiece is an anime that caters to our respective tastes and is well done.

I think that those are the things most shows described as masterpieces share.
-Almost never is a show that is poorly executed described as a masterpiece.
-Almost never is a show that has low production values described as a masterpiece.
-Almost never will people describe shows that don't cater to their tastes masterpieces.

That is really it. Of course making a masterpiece is a lot harder than describing what one is. I also would agree that anyone setting out to make a masterpiece is setting themselves up for failure.

As for cast likability. It falls under "caters to our respective tastes." If you like likable casts, then likable cast would help the show get masterpiece status, if you don't care/prefer hateable casts, it wouldn't.
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Old 2012-07-06, 07:26   Link #7
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I don't think "masterpiece" and perfection are synonyms, nor even closely related.

I don't think anyone can objectively call Neon Genesis Evangelion as anything other then heavily flawed. I mean... they were literally reduced to still pictures and childish drawings for the final two episodes.

Yet Neon Genesis Evangelion stands as an accepted masterpiece for anime.

Similarly Maison Ikkoku has a series of flaws as a show, yet it is a touchstone for almost all romantic comedies in anime, even today. I would classify it as a masterpiece.

Space Battleship Yamato has aged very poorly, yet it is also one of the masterpieces of anime.

Touch also has flaws, yet it is another masterpiece. (Japanese mothers today continue to identify Touch as the anime they would most like their children to watch).

Masterpieces express something about the human soul so deeply that it doesn't matter if the medium becomes outdated, or if the plot or storyline suffers from flaws, or even changes in cultural norms.

Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Tolkien, why are people still reading their books?

Why do people still watch It's a Wonderful Life every Christmas?

I think the easiest way to identify a "masterpiece" are to look at those works that people keep coming back to again, and again. For anime, which shows do people rewatch over and over again?

You'll notice the works shift away from several popular anime to a much smaller list.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Maison Ikkoku

Ranma 1/2 (despite it's silly nature, and enormous amounts of filler)

Cowboy Bebop


Space Battleship Yamato
(I mean, they are still making new remakes of this one)

Touch

It's harder to tell with more recent anime but I suspect at the least:

Clannad

Cross Game

Madoka Magica

Will become recognized as "masterpieces" in the future.

To Aru Majutsu no Index is an interesting case as the show is incredibly flawed and several arcs are not rewatchable at all, but other arcs keep drawing people back. I expect that someday 10 to 20 years from now it will get a reboot by a fan that decides to do it right.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Death Note are good shows that have had a big impact, but I'm not sure yet if they'll make it as shows that fans love to go rewatch.

There are also some more obscure anime that are eminently rewatchable, and should probably also count as masterpieces. Although they may always be stuck at the level of "cult classic."

Crest of the Stars

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya


and many more.
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Old 2012-07-06, 07:41   Link #8
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I think to be considered an "objective" masterpiece, you have to pass the test of time. Not sure what exactly the time period will be, but I think 10 years is a good starting point.

Whether you personally subjectively think something is a masterpiece (which is pretty much all my favourites) is another entirely matter. So although not all of Sackett's choices I will agree with, some of them definitely are. Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, Space Battleship Yamato and Touch definitely (though I've never seen Touch myself, it's revered as one of if not the best Adachi work, and the guy is almost an unmatched genius when it come to "slice of life" dialogue. The manga was also SUPER popular).

Death Note is getting close to being called one as is Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Madoka Magica has a VERY LONG while to go whilst Clannad has still a bit. Though, to be honest I don't think Clannad (S1) is anywhere near masterpiece level, it's only the After Story season that's actually -that- level of good.

Btw, I'm trying to speak from an objective point of view of here since none of these shows (except for Cowboy Bebop) is actually in my "subjective" masterpiece list.
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Old 2012-07-06, 11:45   Link #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soliloquy View Post
Masterpieces are hard to create but I'd argue I don't think it's that hard to make something popular as long as this creator allies himself with popular animation production studio and put some familiar tropes the audience recognises, then it doesn't matter if it's done before or the story is lackluster, it will be popular.
I think this is an oversimplification; correlation does not equal causation. It may be true that many of the popular shows are by popular animation studios and use some familiar tropes, but not every show by said studios and with said tropes become popular. If you start thinking of popularity as a checklist, then you could easily come up with a whole long list of shows that match the checklist but never "made it". Plus, if it were really that simple, you'd think that anime producers would keep churning out hit after hit after hit (because no one is paying more attention to what's popular and selling than they are). Most anime productions are rather middling in terms of popularity. In the end, there are so many other intangible variables that are hard to control. A big one, I'd suggest, is timing; what's going on in the world, what fans have seen recently, what the market is really looking for even if they don't know it yet, etc. Another big one I'd suggest is "buzz", which is rather intangible; sometimes a show just catches the attention of the fans for whatever reason, while another show gets "the stench of death", even though objectively there's no real reason.

But as for what makes a "masterpiece"... I suppose I can go with the idea that the work has to have timeless appeal. But I think "anime" is such a diverse media that you could have entirely different discussions if you were talking about "masterpieces of animation" or "masterpieces of storytelling in anime" or "masterpieces of anime art" or whatever. Not to mention all the various genres. Coming up with the overall masterpieces in the whole medium is not necessarily as useful as it seems unless someone is specifically trying to study anime as a medium. I've said before that I think a lot of us are not actually "fans of anime" (simply because it's anime), but rather a fan of certain subset of what the anime industry produces that specifically appeals to us.
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Old 2012-07-06, 11:59   Link #10
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I agree with the idea that timelessness (or, at least, substantial longevity) is a good measure of whether or not something is an "overall" masterpiece. I think this is a good measure because it filters out the effect of hype. Hype can make something insanely popular for awhile, but I think it suggests a certain level of good quality for people to still care about a show long after the hype has died down.


That being said, I see relentlessflame's point. If somebody wanted to point to an anime as simply a "masterpiece of animation" (i.e. a visual masterpiece), I wouldn't necessarily object to that, even if it's brand new and/or has major flaws when it comes to things like storytelling, or character depth.
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Old 2012-07-06, 12:45   Link #11
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Finally got home, from a late-night movie at the Japan Film Festival. It's on that note that I wanted to touch a bit further on this point:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Soliloquy View Post
I would like to specify anime in particular because it's the most flexible medium where you have the freedom to make anything. Having that creative freedom means more possiblility of achieving that near perfection. And from my observation, anime as a medium already did numerous times with the titles that would be quite impossible to recreate with the live-action.
Obviously, I enjoy anime, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it most flexible medium for storytelling. The best medium for that — "flexible" storytelling — remains the book. There is no need for special effects, no need for musical scores, no need for A-list actors. All you need is imagination — both from the author and the reader — and anything, literally anything, is possible.

And even if you were to disregard that, there is still a wide range of subject matters that are just more effectively told in live action than in animation. Take the film I just watched tonight, I Wish (2011)



It's an extremely observant and insightful movie about a bunch of kids, the core audience of most anime, and yet I have trouble imagining how the story could be effectively translated into an animated feature. A tremendous amount of the movie's charm comes from the superb acting of the precocious cast, as well as from the live scenes of Kagoshima, Fukuoka and Kumamoto. There is a great deal of nuance worked into the cinematography by veteran film-maker Hirokazu Koreeda that would necessarily be missing in an anime which, no matter how detailed, will forever be no more than a facsimile of the real thing, never a 100 per cent match.

This observation takes me again to a thought that I've long been plagued with ever since I was admonished by a good friend who founded his own animation studio here — this trend among many anime fans with so-called more refined "tastes" preferring "slice-of-life", "realistic" stories over fantasy. To him, the whole point of animation is to make fantasy a reality. If one is so obsessed with making animation as "true to life" as possible, one might as well make a live-action movie, not an anime.

I have never been able to come up with a good rebuttal to that remark, mainly because, over time, I've come to see why he said what he did. And that was the beginning of my awareness of the limitations of anime as a storytelling medium, an issue that has apparently been troubling a number of fans here in AnimeSuki, given the number of threads of late about the lack of "originality" in contemporary anime overrun with trite plots and moe hooks.

Simply put, there are certain kinds of stories particularly suited for animation, and there are other kinds of stories that simply aren't. And the kinds of stories that enjoy universal acclaim for being "masterpieces" generally aren't well suited for animation.

Stories that speak directly to our hearts and leave an indelible remark about being human. Stories like Lord of the Flies that remind us that the beast lurks just beneath the surface of our fragile psyches. Stories like A Potrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which mimic the random chains of thoughts that run daily through our minds, as we strive vainly every day to shape chaos into something meaningful.

Beyond the early Ghibli movies and other landmark anime films in the mid to late 90s, there have rarely been, in my opinion, any animated features that truly speak about the human condition. It's an entertainment business that focuses mainly on advertising for merchandise.

If we're talking about "masterpiece" purely within the context of anime, then any list similar to Sackett's would be as good a place to start as any.

But if we're talking about something truly magisterial, something that truly speaks to the very heart of what it means to be human, then there's hardly anything that's really remarkable about anime.

After all, anime like Grave of the Fireflies rarely, if ever, get made. Stories that transcend their medium and ram home fundamental messages that are universal to all people, regardless of race, language or religion.

When I think "masterpiece", that's what I look for. Nothing more, nothing less.
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Old 2012-07-06, 12:59   Link #12
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This is a hard one for me ... but rather than try and objectively define what makes something a masterpiece in an all-comprehensive way I will mention that one quality that helps for a series to qualify for this is re-watchablility.

And a few I can name off hand would have to be Kemono no Soujo Erin; the Clannad series is also amazing for me; and the Aria series, definitely the Aria series.
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Old 2012-07-06, 13:15   Link #13
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For me what I consider masterpieces are: Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Angel Beats, Phantom: Requiem of the Phantom and True Tears. There are a few more but that's what I can think of right now.

Reasons for this are the story, music/soundtrack, visuals and scenery, and I've found the characters easy to connect and sympathize with at times.
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Old 2012-07-06, 13:19   Link #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirito View Post
For me what I consider masterpieces are: Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Angel Beats, Phantom: Requiem of the Phantom and True Tears. There are a few more but that's what I can think of right now.
Pretty good list of three. Two of them are all-time favorites for me as well.

By the way, awesome sig. The Yakuza has never looked better!
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Old 2012-07-06, 13:40   Link #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Pretty good list of three. Two of them are all-time favorites for me as well.

By the way, awesome sig. The Yakuza has never looked better!
Thanks! Actually it's a list of four, not three. There's a couple more but I don't want to take up space and peoples time.

For the sig I'm using, I just found it on some site not to long ago, forget where though... but it features my two favourite characters from the said series it's representing, so it was an instant "steal" for me.
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Old 2012-07-06, 13:50   Link #16
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Steins;Gate
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Old 2012-07-06, 13:55   Link #17
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Clannad because it delivers so powerful emotions.
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Old 2012-07-06, 15:13   Link #18
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Wolf's rain and the original Last exile to me is near perfection and I don't want to repeat whatever other people have already mention.
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Old 2012-07-06, 15:26   Link #19
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A masterpiece is a work that passes the intellectual popularity and longevity contest.

By accident.

Limit yourself to your own personal favorites for a minute. How many of them can you say you went in to for the first time expecting to actually like them enough to place them in your own personal hierarchy? And I'm not talking about the extended list either. I'm referring to no further than the top 5.
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Old 2012-07-06, 19:16   Link #20
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Obviously, I enjoy anime, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it most flexible medium for storytelling. The best medium for that — "flexible" storytelling — remains the book. There is no need for special effects, no need for musical scores, no need for A-list actors. All you need is imagination — both from the author and the reader — and anything, literally anything, is possible.


It's an extremely observant and insightful movie about a bunch of kids, the core audience of most anime, and yet I have trouble imagining how the story could be effectively translated into an animated feature. A tremendous amount of the movie's charm comes from the superb acting of the precocious cast, as well as from the live scenes of Kagoshima, Fukuoka and Kumamoto. There is a great deal of nuance worked into the cinematography by veteran film-maker Hirokazu Koreeda that would necessarily be missing in an anime which, no matter how detailed, will forever be no more than a facsimile of the real thing, never a 100 per cent match.
You're right if I think about it, the book is the most flexible medium and from my experience, cannot quite become memorable by the time I finish the book. I admit, I wasn't an enthusiastic reader but I read a fair few to say there was only one book that I really love.

I guess in the end, I'm being a little subjective because for me the requirement to be something near-perfect is the characters. The novels have the advantage of creating the characters as many as the author wants and flesh them out but I found that too much flexibility can be a problem as there is a book with a lot of characters but in the end becomes a little too crowded to know who is who. When I finish the book, I lose the emotional connection with the characters to care what happens to them.

Also I want to say I was too hasty to decide that anime is the most flexible medium because I agree that some stories are meant to be told in a movie format rather than the animated feature. As you say there are certain things that can't be achived when it's animated. You are also right that the masterpiece is when this particular piece transcends all medium.

Allow me to say, films have one disadvantage that anime doesn't is the length that we don't get enough time to be invested in the characters. That's why I know there are good films but they don't move me enough. All the good films have great execution, brilliant cinematography and camera work but if the characters are lacking, I hesitate to call it masterpiece. If I think about it, there are a couple of films that I've seen managed to move me and great direction as well. Unfortunately, these works are rare to come by.

I think the big reason that I felt that films have somewhat inferior emotional connection is because I grew up watching films from America. All their focus is mostly on cinematography and special effects and rarely on the characters. For that reason, I guess I should just watch more foreign films.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Akito_Kinomoto View Post
Limit yourself to your own personal favorites for a minute. How many of them can you say you went in to for the first time expecting to actually like them enough to place them in your own personal hierarchy? And I'm not talking about the extended list either. I'm referring to no further than the top 5.
There are only a few, probably 6 or 7 that I can think of that I actually remember liking in initial impression. I can easily think of top 5 on the spot.
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