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Old 2013-03-19, 09:11   Link #41
Kirarakim
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Okay I agree and disagree with people in this thread:

I completely disagree that when you discuss things like characterization, themes, plot elements, etc that this is pointless because we are not reading a book. It is not pointless because these things are still part of the story being told through the animation.

Even in film these elements are discussed. Now it is true depending on the film these elements might be more or less important.

I completely understand what visual storytelling is: Someone mentioned Paperman and it's simple story well I am going to mention one of my favorite silent films Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. This film has probably the most simplest stories you will ever see but it is a triumph in visual poetry where through mainly images (and limited title cards) we see the fall of a relationship to its rebirth.

If we want to take a scene from a movie another favorite example of mine is in Citizen Kane the breakfast scene where we see Kane and his wife getting more distant over breakfast (again no words tell us this is happening).

Then there is Hitchcock's Rear Window where we see many little stories unfold outside the window in the different department buildings.

These are things that cannot be done in writing but can be done with visuals. You don't have to tell the audience something is happening through words you can show them. You can also create mood & atmosphere with lighting, camera angles, close ups, and sound, etc.

Does anime do this too? Well yes. I know someone mentioned Another for its sound design well for me the best example of this would probably be Ghost Hound

Another recent example is the witch battles in Madoka. We are never told who the witches are but we can infer from what we see during those battles (candy, music, amusement park, etc).

I talked about the effectiveness of the horror in Shin Sekai Yori this isn't just because of the story but because the director knows how to create that tense mood.

However, story, characters, and theme are part of visual storytelling too. Again when you have a simple story then they might be less important but that doesn't mean when a visual medium excels in the non-visual aspect this is not important. In my book the story and how it is told are both important & are not always the same thing (and in fact I can argue it is the same for books, you might not have the use of visuals but you still tell your story with prose, do you use 1st or 3rd person, flashbacks, etc).
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Old 2013-03-19, 10:29   Link #42
totoum
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirarakim View Post
(and in fact I can argue it is the same for books, you might not have the use of visuals but you still tell your story with prose, do you use 1st or 3rd person, flashbacks, etc).
I agree with this, a writer can come up with a good plot but if he doesn't have a good prose then he won't be able to do his plot justice.

And it's why I take issue with TRL saying that people that don't particularly enjoy the visual aspect of an anime should just "read the book", some people just don't like prose and they'll gladly take a story with mediocre visual storytelling over a story told with great prose.

I also disagree with lumping books and mangas together, mangas tell their story visually even if its not quite the same language as anime.What makes Mitsuru Adachi a great mangaka is his ability to tell stories with images.
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Old 2013-03-19, 11:02   Link #43
TinyRedLeaf
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I think we're coming to the same conclusion, albeit from different directions.

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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Quote:
Why do you implicitly value "writing" over the "cinematography"?
I value them about equally.
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Originally Posted by Kirarakim View Post
These are things that cannot be done in writing but can be done with visuals. You don't have to tell the audience something is happening through words you can show them. You can also create mood & atmosphere with lighting, camera angles, close ups, and sound, etc...

However, story, characters, and theme are part of visual storytelling too. Again when you have a simple story then they might be less important but that doesn't mean when a visual medium excels in the non-visual aspect this is not important. In my book the story and how it is told are both important & are not always the same thing.
I agree with both these views. I will only point out, in closing, that we're ultimately talking about anime/animation here. I mentioned my animation producer friend. My conversations with him long ago was basically about me trying to point out why I felt anime was so much better than cartoons. (Yes, I know that the difference between anime and cartoons is just a matter of semantics, but it was a long time ago, and I had a lot yet to learn.)

I used much the same arguments as those used here today. I harped on factors such as the strength of writing in anime, the themes raised in anime that resonated more strongly with Asians like us, and so on.

"Slice-of-life" anime, in particular, provided most of my favourite examples at the time.

My friend's damning retort was: "Why animation?"

If it were the drama and the literary themes that I enjoyed in those anime examples I raised, why weren't those stories told through live-action drama instead? They sure as hell would have been easier and cheaper to produce.

Take Nodame Cantible, for example. What does the anime version of it offer that the live-action version doesn't? It's a great story with great characters, but the core of the story is about music, specifically orchestral music. There are many viewers who observed that it was a greater pleasure to watch and listen to an actual orchestral performance in live-action than in animation (which was severely limited by budget and time constraints).

So, if the point of anime-Nodame Cantible was to showcase the music, we need to ask if anime was the best medium for such an enterprise. If it were the characters and the drama that were the focus, we need to ask, why not a live-action show, which would have sufficed to bring such elements to life?

What was it exactly about Nodame Cantible that specifically required animation to bring it to full effect? Would another medium have served it better? Why not radio drama, for example, since it was sound that arguably mattered the most for this particular story?

=======

All these considerations form the context in which I claimed that "writing" must serve "animation" when it comes to anime. I'm not necessarily saying that pretty images alone would make up for poor "writing". I am saying, however, that without the sound and the images, there wouldn't even be an anime!

Which is to say that even if the writing were fantastic, if the animation/cinematography served the story poorly, you already have a failed animation project by default. We have to ask, if it were beyond the abilities of the creators to use animation to tell the story effectively, why did they bother with an anime in the first place?

If you prefer, it's much like an existential question. Why bother with an anime if you can't think of ways to use animation to tell the story in a unique way? It is in this sense that I find it silly to talk about the "writing" of anime as though it were the only thing that matters.

In all other cases, my views don't actually differ much from those who recognise that all the elements of anime matter equally when it comes to telling a good story.

=======

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Originally Posted by 4Tran View Post
Well, the lack of proper examination of how stories are presented will explain why terrible writers like Dan Brown manage to sell. Nobody should want that, so it's good to have more examination.
I once attended a workshop by an apparently successful Filipino writer (unfortunately, I forget his name) who cautioned us against dismissing the qualities of "pulp fiction". There is much that can be learnt from writers like Dan Brown when it comes to writing something that keeps you turning the pages until the end. How do you hook the reader? How do you compel him to keep reading?

In this sense, a best-selling writer like Dan Brown isn't necessarily as terrible as you think. I'd confess, though, that I've never read his books. I'm too much of a snob to do so.

Last edited by TinyRedLeaf; 2013-03-19 at 11:30.
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Old 2013-03-19, 11:05   Link #44
4Tran
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Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
There's an implicit implication that presentation is just ornamentation for the "story". That's why, when people talk about the "writing" for anime, very often they don't talk about the actual writing (the scenario, or maybe the individual scripts). Chances are they've never read that. It's about the story as it shines through in the animation. Just as with texts, it's the story - an abstraction from what you've actually seen.
True enough, but the portions of writing that don't make it to the screen aren't particularly relevant for discussion.

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Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
The thing is that - unless with some deliberately metalevel stuff - the presentation is supposed to be invisible (and when it's good, it often is). That's why it's hard to talk about that stuff; you don't notice it. It's there to ease you into the story, and the story is what you end up talking about (unless you're interested in criticism, or in the craft of creating stuff like texts or films). I clearly miss many, many visual and auditory clues. I'm not trained to pay attention to that. But I still catch a lot more than, say, my Dad.
While some presentation techniques are designed to absorb the audience into the greater work, there are tons that are meant to draw attention to themselves. And that's regardless of whether it's meant to have some sort of meta meaning. And really, any method that can provide greater understanding of a work has value even outside of critical discussion.

Besides, given how often scenes in anime can feel off, it's nice to have tools that can explain why they feel that way (it's usually incompetent production ).

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Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
When people talk about animation in terms of story then that's because that's what they get out of the viewing experience. But that's selective attention. If you don't pay attention to the presentation, the story has been successfully presented. But the secret behind its success is also the reason why people generally put too much emphasis on story, and too little on the presentation. It's systematic, and it's not unique to animation. Written texts (whether they're novels or short stories) have the same problem.
Well, the lack of proper examination of how stories are presented will explain why terrible writers like Dan Brown manage to sell. Nobody should want that, so it's good to have more examination.

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Originally Posted by Kirarakim View Post
However, story, characters, and theme are part of visual storytelling too. Again when you have a simple story then they might be less important but that doesn't mean when a visual medium excels in the non-visual aspect this is not important.
I'd argue that those elements can be more important in simple stories. It depends on what that story is trying to do.

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Originally Posted by Kirarakim View Post
In my book the story and how it is told are both important & are not always the same thing (and in fact I can argue it is the same for books, you might not have the use of visuals but you still tell your story with prose, do you use 1st or 3rd person, flashbacks, etc).
I agree. In most ways, writing techniques are as much presentation for literature as animation/art/sound is presentation for anime.
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Old 2013-03-19, 11:32   Link #45
Warm Mist
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One thing that might be taken into consideration is that different works put a different amount of weight into the story/animation/cinematography.

Take Kizuna Ichigeki, from the Young Animator Training Project 2010. I won't argue it has a bad script, because it doesn't, as it's tight and solid. But the work is made with animation in mind from the get-go. The simple, linear, "safe" narrative concept is made to be functional to the main feature the work hinges itself on: its stunning action handling.
Compare with something like Legend of the Galactic Heroes, which I have to say doesn't thrive on animation or art, but these are just solid enough to convey the chain of events and characters which is what the work is concerned with. It has good direction and a phenomenal score, which enhance the main aspects of the show by a huge margin.

Ultimately, I'm still of the mind that the greatest pieces of animation are the ones that seamlessly combine everything into a unified whole that can't really be meaningfully broken down into its parts, like Mind Game (Or Wolf Children, for something much more recent and fresh).
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Old 2013-03-19, 12:10   Link #46
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@TinyRedLeaf

I'm glad that we seem to be coming to some agreement after a lot of disagreement.

And to be clear, I understand where you and your friend are coming from.

Yes, you would think that format and medium would matter a great deal here. Be first and foremost in a person's mind when making entertainment choices.

But I've come to accept that some people (including myself, I'll freely admit) are just weird this way. We can have tastes and entertainment choices that seem counter-intuitive when considered together.


Speaking personally, the animation medium is my favorite entertainment medium. And yet, I do tend to care a lot about plot consistency, plot tightness, smooth character development, and "good writing". I'm much less likely to be bothered by a nasty animation flub than I am by a deus ex machina that comes across as really lame and contrived to me. Yes, you'd think I'd be someone more into books than anime, but I'm more into anime than books. I'm weird that way.

Perhaps the only way I can justify myself here is to say that I love seeing a good story come to life with visuals and sound. And animation can bring these stories to life in a more crisp and clean and unblemished way than live-action often can.

Sometimes I'll look at pictures comparing anime locales to their real world equivalents. It's easy to notice the impressive line-work tracing that went into these anime pictures... but what also stands out to me is how the anime picture just has this clean, bright, unblemished, picture-esque look to it that the real world equivalent often does not have. Anime kind of filters out the grit, the grime, the dirt, you could say. It's "prettier".

Perhaps that's why Slice of Life anime is popular. It translates real world locales into animated format in a very thorough and comprehensive way, but it idealizes them by filtering out the grit, the grime, the dirt. There's a certain romanticism to this that can be appealing. It's real life, romanticized and made beautiful. It's not hard for me to see how that can be powerfully immersive.
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Old 2013-03-19, 12:53   Link #47
james0246
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Real quick before I head out:

My general rule of thumb is that anime, and to a greater extent all film (of which I consider anime to be a subset of), is an irrational medium designed specifically to stimulate the senses and to make us feel something. This is done via poetic expressions of themes asserted though visuals and characters. This is the core of all film, and this is only achieved via characters not overall story. The emotional drama of a situation matters far more than the logistics of the situation, even if history has to be ignored and geography bypassed in magical ways. That is not to say that specific leaps of logic or even outright plot holes are not annoying, but as so long as the emotions are real and the characters are internally consistent, then the overarching story (e.g. themes) will still be sound simply because the characters are sound.
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Old 2013-03-19, 12:56   Link #48
SeijiSensei
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
What was it exactly about Nodame Cantible that specifically required animation to bring it to full effect? Would another medium have served it better?
Having watched all of the original live-action series and one of the movies, there are a couple of ways in which animated Nodame might be viewed more favorably.

First, there is the simple translation of the manga characters into real-life actors. I thought Tamaki Hiroshi made a pretty decent Chiaki, but my daughter thinks he is not handsome enough for a heartthrob. Ueno Juri began to rub me the wrong way as the show unfolded because she too often "mugs" for the camera. That's a common feature of live-action Japanese shows that I find hard to take. The most hilariously wrong characterization is Takenata Naoto as Stresemann with that silly wig he wears. Why they couldn't find a Japanese-speaking Westerner for the role escapes me. So in this case I'd agree with Triple_R that anime allows for the characters to be portrayed as more perfect than in real life.

One other difference is that scenes that might be acceptable in an animated version come off looking wrong in live-action. Some of us here, myself included, were offended by the scene in the first episode of the anime version where Chiaki throws a musical score into Nodame's face. Yet that pales in comparison to a scene early in episode two of the live-action version where Nodame rushes toward Chiaki, and he redirects her path so she hits a nearby boulder head first. Whatever we might say about "paper-fan" violence, scenes like those are much more disturbing when the characters are real people.

So while I don't think animation was required to tell this story, it does provide a bit more distance between the viewer and the events on screen.
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Old 2013-03-19, 13:20   Link #49
Tempester
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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Perhaps the only way I can justify myself here is to say that I love seeing a good story come to life with visuals and sound. And animation can bring these stories to life in a more crisp and clean and unblemished way than live-action often can.

Sometimes I'll look at pictures comparing anime locales to their real world equivalents. It's easy to notice the impressive line-work tracing that went into these anime pictures... but what also stands out to me is how the anime picture just has this clean, bright, unblemished, picture-esque look to it that the real world equivalent often does not have. Anime kind of filters out the grit, the grime, the dirt, you could say. It's "prettier".

Perhaps that's why Slice of Life anime is popular. It translates real world locales into animated format in a very thorough and comprehensive way, but it idealizes them by filtering out the grit, the grime, the dirt. There's a certain romanticism to this that can be appealing. It's real life, romanticized and made beautiful. It's not hard for me to see how that can be powerfully immersive.
I feel this way too. Anime doesn't just idealize places; it idealizes people too, giving us picturesque representations of vivid and pure personalities that are hard to imitate with real actors.

I find it hard to imagine translating some anime like K-On, A-Channel, and Tamayura to the live-action medium despite their mundane settings. Unless you spent a fortune on finding the best, most perfect actors in the world who could not only play the part of these characters, but also look the part (is this even possible?), you would end up with something very awkward and full of unintentional comedy.

There's also the issue of how feasible it is to make something in live-action. For instance, a live-action film of Monster produced by Japanese people is a near-impossibility due to the European setting and the lack of European actors to play all the characters. It would be awesome if a German film company made a Monster film, but ironically there is very little interest in Monster in Germany.
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Old 2013-03-19, 16:49   Link #50
Dawnstorm
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Originally Posted by 4Tran View Post
True enough, but the portions of writing that don't make it to the screen aren't particularly relevant for discussion.
See, this is where my ignorance of the animation process becomes problematic: I have no idea how much later stages can make up for flaws in the writing, or how much they can mess up. This is exactly why I wouldn't be quick to blame the "writing", when what I'm having problem with is "story".

A nitpick really. Ultimately a semantic argument. But I like precision (even if I'm often imprecise myself).

Quote:
While some presentation techniques are designed to absorb the audience into the greater work, there are tons that are meant to draw attention to themselves. And that's regardless of whether it's meant to have some sort of meta meaning.
I'm not sure I want to go into this in detail. I'm probably using "metalevel" as a more broader term than you, here (as I think that drawing attention to itself is "meta" almost by definition). (For example, parody is inherently meta, but that doesn't mean you need to know how it works.)

What I'm saying is sort of like the old line about a joke not being funny if you have to explain it.

Quote:
And really, any method that can provide greater understanding of a work has value even outside of critical discussion.
Agreed.

Quote:
Besides, given how often scenes in anime can feel off, it's nice to have tools that can explain why they feel that way (it's usually incompetent production ).
Definitely. I know little about the language of animation/film, but that doesn't mean I'm not interesting. It's just that, whenever I'm going to talk about these aspects, I'm going to sound like the layman I am.

Quote:
Well, the lack of proper examination of how stories are presented will explain why terrible writers like Dan Brown manage to sell. Nobody should want that, so it's good to have more examination.
I sort of disagree, here, and I hate myself for disagreeing, because I think a world that realises just how bad a writer Dan Brown is would be a better world... The problem: I've talked to people who agree with every single bad thing I say about Dan Brown, and yet... they just don't care. The only conclusion is that there must be something he gets right. Ah, well.
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Old 2013-03-19, 17:22   Link #51
TinyRedLeaf
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The more recent posts are getting closer to what I think is perhaps animation's greatest "strength" — its ability to represent key ideas in abstract form.

Roger Ebert described it best, I find, in his review of Grave of the Fireflies a long time ago.
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The book is well-known in Japan, and might easily have inspired a live-action film. It isn't the typical material of animation. But for Grave of the Fireflies, I think animation was the right choice. Live action would have been burdened by the weight of special effects, violence and action. Animation allows (Isao) Takahata to concentrate on the essence of the story, and the lack of visual realism in his animated characters allows our imagination more play; freed from the literal fact of real actors, we can more easily merge the characters with our own associations.

Hollywood animation has been pursuing the ideal of "realistic animation" for decades, even though that's an oxymoron. People who are drawn do not look like people who are photographed. They're more stylised, more obviously symbolic, and (as Disney discovered in painstaking experiments) their movements can be exaggerated to communicate mood through body language. Grave of the Fireflies doesn't attempt even the realism of The Lion King or Princess Mononoke, but paradoxically it is the most realistic animated film I've ever seen — in feeling.
I should clarify that when my friend admonished me years ago, it wasn't his intention to say that the anime I talked about shouldn't have been animated. Rather, he was very annoyed by my presumption of being an "anime critic" when all the things I focused on had little or nothing to do with animation as an art form.

How can we possibly talk about the strengths of anime without considering how animation was applied in the project? Without the techniques of animation, there wouldn't even be an anime to talk about! Having been awakened by his rebuke, I gradually came to realise that it's indeed true — too often, when fans debate the relative merits of their favourite anime, they pay scant attention on how animation influenced the way the story was told.

And yet, ironically, it's this lack of discussion on the form of the story that is perhaps one of the best indications of the project's success as an anime. It's as Dawnstorm observed:
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Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
When people talk about animation in terms of story then that's because that's what they get out of the viewing experience. But that's selective attention. If you don't pay attention to the presentation, the story has been successfully presented. But the secret behind its success is also the reason why people generally put too much emphasis on story, and too little on the presentation. It's systemic, and it's not unique to animation. Written texts (whether they're novels or short stories) have the same problem.
Notice how Triple R, SeijiSensei and Tempester all converged on the same point? The observation that animation helps to "idealise" its subject matter?

My point, and my friend's point, is that this "idealisation" did not come about by accident. Very conscious decisions were made to present the story of the anime in certain ways through cinematography, characterisation, dialogue, sound direction and voice-acting. And all these elements of film-making had to be used with respect to the specific requirements of animation as a platform for telling stories — not through a focus on photo-realism, as would be the case in live-action film, but through an emphasis on abstraction.

Because, in animation, it's the essence of the idea that matters more, not necessarily its realism. Animation frees the creator from the limitations of real-world physics. The malleability of his characters' form, as well as that of his world's setting, gives the animator the unique freedom of telling his story in fantastic ways without worrying about breaking his viewers' suspension of disbelief.

It's considerations such as these that made my friend very frustrated with my claim, long ago, that anime/animation should strive to be more "realistic". If it's realism that we are striving for, then why bother with animation? Make a live-action film instead.

=====

It's implicit in the title of this thread ("fan service is tl;dr"), that many fans assume that an over-emphasis on the visual aspects of an anime somehow "dumbs down" the show. When I see such comments today, I'm reminded of my friend, listening patiently to me years ago ranting about the "evils" of cartoons (it's all about making cute pictures and not enough about writing good stories!). Like him back then, I now realise how naive such criticism is. To separate the audio-visual elements of an anime from its "writing" is to completely miss the point of the medium. They are supposed to work together.

It's meaningless to evaluate them separately, like most naive fans do. Great music/imagery on its own does not a good anime make. Similarly, great "writing" alone does not make a good show. When the art and the "writing" do not complement each other, the whole project fails. It wouldn't matter which of its constituent parts was "stronger".

Similarly, when fans complain that "moe is ruining anime", they are implicitly saying that there's too much emphasis on cutesy imagery to sell the story. The unspoken message is that such anime is beneath the intellectual dignity of supposedly more sophisticated viewers.

Again, these fans are completely missing the point of animation. If not animation to present a cutesy story of cute girls doing cute things, then which medium? Sure, we could specifically create a drama as a vehicle for promoting carefully groomed celebrity idols — but in that case, viewers would more likely focus on the actual idols than the characters they are supposed to portray.

As it were, I already feel that there is too much obsession over which voice-actors are involved in any given anime production, too much focus over celebrity rather than on the specific acting qualities that any voice-actor brings to an anime project.

Ultimately, I find that there is too much angst over anime's supposed appeal to the more childlike (or childish, depending on your point of view) aspects of our psyche. If it's indeed true anime/cartoons appeal more to children than to adults (who supposedly must enjoy mature writing alone and cannot afford to regress to watching cute things for cute things's sake), then it's useful to think why that's the case.

I think it's because anime's strength in abstraction helps to condense complex ideas into a form that is more digestible for a broad range of audiences, not just children. That's something to be celebrated, not mocked. It is a part of what gives animation a universal appeal that is not quite achievable by live-action, at least, not through the same means.

======

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
I sort of disagree, here, and I hate myself for disagreeing, because I think a world that realises just how bad a writer Dan Brown is would be a better world... The problem: I've talked to people who agree with every single bad thing I say about Dan Brown, and yet... they just don't care. The only conclusion is that there must be something he gets right. Ah, well.
I'd suggest that it's a symptom of intellectual snobbery. The idea that a successful pulp fiction writer is not a worthy writer in his own right. Why should that be the case? It's like a broadsheet newspaper journalist looking down on a tabloid journalist, while wondering why more readers won't read a "serious" newspaper instead of a "shitty" rag. Any broadsheet journalist who thinks like that is doing himself and his profession an immense disservice. In his arrogance, he completely failed to recognise that the same qualities that make a tabloid story "work" should also be applied to broadsheet writing, albeit in not exactly the same way — the ability to recognise the visceral human-interest elements of any news story, and to understand that any reader would be drawn first to the human drama than the dry facts. You can still tell a serious story, but if you wish to hook and retain the attention of your reader, you need to be able to show him why those facts matter to him on a basic, human level.

Broadsheets that don't grasp that reality deserve to go extinct.
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Old 2013-03-19, 18:02   Link #52
4Tran
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Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
See, this is where my ignorance of the animation process becomes problematic: I have no idea how much later stages can make up for flaws in the writing, or how much they can mess up.
Well, the first step is to sit down with the writer and slap him around. More seriously, that's not far off from the truth - most of the problems in writing can be most easily fixed by good editing.

If you want to go beyond editing, then it depends on what constitutes the bad writing. Sometimes it can be salvaged by how scenes are cut, or how the characters are depicted. In the case of overly-long exposition, such scenes can be spiced up with unusual animation styles or by depicting things outside of the conversation.

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Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
This is exactly why I wouldn't be quick to blame the "writing", when what I'm having problem with is "story".
Isn't the story an integral component of the writing?

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Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
I'm not sure I want to go into this in detail. I'm probably using "metalevel" as a more broader term than you, here (as I think that drawing attention to itself is "meta" almost by definition). (For example, parody is inherently meta, but that doesn't mean you need to know how it works.)

What I'm saying is sort of like the old line about a joke not being funny if you have to explain it.
There are lots of times when the presentation wants to draw attention to itself and yet serve the greater work at the same time. In writing, this would be when a line resonates with the reader or if a clever turn of phrase is used or if there's a particularly exciting piece of action.

For a film example, look at "Skyfall" - it features tons of shots that use color and shadow very well. These shots are attention-worthy in and of themselves, and they're not meant to have any meta meaning.

If you mean "meta" in the sense that the presentation tries to do something special or unusual, then I think that you've trapped yourself in a circular argument.

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Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
Definitely. I know little about the language of animation/film, but that doesn't mean I'm not interesting. It's just that, whenever I'm going to talk about these aspects, I'm going to sound like the layman I am.
I feel the same way as I don't have any kind of training in either animation or film studies. The best you can do is educate yourself, just as non-literary students have to do for the written work.

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Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
I sort of disagree, here, and I hate myself for disagreeing, because I think a world that realises just how bad a writer Dan Brown is would be a better world... The problem: I've talked to people who agree with every single bad thing I say about Dan Brown, and yet... they just don't care. The only conclusion is that there must be something he gets right. Ah, well.
Well, the something Dan Brown gets certainly aren't things like the English word or sentences in general. Maybe his magnum opus is going to be "Finnegan's Wake Part II".

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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Roger Ebert described it best, I find, in his review of Grave of the Fireflies a long time ago.
Hey, I was planning to use Roger Ebert.
Ebert's video review of "Grave of the Fireflies" may work even better as he gave an example of why the film worked better as a piece of animation than it would as a live-action work.
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Old 2013-03-19, 18:09   Link #53
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Similarly, when fans complain that "moe is ruining anime", they are implicitly saying that there's too much emphasis on cutesy imagery to sell the story. The unspoken message is that such anime is beneath the intellectual dignity of supposedly more sophisticated viewers.

Again, these fans are completely missing the point of animation. If not animation to present a cutesy story of cute girls doing cute things, then which medium? Sure, we could specifically create a drama as a vehicle for promoting carefully groomed celebrity idols but in that case, viewers would more likely focus on the actual idols than the characters they are supposed to portray.
Well it's the whole package, which includes sound and script.. You can have a cutsey looking girl doing cutesy things. Then you can have a cutesy girl with a cutesy BGM and a cutesy voice (That often times sounds rather child-like). Then you can have a whole show's script revolve around cutesy dialogue and cutesy plot.

You could also have cutesy images and the script doesn't have to revolve around cutesy things. Take Madoka for example. What can be more cute than a mahou shojo ? But the story is anything but cute.

I think it's for the above reason that people put so much emphasis on the "writing," and I have to disagree with you that writing serves the visuals. I think the relation tends to be just the opposite and that visuals serve the writing. Anime is suppose to bring to life our very ideas and thoughts with its visuals. Does our story inherently have to make use of the fact that it's animation rather than live-action or even just a book? Well of course! This is an anime, and when a production staff animates something, they are making us of all the techniques and expertise they are gifted with to make an idea come alive in the best way possible in the medium.

Maybe the disagreement is merely semantics here; what exactly do we call the inception of the ideas we wish to make come to life in a story? Do we call that writing? Or nothing at all? Yes, we use a visual medium to tell our story, but if the idea is bad... It's just bad. I really do think an anime can survive with mediocre visuals, but a great story. I do not think the same is true of the opposite, from my perspective. That's why the writing is always going to be talked about first, even though as 4Tran pointed out, we could stand to talk a little more about the visual aspect of anime and its importance to the shows we are watching.

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As it were, I already feel that there is too much obsession over which voice-actors are involved in any given anime production, too much focus over celebrity rather than on the specific acting qualities that any voice-actor brings to an anime project.
People are obsessed with actors just the same in Hollywood. That's not unique to anime, film critics do exactly the same. I do not think there would any obsession unless the individual merits of said voice actor did shine through. Sure, perhaps people don't sit there and break down each and every time why said VA is fit for a role or not (Though you'll see it happen here and there). Then there's this idea of overexposure that's been prevalent in the industry lately. For example Kana Hanazawa is a phenomenal voice actress, and she does a great job in almost every anime she does, but the characters she does start to blur together because she's in like 3-4 shows in a given season (This season alone we got Psycho-Pass, Zetsuen no Tempest, Kotoura-San, Shinsekai Yori where she is featured prominently). It's not like these performances aren't distinct in their own way, but when you hear your voice it's like "Oh that's Kana," and that sort of breaks your immersion sometimes.
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Old 2013-03-19, 18:10   Link #54
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post

Because, in animation, it's the essence of the idea that matters more, not necessarily its realism. Animation frees the creator from the limitations of real-world physics. The malleability of his characters' form, as well as that of his world's setting, gives the animator the unique freedom of telling his story in fantastic ways without worrying about breaking his viewers' suspension of disbelief.
I agree.


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It's implicit in the title of this thread ("fan service is tl;dr"), that many fans assume that an over-emphasis on the visual aspects of an anime somehow "dumbs down" the show. When I see such comments today, I'm reminded of my friend, listening patiently to me years ago ranting about the "evils" of cartoons (it's all about making cute pictures and not enough about writing good stories!). Like him back then, I now realise how naive such criticism is. To separate the audio-visual elements of an anime from its "writing" is to completely miss the point of the medium. They are supposed to work together.
I still maintain that there is value in separating audio-visual elements of an anime from its writing. So I disagree that one has to "completely miss the point of the medium" in order to separate the audio-visual elements of an anime from its writing.


Let me use an analogy here.

Are the audio-visual elements of an anime and its writing meant to work together? Yes... just like different players on a sports team are meant to work together.

"Chemistry" is the term sports fans use for specific combinations of players that work particularly well together. Teams highly value particular combinations of players that have good "chemistry" between them, because that chemistry often enables them to be more than the sum of their parts (likewise, an anime Director and Writer having good "chemistry" can be a truly beautiful thing that causes them to produce an anime that is more than the sum of its parts).

However, even though different players on a sports team are meant to work together, it's entirely possible (and in fact even necessary for those coaching and managing the team) to evaluate each player separately. And even just from a fan's perspective, there's value in being able to evaluate players separately when trying to determine what impact a player trade might have on your favorite team.

Why? Because in pro hockey, for instance, you could have cases where a line is doing Ok, but two of the three guys are basically carrying that line while the third member of the line has become a "passenger" that just rides off of the coattails of his linemates. In such cases, you might want to switch out the guy limiting the line's overall effectiveness for somebody that might contribute more to the line.

Now, to bring the analogy full circle...

Back before Madoka Magica even aired its first episode, some people were very pumped up for it. They were pumped up for it because its "line" was an unusually strong combination - For Direction: Shinbo. For Writing: Urobuchi For BGM: Kaijura

People were familiar with what these particular individuals contributed in previous anime works (Shinbo in the Monogatari series, Urobuchi in Phantom: Requiem for a Phantom and various VNs, Kaijura in Tsubasa Chronicle and numerous anime works).

It's only through breaking down these previous anime works into their component parts and evaluating those parts separately that one is fully able to appreciate what these individual contributors bring to the anime projects they work on.

With Shinbo, for example, it's important to try to discern what parts of Bakemonogatarai he deserves credit for and what parts Nisio Isin deserves credit for. And in making that discernment, there's value in evaluating the visual elements of Bakemonogatari separate from the writing elements.


And in trying to determine which future anime works are likely to appeal to you, its very valuable to know what you as a fan think of specific writers, directors, composers, animation studios, etc... I'm pretty confident that Reckoner, Pocari Sweat, and Archon Wing would all agree with me on this.

When you look at the staff working on an anime, there's real value in being able to say "I'm familiar with that writer from Anime X, Y, and Z. I didn't like her work on Z, but her writing was fantastic in X and Y. And she's working with the Director from Hit Anime R that I'm a huge fan of! I can't wait to see what this writer and director can do together!"

Or, conversely, "Ugh. I loved the visuals in Anime D and E, but the writing in that was really bad. So I don't like having the writer from those anime shows handling this new one. And look who's with him? The composer from Anime G and H. Those anime had great stories but barely noticeable BGM. And the director for this new anime is a total newcomer to the industry. I better remain cautious about this show."


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Great music/imagery on its own does not a good anime make.
No, but it may make an otherwise mediocre anime a very good one. This is how a lot of anime fans feel about some KyoAni and P.A. Works projects, for example.


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Similarly, great "writing" alone does not make a good show. When the art and the "writing" do not complement each other, the whole project fails. It wouldn't matter which of its constituent parts was "stronger".
It might matter if the writer of the "failed" work ends up on a new project in the future, where s/he gets the chance to work with a more talented Director.


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Similarly, when fans complain that "moe is ruining anime", they are implicitly saying that there's too much emphasis on cutesy imagery to sell the story. The unspoken message is that such anime is beneath the intellectual dignity of supposedly more sophisticated viewers.
Even as someone who tends to like moe, I think you're being too harsh with moe critics here. Some just don't like cutesy imagery, period. They have just as much right to that taste preference as you have to yours. The taste preference is not necessarily some horribly elitist thing.

I generally don't like a lot of gore. If anime suddenly became loaded with a lot of gore of the Another and Blood-C variety, I would probably be tempted to write "gore is ruining anime". That wouldn't mean I think that such gorey anime is "beneath the intellectual dignity of more sophisticated viewers". No, it just means that I don't like gore.


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If not animation to present a cutesy story of cute girls doing cute things, then which medium?
I agree with you here, however. Yes, animation's inherent strengths lends itself well for being a medium for handling "moe".


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As it were, I already feel that there is too much obsession over which voice-actors are involved in any given anime production, too much focus over celebrity rather than on the specific acting qualities that any voice-actor brings to an anime project.
I agree with you on voice-actors. Honestly, I think that the obsession over voice-actors has become a bit of a double-edged sword. I think of what SSY did with one character basically just because HanaKana voices her...
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Old 2013-03-19, 18:20   Link #55
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In the end I think that evaluating aspects on their own is just not possible. So what's more important to you? Your liver or your heart?
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Old 2013-03-19, 18:27   Link #56
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Originally Posted by Archon_Wing View Post
In the end I think that evaluating aspects on their own is just not possible. So what's more important to you? Your liver or your heart?
Ok... I'm honestly shocked at what you wrote here.

I take it then you're never going to comment on Mari Okada ever again, am I right?

I mean, if you can't evaluate the writing aspect of an anime on its own, then what's the point of putting significant emphasis on an anime writer (like you and many others do with Mari Okada)?
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Old 2013-03-19, 18:35   Link #57
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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Ok... I'm honestly shocked at what you wrote here.

I take it that you're never going to comment on Mari Okada ever again then, am I right?

I mean, if you can't evaluate the writing aspect of an anime on its own, then what's the point of putting significant emphasis on an anime writer (like you and many others do with Mari Okada)?
My question was asinine, but I am still going to comment on Okada.

My point is that one can make certain quantitative assessments about what is more important. Yes, in theory, an anime that lacks visuals completely is "dead" while an anime that has good visuals but bad writing is still "alive", though arguably crippled.

Soo, am I saying that writing is inherently less important in the anime medium because of this?

No!

You will most definitely die without a heart, but without a liver, you will still be fucked. They are also sorta useless without the other. So yes, I am saying that if we are unable to judge writing as standalone, then that's basically ignoring a vital aspect just because other aspects are more vital.

An anime is dead without visuals, but it is crippled without writing. We can still talk about how crippled it is, right?

It is ultimately about how a part interacts with the rest that makes the whole thing meaningful.
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Old 2013-03-19, 18:52   Link #58
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Originally Posted by 4Tran View Post
Isn't the story an integral component of the writing?
Isn't the story an integral part of the animation?

I'm not sure how to deal with "story". It's a thorny issue with adaptions. If you're talking about the "writing" in a novel adaption, what are you talking about? The novel's writing? The adaption work of the scenario writer/script writers?

If you write down something in preparation of animating it, is that akin to an outline in novel writing? (Not all nevelists use outlines; actually many don't. But it's necessary in animation to formalise things like outlines, because more people are involved in making the story come to life.)

People can be good at making up stories, but suck at writing them down. Maybe they're good at drawing? Then they can hire a writer and make a comic.

It's clear that a good writer is an asset to an anime; it's not so clear how. On the other hand, the narrative structure of the story is readily available in sound and vision.

Most of the time, substituting "writing" for "story" won't make a difference. But sometimes it does, e.g. when people claim the anime is only good because of the source material you'll really need to break that apart into its components. Who does what?

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There are lots of times when the presentation wants to draw attention to itself and yet serve the greater work at the same time. In writing, this would be when a line resonates with the reader or if a clever turn of phrase is used or if there's a particularly exciting piece of action.

For a film example, look at "Skyfall" - it features tons of shots that use color and shadow very well. These shots are attention-worthy in and of themselves, and they're not meant to have any meta meaning.
Yes, I agree. I'm actually one of those people who cares (or thinks he cares) more about the form than the content. At which point the idea of what serves what becomes shaky. Very often the story serves as an excuse to show off stylish stuff.

Still, I doubt you're supposed to wonder about camera angles in Skyfall, when you marvel at the shots (haven't seen the film).

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If you mean "meta" in the sense that the presentation tries to do something special or unusual, then I think that you've trapped yourself in a circular argument.
No, I misunderstood you. A beautiful shot you just like to look at is not meta. On the other hand, parody is inherently meta (but it's in itself neither unusual nor special).

I'll stop here; too much of this would be going off on a tangent. I don't actually get the idea that I disagree with you too much.
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Old 2013-03-19, 20:36   Link #59
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Originally Posted by Archon_Wing View Post
You will most definitely die without a heart, but without a liver, you will still be fucked.

An anime is dead without visuals, but it is crippled without writing. We can still talk about how crippled it is, right?
Lol. You, sir, have just won the interwebs. /thread

Okay, maybe not. I love argument too much to let it end here.

@ Triple R

Your whole analogy about sports teams works only to a certain extent and it really depends on how you look at "teamwork" as a whole. I find it ironic, for instance, that you highlighted "chemistry" for special mention. If it's the positive chemistry between a group of creators that leads to a successful anime, then I have to ask, what's the point of evaluating any of the individual as a standalone member, given that every anime project is made up a different team of individuals?

More to the point, is past performance a reliable predictor of future success? How can we know for sure? Maybe so-and-so writer can write well only if he works with so-and-so illustrator/animator? If they don't work together, individually, they're crap. Well, the project is then screwed — it's held hostage to the egos of its creators, who refuse to work towards a common vision. Or maybe it just happens that their stars were not aligned during the production period, and an otherwise dream team still mysteriously fails to deliver. Either way, the project is still screwed.

Also, if it's teamwork that's key, why are you so intent on assigning blame to individuals in the team? If the project fails as a whole, in my opinion, everyone is equally to blame. Where do you draw the line, frankly? How do we know if it wasn't a case of the animators not trying hard enough to match the writers' "vision" or that the writers failed to give enough creative direction to the animators?

Hence the humorous relevance of Archon_Wing's remark: Which is more important, your liver or your heart? Both are important. You can't do without one or the other. If either one fails, you're equally screwed.

That's why I don't understand your fixation with an anime's credits. To me, if a story piques my interest, I'd give it a try. I don't really make it a point to check first who is involved in its production — to me, that's irrelevant. For example, if I were to avoid all anime simply because of my dislike of Mari Okada as a writer (I find that's she's an effective writer by formula, but not particularly strong at creating characters with insight or variety), then I would have lost out on shows like Hanasaku Iroha, even while I hated AnoHana with a passion. Sure, I'll concede that maybe that's just a quirk of mine, but I don't go into a show with pre-judgments based on who's involved in its production.

To me, that's not very much different from the obsession with celebrity voice actors. I really don't care, at least not until after watching the show, who voiced whom.
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Old 2013-03-19, 21:20   Link #60
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Originally Posted by Reckoner View Post
People are obsessed with actors just the same in Hollywood. That's not unique to anime, film critics do exactly the same.
Agreed and the acting performance is important to film. I think the voice performance is important to anime as well.

Anyways going on the question why animation? I don't know why I like animation so much. Although to be fair I just like a good story no matter the medium and I can enjoy the same story more than once told in a different ways. After all I did enjoy all 3 versions of Nodame Cantabile: anime, manga, and live action.
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