Otaku Bunches of Dolts

There is something charming about watching crappy-looking animation about people struggling with lower-class living. I think Kaiji is a good example. Ben-to does the same kind of thing. I mean I laughed out loud when I saw this:

Just in case it isn’t obvious, it seems whoever was doing the background just went on the web and took images from supermarkets or something and shopped them in as sprite things. Which I guess is okay! I don’t know. And I’m going to assume shopping jpegs into your background without even smoothing out the artifacts, count as a cheap, time-saving thing to do. And it is the kind of thing a DVD/BD release will fix up for that audience (and as well, paying customers deserve better).

If we accept anime is animation made on the dirt cheap, invariably something like this is potentially a desirable thing to do…if things like visual integrity can be stretched a little for the sake of commercialization of disposable entertainment as expressive artworks, reflecting the reality of today’s increasingly commercialized cultural landscape. It probably gets ironic if I dig deep enough, so I’ll spare you that nonsense.

The thought I had was more along the lines of some praises for Akiyuki Shinbo’s cost-cutting stuff, how his slow transformation of anime from expressive motions to expressive slideshows, and more importantly the ability to appreciate the latter as some kind of entertainment, reflect some kind of conditioning. I mean it used to be the case (and still is in a way) that fans trash that sort of anime paradigm–did someone say something about Fate/Zero’s talking heads? Or better yet, Stand Alone Complex’s? I mean those are big-budget anime (as far as anime on TV goes). But there is some kind of directional design in the way the scenes progress. JP’s detailed it as well. And it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a slideshow made of quotes from a light novel or just some woman walking in circles.

[Damn it ufotable! Quit doing that.]

I wonder if there is some kind of information resolution thing at work. Acting via facial expression and the like; some of those things require paying some degree of attention and the ability to process information a little bit more than beyond the level of instinctively comprehending body language. I think anime and manga aren’t the sort of mediums best at expressing that sort of subtle expressions; or rather they make their marks by exaggerating those things.

The thought continues in the form of so-called inforgraphics. I generally despise them; preferring heavily in the form of xkcd’s hard work. I would probably state further that I have nothing against inforgraphics as an idea, except that most of the ones I’ve seen are undesirable in the sense that it is closer to numerology than expressing information in a way that is truthful. To use an analogy, it’s like trying to write rhymes with disregard of what the rhymes mean. Maybe it’s an outright example where truth and beauty can be 100% at odds, but it runs against the way I prefer to idealize the pursuit of both. It is also very database-animal-ish. I think for a lot of people it comes down to having an x% of content catering to the person while achieving a y% of entertaining value, and then it will pass the test. Even if in the end you get something neither beautiful nor truthful, what comes of it becomes interesting enough that it will sell DVDs and Blu-Rays.

It is in such context that I find something like Ben-to a lot more honest and despite its questionable production, much easier to enjoy.

PS. Did Sato wear…the anti-zettai ryouiki?


2 responses to “Otaku Bunches of Dolts

  • jpmeyer

    Bonus: it’s not like it’s impossible to do “expressive slideshows” either! Hulu’s got a whole bunch of Critierion movies there, and the silent ones like The Passion of Joan of Arc or Battleship Potemkin do just that.

    (Also bonus: watch a really late silent movie, like around 1927 or so. The visuals are pretty much the same as a sound film, with the only difference of course being that right after a character “talks”, you get a title card with what they just said.)

  • ToastCrust

    It’s funny, during one of my silent cinema classes, one guy went on the record to describe Joan as being “cute” in Jeanne d’Arc, and claimed that cuteness was important for the pathos of the film.

    Aaah, 200 level classes~

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