Category Archives: Modern Visual Culture

On Patrons, Authors

To get this post, make sure you check out the podcast or read up on Quarkboy’s (Sam Pinansky) new project, from the ANN Cast link below.

[Quarkboy’s announcement is potentially huge news, but since it’s not really official yet, despite that he has confirmed it to the degree of his internet presence. So I guess I’ll spin that post for later, when it’s a real deal, hopefully this Autumn.]

ANN Cast, March 9th, 2012:

[Quarkboy:] …patronage… [You can start at 31:20]

ANN Forums (post transcribed to an easier-to-read format):

Surrender Artist wrote: Would fans who fund a project have any influence over the production, such as delegates on the production committee? Would they be treated as people who had just placed really, really advance preorders or more like shareholders entitled to some portion of the revenue?

[]

Zac [Bertschy] wrote: It’s full circle, though.

“Okay, we’ve removed your ability as an artist to make money through traditional means by breaking laws that nobody enforces.

Now, if you want to make a living as an artist, you have to do it this way.

By the way, if you want to make money this way, I get to dictate to you what your art has to be.”

There are probably millions of people who see nothing wrong with this model whatsoever.

[Quarkboy wrote:] But the micro-patronage model avoids this problem by essentially making any individual opinion too small to matter.

Doesn’t having a million donors giving $1 allow an artist more freedom than 1 company providing $1 million in a budget?
I don’t really see how
“By the way, if you want to make money this way, I get to dictate to you what your art has to be.”
doesn’t pretty much apply to the way things are today with large corporate funding. Think about how many anime directors have probably been told “Hey, we want you to use this song for your opening and ending.” because the music production company is a big part of the committee…

ANN Forums (the next dialog in the same discussion chain):

[Zac wrote:] I guess then it boils down to this: “Hey artist, who would you rather be a slave to? A huge soulless corporation or your demanding fans and their terrible ideas?”

I don’t think creative input should be part of *any* micro-patronage thing, or even any “angel investment” scenario. If the idea here is to empower the fan to more directly support the artist, we should also have total creative freedom for the artist baked in to any agreement. After all, everyone’s buying in because they believe in that artist’s vision.

Penny-Arcade, 3/16/2012 (about Bioware’s response to Mass Effect 3 ending issue):

Ownership is a very complicated business when it comes to cultural product, though.  They succeed by virtue of the fact that we, as players, incorporate these stories into our lives.  I’ve always wondered what the conflux of digital goods, interactive storytelling, algorithmic content creation, and democratized funding mean for an idea like authorship.  I think we’re beginning to find out.

Do you need me to spell it out for you? It’s terribly exciting.

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Disabled Girls

Not a Katawa Shoujo post, although that game project and the whole shebang surrounding it is kind of neat. And it’s a great chance for disabled gamers to have a dialog.

I’m more about the two episodes from the anime series of The World God Only Knows, episode 4 season one and episode 12 in season two. I mean, it was White Day. And my Rinko’s got the bug.

Do I mind? Not at the least. I mean I know if I had experienced the White Day event that I spent some time preparing (as all good BFs amirite) it would be all moe and memorable and whatever. But it’s okay to know that Rinko (and Manaka and Nene) suffered a bug and couldn’t behave as originally designed. [And instead, you did something on the 15th.]

I got New Love Plus a few weeks ago. At this point I’m already pretty much used to the issues with New Love Plus. Sparodic freeze? Yeah, happened 3 times so far. Performance problems? That drives me nuts. I spent almost more time waiting between loading and menu graphics animations than actually playing the game sometimes.

But that only makes every face to face interaction with Rinko that much more rewarding.

And somehow, those two episodes in Kaminomi are by far my most favorite episodes. It doesn’t surprise me.


Anime OP: Part 2

The thing continues. The thing where OP gets listed for some reason(s) and words attached to them. Sorted by age.

You can revisit part 1 and part 1.5 if you wish. I will resume the senseless measuring.

Onegai Twins OP

It’s got a motif–summer, sunflowers, smiling faces, film, flight. It’s the story about an awkward birth secret that nobody knew, brewing romance and budding individualists trying to remember what the hell was going on. There was the usual gaggle of teenage hijinks and some strange reference to its earlier prerequisite series, Please Teacher.

The song is relatively weak compared to the other entries on my list, but I like it just as much as any other. It is also a duet, which makes it kind of special. If I could typify I’ve Sounds and Summer in one song this would be it. The harpsichord is punchy, like aged furniture in some expensive import showroom, except you just noticed it was Ikea you are in. Nonetheless everything comes together by design, those fast cuts and articulated notes transporting me, almost, to where everything began.

I wonder how it looks on Blu-ray.

  • Pleasing? Please is its name after all
  • Teaser? Sure.
  • Pitch? Nobody knows its pitch, maybe?
  • Pace? 10/10
  • Marketing power? Could be better

Rank: A-
Rank comment: I hit it all the time.

Cowboy Bebop OP

I confess, it nearly didn’t make the list because it is by far the most overplayed crap western fandom does in terms of OP/ED. At least when it comes to anime. By 2012 I’m sick and freaking tired of hearing it blaring everywhere. At least give me some What Planet Is This!?, it’s the same damn of thing, but just less tiresome. However as far as an OP goes it is succulent. So it’s special because while the music was good, to me it was the animation that made it memorable.

There’s a strangely doodlish nature to the piece, I guess, it’s like jazz improvisation. I probably don’t need to mention the clever use of dark and white spaces, the stylish animation, humor, everything about it. There’s just not a lot to say, actually. It’s a relatively minimal piece where the animation was focus and it’s not trying to dazzle, just trying to do its thing.

  • Pleasing? Not anymore.
  • Teaser? Big time.
  • Pitch? Black?
  • Pace? Spot on
  • Marketing power? More than ever.

Rank: A
Rank comment: Please don’t loop it.

Himiko-den OP (any variety)

For a late 90s anime, the OP is surprisingly impressive because it manages to say a lot without doing very much at all. It made a huge splash for a sweet-voiced (or I guess by today’s lingo, moe-voiced) model turned idol. I think it’s important to distinguish this work with later upcomers (say, Shaft and Kana Hanazawa’s masterpiece) because all you had were these ornate illustrations sliced together by some catchy framing and simple cuts. The on-the-twos pulsating hair-in-the-wind and longing looks were used just enough in those 90 seconds to convey that supermodel stare into the heart of every moefag. To that end, Himiko-den was spot on.

On the other hand, the songs and pretty girls aside, the show was not too much like it; the OP did convey that fleeting fantasy idea that made the show somewhat exotic, and so the failure to match lies more heavily on the lack of execution of the anime itself than the OP. The anime itself would’ve been much better if it was, say, like Shaft and Kana Hanazawa’s efforts.

  • Pleasing? 9/10
  • Teaser? Oh yeah
  • Pitch? There was one?
  • Pace? Smooth but with character
  • Marketing power? Aplenty

Rank: A
Rank comment: I’d loop it, but more for the music.

Card Captor Sakura OP 1

Most universally catchy thing ever IMO. The song and visuals work so well.

It’s always kind of tricky when you make a long running series in terms of how to frame something that will be durable to watch all the time. Those CLAMP music videos tie-ins really glows when you frame the OP with that perspective.

  • Pleasing? Pretty good.
  • Teaser? I suppose.
  • Pitch? You wanna be a magical girl, babe?
  • Pace? Perfect
  • Marketing power? CCS MERCH NOW ON SALE

Rank: A
Rank comment: You just can’t help but to sing to it

Dinagiga OVA OP

You know you’ve hit the next level in “anime history” when it’s an OVA that you’re digging into. This one is, I’m going to guess, the one most people aren’t aware of. It was subtitled thanks to some intrepid old time digisubbers, but surely you must be aware the effort of subbing from LD.

What I like about this OP is that not only it’s one of those late 90s anime where all the money went into the OP and the first 5 minutes of the first episode (and this is an OVA!), it is also like the best-yet-totally-generic thing ever. The only appeal it had was conveyed through the animation and the direction, which is to say, delivers exactly what I want. Well, even with that said, it’s not too bad.

  • Pleasing? Sure.
  • Teaser? 7.5/10
  • Pitch? Not too sure, it’s kind of a generic robot thing.
  • Pace? Just right.
  • Marketing power? I guess so

Rank: B-
Rank comment: It is an earworm.

Escaflowne TV OP

This song is kind of like the other Yoko Kanno entry, so let’s leave that aside and focus on the animation. It’s obviously well-colored, there’s a consistent and thematically relevant sheen, lack of a better word, on this shoujo-esqe fantasy. Actually, that strikes me as the biggest point (and perhaps, problem). It’s really a fantasy anime pitched with a girl’s POV. Except when you examine the concept presented by Escaflowne like that, it feels like some cheap trick to inspire BL doujinshi. Well, I’m sure much ink has been spilled for those causes.

The montages of pretty people (and their pointy noises) aside, the OP sequence literally flies when we get to the giant robots, which for all of us who’ve seen the show, knows that’s what it’s all about. That, and random scenes of catgirls longingly looking at the stars, with a bad guy’s single tear permanently painted on his face. Escaflowne OP marries two concepts together, or maybe rather co-ops one into the other, in that happy, piano-percussion beat about girly fantasies.

  • Pleasing? Only if you don’t think about it.
  • Teaser? I guess.
  • Pitch? It could do a better job.
  • Pace? 8/10
  • Marketing power? LOL

Rank: B+
Rank comment: Not the last time a Yoko Kanno OP song overpowers a Shoji Kawamori’s story.

Magic User’s Club OVA OP

In a way this is memorable for the same way CCS OP3 was, but it’s much less over the top. It sticks to being cute, despite, obviously, this is otaku fare, folks. We’re in the mid-90s, the bubble has yet to explode completely, but we’re already mixing oil with water, the sickening spectre of moe with wholesome magical girls. [It almost reminds me of a skit from Inu x Boku SS anime a couple weeks ago…] I’m not sure, however, that matters much. I think what appeals visually is almost universal in this regard, that evocative direction and cute character animation will always find fans regardless which marketing speak people had been speaking before.

In this case, just the cut before the title card was already pretty ambitious, and that’s barely 13 seconds in. Somewhere between the computer-graphics-y effects and the pond-skipping animation, there was suppose to be something off-cute and gap-moe-ish. But I suppose that’s where this show deviates, or rather, is a deviation.

  • Pleasing? For some.
  • Teaser? So-so.
  • Pitch? You know what the show’s about.
  • Pace? Good pace.
  • Marketing power? 8/10

Rank: B
Rank comment: It’s not a masterpiece but it was a piece you can measure other things with.

Evangelion TV OP

Besides being “kami anison” class and available at every karaoke system manufactured since 1996, I think Gainax put a lot of effort into it, like any good serious giant robot anime planners would. Like the other two entries so far I think it’s got the nod because of the music. I mean nobody would know who Yoko Takahashi was without it.

The animation itself was trend-setting with the large amount of on-screen text it used, and I think that was a good short cut in this case, giving you the very first looks at the weird lingo employed by the show, keeping you intrigued, showing off what has happened in a symbolic sense. For what it’s worth, the rich setting of the show needed something like this to get you going. For hardcore fans/conspiracy theorists, it served, well, as breeding grounds of sorts. But to me I see it as a tribute to the typical “real robot” anime that likes to put out the entire plot in the OP.

  • Pleasing? I guess.
  • Teaser? Massively
  • Pitch? 9/10
  • Pace? It went on its merry way without overstaying
  • Marketing power? Somewhat

Rank: B+
Rank comment: This is the music you sing along to in the shower.

Tenchi Muyo TV OP 1

Anyone remember Sonia? I know you remember I’m a Pioneer, LOL. And I’m not going to go back older than this simply because you run into things like this, and I can’t really hate on it, and this is the best it gets. It’s just no longer any good trying to compare them. By any good I mean it’s not really a meaningful exercise.

Well, Tenchi Muyo, I barely remember thee. But you were landmark for at least being a pretty good production value harem show. Perhaps the first one worth liking, unless you’re into a certain esper and his saxophone-sucking friend. The 80s is a great barrier to my interests, I almost swear I like watching the OP (1) to Mobile Suit Gundam than most things in the 80s, and that stuff is relatively dreadful. Relatively. It kind of cuts off right around when AMG was a thing or when there was an elf chick.

  • Pleasing? It’s actually more soothing than it is exciting.
  • Teaser? Not really?
  • Pitch? All kinds
  • Pace? 7/10
  • Marketing power? Well, the English version maybe a bit more.

Rank: B
Rank comment: This is almost something entirely different.

Magic Knight Rayearth OP 1

The original crack. It’s crack for eyes and crack for ear. I list it here mainly for sentimental reasons, because it is the OP that broke me and turned me into the puddily otaku that might have become. And now it’s on Blu-ray. Also, it dates back to 1994, and I have a hard time finding something older that looked this good. In fact the only real competitor to it is OP3, which would’ve made the list if the 2nd half of the OP looked better (only if because the first 30 seconds were so excellent). And it wasn’t just flexing animation muscles per se; there’s just a methodical pace to the direction (for both OP1 and OP3 for that matter) that made it more compelling.

I also think magical girls shows tend to have the most anime-ish OPs. They’re often stylishly colorful and move to the marching of a catchy beat. I’m inclined to think that is ultimately what gets exported to today’s late-night otaku fare when we sample the various new OPs on this basis. What we’ve come to like about OP/ED is distinctly displayed in these things.

  • Pleasing? Like pain?
  • Teaser? A bit.
  • Pitch? It’s pretty clear.
  • Pace? Steady.
  • Marketing power? Not its strength

Rank: A
Rank comment: Mostly nostalgia at this point.

Wrap-up

It’s hard to really rank this list. Which is why I didn’t; I mean, I don’t really see any real purpose behind it; I enjoy all these works, and would glad to watch them repeatedly, talk about it, buy the single (…I think I have most of them if not all of them), get the DVD, whatever. The exercise is not just futile spewing words onto some vanity website, however. I did learn one thing: OP is a lot less interesting than ED. By this I mean OP sequences tend to be a lot more orthodox and they serve a bit like a formal, structural example of what the show has to offer. In even for edge cases like ef-melo, the OP is very faithful to what the show has to offer to its viewers and conveys structurally the same thing as boring and poorly-done OP. For everything, it isn’t until the show runs its course that we get crazy in the ED. Throughout this exercise I thought about my favorite EDs and I find it impossible to even repeat this exercise (or rather, I don’t think I want to repeat this exercise). Mainly because this list would be a couple times longer.

Another thing that came to mind is that when it comes to looking at the OP, it is a much more neutral and level ground to compare animation from the past with animation from today. Because you know a lot of the budget still went into the OP, it’s the most “OVA” type sort of work in a TV show. And usually a lot of care is put into it. With that in mind it seems actually surprising to see better OP today than you did 15+ years ago, on average. But this kind of comparison breaks down right around the start of the 90s. Well. LOL 90s anime.

I’ve listed these OP between parts 1 and 2, now in one place for you to review:

Part 1 (2011 to 2008)

Then we got: f-memo OP1 OP2 ef-melo OP1 OP2;  Paranoia Agent OPTsukuyomi Moon Phase OP 1; BECK OPDokuro-chan OPPani Poni Dash OP1 (2007 to 2005)

Part 2 (2003 to 1994)

Hope that was as fun for you as it is for me.


Anime OP: Part 1.5

You can read about part 1 here. I originally promised only 2 parts but I want to list some OP that is not on my all-time anything list. I think they’re nonetheless interesting examples, if not stellar ones. Or okay, at least educational. Maybe. Definitely if I removed more SHAFT crap in there.

Again, this is sorted roughly by age. And again, these are just here for your references [/butthurt disclaimer].

ef-memo OP1 OP2 ef-melo OP1 OP2

I think what’s remarkable about this … line of OP is how it works as a narrative device in the show, just like a pan or a dutch angle shot or the ED whiplash does to add dramatic tension and be just entertaining. Nothing is sacred. And if there’s one thing attractive about SHAFT x SHINBO, that is it: there’s nothing sacred on the visual field. I think Oomura took it to heart but judiciously applied it, with the results that we have.

I also admitted to cheating by listing 4 items under one. But it’s in the weirdness that the difference between the two OPs is a narrative device that makes this shebang remarkable. I mean, isn’t it beautiful? It’s like telling a story about our differences, and it is that difference that we have come together to celebrate, which is totally not ordinary and yet convincing. But yes, it is also weird. And I don’t really know of another example of this in anime.

Paranoia Agent OP

It’s the only OP Satoshi Kon did, and it’s, well, really good. What can I say? I guess for something relatively stiff it conveys such a sense of motion and momentum that probably overpowers one’s expectation of the show to some degree. Maybe that’s not so good given how the show was a bit of a mess, but hey, it looks pretty cool.

It’s also a good, pictorial example of trauma. And the more I talk about this, the fact he is no longer with us sinks in just that much more. *sniff*

Tsukuyomi Moon Phase OP 1 (any version)

It’s slim picking, and admittedly most of the strength comes from the surprisingly catchy song (Before Renai Circulation there was [insert thing]). I like the subversiveness of the visuals and that it is basically the show in a nutshell. It is probably the only time, as well, that I’ll confess to liking one of Shinbo’s lolipedo baits–as far as a tool to develop character, Shinbo’s OP do a great job here.

I’m also just struck at how timeless this thing is. The notion of moe traces back to the likes of Nausicaa and the magical girls of yore, but something so shamelessly cute is a benchmark of otaku pandering that later works will be measured against.

BECK OP

The music video aesthetics is always a crowd pleaser, like the GTO TV openings or the K-ON endings. I always thought that the Bebop movie OP would be memorable because of that, but damn, if something other than big jazzy intros can be catchy. I mean, it’s hard for that sort of tune to be catchy–it’ll be very annoying well before it can be catchy, as you’ll see in Part 2 of this post. BECK, instead, deploys some corny Japanese rock bands and the effects are pretty spot-on. Even if it was made to hit in America and fail at it.

The visuals and animation is some of Kobayashi Osamu at his best. It really works well with the style the show/manga has going for it.

Dokuro-chan OP 1 and 2 (but mostly the first)

PI PI PI PI RU PI RU PI RU PI PI RU PI~

It’s one of those shows where the OP literally is everything you need to know about the show. Believe it or not that’s much rarer than one would expect, but a typical anime OP is a lot more serious than this. The catchy gag vocals aside, the animation is nothing to write home about, and conceptually the animation follows the song almost to a tee. Thankfully the song is great, and it has a much more sinister take in which we see in its glory when animated. Fact of the matter is, you just don’t see OP like this anymore. Today’s shows just overshoot this sort of thing.

The second OP is a powered-up version of the first, but it doesn’t work by itself, so the first one is the one you want to watch. I mean, the second OP is almost the same thing; same song different verses.

Pani Poni Dash OP1

This one is a doozy. Any of the three OPs are good but I think OP 1 wins every time. And it’s really the first time that Shinbo did an OP where we get up and up on rhythm and less on animation, where the presentation becomes a thing we want over substance. I mean, in the end, anime OP are a mode of presenting the rest of the show. So it works. You can probably plot a chart where on-beat cuts per minute for each op and it’ll be kind of a straight line for every one of these, from Pani Poni Dash to Nisemonogatari.

I guess I should laugh at the metronome in the OP.


You Were So Close, Justin!

I rather like the lucid description of the home video business. It’s clear that this was Justin’s area of concentration in his feature describing the “Anime Industry.” Quotes, because it’s more about finance than industry.

I have a no-longer-hidden agenda about this: if people can learn and be equipped with how the finance end and the way money moves between parties in this industry, they would at least try to only whine about intelligible things and say things that makes sense. Or so I hope. Actually any improvement from the status quo is desirable, and I was hoping a home videos guy like him can at least answer this question:

Why didn’t anyone buy Kaiba?

Let’s recall Crunchyroll’s troll graphics reposted from /a/

It’s oh-so-easy to believe that the success of an anime project is based on how well it sells on DVD or BD or what have you. After all, it’s true. But it’s also not true in a bunch of cases. There are a lot of nuances and it’s not always the same thing even if we narrow things down to only late night anime bankrolled by the typical production committee. It’s not even always the same thing if we narrow it to just, say, noitamina shows (maybe a topic for another day). The break-even factor is also a big deal; by default a production committee show doesn’t need to make all its money back from home video (with exceptions). Anything that is an adaptation already is going to have the original material being pushed by some marketing person trying to sell it.

Anyway, the point is, this is not so simple! It may not even make the kind of logical sense you think it makes (or I think it makes).

So when I’m reading this pretty neat essay about the home video business (kind of wished he went into BD vs DVD a bit, but oh well) and you see this chart:

I’m like, great, now everyone is going to think somehow home video sales to break even equals the cost of the production equal a production that doesn’t lose money. It’s not even what Justin was referring to at that point.

Which is, actually, okay. Because people who don’t know much about the finances of all this wouldn’t know what the Manabi line is. But those who do would be like, wait, why is it so high?

Actually it is always good to be critical of stuff you read on the internet. And Manabi line was born on the internet. So let’s go to the best write-up we have so far about that.

2301~3000 
Many titles fall in this category. Marginally performing shows, many of which didn’t sell as much as their popularity would make you think they would.
Ex: Manabi Straight!, true tears #1, Sketchbook, Gun X Sword, Yami to Boshi to Hon no Tabibito

3001~4000
The line of profitability. Also the line at which one could say a title is doing okay, but some may call some titles that sell this many a failure, so it’s quite hard to judge.
Ex: Denno Coil, Soul Eater, School Days, Linebarrels of Iron, Super Robot Swars OG, etc

First thing, easy low-hanging fruit: the Manabi line is the oricon first-week figure. Note that in Justin’s write up there is a big point about how even some poorly sold show can break even in the long run, and that’s really at play here. To that end, some numbers I read suggests that for the typical late-night anime we’re looking about maybe 10-15% additional Oricon-recorded sell-through until it gets lost in the noise. So the 3000 or 2900 figure for the Manabi line is ballpark enough.

Second, it is quite hard to judge, even for 2ch types in general. That kind of accounting is just off limits to outsiders. And it would be expected that different productions break even at different points, even if they may be within the proverbial ball park. So given that I am not the 2ch type, I am not going to make a guess here. Or rather, should you?

Man, she really is a problem child.

So when it comes down to it, it’s not extremely difficult to break even. I think that is the whole point behind late night TV anime. There are a lot of juicy stuff that supports this in detail that is left out of Justin’s first part write-up, so maybe one of these days we can talk about it. For now, please just don’t get the wrong idea about something something BD/DVD sales something profit. It is not so simple.

I know I know I just linked to a simple ranking where BD/DVD sales something something …wait, just what does it mean? It’s kind of a trick question isn’t it? Significance, I think, is the metric. Which may not be the same thing as profitable or success. Something to think about.

I’ll leave you with one more thing to think about: Manabi Straight is getting a Blu-ray box. It joins the rest of the cast of digitally-created anime from before Macross Frontier. I mean, most shows break even is a pretty safe bet I’d say.


Anime OP: Part 1

I was just thinking how well encapsulated anime OPs are as both a pleasing thing, a teaser, and a pitch about what the show is. It’s also a pace setter and even at times a way to mislead the audience. It is a marketing tool, as well.

It naturally goes on that I thought about my own top 10 anime OP under those lenses. I used to update my top 10s, as they were actual lists of things, not just vague recollections or rose-tinted nostalgia disguised as some metric about how #1 is better than #10.So I’m going to just talk about a few of these OP that I like. I will try to proceed systematically for greater fun and enjoyment++ but this is probably not going to turn out to be a “your OP is worse than my OP” kind of ranked list.

This is part 1 of a two-part post, mainly because it’s taking me a long time to just come up with them, and the older I dig the harder it gets? Maybe it’s just that I have been not getting enough sleep (damn you iM@S). Who knows?

And maybe I’ll think about the other categories at some point later. No promises.

The Idol Master OP 2

Since I’m listing by date, some of my “honorable mentions” (it’s not like I’m doing a top 10 at any rate, so maybe it doesn’t matter) gets mentioned first. This OP is something I thought about a lot before putting it in here. Mainly, I just didn’t think it’s got a lot of staying power. So it’s just an “honorable mention.”

What it has, though, is catchy direction, solid character animation, and a very cool bridge. You don’t hear many cool bridges in anison. Yes, OP1 is catchier and the song is probably better. I just don’t think it’s got what OP2 has overall. Plus, they dance a lot more! That must count for something right?

  • Pleasing? DANCING!
  • Teaser? Well, not much left to tease.
  • Pitch? 8/10
  • Pace? Very spot on
  • Marketing power? As much as Takane’s hair is white

Rank: A-
Rank comment: ENCORE WA NAI LIFE

Hourou Musuko OP

I think this one is listed here because it’s one of those story-element things where it does a superb job setting the mood for the show, but also hides within a possible narrative that says something about the story itself.

The magic is in the music, yes, but it is also in that strangely distilled, but masterfully directed framing. When combined with witful color direction and a restraint that you will only find in anime for actual adults, the end product is remarkable just like that, even if there’s nothing to remark…or is there?

  • Pleasing?  I love “less is more”
  • Teaser? Kinda, yeah
  • Pitch? It’s really opaque but it’s there.
  • Pace? Slowly and methodical
  • Marketing power? 5/10

Rank: B
Rank comment: For srsbzns OP analysis and OPED types only

MariaHolic S1 OP

This OP barely makes the inclusion mainly for so succintly and stylishly express the overall concept of the story. Majority of the animation in the OP is 3D CG, and it looks fairly competent, if oversimplified. The song and the visuals just merged like a couple that were made for each other.

There is violence and anger but also fun and just the right amount of sarcastic despair that signifies the average SHAFT adaptation. Don’t take it so seriously.

  • Pleasing? Sorta
  • Teaser? Totally
  • Pitch? Parabola
  • Pace? Just like the song
  • Marketing power? 7.5/10

Rank: A-
Rank comment: Kobayashi’s big break

Xam’d OP 1

I think the song was the most striking thing about this OP. It is not your everyday anime with an electric-rock pumping the animation engine. It helps that the Xam’d had an unique presentation, being one of the only anime available to Americans before it was available to the Japanese, digitally available. It was the one watershed moment where I can now point and say “the future is here.” The future was also $4 a pop. It definitely served well as a marketing tool, and I have a couple t-shirts and an autograph from Boom Boom Satellites to prove it. Sony made the OP the primary trailer for the show, and I guess that goes to show the OP being, well, good.

The animation, however, is actually the crown jewel for the OP. It’s worth repeating that animating the OP animation is time consuming and relatively expensive compared to the remainder of a TV series. I’m not sure if Xam’d counts as a TV series, that said. It is a pleasing thing visually, especially given the moving camera treatment, the perspective changes, the way the mailman ran. It kind of sets up your expectation for some mysterious action slash Nausicaa naturalism nonsense, which Xam’d was. The pacing, though, I guess is up to debate.

  • Pleasing? Yes
  • Teaser? Sure
  • Pitch? 8/10
  • Pace? Fast and explode-y
  • Marketing power? Lots.

Rank: A
Rank comment: I’d loop it. Repeatedly.

Kannagi OP [LOL gimme a link]

It sure is plain, that OP. This is what I would also consider as “honorable” mentions but taking digital pens to a choreographed idol dance is probably old hats by Kannagi standards. The post-Haruhi ED generation (that probably should also be a honorable mentions) craves this nonsense, just like how the special episode 6 ED of Kannagi was kind of one of a kind. Or how the two OP for the idolM@ster was just the…best?

The song is catchy, if plain. The dance is simple, but the animation makes it outstanding and mesmerizing. The end result is that it kind of hampers the overall experience? You feel like there can be so much more to it but in the end it’s kind of just a plain anime OP.

  • Pleasing? Sure.
  • Teaser? Like a whore
  • Pitch? 95mph
  • Pace? 9/10
  • Marketing power? Some

Rank: B
Rank comment: There are a lot of better OPs out there.

Manabi Straight OP

It’s probably the last Megumi Hayashibara song that I will sing to myself fondly, marking the end, hopefully, of the era when I didn’t really know any better. Well, I probably don’t still. The more important thing about this OP is that it is similar to another quality work in recent memory, Hourou Musuko OP, where the OP tells a story if you dig deep enough. Perhaps a controversial story, even. It did stir up some legit controversy at first when people complained that it was outright glorifying graffiti, tagging up a school. Most people opt not to dig any deeper than Manabi Straight’s strangely deformed exterior and moe/kuukikei style filling.

But as someone who did, the OP was rewarding beyond expectation. There’s a beautiful thematic symmetry within the show and the OP expresses it just as well. It sums up the soul of the show. It’s only then that the lightness of the OP theme song made sense, under the harsh light of reality that it parodied.

For clarity’s sake, the OP I linked is the original; a “digital ink” version replaced the original OP after the graffiti complaints.

  • Pleasing? JET SET RADIOOO
  • Teaser? It doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination at first, but much more in context.
  • Pitch? 5/10
  • Pace? Just like the show
  • Marketing power? It cries forget-me-not.

Rank: A-
Rank comment: One single tear

…. and I think that’ll do for now. I have like, 9 OPs to mention that I think are worth mentioning but kind of fall below the threshold (I’m not even sure MariaHolic falls above or below that) between Manabi Straight OP and the first on the list in the next post. Sigh. This is going to take forever.


Geometry, Women in Anime, Aquarion EVOL

In order to crank up the hole puns and symbolism to over 9000, Aquarion Evol episode 9 is… well, over the top to say the least. With the facts and concepts presented in that episode you can play some neat thought experiments/assocation games.

So, random rambling incoming.

Phallic symbolism: I think it’s important to remember the genre trope of having a robot made up of combining parts. Voltron, etc., tend to establish this kind of system of symbols. I think Aquarion likewise play with these ideas in the usual postmodern way that the late-night anime of 10’s have been doing. There is the famous Mugen Punch from the first season, but ever since the OTL we know EVOL is out to do something with these attacks that slightly deviates from the original. Well, maybe not so much, if you consider how the Mugen Punch was used in Aquarion S1’s finale.

So what does that say when Mix will fill all your holes? It’s like instead of being cut by Blazing Sword, it gets stuck up your nose and butt and ear? And gave you really bad acne all over? More importantly, is this any kind of thing that could be interpreted as a sex-distinct literary treatment?

Feminism: I guess one thing that underlines Aquarion is that there’s always a sense that men and women are different, but they have to do the same things. It’s like humans and Zentradis are different, but they end up living together. But who is like the Zentradi? If we consider that public education in Japan is closer to a canning factory than a breeding ground of the diverse, new or exciting, it almost seems like Aquarion is a festival that cheers for the difference between men and women in the context that once they leave the school they’re going to get sucked up, helplessly by alien abductors [using lingo from another show: sent to the child boiler?]. And there’s no telling apart between men and women in some figurative sense after that. At least while in school they can entertain fighting these manifestation of real worlds using metaphoric countermeasures.

Rape is definitely a plot device: How about the mind-controlled (I’m guessing this is what it is meant by those colorful eye highlights) solders looking for some nubile women to, uh, abduct? I mean, right, the SF mumbo-jumbo aside, they’re just looking for some women to bear their children, and you get what I’m getting at.

Andy wants to save his first gattai with Mix. Okay, I think he isn’t really isn’t in a position to be picky, but I think he said what he said just to be cool (from the POV of the writer; Andy may very much want his first to be with Mix) and impress the lady. But if we understand what Aquarion’s gattai is, isn’t this back to re: Rape? Well, maybe not rape, since it doesn’t work unless people “consent” by “synchronizing” (see how rape can totally be reworked into a plot device here lol).

My sex harassment can’t be this cute: Compare that with, say, Andy being consistently lecherous. Or is that just a biological thing? Or more importantly, a harmless thing? How does that compared trash talk by some douche fighting game guy?

As an aside, this is kind of not what I want to see how Andy is written. Andy is kind of the guy who moves forward despite setbacks. But it’s the trick that he does so by digging, figuratively and literally. Well, it’s kind of weird that he got the low-down about Mix by eavesdropping, you’d think he would just ask another girl like Mikono. Or maybe they could’ve written a scene where Amata tells Andy what Mikono said. Anyway.

And I think I understand why Andy is called Andy W. Hole. Because all his holes are the same size. Also see: canning factory.

EVOL has, from the start, written it so that Mix does the usual tsundere act. I also think it is no coincidence she looks just like Kirino. It was in a fairly stereotypical way that, like OreImo, you were kind of expecting it but the show rides that expectation all the way to the bank. And Mix’s got bank.

So here’s the real interpretative thing you could do: when Andy was convincing Mix about the hole in her heart, what does it mean in a “fill” context? Is Mix the one filling it? Is Andy trying to oblige? He “digs” into Mix’s personal construct, and I think the symbolically consistent interpretation is that Andy is still the phallic aggressor but it is up to Mix to change her mind. He only showed her the way. It is amusing that in the end Andy doesn’t get any farther and it is Mix that actually takes the dominant position, but with Amata/Mikono. I think this is as close to a progressive/compromise sort of deal as we can get in anime.

Knowing this is Aquarion, I probably should not be expecting any interpretation that is really progressive in regards to sex and gender, but it provides at least the tools to do so.