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When I think of western anime fanart, the first thing that pops into my mind is something I call the “Deviantart style.” Characters are usually drawn fairly realistically, their bodies becoming canvases for a psuedo-airbrushed look, every shadow and every highlight blended so softly that characters can probably be best described as “glowing.”
Now I am fully aware that Deviantart is home to an incredible variety of artists, and that even among the anime-style artists this is not anywhere close to the sole artistic style present. Nor am I even saying that this style is bad. However, as far as I can tell, this glowing style tends to be the most popular and ubiquitous, especially at anime conventions.
So my questions are: Why is this style so popular, and how did people learn it?
When I look at the most popular manga artists, none of them actually color their images in this manner, not Kishimoto (Naruto) nor Kubo (Bleach), and especially not Oda (One Piece). Branching out, I can only think of a handful of artists who get anywhere close to that Deviantart style, and most of them cut their teeth in the world of adult doujinshi, such as Satou (High School of the Dead), so their styles end up being closer to visual novel CG than anything else.
One major difference is that the aforementioned Shounen Jump artists all color using real tools, and when I think about it, the Deviantart style seems born out of an almost purely digital environment, where textures can be finely tuned to almost microscopic levels, and stroke lines can be edited down with the utmost precision. It is, perhaps, a style resulting from the ability to hit ctrl-z in Photoshop and Illustrator. Of course, I’m not saying that it’s an impossible thing to overcome, but that perhaps artists who have experience with traditional media may be better at transcending limitations and making that style their own.
When it comes to anime artwork among western fans, I feel like there is an obsession with “realism.” In OEL manga for instance, a great amount of attention is put on screentones for smooth shading and for perspective in building backgrounds. With fan artists, perhaps this manifests itself into a hyper-realism where vibrant gradients rule the land. Not to pick on him again or anything, but it feels like the “five-tone shading” concept taken to the extreme, where the number of tones approaches infinity and the whole thing turns into a calculus metaphor. In a way, it reminds me of superhero comics, where musculature is emphasized greatly because they similarly harken to reality through exaggeration.
The closest artist I can think of which combines all of these elements is probably Terasawa (Space Adventure Cobra), but I get the impression that not very many artists on Deviantart take their inspiration from Terasawa.
But this is all speculation on my part. What do you think of the Deviantart style? Like it? Hate it? Do you use it? If so, what are you influences?
I just want to figure out how it came to be.
Whenever I listen to the full version of the opening to Brave of the Sun Fighbird, a particular lyric gets my attention. Not present in the TV version, the line says, “Kanashimi o kudake, taiyou no tsubasa,” or “Crush sadness, oh wings of the sun.” The way the singer Yasuko Kamoshita emphasizes each syllable of “kanashimi o kudake” sends a jolt of excitement through me.
I think the reason why I notice it so much is because it’s a super robot theme sung by a woman. However, it’s not just because it’s a female vocalist, but because I feel like given the exact same song with the exact same fiery lyrics, male singers and female singers for super robot anime produce different results. Music’s not my strong suit, but if I had to describe the difference, it’s that the male singers tend to sound more passionate while the female singers tend to sound more heartfelt. When Kamoshita tells Fighbird to “crush sadness,” you can hear a twinge of sadness in her voice too.
You might be thinking, “But wait a second, it might just be because this is a 90s anime and at that point anime songs were changing!” And you’d be right on both points, but I think that this feeling extends back towards previous decades as well. Let’s not forget that female singers for super robot anime have been around for quite a while. I get the same impression from Horie Mitsuko’s work on Super Electromagnetic Machine Voltes V and Space Demon Daikengo, as well as MIO/MIQ’s Aura Battler Dunbine and Heavy Metal L-Gaim openings, though those two are real robot shows so that genre shift factors in as well.
“Men and women sound different!” seems like such an obvious thing, but it really makes me aware of how the same song or piece of art can take on varying emotions once you change certain pieces.
For a fun comparison, let’s look at various openings throughout the decades featuring duets between Horie Mitsuko and anime song legend Mizuki Ichirou.
Marvel vs Capcom 3 successfully captures the look a fighting game about Ryu fighting Captain America targeted towards American audiences wants to have. It’s a grittier style when compared to the one used in Tatsunoko vs Capcom, which makes perfect sense. MvC3‘s aesthetic step in the right direction however reminded me of a similar attempt not so long ago, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe.
Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe was an aesthetic failure. Just like MvC3, the game looked to bring together two sets of characters by uniting them under a more realistic visual style, but the end product was just a series of awkwardly stiff 3-d models and jerky animations.
What is going on with that torso?
Worse yet were the Fatalities, that classic trademark of the Mortal Kombat franchise, the violent killing blows which defined the series in the eyes of so many gamers. In MKvsDC, the Fatalities were not only toned down in brutality but also terribly uncreative regardless of the level of violence, especially when compared to the stylish Instant Kills of games like Blazblue.
My goal isn’t to just trash MKvsDC though, and of course I can’t really compare the gameplay to a game that isn’t actually out yet. I just wanted to point out that it’s amazing just how much two different projects came aim for the same basic goal and produce such different results. Marvel vs Capcom 3 is exactly what Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe wanted to be.
In high school I used to hang out in the computer lab after class, where my friends and fellow anime fans would use the school’s T1 connection to download videos of anime openings. After a while we started mixing and matching opening animations. with opening themes in a relatively crude fashion by having two video windows open and playing the video from one with the audio from the other. It was really fun and while I understand that the human mind will just associate any two things together like that, I still enjoy doing it.
For a while I was using Youtube Doubler to approximate the effect, but now I find out there’s something called “Tubedubber” which does exactly what I was hoping for, allowing you to stream the video from one Youtube clip with the sound from another, and it even has enough settings so that you can time it properly.
I particularly enjoyed combining Gundam X with Gaogaigar back in high school. The only flaw is that the audio ends before the video, so your only choice is to pause the video as the song ends. Currently, I’ve gone with something decidedly more patriotic.
Try it out! It’s also a fairly low-level way to make some super basic AMVs.
For the most part, video games have advanced in a positive direction in terms of artistic progression. Though I don’t agree entirely on how our newfangled advanced realistic graphics are being used or certain trends in storytelling or interaction, I can say that we’re doing okay. At the same time though, I’ve come to realize that when video games look this good and have fully elaborated stories and such, it often leaves less room for creative, off-the-wall adaptations in fiction.
At this point with games looking and feeling closer to the realm of film and animation and other storytelling mediums with characters having concrete personalities, there are fewer opportunities to make great leaps in interpretation. Yes, I understand that products like the Super Mario Bros. movie are exactly the kinds of disaster that comes from being too “loose” an interpretations, but I believe there is a definite charm.
This applies not just to storytelling but also visuals as well. Although the Tekken OVA of the 90s was awful, could you imagine a Tekken anime today, given the fact that it would be 2-D interpretations of such detailed 3-D characters? Good looking or not, you could see the move from blocky polygons anime designs to make some sort of sense.
Is that too much to ask, I wonder?
Ever since Shin Mazinger, I’ve noticed that it’s been getting harder and harder to find anime openings and endings on Youtube. Oddly enough however, the song uploads themselves on Youtube go relatively unchecked.
What gives? I mean, I know the anime companies are getting more concerned about protecting their properties and preventing piracy, but I feel like having the openings on Youtube were some of the best ways to get people to notice shows both new and old. Why can’t fans keep their minute and thirty seconds of Durarara! opening from getting removed? It’s not like they’re entire episodes or even clips from the actual episodes themselves! There, I could see their point of contention, but I feel like this is different. I just want to show someone how cool an opening is without having them load the stream for an entire episode on Crunchyroll. Heck, they even do it for some decades-old shows! I’m tiring of this ham-fisted approach.
Basically, if companies are taking openings off of Youtube, I at the very least would like them to upload it themselves so that we may continue to enjoy it and they can continue to send copyright violation letters.
Much like my attempt at compiling “Non-Japanese” magical girl shows, I’ve recently started a Youtube playlist consisting of “Non-Japanese” giant robot shows. My definition of “Non-Japanese” here is somewhat lenient, as I’ve also included anime which were heavily adapted for foreign audiences, as well as shows animated in Japan for foreign audiences. Something like Voltron which was based on Golion and Dairugger XV but then got additional episodes made due to the popularity of Voltron counts as both. Parodies are okay as well, as evidenced by The X-Treme Adventures of Brandon and Mallory.
I’m taking suggestions, so if anyone knows any series/movies/whatever besides the ones I have already, please chime in. Please keep in mind that they must be lean more towards the “robot” side and less towards the “powered suit” side, though I understand that such a line is blurry at best. To give you an idea of where the line is, I do not consider The Centurions or Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors to be giant robot series. Dino-Riders is on the fence, but if you can convince me that a T-Rex in advanced techno armor is not that different from an Evangelion, then I might include it as well. But most likely not.
In a previous post, I talked about how Time Warner was experimenting with tiered pricing plans, and the impact this could have on anime fans if it was approved for all Time Warner services across the United States.
Thankfully however, the plan has had such a negative reaction with consumers in test markets that it’s back to the drawing board for the folks at Time Warner. Full-out rejection. The movement to stop the tiered price plan scheme was headed by the website Stop the Cap, which even got New York’s Senator Chuck “The Deadliest Barbarian” Schumer to give Time Warner a stern talking to.
So for anime fans, the fear of having our ability to watch anime the way we want to has subsided, at least for now. This will not be the last time Time Warner tries something, but I can only hope the next time will be more sensible. If not, this’ll probably happen again.
Recently it’s been revealed that Time Warner Cable plans to start implementing bandwidth caps, and is trying this strategy in select areas of the United States. If you go over these (very low) caps, you have to pay $1 per GB. You might be thinking that oh, all you have to do is just not use bittorrent so much, but even if we factor bittorrent AND all downloaded anime out of the equation, this is still a problem for fans because of the increase in websites dedicated to streaming anime online legally and how this bandwidth capping will affect even people who want to support the shows they love.
Think of the very likely scenario that you’re watching a show, and it doesn’t load properly, so you have to refresh the page a few times. If you’re under Time Warner’s plan, you’ve just eaten up a good portion of the bandwidth you’ve been allotted that month. Of course, anime is still a niche market, but this also affects regular non-anime viewers who simply prefer to watch their shows online and not on the tv.
What we have here is an attempt by Time Warner to pull people from their computers and put them back in front of their TVs so they can buy on-demand from Time Warner directly and make you go back to viewing long commercials (provided you don’t own a Tivo). And while I understand that Time Warner does not want to lose profit, I can’t help but see this as nothing but a defensive turtling with fingers plugged into ears, ignoring the progress that is happening to visual entertainment.