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Genshiken II‘s been running for a while now, and every so often I go back and look at the earlier chapters of the new series (would you expect me to do otherwise?). Upon a recent revisit, it hit me just how much the artwork had changed between the inaugural Chapter 56 and its immediate followup in Chapter 57.

For comparison, here is Ogiue in Chapter 56 on the left, and 57 on the right.

There’s a clear difference between the two versions of Ogiue (or any other character) that can’t be chalked up simply to the gradual evolution of art style that happened throughout the original Genshiken. This change, given just how drastic it is, was more abrupt, though one has to keep in mind that the real life gap between 56 and 57 was almost a year (Chapter 56 was originally a one-shot that got turned into the start of a new series).

Because of how much softer and more cutesy Chapter 56 Ogiue is portrayed, my suspicion is that Kio’s style was affected by his time working on Jigopuri. Indeed, Chapter 56 of Genshiken actually came out in the middle of his run on Jigopuri.

In fact, if you look at one of the characters in Jigopuri, the little sister Kaname (pictured left), she looks pretty close to the Ogiue of Chapter 56. What’s also kind of funny is the fact that Volume 1 of Jigopuri features an Ogiue cameo on the inside cover, and it’s clear that the Jigopuri style hadn’t fully taken over Kio’s artwork yet at the time he drew it.

I think it’s interesting how an artist can get so influenced by how they’ve been drawing that it makes it difficult to shift gears back to a different kind of story. It’s different depending on the artist of course, but I have to wonder how much effort Kio put into switching into a less moe-type art style. Something tells me it wasn’t easy.

Back when I was watching the Chihayafuru anime, I began to associate the show in my head with the American cartoon franchise Ben 10. Even though their respective subject matters are worlds apart, both featured fiery tomboys of elementary school age whose later appearances would involve a time skip to high school where their hair is longer and their personality a little more mature. But where the transition for Chihaya felt right for me in the sense that she seems like the same character only older (and thus different in some ways but similar in others), Gwen’s change inBen 10: Alien Forcewound up seeming like an entirely different character to me. Not only her personality but even her character design turned out to be significantly different.

Of course I know why this is the case: Chihaya was planned from the start to have this age jump, as the episodes involving her childhood are mainly flashbacks and setup for the story proper where Chihaya starts her own karuta club, while there was clearly no original intention to have a time-skip sequel to Ben 10. When Alien Force did come around, it streamlined some of the elements of the previous series and in the process wound up as something of a break from its predecessor. At the same time, however, the fact that Chihaya is in many ways a similar character to Gwen just made me more aware of how this sort of transition can be done well.

By the way, Chihayafuru season 2 was just announced today, but I swear that my posting this is merely coincidence. If I had that sort of power I’d use it for better things, like a Fujoshissu! anime.

Recently, I was compelled to watch the Kiddy Grade opening, followed by the opening to its sequel, Kiddy Girl-and. For those of you who have never seen either show, I can best sum up the series as being a “girls with guns, maybe” show in a futuristic science fictional setting, and probably one of the shows that sticks out in people’s minds when you say “Studio Gonzo.”

Actually, the shows can probably best be summed up by watching the openings, which I invite you to do. Don’t worry about it, I’ll wait.

The original was fairly popular back in 2002, and seven years later out came its sequel, which I heard was not that well-received even by the typical diehard Japanese anime fan. Regardless of success or lack thereof however, when I watch those openings back to back, I can feel the flow of seven years of anime history, more than I can with other comparable methods. I can watch all of the Cutie Honey and Gegege no Kitarou openings and perceive the changes that have occurred over decades, but I can’t feel quite as much as with Kiddy Grade. I think the reason this difference exists in me is because this past decade was the time when I as an anime fan (and many others) could watch new shows within days or week of Japan, a dream at best for most people prior to the advent of the internet. I was there, man. It was intense (no it wasn’t).

But I don’t think it’s just the fact that I lived in this period that gives me the sensation of time flowing. It’s a definite factor, no doubt about it, but I think there’s also something different about the qualities of each opening, not just the fact that they feature different characters with different personalities, but also the way they introduce their content. Thus, though I’ve seen both shows either in part or in whole, I’m going to be thinking about them purely from what their openings have to stay about them (though I will be using their names for convenience’s sake).

The Kiddy Grade opening aims to give a sense of intrigue while introducing its main characters as two mysterious and attractive ladies. Eclair, the brown-haired one, is leggy and busty and is portrayed as the “muscle.” The “brains,” Lumiere, is decidedly younger in appearance, and seems to be taken from the same quiet, blue-haired mold as Evangelion‘s Ayanami Rei and Nadesico‘s Hoshino Ruri, though with significantly more smiling. Every scene has them contrasted with each other in some ways, whether it’s Eclair shooting a gun vs. Lumiere throwing a wine bottle, Eclair standing on one side with her lipstick whip with Lumiere and her “data trails” on the other, or the “kiss” scene, again, to create intrigue, sexual or otherwise.

The Kiddy Girl-and opening on the other hand is anything but mysterious in its presentation. It seems to want to convey an everyday sense of fun, and the two main girls are decidedly sillier in the intro compared to Eclair and Lumiere. They also are less different from one another compared to their Kiddy Grade counterparts, with Ascoeur (the pink-haired one) and Q-Feuille (the purple-haired one) having closer body types, though it’s clear that the former is bubblier than the latter. Rather than being presented as enigmas, Ascoeur and Q-Feuille are up-close. Personal, even.

Of course I can’t ignore the music itself either. Music isn’t my specialty, but I can tell you that Kiddy Girl-and‘s song is clearly sung by the voice actors of the heroines, whereas Kiddy Grade‘s with its mellow tones is not, and both songs lend themselves to the descriptions I gave. While having the seiyuu sing the opening was nothing new in anime even before 2002 (Slayers, Sakura Wars, to name a couple), I’d say that they’re supposed to be singing as the characters in the Kiddy Girl-and opening.

So then what are the big changes that this transition between openings represents? Well I don’t know if I’d call them “big” per se, but I feel that the Kiddy Grade opening exemplifies what was typical of its time, and the same goes for the Kiddy Girl-and opening. The much more “futuristic” vibe of the Kiddy Grade opening leads to the future-as-typical feel of its sequel’s intro, in a sense representing an increase in slice-of-life/”the everyday,” as well as a move away showing narrative-type elements as a prominent reason to watch. I wouldn’t go as far to say that this is an example of Azuma Hiroki-esque breakdown of the anime “Grand Narrative” though, as that’s a lot more complicated than just “less plot in anime.” Of course, there’s also the feeling that “moe” has changed as well, as I think that all four girls are supposed to be “moe” to certain extents, and seeing how their “moe” is conveyed in those openings is probably more indicative of that seven-year gap than anything else.

Neither of the shows are particularly amazing or special, and are probably best described as “the median” or “mediocre” anime, depending on how kind you want to be. However, that’s exactly why I think their contrast shows the path anime has taken so well, because while it’s great to see how the really pioneering, experimental, and enormously popular works operate, looking at the middle of the road gives a good idea of how anime as a whole moves.

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.

For comparison:

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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