While remaining a fan of cinema, television, novels, short stories, and manga, the past three years I’ve consumed more anime (both in terms of shows I’ve watched for the first time, and repeat viewings) than all other kinds of entertainment put together. A lot of things contributed to this, such as having divergent tastes in film and television between my wife and myself: she can only watch happy things (unless they’re crime/suspense/police procedural TV shows which I don’t really care for), while I like bitter, tragic, violent, and disturbing stuff.
As such I’ve found myself watching a whole lot of anime by myself and thus my rapid and voracious consumption. I’ve pretty much figured out why I like anime so much. It all comes down to this: a love for Japanese style illustrations. I like the proportions, the storyboarding, the angles and perspective. This should explain my preference of manga over the American comics I grew up with. But for animation, it’s an extension of this. I love to see these illustrations move. I like these silhouettes, profiles, and figures move through space in complex ways, with speed and power.
This is why I really like action, fighting shows, and in this matter I believe robot anime makes for its grandest possibility. But I’m not here to talk about robot anime. Instead I’ve found myself watching TV and cinema trying to imagine the media expressed as animation. I wonder constantly if it would work. It’s almost second nature now that I want to ask you about your own thoughts. Do you find yourself doing this?
Just now I’ve watched the recent film Shaolin featuring Andy Lau, with Jackie Chan and the lovely Fan Bingbing playing supporting roles. I thought it would make for a thrilling anime, despite its reliance on the very expressive faces of its cast to communicate the dramatic content (the non-battle related drama, that is). As for the battles, I imagine that the wide angle shots featuring large battles will be trimmed and tightened up – and instead concentrated on a few “featured” fights that demonstrate the ability of the fighters.
The way this will play out will be similar to 2007 BONES film Sword of the Stranger which to me features some of the very best action sequences. It does have my favorite sword duel in all media; something I wouldn’t think anime could do given how much easier it’d be to just choreograph and film skilled humans. For those who have seen the film, or do not mind spoilers, here are the scenes with truly outstanding action animation:
You can avoid spoiling yourself if you watch only half of the clip. Of course, it’s difficult to imagine adapting cinema into anime TV series, so I’d only match films to films. Live action TV series rely more on actor performances and dialogue rather than action, and this doesn’t make for good anime I think. A lot of anime still has mostly moving mouths and blinking eyes to carry dialogue. The voice performances tend to be exaggerated speech – much like how cartoon characters in American TV cartoons speak. I’m not even sure American animated films are free from this kind of vocal delivery.
I am quite limited to Disney/PIXAR in my experience (except really old Rankin Bass films which I poorly remember: Flight of the Dragons, The Last Unicorn), but I’m fairly confident that a Persian princess does not talk like Jasmine from Aladdin, nor does a Dutch Mermaid talk like Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Same goes with more normal settings like the old men in Up! Even I have American geezer friends and they don’t talk like that. Point is, TV series as presently constructed don’t make for good anime in my mind…
Just as I don’t think Cowboy Bebop fits the standard TV live action production. It would cost way too much, because since it is anime, it’s an action-packed series with dog fights, gunfights, martial arts brawls, duels, and running only at 20 minutes per episode.
But I look at A Game of Thrones and wonder if it’d make for good anime, especially since there’s the format done by the Broken Blade series of films. I think it could work, though it’d have to amp up the action and violence to the point of having a set piece battle or chase or equivalent action scene for every installment.
But what about Legend of the Galactic Heroes? That anime didn’t have set piece battles in every episode and was mostly a lot of men talking to each other.
I really think LotGH is an anomaly. I love it and I’m happy there’s an anime like it. But do I think it’s good anime as animation? No. It’s a serviceable anime production to deliver such outstanding content. I think it could be better expressed as a live action mini-series running hour long episodes which will reduce the episode count by two thirds. And THEN, provided it gets good actors, we get to see fully-realized performances of such remarkable characters. I wouldn’t cast Japanese actors for the most part, if at all.
The good news is we’d have MUCH better infantry action, or so I hope. Because I can only take so much of the poorly-conceived and executed laser pin beams vs. battleaxes thing in LotGH. Of course, if someone did tell me that this show will be updated with gobs of money behind the project I’d be the first to celebrate. So don’t read this as me “hating” on LotGH.
So I ask the questions again: Do you watch other media and imagine it in terms of an anime adaptation? Do you see anime and imagine it as live action? Which shows? Who’d you want to produce/direct?