Anime studios

11 October, 2007

For my own use, some anime studios and what I think of them, based on productions I’ve seen:

Madhouse
Seen: Boogiepop Phantom (classic), Chobits (classic), Gungrave (first half good, then a monster fight), Gunslinger Girl (1st 2 vols. – seems good), Metropolis (big budget failure), Texhnolyze (impressive pretentious nonsense), Trigun (overrated space western comedy), Tenjho Tenge (flawed school fighting show); Kano productions: Millennium Actress (slight), Paranoia Agent (didactic), Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers (very good).

Unseen: Death Note (heard good things about this, but disappointing end?), Claymore (heard good things about this too), Aquarian Age, Barefoot Gen, Black Lagoon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Chance Pop Session, Di Gi Charat, etc.

Verdict: Capable of greatness; really depends on directorial input.

Sunrise
Seen: All the Gundam shows (inconsistent but Seed was great), Vision of Escaflowne (quite good but overrated), Cowboy Bebop (quite good but overrated), Gasaraki (flawed; interesting failure), Infinite Ryvius (1st 5 eps.) (unbearable), Crest of the Stars (+ Banner of the Stars I & II) (poor art, dull scripts), Argentosoma (OK standard mecha-angst show), Witch Hunter Robin (visually dodgy, 2nd vol. sucked, ultimately quite goodish), Planetes (very good, but stereotyped characters), Cluster Edge (very weak shonen-ai), Steamboy (dull movie).

Unseen: Dirty Pair, City Hunter, Outlaw Star, S-Cry-Ed, Yakitate!! Japan, Code Geass, etc.

Verdict: Flawed but usually interesting.

Gonzo
Seen: Samurai 7 (first 4 vols.; started great but seemed to be weakening), Gantz (flawed but gripping), Burst Angel (a dull mess), Gravion Zwei (saw one volume: OK kiddie show with max fan-service), Peacemaker (AKA Peacemaker Kurogane) (had potential but ultimately underwhelming, disappointing), Last Exile (good; weak ending), Gad Guard (saw vol. 5 – weak), Full Metal Panic (OK, FUMOFFU sequel was better – diff. studio), Gankutsuou (1st 2 vols: looks great, good story (Count of Monte Cristo) but a bit uninvolving).

Unseen: Afro Samurai, Pumpkin Scissors, Welcome to the NHK, Witchblade, Solti Rei, Basilisk, Speed Grapher, Trinity Blood, Desert Punk, Chrono Crusade, Kaleido Star, Kiddy Grade, Saikano (AKA She the Ultimate Weapon), Vandread, etc.

Verdict: Inconsistent; good visuals but drama can lack conviction.

J.C.Staff
Seen: Excel Saga (good if over-wacky), Azumanga Daioh (classic), Gunparade March (unfocused, underwhelming, disappointing), Lunar Legend Tsukihime (weak but strangely interesting).

Unseen: Revolutionary Girl Utena, Ikki Tousen, ROD – the TV, Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, Starship Operators, Mahoraba, Nodame Cantabile (getting much praise), New Dominion Tank Police, Honey & Clover, etc.

Verdict: Good looking shows. Can achieve great things with concentration.

Studio Deen
Seen: Fruits Basket (classic), Gravitation (idiotic), Kyo Kara Maoh! (1st volume – looked very good, but time will tell), Rurouni Kenshin (TV & OVA – both overrated, dull).

Unseen: Fate/stay night, Full Moon o Sagashite, Getbackers, Mouse, Ranma 1/2, Read or Die (ROD), Weiß Kreuz, etc.

Verdict: Produce dull work unless great director involved.

BONES
Seen: RahXephon (palled on 2nd viewing), Wolf’s Rain (better than it deserved to be; touching), Scrapped Princess (started great, got boring), Fullmetal Alchemist (started good, got really boring), Cowboy Bebop movie (NG), Eureka Seven (first 5 episodes – great)

Unseen: Mars daybreak (not that great?), Darker than Black, Ouran High School Host Club, Angelic Layer, etc.

Verdict: Quite good, but tendency to formula means they can disappoint.

Gainax
Seen: Neon Genesis Evangelion + movies (interesting, frustrating, pretentious – overrated?), His & Her Circumstances (see previous), Gunbuster (inconsistent; great ending), FLCL (palled on 2nd viewing)

Verdict: Their work can’t match their high opinion of themselves; generally pretentious and frustrating).

Production I.G.
Seen: Otogi Zoshi (pretentious failure), Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (multiple series & movies – good design & 3D work, but animation often stiff and very limited; overrated in terms of drama, character, futurology and profundity), FLCL, Dead Leaves (artily-extravagant noise signifying nothing), Patlabor movies (see Ghost in the Shell), Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (overrated, confusing background, weak “hard-boiled” characterisations, cheap “twists”, one of which invalidates the 1st half of the movie, while the other is a cheap tearjerker), Blood: the Last Vampire (big-budget “proof of concept” but poorly written and ultimately banal), Evangelion movies.

Unseen: Prince of Tennis, xxxHolic, Chevalier d’Eon, Blood+, etc.

Verdict: Great visuals and big ideas, but the final products are hollow.

Manglobe (oo-er!)
Seen: Samurai Champloo (started great but ended weakly).

Unseen: Ergo Proxy.

Verdict: Wait and see.

Toei Animation
Seen: Air Master (quite good, but no character development; weak ending)

Unseen: All Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Marmalade Boy, Yu-Gi-Oh! (1st series), Digimon, One Piece, Air Gear, etc.

Verdict: They produce mass market money-milking franchises, but can do quality work within these parameters.

Kyoto Animation
Seen: Nurse Witch Komugi (great fun), Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (1 episode).

Unseen: Kanon, Air, Lucky Star, Clannad, etc.

Verdict: Unable to judge.

Studio Pierrot
Seen: Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO) (underwhelming on 2nd view; annoying), Saiyuki Reload (1st vol.) (awful), Midori days (blandly enjoyable), Victorian Romance Emma (didn’t live up to its potential).

Unseen: Kimagure Orange Road (highly rated), Twelve Kingdoms, Tokyo Underground, Naruto (saw 1st 5 eps.), E’s Otherwise, Bleach, etc.

Verdict: They can produce good work sometimes, but not “top notch”.

XEBEC
Seen: Fafner (banal mecha “epic”), Love Hina (excruciating, but sometimes funny or touching), Martian Successor Nadesico (funny mecha satire), Zoids (enjoyable kids mecha fighting show).

Unseen: Outlaw Star, Elemental Gelade (1 ep.), etc.

Verdict: (subsidiary of Production I.G.) Can do good work when not aiming too high. Good quality visuals.

Bee Train
Seen: Noir, Madlax, .hack//Sign.

Unseen: Avenger, Arc the Lad, Tsubasa Chronicle, etc.

Verdict: Incredibly pretentious, incredibly dull.

 

Genco
Seen: Figure 17, Genshiken, Kino’s Journey, NieA_7.

Verdict: I’m getting confused by these larger producers, unable to tell which shows were really produced by Genco, and which were just funded and overseen (same problem with Bandai). The above-mentioned shows were produced by Genco, and are all very good.

A rather disgusting “confessional” from Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair: A Death in the Family.

Hitchens has discovered that a young man was inspired by his advocacy for the invasion of Iraq to join the military mission there, and was subsequently killed. Hitchens, in writing this, obviously wanted to appear humbled by this experience, but unfortunately his inflated prose, his constant self-reference, and the reader’s knowledge that at the end of his essay he will – surprise, surprise – find his original actions and beliefs validated and indeed elevated, somewhat undermines his efforts in the eyes of intelligent readers.

I’m sure that discovering that his words helped propel a young man to his death really stunned Hitchens, but unfortunately it also seems to have given him a great ego-boost to discover that his words have such power, and that perhaps in a way he created his own Orwellian freedom-fighter hero – because it seems Hitchens is still at heart a Trotskyite* (i.e. a Stalinist out of office) who wants to turn others into emblems of his own ideals, and praise their pointless deaths.

I used to know a boy like the late Mark Daily. He was an enthusiast for life, but, more, he was an idealist in search of a cause. This friend of mine became an Anarchist, and ideological to the point where I was glad when he moved to a different city. Like all ideologues, he believed that he had found the one true Way which, followed faithfully, would lead to a literal Paradise. He was a good man, the type that sometimes makes history, but more often ends up used as cannon fodder by more ambivalent, self-serving types. It’s easy to admire this type of person, but I don’t think we should. A hero in search of a cause can easily end up in the sights of a firing squad – or else giving the command to shoot.

What about the other heroes, Hitchens? The ones who forsaw the great, pointless destruction, waste and death this crusade would bring? The many knowledgable people in the military and intelligence services who basically threw their careers away and made an enemy out of their own government in order to speak the unwanted truth (as they saw it)? The ordinary people who marched in the streets – naïfs, appeasers, cowards, fellow-travellers, anti-Americans, as you would call them all – who knew or felt that American invasion and occupation of this third-world country would almost inevitably lead to disaster, and who have been proved right?

But Hitchens is deaf to such appeals, and intends to continue proselytising for his faith. He might as well quote those dangerous words of Jesus: “Because you are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, I spit you out of my mouth.” In other words, “Death to the fence-sitters!” In his appeal for commitment, sacrifice and (though he generally won’t admit its necessity) killing for the One True Cause, Hitchens may be little different to the Islamist maniacs of Iraq, or the Fundamentalist incompetents of George W Bush’s government (whom, incidentally, Hitchens still refuses to clearly denounce).

 

* Hitchens is referenced in “An Ex-Maoist Looks at an Ex-Trotskyist: on Irving Howe’s Leon Trotsky”, by Ian Williams, and a couple of quotes are pertinent to this blog entry:

A cause of Hitchens’ activism and freedom-fighter pose:
“some common thread of anxiety for politically motivated intellectuals, un impuissance des clercs, a feeling that, despite the aphorism, the pen usually wilts in the face of the sword….”

Hitchens’ self-justification:
“And with the ruthless romanticism of the revolutionary, they think the price in blood is well worth paying, that history will absolve them.”

Ow!

9 October, 2007

Running to work today, because I was late, because I am sleep deprived (and trying to work up the energy to pack and move to the new flat I am now paying rent for), I jaywalked – or should I say ran? – and found my top half was moving faster than my bottom half. I discovered, suddenly, that there is no way to compensate for inertia in this circumstance. I tried to run faster but ended up sliding face first into the gutter.

Shock, pain, worry were my immediate reactions. The shock of the unexpected accident and danger (though the thought of being run over didn’t enter my mind), pain from hands, knees and elbows, worry that I might have seriously hurt myself. I had literally come face-to-face with the asphalt, but though I kept touching my face to be sure, it had escaped unmarked.

I picked myself up and staggered off the road, and waved to the car nearby to show I was okay. Staggered on a bit more. A voice from an ugly orange hoon-mobile called out asking if I was okay, but to be honest I couldn’t tell if he was mocking me or not. I gave him a wave too.

So I’m okay. My supervisor lent me a few bandaids, and I had to explain to her that I was bleeding partly just because of my psoriasis, which makes the skin more easily broken. I’m still sore and repenting my stupidity, but count myself lucky. I wonder if this will motivate me to get off my arse and start packing? I tend not to have such fairy-tale moments in my life.

Hell of a day so far!