< Piro >
Tuesday - June 22, 2004
After finishing the comic last night, i sat down and foolishly watched the first two episodes of Samurai 7, a new anime series by Gonzo roughly based on Akira Kurosawa's classic film Seven Samurai. Sorta like Ghost in the Shell meets an old fasion samurai flick.
I'll be the first to tell you that this is not the kind of anime i generally drawn to. I'm not a big fan of big fancy swordfighting scenes, nor am I a big mecha fan. In fact, in my opinion you could pretty much remove mecha from my favorite anime that contains them and i don't think i'd really notice (makes note to put on flak vest - mecha fans are scary). Well, in my normal rounds of poking around at new stuff, and seeing a few particular screenshots, i decided to give it a try. Screenshots of what? Impressive fight scenes? Beautifully detailed animation? Intense, emotional heroism? Well... not really. What really got me was one of the character designs, specifically Kirara, more specifically, the look in her eyes.
"cute female characters" are about as common in anime as ketchup bottles are in burger joints. Just about every anime ever made has at least one cute female character in it somewhere (yes, yes, there are ones that dont, but it is pretty rare). If you decide to watch every anime that just happens to have a pretty girl in it, you're gonna end up watching a lot of anime (and, therefore, preclude your ability to meet real ones). Girls aren't so lucky, of course - anime with pretty boys in them are actually part of a sub-genere, not a standard requirement of all anime.
Anyways, i won't say i didn't enjoy watching Samurai 7, because i did, to a point. Honestly, i could care less about the story. I could care less about the samurai. I was pretty much only interested in Kirara's quest and her troubles. Even so, her character does fall a little flat - she's a little TOO much the good priestess. So what in the world made me stay up till 3:30 watching both episodes?
Maybe it was just the look in her eyes, the way she was animated. Sure, it is an element to her character that isn't strongly defined. In fact, i often found the way she looked and the intensity of her gaze to be drastically weakened by what she was saying.Having Fumiko Orisaka's voice didn't hurt either. I like her character design, the way her outfit looks on her, the way her headgear works with her facial design and not against it (as so many costumes do). I even like her silly hat. I like her character. Maybe not enough to watch the entire series, but then again...
Have you ever watched something because you liked just one little thing about it? that's pretty much the case here. I've suffered thru amazingly bad anime because there was one character i cared about, i've flipped past hundreds of pages of manga to get to the pages that focus on some minor character i liked. I've even valiantly endured horrifically boring books just to make sure a favorite character came out all right in the end.
I don't think this is necessarily unusual. In fact, i think that it is more unusual for me to like every element of an anime. Haibane Renmei was the last one i can think of that I really liked the show as a whole. Maybe that's the difference between shows you watch, shows you like, and shows you love. Shows you love are shows you like everything about it, the entire package. Shows you watch and shows you like you watch for parts and pieces that are important to you.
When the material is in a forign language like, say, Japanese, you are suddenly often faced with not having all the parts and pieces available for you to judge. I used to watch a lot of raw japanese anime, often having only the most basic idea of what is going on. I watched all of Escaflowne raw, and honestly, to this day i still don't really know what the hell was going on at the end :P The DVDs are on my to-watch-in-my-next-life list. Yet the anime itself effected me deeply.
Even if you don't fully understand the language, emotions usually require little translation. When watching raw anime, you may wonder why a character was reacting the way he or she was, but you usually don't have to worry about understanding the way the character is feeling. Watch a new anime DVD that you know nothing about with the subtitles off sometime and you'll see what i mean.
It wasn't unusual for me, really, to have a favorite anime that I barely understood. In fact, there use to be a lot of fan-sites run by people who had only a have minimal grasp on what their favorite show was about. Sometimes, the parts that you could see and understand were enough to make the show important to you.
Of course, these days most shows are fansubbed fairly quickly, and soon after released here in the English on nice little DVDs. Even a lot of manga is more accessible than ever, either via scantranslations or as one of the many hundreds of new titles seem to be released here every month. There is less of a gap these days in understanding the "why" of what you are watching.
This doesn't always make it better, of course. I knew what Kirara was saying in Samurai 7, but I don't think really had much impact in what i liked about her character. In fact, it really seemed to dull her character for me. I almost wish i didn't know what she was saying. The show would then have a far more exotic quality to it, and between her looks and her voice and her mannerisms, i would probably form my own thoughts about her as a character, which i think would be far different that what she seems to actually be.
I'll continue this line of thought on wednesday. :)