Why the train scene in Spirited Away is my favorite work by Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki’s decisively strongest quality as a filmmaker has for me always been one very specific thing: immersion. As cliché as it sounds, the sentiment of “being sucked into the movie screen and the world that it presents” is the most accurate description of my viewing experience of his films. Through the fantastical and elaborate settings, the detailed designs and consistently high-quality animation, the unique tones of Hisaishi’s scores, and the dynamic sense of pacing, they present other worlds that are at once exotic and inviting. And no other of his films captures this otherworldliness quite as exemplarily as Spirited Away. Why? Because of its embodiment of isekai.Read More »

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Hunter x Hunter (2011) – A closer look at Gon vs Neferpitou

When discussions arise about the best fights in Hunter x Hunter, one frequent candidate is that between Gon and Neferpitou from the Chimera Ant arc, and for good reason. It is one of the most dramatically potent instances in the entire series. But “Gon vs Neferpitou” encompasses more than just a fight; it is a sub-narrative that spans throughout much of the arc, starting with Neferpitou’s initial strike and ending with Gon’s ultimate revenge. The narrative plays out like a tragedy in three acts, as unexpected dramatic developments and unfortunate circumstances result in the equal misery for both parties. In this post, I’m going to chronologically examine the “Gon vs Neferpitou” narrative to see what makes it so great.Read More »

Mob Psycho 100 and the heroic identity

Heroism is a theme that manga author One appears to have a keen interest in. His seminal work One Punch Man challenged dramatic conflicts typically found in superhero narratives, by exploring the comical scenario of a hero defeating every opponent with only one punch. His following work Mob Psycho 100 is in a lot of ways a continuation of this exploration – equally containing hero tropes that get turned on their heads in a parodying fashion – but it also includes a prominent amount of dramatic weight in the equation. In contrast to One Punch ManMob Psycho 100 is mainly a character piece, driven by the inner struggles that its characters undergo in their various relationships to heroism. Some of them rightfully and/or wrongfully inhabit the title of a hero, some try to distance themselves from it, and some desperately desire it. Read More »

Patlabor: Applying realism to the mecha genre

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There’s super robot shows, there’s real robot shows like Gundam, and then there’s REAL fucking robot shows like Patlabor

The above quote is taken from the Spotlight episode 1 of the Blade Licking Thieves podcast, discussing the multimedia franchise Mobile Police Patlabor. It is an effectively accurate description of what is a bit of an oddball for both its genre and its time. Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, mecha anime consisted of so-called super robot shows; up-beat, cartoony series aimed towards young kids wherein colorful robots used their superpowers to kick the asses of evildoers on a weekly basis. In the 1980s, the genre entered a new era following the influence of Mobile Suit Gundam, consisting of real robot shows. Read More »

Characterization through music – An examination of Kill la Kill’s character themes

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Few anime series put as much effort into characterization as Kill la Kill. In everything from the designs, to the voice acting, to the animation, the audiovisual crafting of each of the show’s major characters is executed with elaborate care giving them distinct manners and personalities. One such element, that may often be comparatively overlooked but which deserves just as much attention, is the music. The concept of composing a theme for a specific character is perhaps not a rarity among anime scores, but it is exceptional that it’s done with such devotion and for such a large amount of the cast as in Kill la Kill. What composer Hiroyuki Sawano here has accomplished is a musical depiction of the very essence of each major character, to such an extent that even someone who has never seen the show may get a clear idea over their appearances, personalities and capabilities. Read More »

Ghost in the Shell: Merging identities

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Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror

– 1 Corinthians 13

Introduction

In the climactic scene of Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 cyberpunk classic Ghost in the Shell, there occurs a narratively and thematically pivotal confrontation between the film’s two central opposing characters. On one side, we have protagonist Motoko Kusanagi – a female cyborg police commander working for Public Security Section 9 – and on the other we have antagonist the Puppet Master – a criminal super hacker and sentient artificial life form. The Puppet Master, having wanted to meet Motoko for a long time, explains to her that he seeks to obtain the one thing that, as he sees it, separates him from organic life: reproduction. In order to do so, he wants the two of them to “merge” and create a new life form, one that is comprised of information from both parties but is at the same time its own entity. As this act of merging both representationally and literally erases the line between organic and artificial life, it marks the culmination of the film’s and by extension the franchise’s philosophical topics regarding life and human evolution in the age of artificial intelligence and trans-humanism. But what it also constitutes is an answer to the issues of identity that particularly the film explores; issues that are comprised of various dualist conflicts within a high-tech-modernized, trans-humanist urban environment. That is what this study is going to focus on.

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