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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The Tale of Princess Kaguya: Challenging the norms of visual representation

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Isao Takahata’s 2013 feature film The Tale of Princess Kaguya has been extensively praised by critics and audiences alike for its visual beauty. Whether it’s seen as a celebration of hand-drawn animation, a smorgasbord of colorful imagery, or a soothing exercise in simplicity, the consensus is that this film presents an incredible feast for the eyes. What hasn’t so much been touched upon though is the arguably main reason behind this wide acknowledgement of the film’s visual aspect, namely the unique approach to the animated medium that it displays. There is no doubt that Princess Kaguya doesn’t look like your typical anime, or your typical animated work in general for that matter – but what elements does this deviation actually consist of, and what can they say about the work as a whole?Read More »

Descriptive storytelling – When world building and narrative collide

In her book The Art of Describing, art historian Svetlana Alpers explains an essential distinction between Dutch painting in the 17th century and its Italian counterpart. The so-called history paintings that out of all categories occupied the highest status within Italian renaissance art had their purpose in depicting historic – either biblical or mythological – scenes filled with grandiosity and drama. Because of it, history paintings were as much pictures as they were told stories, thus having the essential character of being narrative. As seen in any work of this kind, the showcasing of specific and centralized motifs is inherently prominent, with all of the paintings’ visual information actively and purposefully working in favor of the depicted scene in question; the poses of the characters all form a direction towards the main focus, which is most often placed at the centre of the scene, while the less important aspects are given less attention.Read More »

Shinichiro Watanabe and the power of creative diversity | Introduction

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Director Shinichiro Watanabe is undeniably one of the most celebrated names working in the anime industry today. With his first original work Cowboy Bebop having become an undisputed classic since its release in 1998 – not least due to it being a major steppingstone in the popularization of anime in the west – he has since gained cult status and seen widespread acclaim among fans and critics alike. While Watanabe at this point has a number of works under his belt, all of which have been met with mainly positive response, there are three particular ones that stick out; the aforementioned Cowboy Bebop, its 2004 follow-up Samurai Champloo, and the 2014 series Space Dandy.Read More »