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


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


Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror

– 1 Corinthians 13


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


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


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 »

Shinichiro Watanabe and the power of creative diversity | Cowboy Bebop: Colonialism, multiculturalism, and trying to find yourself in a broken society


1998 saw the birth of Shinichiro Watanabe’s main directorial debut Cowboy Bebop. Having started off as a household episode director and storyboard artist for various Sunrise shows since the mid-80s, Watanabe first gained recognition in 1994 as the co-director for the largely celebrated Macross Plus OVA, a job which he had received after encountering mecha designer and Macross franchise creator Shoji Kawamori during the production of the Gundam OVA 0083: Stardust Memory from 1991. This then resulted in Sunrise giving him the opportunity for his own first original project, which in 1998 came in the form of Cowboy Bebop. While Watanabe’s only given instruction for the series was that he could create whatever he wanted as long as it included a spaceship – due to Sunrise’s sponsorship with the Bandai company’s toy division – it however quickly became Read More »

Shinichiro Watanabe and the power of creative diversity | Samurai Champloo: Anachronisms, counterculturalism, and going against the grain


In 2004, Watanabe followed up Cowboy Bebop with his second original work Samurai Champloo. Being the very first show to come out from studio Manglobe, one of two studios (the other being Bones) that around the millennium shift got formed by ex-Sunrise members, Watanabe was once again given entirely free creative rein. Along with him from the Bebop team came both Dai Sato and Keiko Nobumoto working as scriptwriters, as well as storyboard artists Kazuki Akane and Tensai Okamura, among a few others. Just like with his previous show, Watanabe once more created a project where an extensive amount of creative staff members came together in all various departments, creating a series with all sorts of stylistic nuances and a comparatively high production value. Many of these staff people had either prior to or have upon the series grown to become acclaimed creators inRead More »