Monday, November 16, 2009

Ten-minute clip of Fumihiko Sori's "To" attempts to dazzle but fizzles instead

by Chris MaGee

A few people have observed that we don't cover a lot of anime on the J-Film Pow-Wow. It's true, but it's not out of a dislike for it. It's more out of ignorance than anything. My own tastes, and those of most of our writers, lean towards the live-action end of things. Plus, anime gets quite a bit of air time, headlines and bandwidth and the Pow-Wow's goal is to give as broad a picture of Japanese cinema as possible.

So, I personally don't dislike anime, but one thing that has confused me about anime in particular and animated films in general is why their creators feel it necessary to caricaturize human beings. In this day and age of CGI-animation we have been gifted with often breathtaking photo-realistic visions of imaginary worlds and creatures, but company's like Pixar continue to make their human characters look more like cartoons and less like people. When it comes to anime we have the same attention to detail when it comes to surroundings, but the characters all seem to have that wide-eyed, exaggerated look. It's something I haven't been able to get my head around for a while... then I saw the first ten minutes of Fumhiko Sori's upcoming sci-fi epic "To", which is now streaming on Youtube I had my answer.

As we reported back in July Sori, the director of the live-action comedy "Ping Ping" and the CGI sci-fi adventure "Vexille", was helming an animated adaptation of Yukinobu Hoshino's outer space manga "2001 Nights". At that point I observed that the CGI looked a biot low-budget, but I was hoping that once more of the film weas revealed that "To" would somehow be redeemed. Sadly that's not the case.

While the ships, space vistas and robots are rendered passably in CGI it's the human characters who look downright dreadful. Not only are their movements wooden and unbelievable, but the are animated using a strange hodge podge of 3D, 2D, and rotoscoping that just looks confused. Could this be the reason why so many animated films (anime included) shy away from human characters? Because without a skilled enough crew of animators you get train wrecks like the human characters in "To"? I think so, but you can skewer me in the comments if you disagree... but before you do that watch the full ten-minute clip from Fumihiko Sori's "To" below and then make your judgment.

Thanks to Anime News Network for pointing the way to this.

1 comment:

Fergus said...

"...the thing that has confused me about anime in particular and animated films in general is why their creators feel it necessary to caricaturize human beings..."

I think the answer to this is that the more real you try and make people look, the less real they actually do look. Pixar realised this early on. Watch 'Toy Story' and the toys look super-real and the kids look terrible, hence when they did 'The Incredibles' they stylised the humans because it just works better. Animated films with human characters rendered 'realistically' like 'Beowulf' and 'Polar Express' look not just unrealistic but downright creepy. I think it's mainly the eyes, they just look dead.

Having said all that, I must add that while Japanese animated movies have given us some real treasures (Studio Ghibli etc), the consensual style of much anime with those hideously enlarged eyes and exaggerated hairstyles is uncreative and just downright ugly. Japan has the most incredible, highly developed aesthetic in the world and yet visually most anime gives us pap. (Why for example does a nation with really beautiful eyes animate its characters with a hideous exaggeration of western eyes?) Thank god for real anime artists like Miyazaki and Makoto Shinkai.