Animation through the Ages
September 11, 2012 § 3 Comments
Even though I’m at the ripe, old age of 20, I still have a huge passion for Japanese animation. Yes, I mean “anime.” I feel like many people are judging me already and thinking, “Oh, anime…that’s like Pokemon, right? Just kid’s stuff.” Honestly, who can blame them? The Japanese animation that has permeated the American media market has largely been Pikachu and his pal Goku after all. Just hang tight and keep an open mind for me here.
In my opinion, animation is probably one of the most beautiful and creative art forms. Animated films have made me feel so much more human and vulnerable than most live action films. Two things do it for me: expressions and environment. One aspect of Japanese anime that I love is how expressive the faces are drawn. Back in the 20th century, eyes were always drawn very simply. Check out the forest spirit Totoro from his namesake film My Neighbor Totoro (1988).
His eyes are very basic in terms of design; however, I feel that they can easily convey a whole range of emotions, including this very puzzled look. The ease with which these animated characters can portray such human and lifelike qualities has often led me to believe that animation can be a powerful vehicle for conveying the director’s messages and intentions. I even have personal experience. Co-workers have told me that my facial expressions always remind them of an anime character’s. In other words, my face is perpetually an open book.
The animated environments of these films also greatly contribute to the overall emotional experience. For example, My Neighbor Totoro had beautiful, rural scenery with a kind of simple, sketched feel.
Later on, directors such as Makoto Shinkai would produce films such as 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) with dazzling vistas that you could almost touch.
Animators can create some fantastic scenes with technology these days. This trend towards realism in Japanese animation has been a bit alarming to me though. If I had a time machine, I would like to see how my favorite directors and animation studios have evolved in the future. Will animation in the future be too realistic? I sometimes feel as if all these amazing graphics are loosing the “emotional effectiveness” of say, Totoro’s simple and alluring eyes.
Perhaps giving me a time machine would be a bit of a waste. I’m not really interested in seeing apocalyptic events or cyborgs or incredible computers and technology. Rather, I would just like to snuggle up to a good old anime film. Some things never change.