Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Americans Should Direct, The Japanese Should Draw

Most Japanese anime sucks (and YES MR. FULLER, I KNOW SPICE AND WOLF!  I'm on it!)

However, in the case of Cowboy Bebop where it was heavily influenced by American culture, I think the perfect combination is the superior American directing combined with the superior Japanese animation and drawing.

I have not been compelled to watch a cartoon as much as this one in recent memory:


Ryan Fuller said...

Hey, Captain! You should watch... oh. Well, good that you're on that. :)

Good economics-focused stories are starting to pile up on you, though. The one that's really got my attention recently is Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, which features a character who is for practical purposes a modern economist trying to reform a medieval fantasy world at war with demons. She's actually the demons' queen who ditches her position to work incognito to push for reforms on the Human side:

Anyway, the directing for Cowboy Bebop was actually done by this guy:

So it's a Japanese project from start to finish, but like you said, the American cultural influences are all over the place.

daniel_ream said...

That was the shit, Cap.

You're spot on about the culture, though. Probably due to equating militarism with getting nuked, the Japanese have a kind of suicidal pacifism that bleeds into all their pop culture. It's pretty much impossible to find a good military or space opera anime where the protagonists don't spend all their time whining about how awful war is and how deeply morally conflicted they are about all this enemy-shooting.

Spice and Wolf? Spice and Fan-Serv, maybe.

Anybody checked out the Marvel Anime stuff? How's it rate?

The Great and Powerful Oz said...

Oh gods, NO! An American director would insist on marking his territory by pissing all over the story. In the process all semblance of continuity and logic would be totally lost. I like that the Japanese actually explore the implications of the magic of technology or the technology of magic. I enjoy the implicit belief in duty, honor and loyalty that has completely vanished from American society. And, frankly, I enjoy a lot of the fashion, the only Americans who have any understanding of style these days are the Steampunks.

Yeah, I enjoy the silliness. I also appreciated the honest treatment of otaku in "Princess Jellyfish". I saw the really harsh criticism of the way immigrants are treated in "Blassreiter". I agree with the low opinion of NATO that is often expressed. I get that they are still pissed off about being nuked a couple of generations ago.

I'm often highly amused by their portrayal of Christians, particularly Catholics and the Japanese relationship with their gods (yes, I have studied this in grad school).

You can tell a lot about a culture from their fiction. What's important and what isn't. From my studies and, frankly, from watching subtitled Japanese shows I am now unable to stand American television. Not because the Japanese are good, but because the contrast has caused me to see American values much more clearly, and I can't stand the messages that form the basis for most American shows.

Captain Capitalism said...

Wha??? The Japanese have the WORST ability to make a plot. Maybe times have changed and I haven't watch a lot of anime in the past oh 8-10 years, but I'm sick and tired of everything changing into robots, slow to develop plots, and plots that don't ever develop.

The Great and Powerful Oz said...

Some anime is like that, some isn't. It's the nature of Japanese to talk or write around an issue before getting to the point. This shows up in anime by not really getting a handle on what is really going on until about episode 6.

Just like the history of science fiction in the west, anime can be used to talk about serious social issues, by portraying them as happening somewhere a long way away. Since I'm not steeped in Japanese culture, these issues really stand out.

In my youth I played Champions for a while. I am entertained by the way many of writers actually think through the implications of various super powers. Much better than what DC and Marvel did in the 1960s & 1970s.

If you decide to watch some again, start with stuff rated TV-14 or TV-MA so you can avoid shows targeted at children.

vandiver49 said...


I've watch two of the Marvel Anime so far. X-men was good but not great in that classic anime elements (emo girls) slowed down an otherwise good storyline.

Iron Man is terribly painful to get thru, which is odd since Stark is right in the anime wheelhouse. But the attempt to make Tony a butthole just come off flat.

I've got Blade to watch next.

Anonymous said...

Japanese can do good stuff. Problem is that the majority there wants cute girls doing cute things.

How about UC Gundam or some corny OVAs?

Cogitans Iuvenis said...

Japanese plot writing is indeed terrible. They have an overproponderance of going over the top in their action scenes, whereby one super soldier, robot, or whatever, takes out a bunch of supposedly highly skilled other individuals. Even this short clip has a single scene where this happens, the only smudge in an otherwise brilliantly rendered animation.

Moreover they just don't seem to do their homework very well on creating believable plot elements. All too often you will have a suppossedly brilliant tactian whose best move is to 'continue on forward and destroy resistance' Don't believe me? Sit yourself down with a random selection of war/battle videos made in Japan and you will see that in almost every single one.

The kicker was this for me. I was watching a certain space opera whereby a large battleship style battle was occuring. I specifically remember the seen where the enemy comes from above and the lead commander was like 'that's impossible!' is's fucking space.

The Captain is totally right in his assessment. The Japanese should draw and the Americans should write and direct. Examples like Cowboy Bebop, Monster, or Trigun and the like are rather few in otherwise horribly boring and cliched plot lines.

Dreamer said...

There's plenty of good Japanese writing with Japanese animation. The problem is most mainstream Japanese stuff (mainstream as in stuff that gets watched by a decent number of Americans) is the fighting robot crap and the 10,000 episodes series.

Studio Ghibli and Kyoto Animation are two studios that are examples of better storytelling. Though they are mostly not action oriented (Ghibli is compared to Pixar/Disney), but remember, I'm talking about quality of storytelling not fitting to taste.

One example (I feel you like Sci-fi) is the Anime Planetes. A good "Hard" sci-fi and explores an area that few others have done before. But how many have heard it? I only know it before my former roommate in college was a huge Anime fan.

Meanwhile you probably have heard of Bleach and Naruto.

PC Geek said...

I'm often highly amused by their portrayal of Christians, particularly Catholics and the Japanese relationship with their gods (yes, I have studied this in grad school).

Did you major in anime in school? :-)

I always thought that various generally Western things, including Christianity (well it is mostly a Western thing, getting bigger in the east but that is another story entirely) were mainly included as a form of 'foreign window-dressing' of sorts - to include something that to the intended audience would be seen as exotic or foreign. Most of the time, when Christianity (especially Catholicism) shows up in an anime, it seems clear to me that most of the writers do not understand it very well and are simply using the (to the Japanese) foreign/exotic looking culture to spice things up.

I could be wrong though - I am mainly a casual anime fan, and a fairly recent one at that...I have probably on watched 15 or so full anime series (mainly short ones that are 12, 13 episodes and such).

I think that a lot of what see as 'recycled' and unoriginal in Japanese storytelling is due to asian cultures in general, which tend to discourage innovation and individualism in favor of more conformity, established ways of doing things, and group orientation.

i don't claim to be an expert, but those are my observations, again, as, at best, a novice in all things Japanese.

Ryan Fuller said...

Guys, this video clip isn't a Japanese project. The art and animation style screams "Western." The guy behind it (Otaking77077) is a Brit.

"They have an overproponderance of going over the top in their action scenes, whereby one super soldier, robot, or whatever, takes out a bunch of supposedly highly skilled other individuals. Even this short clip has a single scene where this happens, the only smudge in an otherwise brilliantly rendered animation."

Star Wars features a farm boy applying the principles of a religion he learned about two weeks ago to blow up the death star without his targeting computer. I think we can overlook some pilot shooting down a few fighters in an animated short.

Regarding Christianity in anime, I think PC Geek is on the right track. They just throw in Christian imagery or symbolism because it's foreign and they can use it for flavor. Most of them don't really get it, much the way that most Westerners probably couldn't tell you the first thing about Shinto.

As for recycled plots, it's really a matter of how much digging you're willing to do. The most popular stuff is often garbage, simply because appealing to the lowest common denominator gets the biggest fanbase. There's a ton of anime out there, and it's not just cute girls and robots. (Although to be fair, an awful lot of it is cute girls and robots)