anime director dies at 46

)DAmn it. This blog is supposed to be about Korean animation & comics, but I keep finding stuffs to write about Japanese anime. The trouble is that I prefer film over paper, and animations from Korea are few while there are plenty of Japanese anime's to watch.)

Satoshi Kon died on Tuesday this week, which would be August 24, 2010. He is a noteworthy anime director who produced Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers, Shounen Bat, and the Millenium Actress, two of which I've watched and are definitely my favorites. I would compare him to Hayao Miyazaki, except I never got the point of any of his films, including Spirited Away and Laputa. Oh wait - Howl's Moving Castle was awesome!

What surprised me was that Satoshi Kon was merely 46 years old, but he was killed by pancreatic cancer. And I had thought he would be around for a long time.

His works were awesome, so much that I think they improved anime's overall image and the scope of what's possible and what to expect. I remember there was so much thrill and mystery in Paprika, and Dr. Chiba was drawn so nicely too. I was able to enjoy the same sort of mystery and complex storytelling in Shounen Bat, and I shouldn't forget to mention that I also watched the Millenium Actress, whose distinctly Japanese looks I appreciated very much.

I think Satoshi was concerned largely with people's memory and its psychological aspect and mystery. If you think about it, most of his works seem to come down to that small thing concerning memory.

I think Ms. Napier's tributes were appropriate. I just wish she'd have said something about the importance of memory.

I kind of said this before, but, if there is another thing to mention about him, it's that he really did try to draw Asians at their best, which is quite hard to do in an anime style as I've found out in my own trials. He didn't give up and start drawing something like this:

(Yea Suzumiya looks great, but can you tell a trace of Asian-ness in her?)

Things I've noticed about Japanese anime pt. 2

Another thing about Japanese anime is that in most cases it does not illustrate what living in Japan is really like, both for Japanese natives and foreigners as well. Although I've never lived in Japan, I am sure of this, having watched or read people's testimonies on youtube and various blogs. Sometimes anime completely misconstrues what happens in real life, and other times it presents the topic from the wrong angle.

For example, school girls do not wear mini skirts, and cultural festivals do not turn every schools into maid cafe theme parks. And curry isn't the only thing Japanese like to eat for dinner. The list can go on as to show how Japan is significantly more perverted in anime than in real life.

I think this sense of other-worldliness can be explained by two things. First, anime bears a negative connotation in Japan that, while it appears in the mainstream for kids, puts adult fans in a bad light. Because of this, anime schools are attended by people who are generally poor financially and academically and are in the margins of the society, and so the animators are obviously going to have a perception of the world that is drastically different from the normal experience. The other reason is that anime serves as an escape from the real world for its audience, although people of different cultures have different things to escape from. I think for some Asians there can be this desire to separate oneself from certain practices or situations in a uniquely Asian context that are humiliating or unsettling. Students (including those in Korea) may want to completely do away with gym/disciplinary teachers who mete out embarrassing corporal punishments. Or guys might get sick of old ladies (including their moms) who are obsessed with store prices and haggling. And some Asians may wish their language sounded more sophisticated in western style and less "piko-piko" or "chingchongching"-ish.  And it is in the backdrop of this self-hating repulsion (but it's not anything serious) that emerges a paradisiacal image of a western medieval castle with a princess and a knight in shining armor, which then is the alternate reality of the anime.

I've also found that it's hard to find kids in anime who actually have parents or interact with them. A surprisingly large number of animes feature main characters as orphans or living separated from their parents (including Full Metal Panic, Elfen Lied, Neon Genesis Evangelion, True Tears, School Rumble, and Suzumiya Haruhi). And in the animes that depict parents, even for a brief moment, they are merely annoyances or play subservient and non-intrusive roles for the main characters. This could be because a lot of people in the animation industry are likely to have been students with poor grades when they were teenagers, and that generally correlates with more problems and difficult relationships with parents. Also, the teenagers, who are a main audience group, probably won't like having to deal with mom and dad even on the tv screen.

We've seen how animators like to deviate from the real world in their works, but some have surprised me with their depiction of scenery or personalities with such character and realism. Believe it or not, some of the characters in anime can actually be found in real life with the same impressionistic facial traits, dress style, and language. For example, the aunt in Summer Wars is so like the mean aunt you meet in a gathering among relatives of a large extended family, and you want to hate and ridicule her face, but you really can't because she doesn't look bad at all.

The aunt is on the right with red hair
In A Place Promised In Early Days, Takuya and Hiroki are example of childhood friends who differ sentimentally in their attachment to each other when they become adults. One is naturally going to look coldhearted and insensitive, while the other will seem naive and idealistic.

Also, I was delighted to watch how kids in Denno Coil like to play in the streets in an army command style because I've seen that myself when I was a kid and was living in Korea. It would be hard to imagine how that would happen in America, since kids are confined to playing sports on the grass or at home and are sheltered from the street influences.

For some reason I can't think up more examples, so I will call it for this post.

Things I've noticed about Japanese anime pt. 1

Occasionally I have the urge to do random things, like making a youtube video with ysflight, and, recently, writing a wiki encyclopedia article about anime (and that's why the blog hasn't been updated in 3 months). But since I will never finish it, and no one will actually read it, I've decided to spend more time writing on this blog again.

Ever since I started watching anime since ... 1995? I've noticed certain things that are common in anime or its genres. (My TV at home had a channel (probably Tooniverse) that was dedicated to anime and cartoons 24/7. I vaguely remember when I was about 4 years old, and I could not finish watching one of the last episodes of Nadia with the flying N-Nautilus submarine because my mom had to take me to a dinner. At the time I presumed all anime's were Korean because the anime title, character names, opening and ending songs, and voice acting were all changed to Korean or the Korean equivalent of a western name or word.)

Anyways I want to talk about some common features of Japanese anime that other people might have or not have noticed over the years.

First thing is that the main characters and the main antagonists tend to be lighter skinned and more caucasian than the side characters. You can clearly see it in the differences between Shinji Ikari/Shinichirō Nakagami and Toji Suzuhara/Miyokichi Nobuse in Neon Genesis Evangelion and True Tears, respectively. Always in a Gundam series, the maintenance staff are dark-skinned, blackish/bluish-haired rough men and the most deadly enemy pilot is a blonde dude. "Konnichiwa, I am Rei Ayanami, and I'm really light skinned and look caucasian BUT I'm not liked very much (despite Japanese obsession with caucasian looks) AND my fictional self even has real-life fans who adore me precisely because I am lonely and pitiful BUT also pretty ALTHOUGH if you were pretty, you would be popular and not be lonely, and if you were lonely, you would more or less be ugly and not very attractive, so the two cannot actually go together..." Some Japanese animes try to justify the caucasian looks by presenting the characters with mixed heritage, as Chidori Kaname in Full Metal Panic!, Sumeragi Lee Noriega in Gundam 00, and Eri Sawachika in School Rumble. (But Japanese + European = nowhere close to the angelic characters in anime; they usually have pigglish Caucasian looks)
Second, I've noticecd there are characters who make repeated appearances in different animes either as clones or hybrids of favorite personalities. I already indicated above that Shinji and Shinichiro, and Toji and Miyokichi from NGE & TT are parallel characters. Also, Hiromi and Noe in TT seem to be hybrids of Rei and Asuka - Hiromi resembles Asuka physically, but her personality is closer to Rei's, and the opposite is true for Noe. Certain character looks have recurred so frequently that they are pretty much stereotypes. For example, a strong-willed Japanese woman (often older than the main protagonists) with long dark purple or blue hair and big breasts would be the anime stereotype of a modern, beautiful Japanese woman, like Itoko (School Rumble), Katsuragi (Neon Genesis Evangelion), Yurika (Nadesico), and Tamako (Denno Coil). A lot of male protagonists in animes from 1980s and 1990s used to be teenage punks with long zigzagged brown hair and little boys with black or dark blue hair. This was probably so as to avoid alienating the young Japanese male audience and to make the anime seem more racially neutral or balanced.

I think ever since Rei debuted in NGE, the silent female character has also become a permanent icon in Japanese anime. As Ive pointed out previously, this kind of persona is contradictory because girls can't be hot and unpopular at the same time. Examples of Rei clones include Primula from Shuffle! and Ruri from Nadesico. I literally worshiped Rei when I first saw NGE, but eventually I grew out of it. I hated Primula and also the entire series for being so fake (partly because of the contradiction), but I think Ruri-chan from Nadesico plays the role awesomely. Ruri's success as a silent female character has a lot to do with the fact that her persona doesn't ask for cinderalla pity, and her aloofness is self-imposed, primarily because she is a child prodigy who thinks better of herself than of the others, and she doesn't want her space and composure to be degraded by things she calls 'baka.'

(Primula on the left; Ruri on the right)
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