My heart has belonged to Kyoto Animation for a long time. And their shows have always looked good – that’s not even a faintly nuanced observation. The 2010s was the advent of an in-house style that helped forge their identity without ever feeling like a stagnant or limiting trait of the production house. Be it the character work by Miku Kadowaki, Futoshi Nishiya, or others, the character art is something that hasn’t quite been matched by another studio.
Even before their in-house style became synonymous with their identity, their artwork was rarely a sore spot in the final product. However, how well do we regard the actual “animation” of Kyo Ani’s works?
Pretty well as a matter of fact. Consistently. From Liz and the Blue Bird to Silent Voice, I’ve praised the subtle character movements and facial twitches that create the small reveries of human pathos. Occasionally, these dramas or slice-of-life comedies might even present an action scene. Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid had ridiculously bombastic action and even Clannad had a pretty dope fight scene. However, I get the feeling that when people say that Kyoto Animation has great animation, they actually mean “great artwork.” It’s worth distinguishing between the two.
I don’t think any show from the studio has consistently reminded me of how great their animation talent is more than one particular show. If you would permit the generalization, the average viewer may not stray close to offering a critique of actual animation outside of shows or genres that incentivize consistent motion in their presentation. Hence why most people, regardless of their inclination to media criticism, often praise the animation of the hottest shonen/action series.
Following that line of logic, this week’s review is an action show with plenty to gush over. Beyond the Boundary – Taichi Ishidate’s directorial debut – is one of my favorite works by Kyoto Animation, and what I believe to be their best-looking show. Or rather, it is the most consistently upfront with what the studio is capable of, both in TV and film.
As frequent readers know, in addition to running this blog, I am the Associate Editor of Anime Quarterly, a new site that just started back in July. There’s been some pretty cool stuff written over there and to round out 2020, I want to highlight some of what we’ve got over there for you.
Recently updated on account of new updates, this timeline might be one of my most thoroughly researched pieces yet. In this post, I lay out the nine-year tale of Evangelion 3.0+1.0‘s production, from the tiniest updates to the most painful delays. The goal was to paint a picture of just how long the wait really felt for those who’ve been with it since the start. I also give my two cents on why I’m still in love with the Rebuilds despite the stumbles.
What started as a desire to rip apart a bad-looking show turned into a biting critique of Crunchyroll’s most ambitious endeavor yet. In this essay, I explore the project thus far, assess its fundamental goals, analyze its successes and failures as such, and then offer my thoughts on how Crunchyroll can improve.
It’s the end of 2020… nearly. For December, I’m taking another hiatus to do some fiction writing. While I wouldn’t call it a grand finale, given how rough the year has been for many, it’s still worth celebrating that it is still ending. To celebrate, why not shout out the stories that know how to conclude the best.
Glass Reflections on YouTube often has said that “the ending is paramount” and despite my disagreements with him, I can’t disagree with him on that one. The ending of a story can make or break it. The conclusion of SAO: Ordinal Scale made the plodding narrative leading up to it all worth it. On the flip side, the last five minutes of Black Butler II ruined an otherwise exciting season in retrospect.
So here are a few of my favorite endings that left on a high note, redeeming lesser qualities or acting as the culmination of greater ones. They made me cry, they made me giggle uncontrollably, or they left me without the will to speak.
I find it amusing that the Project Itoh films adapted Itoh’s novels in the reverse order of when they were released. While that wasn’t the original intention, as the release schedule was different before The Empire of Corpses‘ announcement, it nevertheless became this way.
Empire was a mere concept of a story never completed by Itoh himself before he lost his battle with cancer. Next, Harmony, the tale of medical dystopia, was written amid Itoh’s cancer treatment. Genocidal Organ might not have a clear parallel to Itoh’s plight, but it was his first and most prominent written work. Through this film project, it’s almost like Itoh was becoming alive again.
That said, the film was hardly as optimistic as such a claim would imply. Genocidal Organ is a militaristic sci-fi drama that dissects the mind of soldiers in a future where they can be made to feel nothing. The influence between Itoh and the works of Hideo Kojima is plain as day and this story arguably goes even harder in portraying the horrors of modern warfare than MGS4 did.
This film was also delayed from late 2015 to late 2017 as Manglobe went bankrupt and production resumed under a new studio. The production problems combined with the long wait meant that the film project lost steam while the expectations grew larger for those still anticipating it. When all was said and done, was Project Itoh a success?
Rarely in discussions of book-to-film adaptations am I in a position where I’ve read the book. Most times I come at those discussions from a neutral standpoint, weighing the deviations vs the quality of the work. Additionally, the difference between the two mediums has to be accounted for. Some things work better in a book and some things work better in a movie.
The only work by Satoshi Itoh that I’ve read is Genocidal Organ, his first and most famous novel. I read it in anticipation of the delayed animated film. Part of me felt like I should indulge in the original material after the second film in the Project Itoh trilogy left me disappointed. From Studio 4°C, this is Harmony.
I know last week I said “come back next week for the next Project Itoh review,” but this week got off to a bumpy start.
As of writing, I’ve come down with a cold. Yes, I’m sure it’s just a cold, I don’t think I have COVID. Normally I’d fight through a cold like it’s nothing but something about getting sick at all after six months of quarantining made me a lot more suspicious about what this was as soon as I got symptoms.
So I was spending the last two days – which are typically my biggest writing days – sleeping. If it were just that, I probably would have been a bit more indecisive on whether to make this post. However, there is something very important going on today, the day this is posted…
My good friend, “Sad Scientist,” is an awesome writer and two years ago he wrote a short story called Scorpion Grass. It was a supernatural mystery set in Japan following two high-schoolers trapped in their school during the holiday break of Oban.
For two years the work went unfinished. Sci had made some changes on a whim and ended up erasing the original ending (happens to the best of us). Thankfully, I still had a saved copy of the original story, so he got to work editing it and perfected it. And now he’s created his own WordPress to publish it.
We all have our inspirations and Sci’s are works of modern fantasy such as Monogatari and the works of Kinoko Nasu (Tsukihime, Garden of Sinners). My love for modern fantasy is well-documented so I was all on-board. I encourage anyone looking for a good read to check out his work. Fans of Monogatari will surely get a kick out of it, and it has enough of an identity on its own that you’ll be itching for more when you’re finished.
I’ve only ever read one of the works by the late Satoshi Itoh. It was his first novel, Gyakusatsu Kikan, or in English, Genocidal Organ. It was a stirring sci-fi novel depicting a future in which first-world countries became surveillance states out of fear of terrorism. Once you’ve read some of his work, it isn’t surprising that he was great friends with Hideo Kojima, the writer/ director behind the Metal Gear Solid series.
Itoh wrote three published novels in his time before losing a battle with cancer in 2009. Genocidal Organ was followed by Harmony in 2008. In the same year, he penned the novelization of Kojima’s grandest work yet, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Before losing a battle with cancer in 2009, Itoh began work on another story, The Empire of Corpses.
That final story would go on to be finished by Itoh’s friend Toh Enjoe and published in 2012. In 2014, a film project was announced, adapting all three of his original stories to animation. Genocidal Organ would be animated by Manglobe (Samurai Champloo, Ergo Proxy). Harmony would be helmed by Studio 4°C (the Berserk: Golden Age Arc movies, Mind Game). Finally, The Empire of Corpses would be helmed by Studio WIT (Attack on Titan, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress).
This ambitious project would be simply titled: Project Itoh.
Back in 2017, I wrote briefly about Itoh’s history in anticipation of Genocidal Organ‘s theatrical release in the US. However, I missed an opportunity to truly explore the merits of these films. It’s been three years and I haven’t seen much attention given to these unique science-fiction stories. It’s time to consider whether or not this project truly did justice to the works of a talented author who passed away too soon.
From director Ryoutarou Makihara, this is The Empire of Corpses.
Rarely does a show come along that makes me rethink what I want from a story. Across any number of genres I’m interested in, there is an expectation of how the story will explore “drama. The numerous action shows I watch explore their drama through physical interchange, be it spectacular or grounded in realism.
Even adult dramas with a sparse number of action scenes will present other, more personal forms of violence as well as confrontation through dialog. Slice of life dramas or comedies may have lighter tones, but they may culminate in some dramatic climax where the tone changes.
This week, I’m exploring a show that approaches its story in a far more relaxed manner. It presents its political theater in a captivating way unlike any other show I’ve watched, and made me reassess how I look at what makes a drama “mature.” From director Shingo Natsume and Studio Madhouse, this is ACCA 13 – Territory Inspection Dept.