PSYCHO-PASS

Gen Urobuchi (the TV script writer of this show) is perhaps my very favorite anime writer; the concepts he explores in his well world-built works like Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero are to me enough to teach a humanities or philosophy class alone. And after watching episodes 1-5, Psycho Pass is proving to be no exception.

Within its 5 episodes, Psycho Pass has already delve deep into the role of policing a society that pretty much has the ability to determine each individual’s happiness (i.e. where unemployment is not a big issue), eliminating any possible criminals with a weapon that will not do lethal action until it “reads” that the person is not mentally sound, and exploiting the hive minded mindset of social networking both online and in real life. The world building here features a clearly dystopian setting that is first very akin to Bladerunner’s, with actual numerous pop culture references such as George Orwell’s 1981 and mentions of Jean Jacques Rousseau. So far, it appears to be a case study between the concept of individualism vs. collectivism, and I believe it’ll go even more into it in the next few episodes. Asides from the overall dark mood of the story though, there are a good share of cute mascots that roam the world every now and then to lighten the atmosphere (but for that same reason, some of them are also plot points).

For those who are interested, here is the link to watching the episodes for free online on the official website. And despite having watched lots of anime with exclusively Japanese named characters before, 7 out of 8 main characters (including an antagonist not pictured here) are introduced in this first episode alone and were hard for me to memorize, so here is also a link to the character names associated with appearance.

Comparison #1: Mentalities behind people drawing one style or the other

This is perhaps one of the most common art arguments brought up, but a discussion that still goes on today in art classrooms everywhere: the difference between the two art styles that is Western and Japanese animation, debates on which is “more superior and better to learn from when starting to draw”, and general biases towards the both of their styles.

First, a list of common general features of both types in terms of character art style. One bullet list appears more “positive” than the other, but this is more of a representation of overall opinion on it.

  • Western animation:
  1. Tends to have more exaggerated/varied facial features and expressions per character
  2. More exaggerated body types, sometimes even making someone appear geometrically shaped that usually tells of their personality (i.e. round for cute characters, triangle shapes for smart or evil characters)
  3. One is able to usually tell immediately which series a character comes from as each western show often portrays a much different style than another series’

This acute need to develop a unique art style in the west usually results in overemphasizing many features of a character to make them distinguishable, either to the point of charming quirkiness, or downright zaniness. One of the best things about western animation is not only the vast differences in art style, but the many ways these visuals can be presented. Shows like Tom and Jerry are all show and not tell, and musical numbers like that trippy sequence in Dumbo are very abstract by nature. There are huge liberties in portraying it with a certain mood, and there are just less negative reactions or backlash towards it as each animation style in western animation can feel like a refreshing new start when starting on another series. Criticism of the style would be times when expressions and emotions are so exaggerated such as dropping jaw to the floor when surprised, and these aspects makes this type of animation “too childish” for some people to watch anymore as the style deviates from real life norms. This however is mostly a culture issue, and doesn’t make the message any less expressive to those who do end up watching.

  • Japanese animation (anime):
  1. More concerned with aesthetics and sympathy factors of a character that will directly appeal to the audience. Everything is also usually shinier when colored/animated
  2. Less variety in facial features (i.e. dots/small lines for noses, nearly identical head shapes of almost every character, etc), and bodies tend to be very cookie cutter shaped among characters
  3. Less variety in art style in general: a majority of the time, rather than being able to judge by art style to see which anime series a character comes from (i.e. for Western animation one would automatically know whether a character comes from Fairy Odd Parents), people would ask “what anime is the character from”

It is this latter problem that makes art teachers  tell students “not to draw in anime style, to branch out on a style of their own.” This concern for students only drawing in anime style is not unfounded: a lot of people do fall into the pitfall of only consulting “how-to draw anime” books and drawing exactly how the book teaches without improvising on the style further. However, I do think it is a little unfair to totally dismiss anime style altogether as it closes doors on certain positive aspects of aesthetics in anime such as the fine details in hair and clothing wrinkles. And while not focusing on artistic expression as often, it is a good platform for serious works as it tends to reflect real life in a way that you don’t often see square/triangular people in large head shaped varieties, nor can you tell who is evil or good just by looking at them. Works like Full Metal Alchemist is a good example of portraying a serious storyline, and managing to have characters who look unique without having to resort to extreme shapes.

—-

Ultimately, there are so many exceptions to both which I can provide with plenty of examples in comments if you address them. Bottom line is, if anyone who wants to draw illustration, storyboards or animate have no idea where to start getting their inspiration in honing skill, I think it is okay to draw inspiration from -even piggyback for a while on- a style from any country, regardless of how generic the style may be in the beginning. In the end, there is no better teacher in creating authenticity than taking a great amount of motivation by observing everyday life, taking some courses that teach basics that you might already know (but will force you to practice and get better with those skills regardless!), and just having fun drawing whatever it is you want to draw in general. No matter how different or ordinary the art style may turn out to be, if someone enjoys it regardless, I think at the end of the day the issue becomes irrelevant if the message or emotion behind the work is meaningful.

This year’s Disney Licensing

Disney is on the roll this year with purchasing very big names into their business. First there was the acquisition of Marvel for $4 billion , and now just very recently, Lucasarts also for $4 billion.

Earlier this year, there were some hopes for this merge, as stated in the about.com site back in February: And it’s good news for Marvel, which can use Disney’s muscle to become a bigger presence outside the U.S…The deal, says Marvel icon Stan Lee, “gives Disney a library of literally hundreds of unique and colorful characters that have the potential to make great, high-concept movies and long-lasting franchises — and nobody knows how to play in that ballpark better than Disney.”

Then there are concerns as said in an article about Lucasarts; Disney appears to be turning into a monopoly of sorts, meaning they are probably more concerned with milking more money for the companies to benefit from. And with all of these famous names with well-known franchises, there is even more doubt in whether they will exhaust any of their money supply into more original projects instead of spin-offs/sequels anytime soon.

I don’t think they’re joint ventures like Disney is with Pixar, so no Leila or Vader wearing a Mickey Mouse hat (or will there?), but I am a little worried about its direction in the future. I mean, I am also already worried with the release of this latest animation trailer here under Disney too (which is filled with poor choppy/uncanny animation and characters a lot of the times appear rotoscoped or traced straight from the Avenger’s movie, with no artistic expression or visual flow).

…Yup.