Thursday, September 21, 2006

Watching the good stuff...

It's been a while since my last post (as usual, this shouldn't be anything new to people who've been with this blog from the beginning). In fact, for a while I've been contemplating doing away with the blog, maybe starting from scratch, or broadening the content. However, this blog was created out of my love for the Japanese animated format of storytelling, and for that it will remain.

This time I want to take a look into the past. It really hit me, just last week when I was watching Ghost in the Shell last week with one of my friends - in my rush to stay current and keep up with all the new shows being fansubbed (Zegapain, NHK!, Ergo Proxy), I've lost sight of the whole point of why I started watching anime in the first place. To some extent this post is my way of looking back at the shows that really influenced me, and kept me around when I considered dropping anime as a hobby altogether.

I'd say that the most pivotal anime series in my short-long (approaching ten years) life as an otaku was Evangelion. Yeah, I know what everyone's thinking right about now: "Evangelion? That show is for posers." At least someone's going to think that on reading this post. However, to my thirteen-year-old mind, it was something truly grand and epic, like one of those old novels that you really had to wrestle with to "get" it. And even seven years after my first viewing, I hold that show in high regard. The mere fact that it has survived this long, with such an aura around it, is testimony to both its longevity and relevance.

A friend of mine and I were talking about the show just yesterday, and he brought up the fact that he loved the show because, in the end, it wasn't about the giant robots, the battles, or the animation. It was about Shinji, and his struggle with himself. That's what gives the show its universal appeal, and what has drawn so many people to watch it (another of my friends related to me that his forty year old godmother called him after watching the show and told him he had to see it). In fact, the themes of the show carry such weight that even now people want more.

As much as Evangelion shaped me as an otaku, I would have to give Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal the seat of honor as the anime I consider to be the highest achievement of the art form. Having sat through in excess of a dozen viewings of the four episode OVA, I can honestly say that it is my favorite anime production of all time.

The thing about it that draws me, and others (Samurai X has a well-earned reputation as one of the gems of Japanese animation), is the general level of excellence displayed across the board. From the animation to the music to the script to the direction, Samurai X never disappoints the viewer. Its animation is of the highest quality, on a comparable level with some of the best that anime motion pictures have to offer. The music, composed by Taku Iwasaki, is some of the most hauntingly beautiful to come out of Japanese animation. And of course, the most imporant elements to me - the story and characters are superb.

Everyone knew about Kenshin. He was the Battosai. What wasn't fully explained, until much later in the manga, and only in bits and pieces during the anime, was why he did what he did. Replacing the silliness of the TV series with brutal realism, Samurai X delivered what amounts to one of the most heart-wrenching tales of first love and devotion to an ideal. Kenshin's discovery of Tomoe's supposed betrayal is probably one of the most touching, and well-done moments of introspection delivered by anime.

I could go on with other greats of the past - Jin-Roh, Ghost in the Shell, Now and Then: Here and There, The Place Promised in our Early Days - movies and series that truly touched me and serve as reminders of the power of man's works of art. But I'll save that for another day.

Note: It's been a while. I'm going to change the sub-title of the site so it no longer says "updated every Tuesday" since that's obviously not the case. Thanks to everyone who still sticks with this site, whether because of my writing style, the posts I choose to write, or whatever. It means a lot, and thanks for your continued support.

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