Note: This a repost from my old site. Only small edits and changes have been made, however, much of the content remains the same.
Among a handful of well-received animation studios and towering titans such as: Ufotable, Production I.G, and Sunrise – SHAFT has made itself indelibly known with its signature trademarks and nearly otherworldly behavior. Tilting of the head, dramatic panning shots, and eerier phantom writing on spaces once blank along with other techniques are qualities that make SHAFT known, but this odd and yet ethereal beauty is something more. This imperfection with a astute eye for detail and respect toward design is SHAFT’s every own Wabi Sabi: An aesthetic that allowed the productions of this studio to blossom as well as itself. It is a natural staple of East, Japan in particular, and has curled its away into all aspects of life. Anime included.
To briefly explain, Wabi Sabi is the aesthetic exemplified in natural materials and methods to contrast the dichotomy of that which is treasured for its antiquity/aging (Wabi) and that to find beauty, serenity, and qualities in life (Sabi) that echoes things such as asymmetry, economy, simplicity, etc. Much like the Cherry Blossoms (Sakura) which are treasured for their fleeting beauty in Japan – SHAFT studios exemplifies the same with its somewhat estrange style that always radiates a natural and serene feel, but ready to shift its mask at any given moment. To be more concrete but brief, their are many excellent examples that highlight this perfectly. For the sake of simplicity, the following relativity express the gist of the bare-bones.
Arakawa Under The Bridge, is one example that juxtaposes a denpsan (see notes) society of strange and backwater denizens, yet still manages to present a visual beauty of sorts in its twisted society that might be a mockery of our own. Needless to say, the very same formula of dysfunction but retention of majesty is also found in Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, although it is more of a ode to the oddness of adolescents – yet the beauty of experiences and growing up. Despite the exuberant birth of these series by the original writer, the animation studio, SHAFT in this case, seems to almost echo the Wabi Sabi of the production itself – both its visual splendider but also pure dream-like structure are intact. While their is more too add about these two productions, I will leave it to the audiences own discovers.
Even though SHAFT is not the only studio to play with the idea of Wabi Sabi, I still feel from all the productions that I seen that it is the most noticeable. I would even say that in many fashions that blowing things out of proportion is the especially of this studio, but all the more that attributes to the values and principles of the Wabi Sabi edict. Hopefully, this Synergy will continue to keep its alive not only within the domain of SHAFT studios, but to Anime as a complete enigmatic entity. It is truly the marriage of the best worlds possible.
- Wabi Sabi is a traditional aspect of Japanese desired beauty and perfection, much equivalent to the Western search. Today, since the word is not easily defined it is attributed to all aspects of life; especially those of Buddhism, but also to tea ceremonies, Ikebana or flower arrangement, haiku and Japanese literature composition, and many more.
- Denpsan is hard term to define, but roughly equivalent to the expression “Grandeur of Disillusions”. You believe you are something that you are really not. (Ex: The residences of Arakawa Under the Bridge). It can also refer to something or someone that is weird.
- Extra reading from fellow blogger, Overlord-G in: Basic Steps To Creating A SHAFT clone