For the last eight years that I have been into the Japanese visual subculture of anime,manga, video games, etc – they have proven themselves to be viable forms of media for not only showcasing the prowess of their animation and aesthetics, but also the ability to weave in compelling and exciting narratives alongside them. And as much as I enjoy being introduced to vivid and wonderful worlds with the narrative to support it, sometimes it is just as nice to bask in the artistic medium as it is and other times, wonder why some series go as far as they do with producing overwhelming beauty. It is true that these niceties do help enhance and bring out a deeper quality of storytelling, but at the same time, some series are better off without them…
In recent memory, Fate/Zero had to be one of the toughest if not dreadful shows I watched over the last past year. Genuinely interested at first to see how the events of Zero lead into the franchise, I was soon dismayed with all the grandiosity and posturing that took place in order just to get halfway through the story. It was not overtly boring narrative wise, but the sheer ambitious quality that was put into its aesthetics and beauty was. It lost its allure. I can appreciate series that try to bring more to the traditional animation storytelling table, but Fate/Zero among other series such as: Melody of Oblivion and Neon Genesis (to an extent) have this chronic illness of allowing their cultural references and painted surrealism become to overbearing and thus, making for a very tedious story. However, on the flip side, their are plenty of series that I have seen and watched time and time again, that actually very effective and stylish – letting their visual qualities speak for them when sometimes mere writing and rhetoric can not.
Noir, as one specific and perfect example is a series that no matter how many times I revisit it, it continues to impress me and leave a positive response in mind. While it is quite callous when it comes to death and displays too much superficial firearm action, it is surprisingly grounded in when comes to the concepts such as morality, mortality, and more importantly, just makes use of its artistic strengths to be so much more attractive. Examples of this would have to be in episodes 03, 06, and 11 – which are favorites of mine just to name a few. Besides that, the music itself, excellently composed by Yuki Kajiura just brings out the narrative in more pleasurable ways than possible. The atmosphere on-screen and my own viewing experience, I can say benefits from it. It is something that you rather have to see for yourself – experience for yourself than to quantify like I am now. Although, with those subtitle yuri undertones, my judgement maybe slightly positively predisposed. Kidding aside, it really does illicit different feelings through every viewing session.
For a more concrete example, I like how RahXephon really delves in deep, using its technical beauty to really be apart of the story than just for eye-candy. Since of the show deals with mostly cultural references from the dawn of exploration – it meshes well with its protagonist, Ayato Kamina – a young man trying to find his place in the world and a world that seems just as disorderly as it is dream like. Touching on concepts such as: “retuning”, a concept in music and the Surrealist school of thought, the series so gingerly touches on the bigger core of the issues to the viewer without actually reveling it outright. In addition to that, the animation itself really matches story content: with a world that seems unyielding and chaotic one moment, but simply sublime the next. Just like the painting Ayato fashioned in the introductory episode. Simply put: It was impressive and elegant without being impressive to be elegant. If you don’t know what I mean by that: look it up.
Of course, this not a post to bash Fate/Zero or uplift any other series. Not in the sightless – since their was many things I like about Zero and downright hated about the other two (trust me, Noir gets somewhat boring go into the climax, despite the style). This is just to illustrate – from one fan perspective (that’s me) how something as simple as aesthetic placement and visual artistic design can be a bigger deal far beyond the usual way we think of it. I am not even entirely what prompted me to even begin this post, but in doing so, it just revealed one more intangible piece of enjoyment/displeasure I get out of anime as not only a viewer – but so-called “devoted fan”. I am sure if you think about yourself, you find some of the same qualities that you admire/abhorred in your own viewing experiences.