Monthly Archive for July, 2008

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[G-Man] What makes an anime Good?

Okay.. I know I haven’t posted for awhile and I have a really good excuse for this. But I’m not going to tell..lol…. Anywho…back to my long winded diatribe about anime, otukuism, culture and life. The topic of discussion this time juxtaposes beautifully with my last entry on the incredibly non-existent, or limited, merits of the superiority of the anime Naruto. If you haven’t read the post, shame on you and fly a kite off a bridge! For those of you who have read my post, this will be a follow up to the last post and will examine the characteristics an anime should manifest in order to be classified as decent or quality anime.

Yeah, the question is pretty vague, but that didn’t stop Aristotle from dissecting drama in the poetics, so why should vagueness stop me now? So what makes for a good anime? Of course, we have to allow for the inclusion of different genres which may skew any serious critique of what makes a good anime. Since it can be reasonably argued that every particular genre of anime should be judged by a separate standardized distinct rubric. But that would just take too long, and I have a life to live!! So how about we just lump all anime together and hash out what makes an anime give you that warm gooey feeling inside.

PLOT

I mean you would think this is obvious, but from what I’ve seen, tons of animes (and films) do not have a coherent, cohesive, intricate plot that gives to true sophisticated inspection. This is not to mean that all animes should be heavy on sci-f, or philosophy, but it does mean that when you see a typical anmie it’s usually the same ol, “you are the chosen one who must save the world”, or, “I have a crush on so and so because he or she is super cool”, or,” we must defeat the evil blah blah”, or” The power of friendship and love conquers all”,or…you get the picture. For instance, let’s compare two animes and let’s see which one has a plot that is well tuned vs. a plot that seemed like somebody just threw together in a hurry, added spectacular long stylistic battles, and super duper power ups. I’m going to choose *drum roll please* Bleach and Gintama.

Gintama vs Bleach

I’ll confess that I’m completely bias in regard to my general assessment of these two animes. Gintama happens to be one of my favorite animes of all time, and while I do watch Bleach, I probably would never admit it openly. Now, being the sophist that I am, I can always make up reasons for being a shame of Bleach which may, or may not, have any validity, but for this semi-scholarly exercise of wit and humor I will attempt to be as impartial as possible. Let’s begin, Why does the plot for Bleach suck? Yeah, it’s kind of harsh to say the plot of an anime sucks, but words fail me at the moment to properly describe the horrendous excuse for a plot that is Bleach. For those of you who have been living under the proverbial rock, Bleach is one of the most popular animes in otakudom. The plot can be summed up quite simply in that it centers around the main protagonist, Ichiago, who one day saves a shimigami (death god) and then becomes one himself, protecting the world from evil spirits called hollows. The plot “thickens” when Bleach introduces you to a whole new world called soul society, where things like common sense, consistency, and reason doesn’t matter because after all that would mean the writers would have to develop the plot further and that would take away from precious fighting scenes. To put it simply, Ichiago encounters powerful new villains, who have really vague reasons for being villains, and is forced to do battle with these god like beings who usually pummel him the first time around, but when faced with immeasurable odds Ichiago will either save the day some how or get saved by someone else. Cool..eh? I mean think of the depth and complexity involved in the development of this drama..don’t you see it!? If we take a look at Gintama, what we find is an anime that completely goes against the pervasive tendencies of animes to have a plot that centers on the protagonist’s ad hoc development. Instead, what we have with Gintama is a plot that ranges from philosophical introspection to down right zany comedy, allowing for a unique and intriguing viewing experience. You simply don’t know what to expect, and that is the workings of a masterful plot.

Character Development

If you watch alot of movies these days, you probably encounter a very eire and strange event that left you bewildered and disillusioned. This is what probably happened:  you went to go see the most recent head lined blockbuster filled with CGI, A-List actors and all the hollywood fixings and the strangest thing occurred to you at the end of the film. What occurred, you may ask? Well, you realized that you didn’t care. The main protagonist could of died and you would of cared less. Feeling empty and cheated you probably left the theaters vowing never to return. This scenario plays out time and time again in film as well as animes, because writers forget a crucial facet of creating compelling works of imaginative lure. Which is, “That you must create characters who people buy into and care about”

Example #1 -Bad Character Development

Take a character like Naruto for instance. Sure, in the beginning you sympathize with underdog who wants to prove his ninja coolness. You root for him and hope he can do at least something right. But after awhile, and i mean 150 episodes later, it becomes quite apparent that Naruto is as shallow as a curb side pond on a hot summer day. Why do I say this? Because his maturity is stagnant, his understanding is simple and vague, and depth of perception is quite limited especially in regards to ascertaining a complete over view of any situation.

Example# 2: Good character Development

Death Note’s L had such stunning character development that it left audiences mystified long after the anime has been completed. I mean its to the point that they’re creating a live action movie featuring L as the main protagonist. Now why is L so fascinating? Well, consider his allure: he is enigmatic, shockingly insightful, unpredictable, strange, charming, and yet still retains a hidden depth to him unbeknown to us all. When the audience get just a glimpse into what’s behind his dumb founded gaze, we’re met with an individual who exceeds our typical classifications of mere introverted emodom, no L is a dude with purpose and passion. Sadly, L dies by the hand of the only person he considered a friend, and what compounds the situation is that he knew all a long that he would die by the hand of his “so-called” friend…damn you L! I can’t quit you!!

Further Considerations

In order for a plot to really have legs and start moving, there should always be riveting conflict. The kind of conflict that makes audiences lean to the edge of their sits with captivation, obsessively staring to see what happens next. The most tired and true way to create such conflict, is through the creation of a compelling antagonist. What many people seem to forget is that the antagonist tends to be the alter-ego or antithesis of the protagonist. But this should in no way negate the attention and care that should be taken to forging a solid character for your antagonist. I mean take Othello’s Iago, this guy obviously had some deep seated issues! But his treachery was so deep, refined, and unsettling, that it has immortalized his shrewed villainy for all time.

Example#1: Good Antagonist  Development

In the manga/anime Monster, readers/viewers are introduced to a antagonist that simply boggles the mind. Johan, the anatagonist, is not just your average sociopath with deep seated issues caused by his mother (I kid..its always the mother), in fact, he’s a brilliant master mind that has completely lost faith in human kind and wants nothing more but to end it all. Though on the set it sounds tripe, I mean a villain who goes crazy and wants to destroy everything isn’t the greatest example of character innovation. But what we do discover as Monster‘s story develops and plot thickens, is that Johan when viewed consistently with the information you receive from the manga/anime is understandably irate and is a complex individual who grapples with the confusion as to life’s purpose and meaning , in addition to dealing with resentment and inferiority complex caused by the acts of others who were instrumental in his childhood. A brilliant mind like Johan is undoubtedly sensitive to the information it receives, and interprets them quite differently then a normal mental process would otherwise be engaged, resulting in what may very well be the creation of a villain who is indeed marred by the acts of others, and though is still responsible for his/her acts, becomes an object of pity instead of contempt. That’s some good bad guy development….

In Conclusion

I believe we anime viewers as a community should demand more from the products we choose to consume. Of course I know this isn’t possible since many otakus are content with enjoying  sub-par anime franchises. So why write this article? Well, for starters, to vent at the absurdities I see in animes on a regular basis and to encourage others to support higher quality media outlets in hopes that some change may occur in the entertainment landscape. Until then, there’s always Gintama!!

I am G-man!!!

Interview with the Gundam Exia Cosplayer: RoboSauna!!

It’s been a while since our last interview here at Riuva. If memory serves me right, it was Hoshi the Yin Cosplayer, Champion of last year’s Cosfest 07. Since I did not attend last year’s EOY, nor saw any of the pictures it produced, Riuva did not have an interview for Champion Cosplayer.

As all of you here would have heard and seen by now, the best cosplayer by far for this year’s Cosfest 08 is the Gundam Exia man, with Iron Man coming a close 2nd and cute Haruhi a distant 3rd by virtue of her looks. I must say that Ironman was on par with Exia, and it was a shame I did not see him in the flesh.

Thanks to the connections of Zer0, I managed to secure a short interview with the man behind the Gundam Exia, Mr Clive Lee! Here goes… (bolded statements are those of the esteemed TJ Han himself.) Photos courtesy of Windbell.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What are your hobbies? How did you get into them?

Clive:

I am currently 29 years old, I develop games for a living for my own company. My hobbies are gaming, watching anime, reading manga, drawing, cosplaying.
For gaming, watching anime and reading manga, I did not purposely get into them. They are activities most kids would engage in and somehow I am still attracted to these activities until now; I guess I am still a kid. Haha! The only exception is cosplaying. I was in NUS anime club and my senior sort of introduced cosplay to me after he attended an event. I got interested after looking the photos and went for the 2001 cosplay event in costume and I became a cosplayer until now.

NUS Anime Club, that’s a coincidence. One of the Riuva underlings, Kokanaden, is currently the Emperor Muad’dib of the anime club. Clive "accidentally" got into gaming, anime and manga, sort of how one would trip and fall into a bottomless manhole of unlimited abyssal doom.

2. You were the Gundam Dynames from EOY. What are some of the other mecha suits you have made and worn?

Clive:
In order of appearance, I made and worn
1)Gundam RX-178 MKII,
2)Gundam Wing Zero Custom,
3)Gundam Epyon,
4)Gundam GP02S,
5)Freedom Gundam,
6)Knight of Gold,
7)Gundam Dynames
8)Gundam Exia.

Two other costumes, Transformable Optimus Prime and Optimus Prime kid version, I made and sold it to Movie Mania, making it a total of 10 mecha suits.

3. Could you share the process of creating such a suit?

Clive:
As of now, I only documented the process (ver 4.0) for making the head and the body. You can access them at the links below:
Head
Body

Yes, you guys should really check out those detailed tutorials. But it’s not like we’re going to make a giant robo-sauna for ourselves anytime soon, most likely.

4. What are the skills and materials required?

Clive:
One must have basic knowledge of Art & Craft, Physics, costume making and some home DIY skills. It will be more advantageous if one knows material engineering and mechanical engineering.

Material will range from:
1) Polypropylene(PP) Plastic,
2) Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) plastic,
3) EVA (Ethylene vinyl acetate) foam,
4) Poly Ethylene IV form,
5) to the basic cardboard
Which material to use depends on the user’s preference and ease of usage.

These will sound extremely daunting to the "I am Artist" types, but rest assured that majority of these materials are easily found. Ironically, in an arts supplies store.

5. How have you been upgrading each different suit?

Clive:
I identify the weak points of previous suits and try to come out with a solution for the next project i.e. The basis of upgrading is aimed at correcting the mistakes of the previous suit. For example, the Exia has the glowing eyes, the glowing GN drive backpack.

6. What are the costs (time and money) of making each suit?

Clive:
Time taken varies ranging from 3 weeks to 7 months depending on the complexity of the design and the amount of details to be included. Cost of production (excluding labour cost) range from S$150 to S$700.

That’s a lot of money for a cosplay. The typical average good cosplay costs about 200-400, which is quite expensive as well. Time is money too.

7. Do you plan to continue building more suits every half a year?

Clive:
Building one mecha every half a year would kill me. Haha! I will not be making them that frequently anymore due to commitment to my business. Perhaps one every 1.5 years.

8. If so, how do you think you can improve them further? What mecha will you pick?

Clive:
I believe I would be able to improve them further in terms of proportion, mobility, and electronics. Currently, I have yet to pick a mecha but I have some in mind – Unicorn Gundam, Black Wing Gundam, Master Gundam, Nu Gundam, VF-25G Valkyrie.

I strongly recommend those from outside the Gundam universe. Perhaps Gurren Lagann, Full Metal Panic or Eureka seveN? I think a Valkyrie would be quite difficult though.

9. What drives you to continue making these mecha suits?

Clive:
Pride & Passion. The desire to show the world that Singapore have high standard mecha cosplays as well. The desire to create something revolutionary. But the truth is, the process of making mecha costume is something I fear, no matter how many suits I have made. It is like a challenge of mental and physical strength.

Wow, back in the old days when I interviewed soldiers all the time, asking them why they found training "fun", they would always give a similar response. Might building cosplays of military mecha lead one to think like a soldier? Or is it because all Singaporean males are true soldiers at heart?

11.How hot is the suit actually? We saw you sweating like mad after just a few minutes.

Clive:
It is not that hot actually compared to people dressing up as furry mascots (Barney, Chicken Little…e.t.c.) I sweat alot because I have very high metabolism.

Not as high as the guy from Wanted, whose heart beats 400 times a minute, that’s for sure. Clive here practically looks like he’s in a sauna when clad in Exia suit.

12.Do you consider your suit a form of cosplay? What do you feel about the local cosplay scene? If you have knowledge of overseas ones, do feel free to compare.

Clive:
It is a cosplay, yet not a cosplay. The making process is like scratch building a life size model kit or creating a mini float, an art piece. Wearing it, I feel more like a mascot entertainer and a SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) soldier road marching in Full Battle Order. The local cosplay scene is getting more and more recognised and there are a lot of really good cosplayers emerging as well as skillful costume makers and propmasters. Local cosplayers’ standard are comparable to other countries’ cosplayers but a lot of locals develop a misconception when they compare professional cosplay models and top notch cosplayers in Japan to the average cosplayers in Singapore and to the worst in US. Wrong basis of comparison. Singapore cosplay scene has huge potential, but limited by the small size of population sadly.

That is true. All parameters in life are unable to break free from the gaussian distribution. There will always be the excellent (few), average (plentiful) and terrible (few). People just love to do tiny sample sizes that are heavily biased and produce rubbish conclusions. But I think the cosplay scene has stopped growing, at least not as exponentially as in the previous few years. It might have reached a bottleneck.

13.What do you do with all the suits that you’ve made, after their appearance in the events?

I threw away all my suits except Gundam Freedom, Gundam Dynames & Gundam Exia which I consider to be my better suits.

Maybe somewhere, you find garbagemen dancing around in Gundam suits. Thanks Clive for the interview and all the best to your future endeavours, be it in cosplay or making real money!