Certain genres tend to stick toward a specific artistic style. The animation style that is most prevalent in Japan is more commonly known as anime. While this style is often times made fun of by those not familiar with it, it does hold to some pretty cliche themes. Weird hair colors, under and over-exaggerated motions, constant shouting, bad lip-syncs, epileptic backgrounds. All these things are usually associated with anime. And while it is true that these things still exist to a certain extent, the anime genre as a whole has gotten better over the years. I think that the one reason people don’t take anime seriously is that they don’t take animation seriously. Animation is usually thought of as childish and juvenile. And while anime occasionally does dabble in these things, it can be much more serious and thought-provoking than people give it credit for. This weeks’ two movies show that we may be starting to accept this artistic style as more than just a Saturday morning cartoon.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Length: 112 minutes / 1.87 hours
In terms of entertainment, Japan is mainly known for two things: video games and anime. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World references both. In fact, the source material for this movie was a six volume graphic novel series that was done in a similar style to that of Japanese manga. Manga is generally a black and white comic book format that is most commonly found in weekly publications like Weekly Shounen Jump or graphic novel volumes that have collected the weekly installments in a convenient book form. Even though the Scott Pilgrim series doesn’t hold to the Japanese convention of being read from right to left since it was never a translation from the eastern languages; never-the-less, the books do hold to much of the same manga style, which is then taken and converted into anime.
The anime style is readily apparent in this film for those who are familiar with it. In order to help the reader understand the action on the page, manga will usually turn to the help of sound effects. These are usually written around or near the action to give an idea of the sound that would be made. Most people would correlate this to the “Pow!” and “Sock!” of the campy 60’s Batman series. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has these sound effects appear visually throughout. The battle sequences in this film also mimic those found in anime and include such cliche bits as glowing eyes, flying multi-combo attacks, and heavily choreographed swordplay. Those who are familiar with the anime style find it entertaining, but perhaps those who are not familiar may be given a glimpse into a much wider world of animation from the east.
Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours
If you were to ask anyone, even those not familiar with anime, what the most well known 60’s anime is, they would undoubtedly tell you that it was Speed Racer. And while purists of the series would tell you that the movie adaptation is an abomination, there is still much of the anime’s style that was adopted for the film. In fact, the anime style of the original show has often been made fun of (most notably on Family Guy) because many corners were cut in the early years of weekly animation. And yet, the anime style was founded with shows like Speed Racer. This film was made by the Wachowski Brothers, who also are well known for the Matrix trilogy, which also had it’s fair share of anime influence.
The plot of the film follows Speed (Emile Hirsch), who was born to race. As he gains wins with his family-based crew, the big sponsors start to take notice. The biggest sponsor, Royalton Industries, is taken aback that Speed would reject their ludicrous offer and soon Speed finds out that the racing world wasn’t quite what he thought it was. Still haunted by the death of his brother Rex (Scott Porter), Speed decides to take a less legitimate route to obtain his dream of being the best racer in the world. Fortunately, the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) lends his support to Speed as he tries to root out the unethical practices controlling the races behind the scenes. It all comes down to one last race: will Speed be able to win against the unscrupulous odds placed against him, or will he end up another casualty like his brother?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 nods to anime roots