It’s a hardknock life for SHAFT

I don’t think that SHAFT produces pure gold 100% of the time, but one thing that characterizes all of their works is a habit of injecting large amounts of visual flare on a limited budget. This is one of the things that is polarizing about them, even though it really shouldn’t be. Over the years they have developed a number of signature techniques, which are updates and additions to Shinbo’s visual quirks that defined his early¬† body of work from the early 90s to mid-2000s. A mark of a good SHAFT show is when they bring some new tricks to the table.

This is what I like about SHAFT. There’s always an attempt to reach out and do something new in the face of limited resources. But since this is what most people say about them, allow me to qualify it. A lot of early anime is marked by experimentation, be it experimentation as far as animation techniques go (usually in an attempt to make use of a limited budget) or experimentation in the realm of storytelling. While these experiments may not always be successful, some of them morphed into techniques used across the industry, or have helped to define some of the industry’s most momentous works. One of the main reasons the third Gundam movie and End of Evangelion stick out in my mind so much is due to them having very visually arresting and experimental scenes.

SHAFT is constantly in the position of Japanese animation studios way back when–understaffed and underfunded. Well, it’s not like all anime studios aren’t in that position, but SHAFT is doubly so.¬† However, rather than just halfassing it, they make the most of it, and try to make something really cool. It doesn’t always work, but this approach is preferred to the way most studios would usually go about it.

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5 Responses to It’s a hardknock life for SHAFT

  1. lvlln says:

    That their techniques tend to polarize is certainly true. I see a lot of people criticize Bakemonogatari and Natsu no Arashi for using the zoomed out shots to save budget and not making us feel close to the characters at all. When I feel the opposite, that such shots give a visual flare to otherwise plain conversations and make them even more enjoyable.

  2. Glo says:

    SHAFT is awesome. That’s it. That’s all I have to say.

  3. Hogart says:

    I’m one of the people who fundamentally likes Shaft’s art style, despite their obvious corner-cutting (though I’m pretty sick of Shinbo’s fetish for dramatic eyes). But then, I actually enjoy art that’s “off” more than beautifully-rendered CGI. I got more mileage out of Tentai Senshi Sunred’s bobblehead characters then the moeblobs in stuff like Sora no Woto or Angel Beats.

    It’s really too bad Shaft hasn’t had a worthwhile story to tell in ages. He realy seems infatuated with that male lead archtype that’s been in all his anime since Bakemonogatari. I actually miss Natsu no Arashi’s cast because they were different and fun. Maybe if I watched his sequel-happy shows I’d feel differently, but there’s only so much time for anime.

  4. hashi says:

    Very good point. Their need/desire to make anime at a reasonable cost leads Shaft — and I think basically Shinbou — to keep experimenting. But I like some Shinbou anime and don’t like others. Each one has different material and a somewhat different style, or a different combination of Shinbou’s panoply of visual and aural rhythms.

    My taste clearly differs from Hogart’s. Natsu no Arashi bored me. Even Zetsubou Sensei didn’t amuse me much. Nor Arakawa. But I think Bakemonogatari is a masterpiece. And Vampire Bund came close. Until Bakemonogatari, I thought the best Shinbou anime was not directed by Shinbou but by Oonuma Shin under his supervision: ef memories.

  5. dood says:

    I love SHAFT’s style, I love what they do with the materials given to them, my only complaint though is STOP CASTING Kamiya Hiroshi TO EVERY MAIN ROLE !!!!