A picture is worth a 1000 words… if you can come up with any

Photograph taken by @StephanTP.

Don’t expect an Otakon report from me until next Monday at the earliest. The cable that connects my camera to my computer is in a different city at the moment, and don’t really want to post something without visual aids. In the meantime, you can read a few of these great reports.

Anyway, after successfully finishing my (much better) Shinbo panel at Otakon 2010, I’ve realized what I really enjoy doing when speaking about anime, be it on a blog or on a panel: Talking about art. I’ve always realized this to some degree, but it never really hit me as clearly as it did when people said my panel was “informative,” either in real life or on the ol’ tweeter. Thanks to all you guys who came, by the way. Really appreciate it!

Writing about the visual side of anime is not completely unheard of across the multitude of anime blogs out there, but people who do talk about it are few in number. There are a couple of sakuga blogs, folks who talk (Somewhat inadequately, in my opinion.) about artbooks and doujinshi, and people like SDS write some pretty great things about anime as visual art every now and again. It’s not a surprise that only a handful of bloggers care to talk about anime as art. It’s difficult.

I don’t want to generalize, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that artistic people have a hard time putting their visual ideas into words, because it’s easier to just show what they’re thinking rather than saying it. Further more, breaking down the finer aspects of art requires specialized knowledge of the craft and terminology. Of course, you can pick a lot of this up by reading art crits and sprinkling on some BS, but it’s tough unless you’re really into it. And most people aren’t.

I’m going to assume that most people who look at anime, manga, or illustrations simply think of the pictures flashing before their eyes as “pretty,” and nothing more. Maybe they can see “ugly,” but often times good animation is confused as ugly, and sometimes people don’t notice animation when it’s clearly off-model. People instead latch on to commenting on story and character developments, or picking apart the rules of the world in which the characters live in. I assume that it’s easier for most people to get their head around these concrete ideas, as opposed to the rather abstract and strange world of marking up a paper with lines to create a picture. I’m not really getting on these people’s case, but I feel the ratio of them against people who care about the presentation of the plot, characters, and setting as opposed to those elements on their own, independent of how they’re presented, is too off balance.

I’m biased here. I got into anime because I liked cartoons in general, and I watched a lot of these things first and foremost for the presentation. It’s not as if I wasn’t taken by the scripts behind these moving pictures, but I liked taking the whole package into consideration, with a strong emphasis on the presentation. By “presentation,” I just don’t mean the visuals now–I mean how scenes are cut together, how shots are framed, how music is used, and the like. I am able to tell you whether I like a character or a story, but fuck if I can read into any sort of deep meaning in them. I just appreciate those things at face value. However, I’m far more interested in breaking down the technical processes behind how one presents a story though visuals and sounds. I guess this is why I don’t really care for fiction writing–it doesn’t stimulate many senses.

So that’s what I’d like to do, and have been trying (and failing, for the most part) to do with this blog: Take the presentational aspects of anime, manga, 2D visual culture and put them into words so people can understand why I like them. I’m not sure how many US cons are in my future at this point, but if I can I’d love to do panels on illustrators, and certain animation studios. Maybe it’ll be “informative,” or something!

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13 Responses to A picture is worth a 1000 words… if you can come up with any

  1. elevated says:

    Loved the panel, it was quite insightful into Shinbo’s directional style (with a good bit of humor). Also it convinced my friend to start watching Bakemonogatari.

  2. omo says:

    hey, a post i can get behind for.

  3. TheBigN says:

    Is this part of the idea of what you’ll be doing for your “future endeavors”? If so, it’s also something I can definitely get behind. :)

    In my case, I tend to notice if something is animated well or animated badly (and actually know what I’m talking about in that case), but other aspects like the music, the background art/character designs and the characters themselves take more precedence. Which is kind of strange in a medium focused on animation, but hey! \o

  4. Pingback: wah on writing about visuals – aloe, dream

  5. lvlln says:

    One thing is, besides Shaft’s works, most anime don’t really have a distinctive style, in art, animation, composition, or cinematography. It’s easy to notice when a specific scene is directed and uses cinematography particularly well, but for the most part, things just look the same.

  6. wah says:

    I can tell a JC Staff show these days just from a screencap. Same with KyoAni.

    …and DEEN, wwww.

  7. linger says:

    As an idea: I think it would be really neat (and possibly edifying?) if you recorded audio/video of one your panels for the non-con audience.

  8. wah says:

    Well, I was going to do that but totally forgot… if I end up doing this panel again (unlikely) I’ll try to record it.

  9. ETERNAL says:

    I always wonder why most of the blogosphere leans toward treating anime as fiction rather than as a visual art, but I guess it’s kinda obvious now that you mention it: the people who know about art are too busy drawing and not writing. I can understand that. I’d also like to see the ratio shift a little because more discussion about visuals would make it easier for the rest of us to broaden our scope and learn. Same goes for music in anime.

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  11. 2dt says:

    Sounds to me like you’ve caught the teaching bug :) Brilliant.

    I’d love to know more about art crit, especially what you’ve been doing, so I’ll be waiting for video or transcripts of the panel.

  12. wah says:

    I wish I got a recording of the panel, but sadly a I forgot. I doubt anyone transcribed it either…

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