Too old, huh? (Pt 2)

So, I keep saying ‘maybe I am too old’ but I might not have addressed that properly in the last post.

Part 1 of this discussion-thing/thought-experiment/rambling mess was optimistic, and I’ll try to stay that way now. But at times, I can’t help feeling like my younger self might be wondering – why do you still watch my stuff, old man?

Considering that my life is pretty far removed from that of most protagonists in a lot of anime, what exactly am I relating to with their struggles? Again, it comes back to empathy, I hope, rather than some half-realised Peter Pan Complex, lol.

For instance, I know it’s currently in vogue to dump on millennials for ‘joining’ a Harry Potter house, but I never saw that urge as very different from claiming to be a Gemini or proudly declaring oneself as a fan of a particular sports team.

I mean, spot the difference, right? You learn the names and vital stats of all those involved in the thing you like, you dress up in costume/team colours when you attend the relevant events and you cheer and express excitement, you share opinions with like-minded folks… it’s all the same.

Yet I can’t seem to shake the spectre of doubt – this interest of mine is considered the domain of younglings.

Sure, I teach film analysis and I write about this pop culture element I mostly love, but is that just me cloaking my enjoyment with professional trappings? “Oh, I don’t just watch anime, I teach and write about it too, blah, blah, blah.”

Not sure I’m getting closer to figuring it out, precisely.

It might all be that perceived societal pressure, pressure that chips away at my mind in the background, it might just be the stories that are most often told, or the ones that are super-popular right now haven’t changed much, but I have…

But let me try to return to a more positive frame. Sure, I don’t have to face the same problems as younger folks, and so of course some things won’t speak to me in those shows, but again, not everything has to.

And you’ve probably read a review from me here at the Heap where I’ve either:

a) complained a bit when an anime is once more set in a school.

or b) been happy when an anime was set somewhere other than a school.

Now, these are two phrasings for the same thought, but one is just a little more mean-spirited than the other.

And of course, I do want to see stories about adults too – maybe that’s part of why I’m enjoying No Guns Life so much, but once again, I enjoy plenty of shounen and shoujo and coming of age stories as well. One isn’t better than the other for me, I just want more of both, perhaps.

In fact, I guess I crave a market where stories ‘aimed’ at folks younger than me exist alongside stories about people dealing with the problems and joys of being around my age, or older. Or younger. I want to continue to see stories from all kinds of people and places, because I’ve seen plenty of both and I’m always happy to see more of both for that matter 😀

Sometimes, and usually this comes from fans who seem to be my age and older, I see complaints about how ‘everything is the same’ now, or there’s ‘too much [insert genre name here]’.

Well, whether there’s ‘too much’ of one thing right now is a judgement call and one that I won’t make because I’m simply not up to date with everything produced, but nor would I be comfortable saying that. If heaps of people enjoy a certain genre, cool, go for it! Of course more of that thing will then be produced – sub-genres thrive and then wither in cycles.

And if I want something different, I just have to put a bit of effort in and look for it – after all, there’s around 70 years of animation from multiple countries available if I care to seek it out.

Tired of my rambling, yet? 😀

Okay, having subjected you to two posts worth of this topic now, I will say that there are themes, tropes and settings that I’ve seen many, many times and which won’t be exciting to me.

Especially in shounen or portal fantasy. And so I know what Oshii is saying there, it can be hard to get into a new series if that new series is (even a fun) re-hash of familiar elements. That’s what happens when you age – you see lots of stuff, lol.

But where I disagree with what I cannot be certain he is truly implying is the possible idea that because plenty of new anime is aimed at people younger than him (and me) that such a thing is a problem. (For me, it’s a problem if less variety occurs in the industry, but not if a certain thing remains popular).

Did I even come to any sort of conclusion? I don’t think so.

I feel older because I am getting older but whether I’m heading for my own Oshii moment… maybe not just yet.

Too old, huh? (Pt 1)

Mamoru Oshii is one of the giants of the anime world, and certainly known internationally too, since most folks into anime or film are at least aware of Ghost in the Shell for one, even if they haven’t seen it.

Now, over the years it does seem that he’s drifted quite comfortably toward ‘old man yells at cloud’ territory at times… and while I definitely disagree with a few of his aspersions when it comes to other directors, I do wonder about this 2016 quote:

“I’m not watching anything. There are zero titles I’m interested in. I mean, I’m over 65. Trying to get into anime aimed at young people is impossible. That’s true for Japanese films in general, not just anime. Everything is made for a young audience.”

I certainly can’t speak to the veracity of the translation, nor the state of cinema in Japan, but I think some of what’s there is a fairly straightforward comment that partially rings true for me.

And it’s clear to see the hyperbole in his claims: ‘everything is made for a young audience’ etc etc, but the issue of age is something I’ve been wondering about for the last decade, especially in regards to myself. I’m still not sure I have fully satisfactory answers either. (Although, one thing that is interesting perhaps, is to contrast the comment Oshii made with his upcoming project Vlad Love.*)

So, am I too old for most anime?

I do wonder. Admittedly, Oshii has a little over 25 years on me, but I’m not a young adult anymore, not by any stretch.

And it’s true that the majority of current shows are not aimed at older folks, but then, nor were shows of the past, for that matter. And when I was in the target audience, it was like an endless buffet! Oh, I also wanted to note that ‘aimed’ is a word that relates surely more to marketing, rather than audience reception.

That’s an important distinction, I hope.

Because even if a show is ‘aimed’ at a certain audience, that doesn’t mean other audiences should not be expected to participate.

All I have to do is think of a film like Aladdin or My Neighbour Totoro.

Each movie could be considered a ‘kids film’ but I enjoyed those (or similar films) when I was in that age bracket at 12 etc, and enjoyed them in the years after, all the way up to today. The implication that I should have already abandoned supposedly childish things like ‘wonderment’ and ‘happy endings’ is sad, and probably even a sign of bitterness.

(Doubly important for a writer not to give those things up, I reckon!)

Now, I haven’t been told those things personally – but I do believe that society, in general, loves phrases like “act your age”. And it’s those kind of ‘parent voice’ phrases that I think have long-infected discourse around the entertainment we choose.

[…Hmmm, I’m getting the feeling that I could easily make this post way longer than it already is, but I’ll try to rein myself in a bit! Maybe split it into two. Because while this is meant to be a discussion-style post (one of my goals for this year) I don’t want to hit you with an endless wall of text either… but it seems I do have a bit more to say :D]

Despite my declarations above, I definitely feel that I am essentially ‘too old’ for some anime… but more on that later, perhaps.

Instead, I want to address something I’ve inferred from Oshii’s statement, and which he may not have meant at all. But it seems to suggest that the anime focus on youth is a problem if you’re older. That you’re ‘locked out’, perhaps. But what precisely is ‘lost’ for me as an older chap, if the most popular, current shows speak very clearly to teens and young adults?

Nothing at all, if other shows are also being made.

Which they are.

And plenty of entertainment had that youth focus in the past and it will do so in the future.

And I can also watch those shows if I like, even as an older viewer. I can do it and perhaps remember being a teen, and remember going through that kinda awful, frustrating, sometimes exciting time in my life. It allows me to at least reflect upon whatever growth I’ve managed, but also, I find that it’s another method to keep me in touch with my empathy.

For instance, if a character in an anime (or any medium) is struggling or succeeding, whether that character is a kid, a teen, a young adult or an elderly person, then I should be able to see that on the screen and understand, and not denigrate or belittle those struggles, and also to feel happy for them when they experience triumph.

Even if they’re fictional creations I should feel that. And again, not just as a writer, but I hope I can continue to do that as a person too. I hope what we maybe all hope – that life doesn’t beat that optimism and empathy out of us!

So, there’s a Part 2 coming but for now – how about you? Do you feel like you’re getting ‘too old’ for anime? For certain genres? For certain tropes?

[Part 2 Here].

*I should add, it can be easy to see ‘change’ and mistake it for ‘hypocrisy’ and so I hesitate to guess at the apparent incongruence between these two observations.


The Review Heap: 2020 Directions (Checking In)

I’d planned something to mark the 1st year of The Review Heap but June hasn’t felt like time for much in the way of a celebration, so I’ve deferred my original idea for now.

I still want to mark the moment, I guess, so I’ll do a bit of a ‘check-in’ perhaps, and update any progress on what I’d planned for 2020 in this post, so let’s see how many goals I maybe made progress on!

Here’s a summation of the goals I had in mind back in Jan:

  1. Keep reviewing at my own pace
  2. More Anime
  3. Review albums
  4. More discussion posts
  5. Review more games
  6. Do more collaborations
  7. Release a book

  1. The plan for The Review Heap was just to review (nearly anything) at my own pace.

This is still going as intended 😀


2. More Anime

Yes and no.

Below are some of the ones I’d planned to review, and while my reviewing pace has been fair, I didn’t get to many of these… yet!

  • Buccano!
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Black Lagoon
  • Samurai Flamenco
  • Count of Monte Cristo
  • Perfect Blue
  • Shigofumi
  • The Twelve Kingdoms
  • Gunbuster

Here’s a quote from below which is essentially still true, though I feel a little more relaxed about reviewing them in the future at least:

There are also more than a few big-impact anime that I just haven’t got around to reviewing yet, such as Astro Boy, Neon Genesis, Cowboy Bebop, FMA, GITS etc and I’m super-keen to write them but I’m mostly paralysed by the question what could I hope to add to the discourse? They’re so massive and so storied that it’s hard to bring much new to the conversation.


3. Review Albums

No and no.

I wanted to review a few albums (having the common theme of being albums that were released right after a band broke-up) but zero progress on that so far. Will try to do at least one or two in the next 6 months.


4. More Discussion Posts

No and no.

So, this didn’t happen either! I had no ideas for any such posts, and so I didn’t write any 😀

I might give it a shot… actually, I do have just one idea based around a quote from Mamoru Oshii (below), and maybe such a post around anime and age will eventually appear on the heap, I’m not sure.

“I’m not watching anything. There are zero titles I’m interested in. I mean, I’m over 65. Trying to get into anime aimed at young people is impossible. That’s true for Japanese films in general, not just anime. Everything is made for a young audience.”


5. Review More Games

None.

This one is indeed pending. I’ve played plenty, both since I was a kid and lately, but haven’t had the time or drive to write up any thoughts. I am playing the ‘new’ Xenoblade, which does of course appeal to anime fans.


6. More Collaborations

Yes!

Okay, so I have one new collaboration (see here) and another two in the works, so I’m happy to report that this goal for 2020 is on track 🙂

I love and recommend doing collaborations, so I’m very pleased that things are going well there.


7. Release a book

Nope 🙂

Here there has been a little progress I guess – I’m still writing reviews, after all, but I’m still not sure how to structure it. Nor am I sure it wouldn’t just be a project for me hahahaha


So, some progress, which I’m happy with, and some things I’ll try to put more focus into but for now that’s a wrap! One year on the Heap 🙂

Again, thanks for reading!

Ashley  

The Review Heap: 2020 Direction(s)

Okay, roughly 8 months into the blog now and as I mentioned in my ‘About’ section, the new year is time for me to assess and look ahead a bit 🙂

The plan for The Review Heap was just to review (nearly anything) at my own pace.

So far so good on that front – I have no schedule and I post anywhere from 4 to 0 items a day. That’s something I think I’ll keep because I like to stay flexible where I can, and also be able to adjust post frequency based on how busy either of my jobs become at different parts of the year.

Of course, I could schedule posts for any ‘lean times’ but I’m not sure whether I’d be consistent enough even trying that. I think that instead, I should stick to posting at my own pace.

With that sorted, what will I change?

Maybe not a whole lot.

Basically, I’d like to review more of the mediums listed in the menu. So far, I only have 1 game review up, 1 music review and 3 books. Room to grow there, right?

So that’s going to be part of 2020’s focus for sure. Below I have a few more specifics but I’ll add that I know animation, especially anime, will be the core focus here. I do have a few US-productions reviewed at the Heap but I’d also like to learn more about the animation of other continents.

Specifically now:

  • 1. More Anime

Okay, but which ones you ask? Well, as you probably know I don’t have a theme here and I’m also not able to watch a lot of seasonal stuff while it’s live, so expect more from a range of eras and genres but only a few ‘current’ shows.

However, some of these titles are maybe due in the first few months:

  • Buccano!
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Black Lagoon
  • Samurai Flamenco
  • Count of Monte Cristo
  • Perfect Blue
  • Shigofumi
  • The Twelve Kingdoms
  • Gunbuster

Beyond those possibilities are works I’ve seen over the decades, some I’m only discovering now and a few I have to review from memory almost, while others might end up getting a heap of images + analysis, the way Ushio and Tora did. (I also have a tiny ‘what I’m watching now’ widget too but it’s buried at the bottom of the site while I’m using this particular theme.)

There are also more than a few big-impact anime that I just haven’t got around to reviewing yet, such as Astro Boy, Neon Genesis, Cowboy Bebop, FMA, GITS etc and I’m super-keen to write them but I’m mostly paralysed by the question what could I hope to add to the discourse? They’re so massive and so storied that it’s hard to bring much new to the conversation.

  • 2. Post Break-Up Albums

That heading is a little misleading, I realise.

What I mean is, as part of expanding my musical focus here, I was thinking of making a themed-post where I occasionally look at some albums that were released after the break-up of a big band/after an artist moves on or changes direction.

For instance, The Plastic Ono Band or Curtis for instance. Maybe even Pictures at Eleven, which was Robert Plant’s first solo album. But I don’t want it to be so narrow as when one person leaves a group, for instance there’s Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell, which is what the band did after their singer left, instead of the other way around.

Ideally, I’d have something a bit like this on anime or perhaps directors or studio shifts perhaps.

  • 3. Discussion Posts

I’ve only written one of these I think, and it was to explore the idea of what is a classic – and it was long and rambling post, even for me, but it was really helpful in letting me figure out what sort of metrics I should use to judge a text. So maybe if I try more discussion based things I could make them a little more topical, not sure.

  • 4. Collaboration Posts

This is something I’m super-excited about 🙂

Once the endless threat of bushfires in my area eases for a while, I’d like to announce my first collaboration at The Review Heap, focusing on the film Tokyo Godfathers. Collaboration is something I used to do a lot back in the poetry world, so I know I’ll enjoy the process here just as much. I’ve also been thinking about other ideas and hope to approach a few folks/am open to ideas from anyone during the year.

  • 5. Book Idea

This is very much in tadpole stage. (Yep, I skipped over ‘embryo’, because in a sense, I have already been building material for a possible book by accident – I’ve got nearly 100 reviews here so far it seems).

HOWEVER, of all the things I want for 2020 this one is by far the most up in the air.

Since my blog has no theme it’s hard to know where to focus any potential book. Sure, it could be a collection of reviews but I’m no ‘film cricket’ (to quote Homer Simpson) and so no-one in the reading public is going to seek out my thoughts, nor would it be that interesting perhaps to re-read these reviews in a compiled form.

And I certainly don’t have anywhere near the viewing experience to create anything close to an encyclopaedia-style collection either, even for a single decade or sub-genre.

Invariably, this project might end up being something fun, just for me. And knowing me, I’d end up going the whole hog a bit too, and commission cover art and editing too 😀

So, who knows about that one!


And thanks!

For the previous items on my list, that’s where I’ll start and we’ll see how it goes. I should also add that I’d like to keep up with what everyone else is up to around the community, as I’ve met great folks and found a whole heap of new titles that I should watch, so my list is growing at a kind of alarming rate 😀

And finally, a big thanks also to everyone who visits me here!

Ashley  

Real Neat Blog Award

Firstly, thanks to Mia over at 9tailedkitsune.com for the nomination 🙂

I haven’t been involved in a blog-tag-chain-nom for many moons – not since I used to be a poet with my old blog, so it’s nice to get back into a community!

So, as many of you will already know, here’s the structure – I’ll answer Mia’s great questions now and then write up some of my own below, and finally nominate a few folks and see who else is able to jump on board.

1. Is piracy killing or helping the anime industry?

Harming for sure, I reckon – especially now that legal streaming is an option, making anime consumption about 1000% cheaper than it was decades ago. And (as I think we all know) the less income a studio sees from any given series, the less chance there is of getting a continuation of that series. (And of course, I want folks to financially support the artists they love.)

2. What anime are you planning to watch in 2020?

Gurren Lagan – it’s one of the more significant gaps in my knowledge of the Gainax filmography, so I definitely have to remedy that this year. For me, I don’t think I’ll enjoy it as much as Neon Genesis or Nadia but that’s truly not important; and I shouldn’t be comparing them too much, and especially not before I’ve actually seen the series!

3. What is your favorite anime quote and why?

This was hard! I had to go back to an old fav, Cowboy Bebop. I nearly went with Jet’s lesson from Toys in the Attic but instead, I’ll stay with him but switch to a different episode:

Men only think about their past right before death, as if they were searching frantically for proof they were alive.

– Jet, Cowboy Bebop

I think it’s one of my favourite quotes because I like how it illustrates something about his character – I see him as someone who looks back a lot, but hides it too. And for someone who is (rightfully) hard on Spike about running from the past, Jet also maybe sets an example throughout the series re: confronting that past. The quote itself (and the preceding mini-monologue) also works as clear foreshadowing of something that’s been foreshadowed for pretty much the entire series.

4. Who is your favorite anime couple?

Edward and Winry come to mind first if we’re going for romantic couples, though I always liked the way Jean and Nadia end up complimenting each other across the course of Nadia Secret of Blue Water too.

5. What is your favorite video game?

It’s tough narrowing these down to a single choice 😀

So, I think I’ll cheat here and mention a favourite video game from a specific console, which should help me narrow down the field… a little, lol. I’ll stick with the Sega Megadrive firstly, and then skip over some classic games like Sonic 2 and Streets of Rage 3 and choose Phantasy Star IV.

Phantasy Star IV was one of the first few JRPGs I played and it had everything you’d expect from the genre; turn-based battles, distinctive characters and long storylines but also an interesting ‘comic book’ panel approach to cut scenes, which I loved. There was also a macro feature you could use in battle and that was an amazing, time-saving perk that I hope more modern games revitalise.

6. If you could meet only 3 anime characters IRL (in real life) who would they be?

I reckon I’ll accidentally leave out someone that I’d love to chat with and come back later and want to change my mind, but here goes:

Ergo Proxy

This would actually be hard work, meeting Ergo Proxy, but it would be at the very least, fascinating to meet someone so vast… of course, I’d only want to do so under strict conditions I think.

Vash The Stampede

I think Vash would be a really fun guy to be around 🙂

Nausicaa

One of Miyazaki’s heroine traits is to have them transform adversaries into allies via kindness and that’s always impressed me about Nausicaa, so it’d be fun to meet her and maybe ask her to teach me how to ride the Mēve, though I’d probably end up chickening out.

7. Do you recall the 3 worst anime you have ever seen?

Not too well – but I have (like all of us no doubt) abandoned more than a few over the years: 7 Seeds, Coppelion and The Rising of the Shield Hero come to mind. Based on my posts about them, I think it was a mixture of predictability and what felt like a lack of tension within the early episode(s).


Okay! So here’s my questions – I’ve tried to come up with a mix of ones I think might be short or long answers but also, just a warning that the first one might kinda push everyone into spoiler territory:

  • 1. If you could tweak the ending to any series or film, what would you do?
  • 2. If you could replace any world leader with an anime character, who would you choose?
  • 3. What is your all time favourite anime action sequence? (doesn’t have to be a fight, of course)
  • 4. Which anime (film/series/OVA) did you find yourself thinking about long after it ended?
  • 5. What would you say is your favourite anime OST (or just one song perhaps) and why?
  • 6. Who is your favourite director/writer and what do you want to see from them in the future?
  • 7. Who are your top 3 character designers?

The Rules

  • 1. Display the logo.
  • 2. Thank the bloggers for the award.
  • 3. Answer the questions from the one who nominated you.
  • 4. Nominate 7 to 10 bloggers.
  • 5. Ask them 7 questions.

And now, nominating any one below who’s able to get involved (hopefully you haven’t been tagged too many times already), with thanks for being extra welcoming to me over these first with months of posting my reviews!

(Hope I didn’t miss anyone – also, can I tag someone back? If so, I’d tag 9tailedkitsune and get to seven :D)

When can I say something is a classic?

So, when can I actually say something is a classic?

The glib answer is whenever I want, of course 😀

But while working on a semi-functional menu for the Review Heap and checking over some of my tags – I saw one that caught my eye: classic.

Of course, I instantly began to doubt myself, wondering “am I using this tag judiciously enough”? I think I’d only tagged three titles thusly out of the scores of reviews I’d done at that point. After a quick look through them I added two more and then started to doubt myself again. For instance, I thought about tagging Pyscho-Pass… but is it really old enough to be a classic?

Another pause.

.

‘Age’ is hardly the only valid metric for deciding whether something is a classic or not, right? I mean, I reckon it certainly is useful – if a text has maintained some sort of critical and/or audience-based acclaim over a long time then it probably is pretty damn classic. But should something quite good (in my opinion) like Pyscho-Pass be precluded from that status because it’s less than 10 years old?

(To change gears for just a tic, I wonder if this might be a good discussion-style kinda post? I don’t do many of them but this seems like it could work, and so if you’d like to weigh in, please do!)

So after a few quick searches I found some interesting quotes/posts/ideas from a few different areas: cars, games, beauty, literature, furniture and music. Obviously, they won’t all be directly analogous to film and television and further, not all of the quotes below are from famous or scholarly sources either, but I think they’ll still be useful.

At the very bottom I’ll narrow down some parameters that I want to try to use here on the blog perhaps.

To begin at last, generally speaking:

A classic is an outstanding example of a particular style; something of lasting worth or with a timeless quality; of the first or highest quality, class, or rank – something that exemplifies its class.

(Wikipedia)

That’s a pretty good start I reckon, high quality and exemplary. Now I’ll change gears into the world of automobiles for a moment, where one source defines ‘classic’ as:

For example, the Classic Car Club of America defines a classic as a “fine” or “distinctive” automobile built between 1915 and 1948. For insurance and registration purposes, the age of a classic car, in most cases, is at least 20 years old but not more than 40 years old.

Here ‘age’ pops up but there’s a minimum for ‘classic’ of around 20 years, and a top range too, when insurers get involved at least. Obviously I can’t speak to their categories but using that idea of age as marker would suggest Pyscho Pass isn’t actually ‘old enough’ yet.

A quick one now:

Furniture and small appliances tend to be considered ‘vintage’ from 25 to 50 years old and older.

There’s that ‘couple of decades’ kinda requirement again! Now I want to jump over to literature for a bit, to first come at the metric of Time from the opposite end:

Modern classics in literature are like that—smooth-skinned and young, yet with a sense of longevity… A classic usually expresses some artistic quality—an expression of life, truth, and beauty.

Thoughtco

Longevity appears here, which I like – in this instance they’ve suggested that the beholder has to make a call about what is an ‘instant’ or ‘modern’ classic based on potential longevity. That I think is pretty interesting as it sets us each up, in a way, as kinda arbitrary arbiters. Not sure beauty fully works in terms of language or say, a visual style when thinking of film texts, because those production elements can be outstanding, distinctive or exemplary without being conventionally beautiful, right?

Still, onward – now from Italo Calvino:

A classic is a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers… A classic is a work that comes before other classics; but those who have read other classics first immediately recognize its place in the genealogy of classic works.

I like some of this as well; a classic text rewards repeated engagement – seems like a criteria that most folks would accept too. It’s also interesting to see him mention genealogy but also a place ‘above’ the rest, perhaps – and so I now feel like a classic can only be a true classic if it’s seen as better than the other classics out there 😀

This from Richard J. Smith, writing about the I-Ching:

  • First, the work must focus on matters of great importance, identifying fundamental human problems and providing some sort of guidance for dealing with them.
  • Second, it must address these fundamental issues in ‘beautiful, moving, and memorable ways,’ with ‘stimulating and inviting images.’
  • Third, it must be complex, nuanced, comprehensive, and profound, requiring careful and repeated study in order to yield its deepest secrets and greatest wisdom.
  • [Fourth] One might add that precisely because of these characteristics, a classic has great staying power across both time and space.

Okay, more stuff I like here, though again I see ‘beauty’… but maybe I’m being too narrow in my definition when I see the word used here? I keep thinking aesthetics, yet maybe I shouldn’t – though I definitely believe memorable is a useful word. The first criteria is interesting too – if I double back to Pyscho-Pass, the series feels like it does identify fundamental human problems and maybe offer some guidance too.

I stumbled across this blog post from 2010 and it’s going back to ‘time/age’ again but brings in the idea of the wider genre – and I think it’s clear that while all the songs in the example are rock songs, (so the grouping is of similar things on the surface) there are still differences in how audiences respond to these purportedly equal members of that group of classic songs.

When I was at the gym this afternoon, before I had put in my iPod earbuds, I heard U2’s “Beautiful Day” on one of the local classic rock radio stations. No complaints from me, of course, but really … how old does a song have to be to be called “classic rock”?

“Beautiful Day” was released less than 10 years ago — September 2000. Partly because U2 has really slowed down its pace of album releases, that song was the lead single just two albums before the current one. Just doesn’t seem like it belongs next to 25-year-old Van Halen songs, 35-year-old Zeppelin songs, and things like “Freebird” and “Sweet Home Alabama.”

The other point this example triggered for me, is whether a band which started in say, the late 70s like U2, is always playing ‘classic rock’ even when they release a song in 2010 and such a term in music clearly refers to the past. Obviously, the band’s work spanned a range of genres and styles over the years but this becomes similar to a related issue, I guess: namely, when unpacking any art movement that features terms like ‘modernism’ or ‘contemporary’ I have to remember that sometimes that word is ‘frozen’ and it only refers to a particular period.

Therefore, ‘classic rock’ is perhaps closer to a historical genre than a description of quality and so we might have classic films that are of a time and place but more valuable as historical documents rather than paragons for the future.

Anyone else getting sick of the word classic yet? Just me? Okay, well, now I want to share a short exchange from a gamespot forum, dated around five years ago:

#1gamerguru100

I know this can vary for different things. In your opinion, how much time passes before a movie is considered classic? Video games? Cars? Something else?

I can’t really come up with an example. 😛 I mean, when did NES and SNES become classic video game systems? The early 2000s maybe?

What do you think?

Master_Live

Like you said, it varies. I would say for example (to name a few):

GoldenEye (1997)

GTA III (2001)

Halo 1 (2001)

are already classics.

top_lel

I would say 16 years but that would make me classic too.

The_Last_Ride

10-15 years i would say

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I don’t think it’s only a measure of time but more about how much impact it’s had. Something like Call of Duty 4 that came out 7 years ago can already be considered a classic simply because of how it changed the industry.

So once again, time seems really important but also now the question of how much ‘impact’ a game had on those that followed. To me, that makes the two go hand in hand to some extent – for instance, to truly judge the impact of one text on those that followed, you obviously have to actually wait around a few years to see.

In that case, can I say Pyscho-Pass is a classic because it will probably one day be cited as an influence on future productions? Or is Pyscho-Pass the result of the influence of other classic texts? I guess we only need to look to Philip K Dick’s work (specifically the film adaptations like Blade Runner and Minority Report) to see what director Naoyoshi Shiotani felt were influences on Pyscho-Pass.

And as a side-note, is the series no longer a classic (in my head) now that subsequent seasons have lowered in quality or audience response?

But finally now, this from a 2018 thread online where folks were arguing about classic beauty:

Classic beauty just means a beauty that involves a symmetric, well-proportioned face, features on the delicate side, none disproportionate (even if its beautiful or sexy in its own way, e.g. Angelina’s mouth, Amal’s eyebrows), perhaps a statuesque, sculptural quality to face and body.

Here there seemed to be concerns around aesthetic and structure, which I think can be applied to art just as easily because we obviously care about the look of animation, the quality of the writing, especially the plot and characterisation at a minimum.

Phew – bigger post than I feared!

But it looks like idea of longevity (or at least a sense that longevity is likely) comes up often, along with the actual features of the text (which I take to mean both style and content) and yes, a certain amount of chronological distance from the present (distinct from longevity) along with the actual or even potential impact on a genre/medium and/or upon the texts that followed the potential classic, are all key factors that I should consider – based on my admittedly cursory research here.

I guess something like the following could be among things for me to think about before using the ‘classic’ tag in my reviews (not that it ultimately matters, but I’ve had fun here :D):

  • Longevity
  • Impact on other texts
  • Aesthetic or structural qualities
  • Worth multiple viewings

Okay, done! I’d love to hear if you’ve got anything to add, as I’m sure I’ve missed something.

And I haven’t decided on Pyscho-Pass just yet, though maybe it shouldn’t be so hard? I think the first season at least ticks 3 of the 4 criteria I mentioned above for me, but I’m wondering whether the Longevity aspect can hold out? I mean, will folks turn away from the show in the next couple of decades if the subsequent seasons continue to be received poorly/not as highly as the first?

I’ll keep thinking!

AND for curiosity’s sake, here are the films I’ve tagged with that precious ‘classic’ moniker so far:

The Review Heap Classics (as of Nov 2019)

Though if you’re expecting certain films or shows to be there well, they might not show up simply because I haven’t got around to them yet – for instance, GITS is missing but won’t be missing forever!

Twitter Meme “Anime I…”

So, this was just a fleeting but fun meme doing the rounds on Twitter the other day but I didn’t end up posting there because I was too slow but also because the platform is rather ‘cramped’ when it comes to sharing reasons behind your choices 😀

And so, here’s that meme – the bare list first and then a few thoughts to go with it:

Anime I hate: I have no pithy answer here – so I’ll start with a nice ‘N/A

Anime I think is overrated: Anything that has 200+ episodes

Anime I think is underrated: Mushi-Shi

Anime I love: Nadia Secret of Blue Water

Anime I secretly love: Steins;Gate

Favourite anime of all time: Cowboy Bebop

Firstly, I don’t have much to report on the ‘anime I hate’ section because anything I haven’t enjoyed enough to continue watching… I didn’t continue watching, and so don’t have that much to say. I did do a short ‘Abandoned’ post a while back but I didn’t care enough to hate any of those shows, that’s for sure.

For the second item on the list I imagine you can guess the kinds of shows that I don’t have time for (literally and figuratively). If I’m feeling a bit grumpy I might even adjust that number to 100+ and yeah, I’m sure if I looked I’d find some exceptions quite easily… but for me, the risk to reward ratio is way off. More, the way a story ends is so, so important and obviously I hope, a show that eventually becomes more of a cash-cow* than an endeavour to tell a story, tends to dip sharply in quality all too soon and worse, fails to actually have an ending at all.

Now, in some ways calling Mushi-Shi ‘underrated’ might be a bit inaccurate as it’s highly regarded really, but certainly it tops few All-Time lists out there. I love Ginko, Yuto Nakano’s performance too and all the folktales woven throughout the episodic narrative. There’s a sombreness to the show too, which can even bring me down a little at times. Still, it’s my clear pick for the third item on the list.

For the ‘anime I love’ slot there are dozens of shows I could have included but today I went with Gainax’s lesser-known precursor to Neon Genesis – namely: Nadia and the Secret of Blue Water. No doubt I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a sucker for both the Adventure genre and Coming of Age stories too. I’m also sure at least a few anime fans are aware that Nadia has more than a few very obvious and painful filler episodes – but I’m able to both overlook and skip them. Eventually, I’ll do an episode/arc-based review on the series but for now, I’ll say that the slow reveal of the true darkness of some characters and the drip-feed of truth when it comes to their world really balances nicely against the optimism and determination of the young heroes.

‘Secretly’ isn’t quite right here but I chose Steins;Gate simply because I haven’t reviewed it yet (though I will sooner or later) so that’s as close as I could manage to a ‘secret’ show I love, I guess – though if I can come up with something that fits the implied criteria of embarrassing I’ll update this list 😀 In any event, Steins;Gate can really put you through the wringer – it’s got time-travel, drama, comedy and romance, all pluses!

And finally! I have to go with what some may well consider a boring choice here and go with Cowboy Bebop… mostly due to all the reasons in this post (and more reasons I haven’t got around to sharing yet!).

Update: Forgot to do this yesterday:

*Cash-cows serve that secondary purpose (financial security being the main) even if they become dull shows, because the money they earn a studio can then be used to produce works that are still great but might not appeal as widely, and also might not have ever been made without that income.

Metropolis (Metoroporisu)

Metropolis (Metoroporisu) 2001

Metropolis was fascinating and I know I’ll watch it again – mostly for the visuals and direction rather than the story perhaps (which is kinda conventional but not boring by any stretch).

But setting that aside for a moment, another aspect that I found really interesting was the many links to one of my all-time favs: Astro Boy.

Now, obviously I’m writing about a 2001 adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s 1949 manga – so his style is all over the film and the ‘look and feel’ of these 1949 heroes and villains are one day developed further when he creates Astro Boy, and then of course, used again in the 2001 film. It was nice to see a lot of those hallmarks really faithfully recreated by the Madhouse team actually, and maybe not unsurprisingly considering Tezuka’s successor/collaborator Rintaro was at the helm.

So what I got to see was something enjoyably out-of-step with the chronology; it was really fun to see a host of familiar faces – like Skunk, that seemingly immortal jerk! And of course he’s not the only one, you’ll notice Ban/Daddy Walrus, Kenichi/Astro, Duke Red/Temnu+Dr Elefun among others too (and for those like me who crave some comparison images, I’ve put a few shots below).

(I tried and failed to find a gif showing Kenichi’s bulky/Astro-like legs and even kinda Popeye arms, but you can see the development/reiteration of characters here.)

The other aspect that Astro/Tezuka fans who might not have watched Metropolis yet will notice is the way the heroes seem to be striving for robots to be treated fairly – and a common theme to sci-fi; that the villains are quick to blame robots for all the ills of society. I won’t go into the plot here, but that’s one of the key motivators for villain Rock, who is a pretty nasty fellow.

Another somewhat recurring theme I think most folks will have noticed across a certain amount of anime (and one which appears here too) is an attraction to Christian themes and symbols, and so in Metropolis there is a Tower of Babel/pride element to the film which is pretty effective and makes for a big finish too.

While I’ve been sorta rhapsodising a bit about some of the irregular things I liked, I want to say again that while the level of animation and setting detail is stunning, the story isn’t as strong. For example, I felt like the main characters (esp Kenichi and Tima) didn’t really get enough time to interact and build their relationships. Or maybe I just wanted more dialogue and a touch less CGI?

And maybe I was a bit disappointed in the story balance because Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) is credited with the screenplay – so on paper, it sounds pretty ace, huh? Rintaro directing an Otomo-penned adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s manga! With just those elements alone the film should be Out of This World Good – and in many ways it is but I dunno, maybe if it had been a little longer? Had room for just a few more scenes between characters here and there?

Still, despite my gripes – it’s a modern classic, no arguments from me, and one that brings together that Golden-Age* Science-Fiction feel, social issues and a Film Noir aesthetic (right down to its jazz OST) really well.

5 Stars

Quickly, I’m mentioning again how much I enjoyed the direction – I’m really curious as to how much storyboarding was inspired directly from the manga actually, but in any event, here’s one aspect I loved: compositions like these really show the immense scale of the city and add to the kind of latent menace to the place too, and the idea that the characters are really facing something mammoth.   

* Maybe I’m a little off re: the exact era/influence here, but it doesn’t feel like New Age sci-fi of the 60s and 70s and it’s doesn’t feel like 20s/30s pulp either.

Sirius the Jaeger (Shiriusu Shiriusu za Yēgā)

Sirius the Jaeger (Shiriusu Shiriusu za Yēgā) 2018

I’m not going to claim to be well-versed in the vampire sub-genre of anime, though I’ve seen a few of them over the years and the ‘exterminate all vampires’ theme is a pretty classic one – though it’s played out by our main character Yuliy in an almost dispassionate way during Sirius the Jaeger.

There’s a chance that if this one didn’t have such a great 1930s aesthetic I might not have been hooked at first, though the eventual main conflict between our MC and his brother kept me going once it developed. That aspect of the storyline was great, though in thirteen episodes the two might not have had enough screen time together, something I also wish that the rest of Yuliy’s team had been afforded because in a way, the show seems to promise an ensemble cast but doesn’t quite go that way.

Despite those and a few other shortcomings, I still finished and enjoyed the show and really enjoyed a lot of the character designs too, especially the Professor and Mikhail, and thought that most of action sequences were pretty ace – it was especially interesting to me that we see a three-section staff as a weapon, a nice change from the usual sword/gun approach.

3 Stars

Meet the main villain – and slight homage to ‘Hellsing’?

The Skull Man (Sukaru Man)

Just a quick review for right now – this one being The Skull Man which is a noir-ish science fiction/horror series with a few surprises.

The Skull Man (Sukaru Man)
2007

When I started this, I wasn’t aware that the anime was based on a one-shot manga by the massively influential Shotaro Ishinomori (who was one of Osamu Tezuka’s protégées) and that the series sort of served as a prequel to Cyborg 009.

Due to that, the ending of The Skull Man fell a little flat for me in that it didn’t offer perhaps quite enough in the way of resolutions while at the same time opening up too many new questions – but aside from that I still enjoyed this, it’s a short series and while the box art might suggest more horror – there are moments of levity. (It’s also an interesting look at an alternate reality where a 1970s aesthetic is clear in the costumes and technology).

Throughout, the writers do a great job of keeping you guessing re: the true nature, motivations and identity of the Skull Man and the various villains within, and while I personally wanted a lot more in the way of screen time for the mask’s origins itself, there was still plenty of other aspects like cults and bioweapons to keep me watching.

Worth a look if you stumble across it, I reckon.

3 Stars (Maybe 4)