Saturday, January 09, 2010

The first Anime I was Aware Of

"I will spawn a master race of cartoon characters who look exactly like me for the next 50 years and beyond, then we will take over the heathen American barbarians and their entire decadent entertainment empire!"
They didn't call this Anime then, they just referred to it as Japanese cartoons.I remember all this giant robot stuff. I guess that never went away.

Wendell Washer - who I worked with at Filmation used to sing (bellow, really) the "Raideen" anthem all the time - in Japanese

and I didn't know what it was, so he took me, Tom Minton, Eddie, Kent Butterworth and Bob Jaques to a meeting of the CFO where there were all these super nerdy fans of this stuff. They also drew "furries" and all had their own fanzines. Little did I know it was all a well-conceived plot to take over America during its time of weakness.

I remember thinking how weird these cartoons were, but then a couple years later the Americans starting stealing from them and came out with cartoons about cars that were also giant robots.

There must be a million of these giant robot characters. I wonder how many we need? What makes one any better than another? At least the older ones had some design to them and you could tell what you were looking at.

They gradually became more and more busy looking, cluttered with nutty awkward details. A decade after I worked on shows like the Transformers and being ashamed of it, young Spumco artists in the late 90s would come up to me in awe and recite whole storylines about how Gangamons beat up Rotundabeast with his triple tread whitewall tires while his half-human, half-koala girlfriend chewed eucalyptus paste in delight and bore him 17 new Astroboys and girls - all with spiky hair as a reward.
I never would have imagined we would be watching big budget live action movies of such a goofy concept 30 years later, but there you go.Can anyone tell me what's what in this modern Americanized version? What am I looking at? I won't blame this clutter style on the hippies. I blame Star Wars.


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Austin Papageorge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abraham said...

at a time where all cartoons were pretty terrible kids grasped on to what they could, and giant transforming fighting robots are a pretty idea, especially when you're a kid.

So, it's my belief that no one actually likes the live action Transformer films for purely what they are, but simply went because of the connection with nostalgia.

personally I don't understand the attraction even on an 'action' level; I fell asleep during the big fight sequence

Oliver_A said...

Hmmm, weren't those toy based cartoons an American idea, which backfired heavily? I mean, just after Filmation did He-Man, there came Care Bears, Transformers, MASK, Go-Bots, Real Ghostbusters (...) and then the Japanese "perfected" the idea with Pokemon, Yu-Gi Oh and other brainless shows.

I think the Transformers films are successful because they are a nostalgic throwback to the 80's, when people aged 30-35 now were children back then and being mass-hypnotized with all those toy commercials in disguise.

Most Japanese animation from the 50's to 90's deals, either more or less directly, with the trauma of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A nation being defeated by technology. Lot's of dark and dystopic stuff. Which then found its appeal in the western culture, especially thanks to the cold war and 80's films like Blade Runner or The Terminator, which then served back as an inspiration for Japanese animation, like Akira or Ghost in the Shell.

Nothing for funny cartoonists. Though I personally find Speed Racer hilariously funny, its complete disregard for human life.

Stone said...

we're pretty used to cartoons selling us toys now instead of being sold toys OF cartoons. I think that kinda goes hand in hand with the current trend of object worship rather than character worship of the past. who needs personality when you've got a missile launcher strapped to your butt?

The saddest part is, Tezuka's comics which a large part of the Japanese pop culture is based on was full of character. He used his simple designs as templates and "easy to identify" icons that made it easy for everyone to digest. He'd reuse characters like he would live action actors who worked exclusively for a studio, refitting them into different roles in different settings. It was a pretty interesting and successful way to keep readers loyal to his way of telling stories. Especially younger kids.

Unfortunately only the most superficial aspect of what he and other post WWII artists created survives long enough to make it overseas and in to our homes. There's still some good stuff, here and there, and some Japanese artists do draw in wildly varied and unique styles. However, it's the same situation in the US or Canada or Europe where the one most successful (profitable) style sells the most, so that's what gets copied the most and that's what large companies are willing to present to the general audience.

also, you could theorize that the whole anime boom came about due to bored kids of the late 80's and 90's really REALLY yearning for something "different." When your cartoons are nothing but sitcoms drawn on cardboard or just really ugly realistic drawings of muscle guys talking to other muscle guys about implied threats that never come to light, seeing simplified icons of characters throwing energy balls at each other and actually blowing each other up and scantily clad girls getting naked for 3 milliseconds during a transformation scene can really get the 12 year old's blood pumping.

Not because it's got good characterization or interesting drawings, but just because kids want to see something different, alien, that has SOME sense of a forbidden element to it. As a 12 year old I knew what I was watching was some sort of foreign secret that mom and dad knew nothing about and had no control over, that was reason enough for me to be interested.

But now that it's everywhere, anime has fallen into deep decline. Because large companies figured out they can sell it and kids naturally sense that they're once again being sold something. However a large group of man-babies still holds on to that moment of secret discovery and they do what all man-babies do with the things that they love...

sexualize it.

Oliver_A said...

Another interesting point: is there a difference at all between hippies and Star Wars? I'm not so sure. The original Star Wars is one hell of a goofy film which has "70's stoner mentality" written all over it.

Mitch K said...

At least Star Wars had a lot of clear shots. This new stuff is so damn hard to look at -- you never know what you're seeing. I blame it on live action directors being trigger-happy with CG cameras. It's super cool now to fly the camera around a million explosions and shiny polygons... I hate that crap.

AtomicTiki said...

I blame good ol' American greed and it's subsequent fallout.

I'm guessing it was a hell of a lot cheaper to just import a bunch of already done animation, slap on some hasty dubbing and put it on TV than revive animation from scratch while battling the monster that was the Hollywood Studio System.

So I imagine what happened is that the people with money liked this idea of getting cheap animation from foreign lands they could put between advertising spots so much that they just never stopped, heck I could turn on the TV right now and see some of it.

Now, I grew up with all this crap in Canada which meant that my options for a typical Saturday morning were limited to either cartoons that were made in Ontario 20 years prior (Spiderman, Rocket Robin Hood), "edited-all-the-fun-out-of" Looney Tunes (there really WAS no Earth shattering kaboom anymore) or these weird new cartoons where little robot boys punched stuff or gangly people with chromatic hair had trouble in space.

Later came the cartoons based on AMAZING NEW PRODUCT! All the kids would wig out when something new like this came out because usually the fad had hit just before the cartoons in a carefully orchestrated marketing blitz.

But the sick thing that happens is that it becomes part of your shared heritage, your culture. So because of pure greed I can go to anyone my age and say "Hey remember that cartoon where that toy beat up that other toy?" and we immediately connect.

Now the greed circle is complete and the entertainment industry banks on people like me to be nostalgic over the crap I had when I was a kid and fork out money to go see movies about it.

And people wonder why the movie industry is in trouble...

Blammo said...

Your Posts make me piss my pants.

talkingtj said...

i was a huge fan of raideen in the seventies, glad someone outside of my small circle of friends actually watched it, never ever liked transformers, alien robots that change into crummy earth bound cars?, made no sense to me then or now.i confess to not understanding the current fascination with anime among the younger set, other than maybe they perceive american animation as being too narrow and conservative, no arguement there, but japanese anime is rapidly becoming more derivative, formuliac, the diversity of 70's and 80's anime is dying, globalization anyone?

Chris said...

The designs of those new Transformers are unwatchable. I can't find the "facial" features. The bodies, like you said, are a mashup of every old vcr, blender, ham radio that could be found. Then when you have 2 of these monstrosities going at it, it's impossible for me to know who is doing what?

Add to that the constant camera movement and quick cuts to try and get the viewer into the action just furthers confuse the fight.

I could go on, but why bother. I rather pop in the black and white Astro Boy DVDs for some old school japanese cartoons.

Trevor Thompson said...

Was there ever a time in your life that you liked Star Wars, John?

I didn't care about it ( and hadn't seen any of the films until I was 16 - early 90s ) and the appeal died when I saw The Phantastic Menace. It was fun being able to reference a movie or two and have people get what you're on about, but eventually, I saw it for what it was: bad storytelling and hacky acting enveloped in a bunch of not-so-special effects.

Lucas reminds me of people who learn shading and inking techniques before they learn how to draw.

Shawn Dickinson said...


JohnK said...

"Was there ever a time in your life that you liked Star Wars, John?"

About as much as I like Happy Days, which it reminded me of.

JohnK said...

...Ralph Malph in space.

Oliver_A said...

What about Star Trek, John? Do you love William Shatner's expressions?

JohnK said...

Yes, he's perfect.

Trevor Thompson said...

I feel sorry for the animators who had to animate those jumbled masses... then and now, traditional and CG.

Corey said...

Hey, we had little control over what we were watching as little snot nosed brats in the 80's. Give us a break!

I still watch Thundercats to satisfy my nostalgia

Lampshade said...

Japan's obsession with giant robots is parallel to America's past obsession with Superheroes, don't ya think so? Japan's adaptation of Spiderman even gave him his own giant robot.

Funny thing though, Anime is dying now.

Trevor Thompson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whit said...

Donny Most died for the Entertainment Industry's sins. And he's still alive.

C said...

I don't want to get trampled by a 100 metre robot.

Oliver_A said...

Japan's obsession with giant robots is parallel to America's past obsession with Superheroes, don't ya think so?

It's not about the obsession with robots or monsters, it's all about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think this obsession with monsters and robots all started with Godzilla, a giant monster created by a nuclear explosion, destroying Tokyo. From that point, this obsession mutated into several different sub-cathegories. Japanese and their ambivalent relationship between technology, humanity and spirituality.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like the "Japanese" cartoons as a kid. I am sick to death of this Anime crap. It's like a slow poison, that has infected our cartoon world. I have tried to share the real cartoons, with my kids, and it's (Yawn}. The Japanese agreed to an unconditional surrender at the end of WWII. This is they're way of braking the condition of surrender. They have brain washed generations, of red blooded Americans.

Oliver_A said...


I feel sorry for the animators who had to animate those jumbled masses...

You mean Transformers? I guess they went to work everyday and yelled "yay, more lines and geometric shapes to draw!!! We feel so fulfilled and complete as human beings!".

Lamont Cranston said...

All lined up like that they start to blur together, I think its the Samurai armour motif.
A sentinel from Miyakais Castle in the Sky:
A different design.
One time Transformers did anything fun was in the 1986 animated film, the big green robot made up of construction vehicles slams its fists down into the back of the brontosaurus robot (yeah I don't understand these design choices either) and as he is collapsing his eyes pop out and then bounce back in.
Just so unexpected.
The cluttering of designs was the rot that set in, maybe ego or maybe to sell new toys but trying to 'one up' one another with more and more complex designs with each new show through the 1970s to 1990s and now with all sorts of freakish designs, they even got industrial designer Syd Mead who was responsible for the future world in Blade Runner to design the mecha for a series.
and then the Japanese "perfected" the idea with Pokemon, Yu-Gi Oh and other brainless shows.
You should see the stuff on now. Just a static field with mouths flapping as the characters declare what card they've chosen and what its effect is. That's it for 23 minutes! They're not even trying anymore.
This new stuff is so damn hard to look at -- you never know what you're seeing. I blame it on live action directors being trigger-happy with CG cameras. It's super cool now to fly the camera around a million explosions and shiny polygons... I hate that crap.
Music Video and TV Commerical Directors, like Michael Bay. They're taught all sorts of technical wizardry in film school but not a thing about the craft and then the medium they first go into and spend a couple years in accentuates this and encourages their technical fetishes.
So they get to making films and they can do all sorts of phenomenal stuff with the camera set up and lenses and lighting and editing but thats it and its just pointless.
And then the writers are all taught to conform to the Heroes Journey plot.

Noel said...

I get the same feeling for Ren And Stimpy facial expressions it's sickening, it's everywhere.

Martin Juneau said...

"Lucas reminds me of people who learn shading and inking techniques before they learn how to draw."

Oh yeah! I can recognise a few of peoples who learn by this. Real artists will never do that until they find a substance, right?

For my part, i find the current Anime boring to death and without value. But Anime was already popular when i was born at the 80's so, forcing to watching that realised that their characters drawings and techniques are all the same. But since Naruto, they have no improvements and now, Anima/Manga being a free-time for kids, i mean kids really young.

RooniMan said...

Even now, animes continue to get stupider and stupider as time winds on.

HemlockMan said...

I, too, hate STAR WARS. I loathe it. I curse it and all of the sequels and prequels and spinoffs and books and comics and toys and cartoons and TV series and anything that has anything at all to do with STAR WARS.

DarkRoar said...

The biggest problem with the transformers movie (for me) is the horrible story. After that comes the fact that all the Transformers look vaguely the same - kind of grayish metal things. In the original series they were more colourful and easier to differentiate. I follow Transformers to some extent and the movies are some of my least favourite parts.

Some of the Transformers series were wrote in America (the original, Beast Wars/Machines, Animated) and some in Japan (Armada, Energon, Cybertron). IMO, the American stories are much more interesting and entertaining. The Japanese ones start to feel the same as every anime.

Has anyone noticed when you watch an anime that they seem to all have the exact same feel and/or story? I used to watch them a lot, but in time I had enough...

Marsumestari said...

You can trace giant robots in Japanese comics all the way back to Ryuichi Yokoyama's 1943 comic Kagaku senshi Nyuu Yooku ni Shugetsun su (The Science Warrior Appears in New York) where a giant robot is apparentyly destroying New York.

In Mitsuteru Yokoyama's Tetsujin-28-go or Gigantor the robot was also built for war but after the war all of its kind were destroyed except for the title robot that gets found by a boy that can control it with a remote control to fight crime. You can see a similar "redemption" pattern in Space Battleship Yamato (Star Blazers) where a battleship defeated in WWII is rebuilt as a spaceship to save the Earth radio-active contamination caused by aliens.

I think Shoji Kawamori influenced the more detailed robot designs when he designed the mecha for Macross and the original Transformers toy designs. Unlike Mitsuteru Yokoyama or Go Nagai for example who are comic artists Kawamori majored majored in engineering at college. Fortunately even his more recent designs are less cluttered than the ones in Transformers live-action movies.

In the late 70's and early 80's giant robots were divided to dark hard science fiction influence "real robots" like Gundam and Layzner and more heroic and traditional super robots. Usually even the newer super robot shows have simpler desings than the "real robot" ones.

xynphix said...

People argue with me about this all of the time: Kids of today are duped into thinking that japanese animation far superior to American animation. It's not the lack of talent, it's the standards of what's acceptable and how things ideas are executed. New Anime comes and goes, let's see today's anime hold up 60 years from now the way that 1940's american cartoons hold up today. Kids are crying for good american animation

BOBKE said...



Guy said...

The saddest part is, Tezuka's comics which a large part of the Japanese pop culture is based on was full of character. He used his simple designs as templates and "easy to identify" icons that made it easy for everyone to digest. He'd reuse characters like he would live action actors who worked exclusively for a studio, refitting them into different roles in different settings.

Yes, he made some excuses for his flaws and had some self-awareness. (Like Scott McCloud, the hero of people who can't draw better than little kids.)

Modern anime creators don't even have that. I can't find any evidence that they think at all. Or that any humans were involved in the output. They might as well be made by machines. I'm sure we'll start seeing them within the next decade.

I can hear it now. "But the art isn't important. The WRITING is what matters!".

Marsumestari said...

One of the problems with American tv animation that Japanese un-edited animation doesn't have is Standards and Practice. I don't say that gore and boobs makes a show automatically better but I don't believe that even the very faithful anime version of Anne of Green Gables could be shown for kids on American TV because it has underage drinking in one episode and although it's in no way religious show, Anne and Marilla are explicitly depicted as Christians and to my knowledge you can't show religions in American childrens' shows unless it's for a Christian channel.

Of course there are all kinds of ways getting crap past the radar and sometimes it's used for dubbing anime as well. In Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers there's a ship doctor who always drinks sake and gets drunk but in the American dub it's said he drinks springwater but the animation is still the same.

AtomicTiki said...

Lamont, the design for the Miyazaki Sentinel is based on the 1941 Fleischer Studios animated Superman short entitled "The Mechanical Monsters".

I will say this, Japanese creativity and quality has gone into the same toilet as the Americans.

The question is; is it complacency with the art or the bottom line of some bean counter that is doing it?

Gelada said...

you people seem to come here only to reenforce your ideas. Anime is an awe-inspiring medium, insanely vast, that has dealt with every possible genre imaginable in many many styles. There s just so much genius in there that it boggles the mind. Of course you cant cite examples of comercial, insipid stuff, but it s kind of like saying that american cinema is steven spielberg and george lucas instead of orson welles, hitchcock or the cohen brothers...C MON just TRY to watch anything by mamoru oshii, miyazaki, otomo, takeshi koike, satoshi kon, masaki yuasa, isao takahata, hideaki anno, hiroyuki imaishi, mamoru hosoda or koji morimoto and tell me it s not GOLD.
IT IS, IT S PURE FUCKING GOLD, just as billy wilder, robert clampett and john ford are gold.
The "everything that is pure and decent was produced during the 40s in america" was retarded and outdated since before you where born John...
ps-(your blog is a cornucopia of magnificent content, it s just that the way you force certain points over and over gets old real fast)
yeah, usa sucks so hard right now in the animation department, that s just the way things are, deal with least there s some gems now and then, like samurai jack or some of the pixar stuff....

sagelights said...

I was always a big Beast Wars fan, I had just missed Transformers when growing up. Though I love those toys, I love the idea there are two toys in one and I like being able to transform the complicated ones. I mainly have Beast Wars though. Maybe its the girl in me liking the animal ones over the cars. I always liked the idea of things that weren't human having emotion and desires like anyone else. Pinocchio is one of my favs!

I was actually asked to watch to Star Wars originals recently because I couldn't remember anything about it. My biggest problem especially the first one was the editing OMG it took 3 people to edit that badly. People think its original when its just a cop out for the director who had no fore sight to smoothly transition one scene to another. Over all they are ok to me. I respect it for what it started in movies and is also the beginning of sound design that was thoroughly thought about like Apocalypse Now.

As for anime I'll admit it I was really big in to anime for a good while in high school. There is something about anime and the type of people it attracts, yes there are some strange people but I used to go to an expo every year and I just loved going to a place and meeting people who were willing to go that crazy for their cartoons. But it is definitely silently dying. I give anime props though for the women who are involved in it. Anime and manga has a good amount of women authors that are made for girls and its something they can connect with. I think the states need more of that. I know a comic company wanted to start a female line of comics I don't know what happened to it.

Dorseytunes said...

My son would rather see some characters whoop up on each other regardless of the quality of the animation. It's all about the fight. He loves Naruto and once loved Pokemon. Boys love a good fight and that is what they get with these shows.

I just finished drawing a Preston Blair rabbit and it was some work to try to get it right (still needs work). The animators of old must have worked tirelessly to get the results they made look so effortless. The more I draw this stuff, the more I am in awe.

My son looks at these drawings with little interest. It's all very foreign to me.

Lampshade said...

Please don't bring up about how Anime is censored in America.

I'm tired of hearing it for the nth time.

Oliver_A said...

You should see the stuff on now. Just a static field with mouths flapping as the characters declare what card they've chosen and what its effect is. That's it for 23 minutes! They're not even trying anymore.

Watching this show, I have never seen so much cynicism and hostility thrown towards kids. It's an outright, barefaced slap in the face: your parents hate you, we hate you, you are dumb, and now buy our products!

It's gotten so bad, more and more people suddenly start to say things like the 80's were the "good old times".

Herman G said...

I felt the same way with the designs of the 2000 design Transformers movie. They all looked the same, no distinct shape, Definitely too busy..

Waqas Malik said...

anime is awesome i love it! ♥♥ i love the realism put into the shows, just as much as spumco makes more "cartoony" looking characters.

Waqas Malik said...

also, is that a "penis" on that transformer? hahaha those damn executives trying to sell sex to kids.

Chris said...

That Amazing 3 is amazing! Anybody know where I can find the black and white cartoon series of Cyborg 009 on video/dvd/laserdisc? =)

Gelada said...

anyone knows that? There s a really potent argument against the whole "anime is yu-gi oh" bull, please do yourself a favor and watch this clip
(this a very recent anime series)
you may have to dig a little deeper than cartoon network to find great japanese animation...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, John, but I LOVE Giant Robot/Mecha anime.

Obviously the design of the American Transformers movie sucks, but the best American-style (blocky) robots (80s Transformers) don't hold a candle to the best Japanese style (based on more organic blade and rounded shapes) robots:

Wing Gundam
This stuff is based on traditional Japanese armor. It's very ornate, but the base of the robot is the neutral colours. This offsets the gold, blue, and red highlights. Look at all those cool shapes in the legs and arms. This is the 90s style Gundam. The earlier 70s designs were far scrawnier and had less trinkets.

The legs are arms aren't based on squares and boxes like American robots, which I love, but also think are funny because they're so stiff. They're based on rounded blade shapes.

This type of stuff is perfect for limited animation and comic books. The Transformers cartoons sucked but the comics were great.

I think giant robots are like superheroes: they're a silly idea, and there's far too many of them, but the first few and some of the better later ones are just cool as hell. All the rest should be put into the ground.

Dig that crazy colour scheme! This is the more blocky American style, and I love it. This is five toys in one.

Dino Megazord
Is this not the coolest design ever? Based on a Dinosaur motif, except with one of the coolest heads of any robot! This is based on the 5-in-1 Voltron play.

Dino Megazord 2

Optimus Prime
Optimus Prime is possibly the greatest robot ever, and with an iconic blocky design: red, white and blue. His head shape is the best ever, and he's been ripped off more times than anyone. This American robot was based on a japanese toy maker's design, the same man who later became the king of giant robot design.

Optimus Prime 2
This guy's like the Superman of robots.

There's tons more I like.

Of course, the Japanese "organic" robot design style can be taken too far. Neon Genesis Evagelion There's never been a more pretenious robot design or series. This is the kind of stuff that takes these silly ideas far too seriously and tries to make a bold social statement out of it. Yecch!

Amanda H. said...

Gelada, I agree with you.
Yes, it can be said there are a lot of examples of dumb, action-y (shounen) catching monsters animes and fluffy magical girl animes (shoujo) but that can also be said for American cartoons and animation.
I always feel so guilty for liking anime because lately everybody is dumping on it, saying its stupid and immature and perverted and whatever you want to call it. :(

Trevor Thompson said...

You've done it again, John. :)

Care to do a post about hip hop next?

The Butcher said...

What do you think of anime girls, John? Not the garbage anime, but some of the good stuff. Have you ever read Akira Toriyamma's early comics before he turned Dragonball into crap? He draws great girls. Though they all have the same design.

Chris said...

I will say that in the late 70s/early 80s I loved Battle of the Planets, then Star Blazers, Speed Racer (on The Uncle Floyd Show), and Voltron.

I was reading and collecting superhero comics at that age, and the Japanese cartoons were so amazing in design and story (again at that age) that they complimented my love of superhero comics.

And yes, I loved Star Wars. I still think the first trilogy holds up. Especially, Empire.

Stephen Worth said...

Japanese cartoons are kind of like Hanna Barbera cartoons. They started out with some good attributes, but very quickly the good attributes were jettisoned and the bad ones were emphasized.

I like B&W Astroboy and Gigantor. They look fun and they have a weird Fleischeresque surrealism to them. But from there on, the stiffness, convoluted much-too-serious stories and formulaic designs progressively swamped everything that was fun about them.

The Butcher said...

Here are some examples of hot anime girls in my opinion.

Link text

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The Butcher said...

"But from there on, the stiffness, convoluted much-too-serious stories and formulaic designs progressively swamped everything that was fun about them."

It's very true, but like in America, if you hunt around there's some good post 70's Japanese cartoons.

There's always a comic relief in all the serious anime stuff and it's always the same character. A lecherous, vouyer midget.

One thing I gotta give Japanese animators credit for is their ability to animate realistic human anatomy without the use of rotoscope. But the faces always break the laws of physics.

C said...

One Piece is basically the only anime I really like. It has some funny drawings in it.

Sketch said...

We might have opposing views on anime, but I agree with this post. I'm not into the big robot thing. I mean, aside from a few stunning drawings, I can't say that I'm an ardent fan.

Oliver_A said...

Care to do a post about hip hop next?

It's scary that anime and hip hop are the 2 topics which ALWAYS get the most comments here. Especially hip hop.

Oh no, let's not give him any ideas...

Guy said...

Gelada: Oh, boy. I was wondering when one of you guys were coming along.

There are very, very few anime artists with any real ability whatsoever. Miyazaki is one. He does second-rate Disney. (Golden Age Disney, not modern Disney. He's clearly better than that.)

Everything else is just a collection of cliches, easy tricks, mistakes, and complete inability warmed up and slightly sloshed around to seem new. Sometimes they paint it over with the trappings of other genres to cater to different demographics. Food anime are completely identical to fighting anime, it's just a different coat of paint.

There isn't a single one that can compete with any mediocre graduate from any good art school. And none of them can get past their basic failings that go all the way down to little kids scribbling their favorite characters in crayon.

Why would anyone give a character an anime face? No really, why? I've never heard a reason but that it's easy to draw. It's certainly easy to draw, but being easy to draw doesn't make for awe-inspiring quality.

Guy said...

Gelada: I watched a few minutes. Why am I supposed to be impressed by that? Because it's weird?

Chip Butty said...

Don't all cartoon geeks go through an anime phase? I think anime geeks are cartoon geeks who fell into a narrow niche and never left.

I just want to put over Rumiko Takahasi in this subject. She's a girl cartoonist who drew funny comics that became well animated slapstick tv series. Yeah, they could be guilty of anime cliches, but always in a parodic, mocking way. The characters are well defined and play off one another, there's no japanese equivalent of "writerspeak" (at least in her work)

Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2 are pretty cartoony for anime, that's all I'm saying. Love 'em.

Lampshade said...

Interesting you say the Evangelions are cluttered -- I think they look very good when it's animated. Maybe the ones who draw stills have a bad habit of cluttering?

From my experience modern Japanese artists have a terrible time with composition; even my favorite ones do it too.

Cristian AvendaƱo said...

Oh man, robot anime. I remember it fondly too. I can't watch an episode of Transformers nowadays, I cringe like crazy. But as a kid, it was great...

Nowadays, the best robot japanese series I've seen is Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. What makes it fun is that the creators KNOW that giant robots are... well, ridiculous and goofy, so they cut down on "character development" and long pointless dialogues, and instead they dedicate their time animating giant ridiculous robots beating the crap out of each other, with a lot of awesomeley stupid manly moments and tons of T&A moments.

It's basically all the frenetic energy and goofyness of anime combined. Completely ridiculous, yes, but that's what makes it fun. They didn't aim for seriousness or elitism.

And it's from the creators of FLCL, so there's great colors and composition all around. Not a fan of the drawing style, but I've got to give them props for that.

Pete Emslie said...

I wonder if any of the anime fans can help me with this question that's been bothering me. What's the title of the episode of Dragonball Z that features some little guy facing off against some big Goliath-type dude in the desert? Then I think they lob fireballs and shoot laser beams and ice rays at each other. I also seem to recall some spiky-haired dude getting all tensed up with his neck muscles bulging and sweating a lot, sort of like he's about to take a massive crap after being constipated for a month. Anyone remember what episode that was? It was really awesome...

thomas said...

Alot of comments on this one. I grew up with Tobor and Gigantor. I was pretty much an obsessed with Tobor, Terrytoons M M, and Soupy Sales, as a 4 or 5 year old.
Its hard to say why Tobor, for instance, was so resonant with me at the time. Maybe it was the Fleischer weirdness, as S.W. has posted.

Thanks for the Amazing Three clip. Had never seen that one before.

patrick sevc said...


Anonymous said...

As a teenager I really liked giant robot cartoons. Especially when the giant robots were piloted by girls in bikinis that fought aliens. Topless scenes in the locker room didn't hurt either. LOL!


Anonymous said...

Cheap shot, Pete! That show had to make up a lot of filler through no fault of their own!

Jake Thomas said...

I love this post. Thanks for the treats! The bizarreness of those old cartoons along with them not being covered in 24253534532 details make them all right.

Iron maiden said...

I remeber when my school loved the show pokemon almost every one in my school had a trading card but It didnt know what It was and that I was left out on something big but when I got a chance to watch I didnt understand one thing they were talking about and thought It was really stupid and thats how I feel when I watch any anime show.

Anonymous said...

While most robots are either retreads of other designs are crazy clunked with detail, there are some out there that have unique designs.

Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy) is one of course. The "bad-bots" robot masters, whatever you want to call 'em from the Rockman (Megaman in America) series are rather unique, I can tell most of them apart from silhouettes alone. But that too fell under the "more is better" mentality and most of the new designs are retreads of the older designs, or have tons of things clunked onto them. Depends on which Rockman game series you're looking at. I prefer the original 5 games, they had the most unique looks.

Most of the anime from the 50's ganked the awesome style of Tezuka, much like most Japanese animators do today. Tezuka's works were innovative, funny, dark, and thoughtful. Most of the scenarios of human emotions were outlandish but realistic. I liked that about his work.

I have no clue were I'm going with this comment. I just wanted to say what was on my mind.

SoleilSmile said...

I LOVED the Transformers! I would still marry the 80's (Latta) Starscream if he asked me... and if he were real..:)

The Butcher said...

"There are very, very few anime artists with any real ability whatsoever."

A blanket statement if I ever heard one.

The Butcher said...

"Cheap shot, Pete! That show had to make up a lot of filler through no fault of their own!"

Or at least it wasn't Toriyamma's fault. He had little to nothing to do with the animated show. In fact, he only meant for Dragonball to be one volume long, but the fans demanded a more serious series that focused on action so that's what he gave them. The early Dragonball comics have beautiful caricatured drawings and almost no serious, drawn out crap that the Dragonball Z show is most noted for.

JohnK said...

Gelada, please watch your language.

Guy said...

A blanket statement if I ever heard one.

No, it's a judgement of skill. The average anime artist has no skill whatsoever. The best artists have some, but certainly not to the "SUPREME MASTERS OF ART" level that their fans make of them.

Miyazaki is like Disney animation caricatured. Its handful of stock character designs and expressions are tossed out and the movies play, from what I've seen, like alternating between "LOOK AT ALL THESE THINGS MOVING AROUND" and "LOOK AT THIS BACKGROUND".

The guy who does Berserk has a lot of skill, but is he the incredible master of art whose addition to the canon of manga completely validates it? No. That's two of the very best creators. Then there's Mind Game and the couple of other things that's supposed to show how crazily imaginative anime is. And once you get past about, say, a few dozen places past them, things start getting really pathetic.

I mean, the problems people have with "bad anime" rarely have anything to do with the art. You never hear someone say "don't judge anime by Pokemon, that stuff is so crappily drawn!" They say "don't judge anime by that kiddie crap." The fact is, there is no huge gulf artistically between Pokemon and something like, say, Monster. The drawings are more advanced, but that's it. And there's no gulf whatsoever between Pokemon and something like One Piece.

If Pokemon had really smooth animation and the stories were better and not so ridiculously formulaic, it would be top tier anime.

The fact is, none of these guys except maybe one or two could make it in any decent art school. (Though you'd have a tough time finding any modern school that's even bad. You'd have to go back to the 19th century to easily find the schools I'm talking about.) When you talk about "good" anime and manga, you're not talking about good anime and manga... you're talking about the least bad anime and manga.

Operation GutterBall said...

You can never have enough robots especially when you excel at it.they also have a ton of comedy animation too.We should be so lucky to have as big an animation industry with the variety that the Japanese have had for the past 40 years. They left us behind in the 1960s.Their culture doesn't put animation or comics in a small box like we do.All we can do now is copy, what a shame.Frog princess? it's 2010, Akira came out 22 years ago,where bad ass motorcycle chases were animated by hand!

Anonymous said...

I watched Transformers when it came out to theaters. And most of the time I could only tell who the good robots were by their color. The bad robots, I just didn't even try.
I kind of agree with Gelda. Most people seem to only point out the negatives of anime with out looking at the good aspects of it. Yes, there's a lot of bad or redundant anime, but you can say the same for American animation. Just find the gems, promote them, and move on.

John's pointed out some good aspects of anime, mostly its color use. But I'd love to see him dissect the medium's other attributes.

Trevor Thompson said...

Anime is the hip hop of animation: there's some good stuff, especially in the early days, but a lot of crap, and a lot less of it every year.

Kyle said...

The reason the designs became so cluttered is pretty simple I think: the more detail you add to something, the larger it's scale feels. I do think the Bayformers were too cluttered for their own good, it made the action hard to follow, but I cant deny they had to be a lot more detailed than anything seen in lower budget stuff. otherwise they would look like a miniatures.

Operation GutterBall said...

This is to help Guy out, I guess he thinks Family Guy or Drawn Together is good because they have inbetweened mouth movements.

Kiavik said...

Do you guys know Koji Morimoto?
He's in my opinion one of the most skilled and awesome japanese cartoonists. Look at some of the stuff he's made:

In my opinion they represent everything that is cool about anime in a nutshell.
Also Guy, you sound so snobbish and pretentious, and you clearly have no idea whatsoever. Most anime artists have a lot of skill, the problem is they costantly face time costraints and severe budget limitations that force them to either cut down on the details or outsource the stuff to crappy korean studios. That's because anime series are produced like an assembly line nowadays. You knew that a lot of anime get better on DVD because the animators have more time to redraw the bad parts?
When these kind of time and budget costraints don't happen, as in OVAs and Feature Film, you can be almost sure you're going to watch something very nicely draw and animated. FLCL, in fact, is an OVA. Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond are collections of shorts from various top-tier anime artists. I suggest you try to track them down.

Lamont Cranston said...

AtomicTiki: Yeah I came across that claim while looking for a good picture of it to post but after going back and checking the Superman cartoon I don't really see the similarity except perhaps botrh being spindly. Has Miyazaki or someone else on the film actually said so?
Maybe I need to to be an illustrator to see the finer points.

Oliver_A said...

Miyazaki is like Disney animation caricatured. Its handful of stock character designs and expressions are tossed out and the movies play, from what I've seen, like alternating between "LOOK AT ALL THESE THINGS MOVING AROUND" and "LOOK AT THIS BACKGROUND".

I don't understand how Disney and Miyazaki can be even remotely compared. They are completely different in style, and especially in the way how stories are being told.

I also think that the films are, despite the stock expressions (something which is also constantly present in Disney animation, just drawn with more frames per second), way more interesting than anything which Disney made in the last 25 years.

Not because it's anime, but because they are actually good films, often quite mature, and clearly done by skilled artists. The character designs are appealing, colour choices are great, and the bg art is simply breathtaking. When I first saw My Neighbor Totoro, it left me speechless, because it's such a beautiful film to look at.

The problem with Miyazaki is, he has become mainstream. Disney is the American distributor of his films (in Germany, it's the good old UFA), and he is being constantly butt-licked by John Lasseter. Some people might get the completely wrong idea that his films are a part of the Disney/Pixar repertoire. You also hear a lot of "I hate anime, but Miyazaki is different", which in itself causes people to refuse having an unbiased look at his work.

In the end, this discussion here is funny, because it shows the passion people have for and against anime. I think one should never judge a piece of work by the label, but by the work itself.

Btw, this is how anime started in Germany:


A European-Japanese Co Production, done by Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki in 1974.

Saskia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Isaac said...

Maybe anime fans would understand what's all the fuss about if they could see the issue from a different perspective.

A couple of days ago I ran into a discussion about the NBC TV series Kings. The fans were praising the brilliant acting, pacing, dialogue, and camera work. Now, Kings had two or three top-tier actors in its cast, but the rest were really bland, and they could barely carry a line. The writing was styled after a daytime soap from the beginning, and the show's writers never quibbled with it being a hammy soap. The dialogue and camera-work were also heavily geared towards garish shots and unutterable sentences.

In other words, sometimes you like something so much, and you've invested so much into liking it, that you don't see it for what it is.

Anime, in general, suffers from the same flaws that soap operas and comic-books suffer from. Add to that a rigid adherence to animation conventions that take cutting corners (figuratively) to the extreme, and you can see why it's derided both for its art and for its concepts and writing.

You're watching Kings and you see Hamlet, but it's actually General Hospital.

Steve said...

I hate anime

Martin Juneau said...

I remember that two years ago i stopped to care about Anime but too much peoples claims me that kinds of anime (their favorites) like Elfen Lied is a masterpiece. I just watching a clip of this Anime and it's kinda depressing and reminds me the popularity of Emo 'tude in our world.

The problem is too much peoples like sad things when us, we likes when it can be funny and not taking seriously. I wanna discover some of the 1950's-60's Anime but our Anime selection is very limited here. I remember how few years ago, you can watching many Anime stuffs on TV but now it's just limited to cartoons who was created for sealed more toys and mangas copies like Pokemon and Naruto. (I hate Naruto, but like more the early Pokemon episodes when the colors quality was neat. The new ones turns to flat and uninspiring.)

wwhhaatt?? said...

Hi John,

I theorize that stories about robots are very popular still because the world has never really gotten over a fascination with a certain vision of the future that came about with the atomic age. Also, robot characters -aside from the busy, cluttered junk robots that inhabit those CGI worlds- tend to be designed with simpler shapes. Simpler faces and bodies make them more universally appealing from a design standpoint.

I'm totally willing to believe this is way out there but, maybe all are so psychologically screwed up from inherited traumas of war, suburban ennui, rising prices, etc. that we are looking to these figures as father substitutes and await to bask in their comforting glow.

Mattieshoe said...

>Anime is the hip hop of animation

Well, anime seems to at least value technical talent and basic appeal, and only American anime seems to only copy the superficial aspects of it.

The Butcher said...

"The guy who does Berserk has a lot of skill, but is he the incredible master of art whose addition to the canon of manga completely validates it?"

There are a lot of manga artists who are just as skilled as Kentaro Miura.

Not only that, but in general there are a lot of things that anime/manga has to offer in way of skill. Great color, cutesy appeal, sex appeal, human anatomy, perspective, foreshortening. It has it's shortcommings, but it's plain ignorant to disregard every good aspect of it and say the artists couldn't make it in art school as if you're some kind of authority on art.

JohnK said...

I agree. They do a lot of things better than we do.

The Butcher said...

"In the end, this discussion here is funny, because it shows the passion people have for and against anime. I think one should never judge a piece of work by the label, but by the work itself."

Agreed. And for the record I'm neither a fan or a detractor of anime in general.

I know of people who hate simply because it's anime or automatically love something simply because it's anime. It's downright foolish. Like people who vote for one political party no matter what the issue is.

Saskia said...

>Maybe anime fans would understand what's all the fuss about if they could see the issue from a different perspective.<

Maybe you should stop generalizing about all "anime fans". This is also the audience that your "quality" cartoons could atract to , i suggest you start to know the kind of people you want to catch with quality works.

>In other words, sometimes you like something so much, and you've invested so much into liking it, that you don't see it for what it is.<

This sounds like a description of hardcore defenders of classic cartoons ....
But God beware, the people like something and it´s not what you define as quality.
So what ?

>Anime, in general, suffers from the same flaws that soap operas and comic-books suffer
... <

Again, stop generalizing about something just cause you don´t fully understand.

What is supposed to change ? I´m really interested what is supposed to change when all you do is sitting in your little corner, not moving on , compleetly ignorant towards the people you want to grab hold of with "qualitiy" cartoons.

Instead of whining, you guys ( aw, don´t mind me, now i´m generalizing ;D ) could finally stand up and really do something, really trying to understand what makes your audience tick.
Cause hands down, most people don´t care if your work has "quality" or contains the golden principles, if it doesn´t has the certain something the people will ignore it and you can go on and w*** off to your limited skill and wondering what went wrong.

The energy that is going to theese rant post could be used to create something new, unique and exiting or to learn something and widen your horizon but unfortunatly... people who whine don´t create , people who whine don´t change they just mourn how people can like something that doesn´t fit their narrow ideal of quality and well... whine :)

And so it will go on, and in probably 10 years nothing will have changed and you will still sit behind your computer and write whiny little posts and comments about how bad everything has become.

Gee, and I´m not even watching anime anymore since years.

But well everyone it´s own ;) I will now take my own advice and stop whining, hehe.

Have a nice day !

JohnK said...

Hey I have nothing against big silly robots for kids. I just wondered why there are so many of them and can they really be that different?

Just like superheroes. I'm all for'em, but how many do we really need?

And I like the ones that you can tell what you are looking at more than the American cluttered versions.

Oliver_A said...

Saskia, your name is program. Das ist wirklich gute Kunst. ;)

murrayb said...

Studio 4°C does some slick original stuff... it's almost like Bill Plympton meets Anime, with a hand-held cinematic feel.

genius party

Mind Game


Gotham Nights-have I got a story for you

Animatrix-Kids story

Martin Juneau said...

"The problem with Miyazaki is, he has become mainstream. Disney is the American distributor of his films (in Germany, it's the good old UFA), and he is being constantly butt-licked by John Lasseter. Some people might get the completely wrong idea that his films are a part of the Disney/Pixar repertoire. You also hear a lot of "I hate anime, but Miyazaki is different", which in itself causes people to refuse having an unbiased look at his work."

Have you heard of the last Miyazaki's picture Ponyo? Did you heard that they changed the ending cute theme song for a new song made by the likes of Miley Cyrus? The Disney company should have more respect with their acquiring licences. Ditto for Warner with their catalogue.

Ross Irving said...

There are a few giant robot designs that I actually like, but most of the time a giant robot calls for action. I'm not saying that's bad because there's nothing for cartoonists, I believe it's bad more because there's almost no room for expression whatsoever. Someone has to pilot the giant robot, but that is very likely going to be overshadowed by how cool the robot looks. I also think that after all that action, philosophy and internal emotional struggles being dove into by a troubled protagonist is not the best way to wind down.

Actually, your post inspired me to make a post on this subject (aka Mecha).

eyenot said...

When I was 7-10, I ate up all those toy-based toons: Transformers, HE-Man, and even Gummi Bears.
That's not a toy, that's candy. I mean, it's gelatin; it's animal byproduct. Later when we got "Beef Tallow Boy" I was pretty sure, yup, the meaty byproducts toon market is all tapped-out!

But the whole thing with the revised success of the toy-toon was mass-collectibles. All those cheap playing cards and their rules, kids buy them by the thousands. The kids who bought them originally are still buying them today as 30-somethings.

So we had all this commercialist junk, and then we caught the aftershock of the Japanimation. At last, we had cartoons that were just cartoons and not bubble-plastic junk. That stuff is immensely popular to this day. Our library in town here has an e-nor-mous collection of imported and overdubbed Japanese cartoons.

But I think that's all boring. When I was about 11 or so, this cartoon came out, "Ren and Stimpy", I'm sure everyone here heard of *that*. And it was totally unlike anything else! I mean, it was *kinda* like Mighty Mouse, *kinda* like Felix the Cat, *kinda* like Woody Woodpecker, *kinda* like Abbott and Costello, Marxes, Three Stooges, and all that, except it was crazy! Totally nuts! My friends and I went slaphappy, we never recovered. Nobody understood what was going wrong with us. And it never caught on. People remember R&S for "Happy Happy Joy Joy" and that it got pulled.

And then what? Sponge Bob Squarepants, and a few dozen other shows that are off-the-wall, koo-koo farooty, bathair crazy, and now you have quote-unquote "RANDOM" everywhere on YouTube and anyplace else. I spent a year or so trying to get people to stop calling this stuff "random": "try 'absurd', or 'surrealist' or..." It didn't work. I gave up.

And most of today's "freaked out" video-stars don't know what R&S is/was, either. Yet somehow the trademark behaviours were handed down socially but didn't carry the source. It's not far-fetched -- it only takes so many years for cultural amnesia to hit. What's it really matter, anyway, social apathy is at an all-time high. Smug indolence is endemic. Limp-wristed languor and pure lame brainedness are hip. Most of today's youths just stare and it's in one eyeball, out the other. I must believe that most cartoonists are creating things for adults, because otherwise 99.999% of it all doesn't make sense, from concept to broadcast.

It seems to me that there's some substance to the sense of a generation being absorbed by Japanese imports, but who are as Americans affected by the cultural undercurrents that Ren & Stimpy unearthed, who refer to it as "random" and can't be bothered by thoughts more complex or detailed than that, because they're too busy chasing the next Ink-dragon for no reason than to have accomplished owning something serial. In that sense, maybe there is a "takeover" as this article says, and not just a pop-culture "explosion" or "invasion". I really can't be made to care very much about it -- my generation was apathetic, not languid.

Ross Irving said...

Here it is. Forgive me, John, the first one 404'ed.

Cameron said...

I think you should actually watch a few of these shows. If anything, Evangelion takes a lot of mecha conventions and cuts down to the psychological core of them. Believe it or not, Mobile Suit Gundam and similar shows could be quite dark and unnerving in between the toy commercialism. Likewise, stuff like Escaflowne and Macross do provide philosophical elements in their use of robots.

Keep in mind the Japanese are exploring history and politics with giant robots and monsters in the same way America did with cowboys and Europe does with knights. It's ingrained into the culture, so they'd naturally exploit either for pure entertainment or for mythological exploration.

What you're doing here is trying to apply a set of aesthetics that simply do not match the intention behind some of these shows.It's like removing the fine details from an HR Giger painting.

As to them being the same, I see where you're coming from, but think you're wrong. Good giant robot shows are as different as a Walter Lantz is from a Warner Brothers cartoon, even though an untrained eye might see no separation. I personally can't see how one couldn't tell the difference between a Shoji Kawamori design:

or a You Yoshinari:

or a Kimitoshi Yamane:

You might find these designs busy, but I have no trouble with them, especially in action. It's not necessary that everyone directly register every detail in animation the first viewing. In short, I just don't care.

As for why anime is so popular, I can't say. I was watching anime as much as American cartoons back as a kid, so the idea of "foreign allure" really don't apply at all to me. After a while, I fell out of anime, then only recently started to get back into it in a big way. I'm at a point where I'm being heavily influenced by it in my own work (in my defense, unlike numerous American anime wannabe hacks, I am actually learning anatomy).

They do a number of things that appeal more to me. I like the emphasis on eyes and the simplifying of the mouth movements. I think the simplicity is actually more direct and human. I like the minimizing of movement and the removal of in-betweens. Corner-cutting or not, we have a number of skilled animators making use of this to actually increase the guts of a motion (see Princess Mononoke, and how in-betweens were chucked in order to make the motions with San's knife seem swifter and more connected with her character, though some inventive drawings make it seem as if they connected with a sword). Despite what some may say, I don't see it as all looking the same. Each artist has their own tropes and motifs. I just don't see the sameness.

Of course, I'm not going to convince you otherwise, nor are you going to convince me. Evangelion appeals far more to me than Huckleberry Hound. It's that simple. Just as Star Wars IV and V appeal more to me than Star Trek (though Wrath of Khan far surpasses everything Star Wars that aren't those two movies). However, my hope is that there will be more respect for the hard work and artistry that goes into some of these shows.

I can't be so civil with Guy, whose ignorance that he passes off as deeper insight is both absurd and hilarious, and reminds me of a twelve year old pretending to hate something because his dad hates it. Not that he doesn't legitimately hate it, but, please...I'm not basing my opinion off writing. If anything, I find writing to be the last thing to judge an anime off of. Ever watch Space Battleship Yamato? It's absurd! But's it's genius. It's all about the execution and how anime artists have worked around their budgets and eventually incorporated these ideas to make bigger budget work vastly more interesting than much of our big budget work.

SunshineFox said...


Not to break away from the giant robots, but modern japanese cartoon with some fun style and flare is One Piece... it still uses quite a bit of stiff and limited animation but compared to everything else out there currently its one of the more "creative"... goofy pirates with weird abilities.

If nothing else just curious if you had any thoughts on the artist behind it - Eiichiro Oda

Isaac said...

Here's a fun fact:

According to a major Japanese television network survey, the 85th most popular anime is...

Tom and Jerry.

Marsumestari said...

I can answer John's question why there are so many giant robot shows. It's because usually one anime series lasts usually from 13 to 50 episodes unless it's based on a pre-existing novel or a comic.

I guess it's safe to make the series relative short if you can't be sure how big following it will have and most series since the 70's have a clear beginning and ending in their over all story.

Besides that toy companies are important sponsors are really important for many shows but on the other hand merchandise driven shows might give some artistic freedom that series based on comics can't always give.

Hayao Miyazaki's take on creators freedom in anime:
(excerpt from Starting Point 1979-1996)
Second Anniversary Lecture delivered at Osaka Animepolispero. Afternoon portion, July 27, 1982. Toei Kaikan, Sonezaki-Shinchi, Osaka

"Those of us in the animation industry therefore find more and more aspects of our jobs nearly impossible to deal with. For example, we can't make any changes to the characters in the series Urusei Yatsura. That is especially true right now because the original manga series is at the peak of its popularity. On the other hand, for shows about robots, since the stories will never be serialized in manga magazines, we can do just about anything we want, as long as we use robot designs that the toy manufacturers can incorporate into products.

It gives us the room to do a lot of improvisation in the actual production. And as long as the show helps sell lots of toys, the sponsors will be happy."

Kiavik said...

On the topic of Giant Robot anime:

John, do you know about Yatterman?

It's this anime from the late 70s which basically spoofed everything about the Giant Robot and Superhero genre by having funny characters fight with robots with crazy and varied design which were based on... anything imaginable really. I found those very funny just to look at when I was a kid, and I still do.

You can see some of them in the opening:

(sorry I could only find it in italian)

The plot was just an excuse to fill the running time with gags:
basically the evil trio builds a zany robot every episode only for it to get destroyed by the good guys in funny ways.
While the good guys were (purposefully) ultra-boring generic "hero" designs (even if they were still fun to look at) the villains were the real stars of the show, and in my opinion had really cartoony designs (for japanese standards).
You can see the heroes with their main robot here:

and here's the villains (this is from the 2008 remake, cant find a good picture of the original)
I suggest you watch some of it (unfortunately I think it was never aired in america) because it was really a goldmine for funny robot designs and a really crazy show to boot. I loved it as a kid.

Here's some scenes: (the evil trio builds one of their robots) (the good guys choose one of their smaller robots to fight the bad guys)

please tell me what you think of it :)

Jeffrey said...

I was part of a group in college that imported and subtitled anime. One thing that drives me crazy is when people say anime character design "all looks the same". Maybe it's because I watched so much of it, but within seconds I could readily tell who the character designer and the studio was on any given cartoon. To me that's as ignorant as saying "all jazz sounds the same" or "all rock sounds the same".

While I agree that the current state of anime is in the crapper for the most part, there are still a few shining stars. Satoshi Kon is not only a great anime director, he's a great director, period. He is a Hitchcock or David Lynch of anime.

Why did people of my generation turn to anime? Well, our choices were "Plastic Man and Baby Plas" or "Captain Caveman and Baby Captain Cavemen" or "Pacman and Baby Packman" or "The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo" (poor Vincent Price).

Or we could watch Robotech, an outer space opera with action, tension, and drama. As a previous poster said, there was something almost...sneaky about watching it. It came on after school but before our parents got home from work. So we could watch this show with "adult" themes and feel like we were getting away with something (well, more adult than She-Ra or He Man, at least).

A lot of the anime series were on EXTREMELY tight budgets, and DVD really shows their bad spots. You can see where scenes were used over and over again, and how towards the end of series the speaker was almost always shot from behind so they didn't have to animate the mouth. As kids watching once/week, we didn't notice those things (or we didn't care).

The other stereotype is that the Japanese are only about giant robots and drama. I actually think the Japanese did some great comedy with things like Urusei Yatsura (oddball situational), Maison Ikkoku (romantic comedy), Prefectural Earth Defence Force (self parody), FLCL (weird), Ping Pong Club (raunchy); and one weird one I can't remember the name of (Taro something) about a bear and rabbit who has random orgasms and gay twins and other bizarre things. Aside from Urusei Yatsura and a few others, think a lot of Japanese animated comedy doesn't make it off the island because it's difficult get the gist of humor from a quick subtitle or a really badly acted and synced dubbing.

Anyway, if you're 11 years old, what would you have chosen?
"great" american cartoons

or this:
robots blowing up

No hippie crap, either.

Kaiser Fate said...

John, you may have come across this image in your travels:

I'd love to know what you think of it.
Personally, I think it's proof that simplifying a robot's design doesn't necessarily make it better. I mean this is one of the simplest versions of Optimus Prime I've ever seen but it's unsightly. It also seems to fit nicely with all that "design for design sake" stuff you were talking about not long ago.

Mike said...

People like anime because it is good live action. The depth of the storylines are akin to something you'd see in star wars, and that makes it ever the slightest improvement over all the reality TV shows and family guy knock-offs on american TV these days. People don't make this connection usually though, and they'll still call it a 'cartoon,' despite the ultra-realism. (Actually, more like wooden realism.)

The giant robots are one of a variety of genres anime fans have picked up for themselves. There are also anime shows about teen girls being adorable, skinny losers surrounded by hot attractive girls, and japanese death gods slaying souls that have turned evil. Therein begins another problem: all the stories are starting to become as redundant as the art. Japan's headed into an animation dark age as devastating as the one in the 80s, and all those loyal anime fans are too diluted to warn them.

Oliver_A said...

Have you heard of the last Miyazaki's picture Ponyo? Did you heard that they changed the ending cute theme song for a new song made by the likes of Miley Cyrus? The Disney company should have more respect with their acquiring licences. Ditto for Warner with their catalogue.

Sadly,I missed Ponyo last year, because it came out in theatres here in limited release, and during the time when I was preparing my final thesis. However, I'm going to catch it when it's released here on DVD or Blu Ray.

If Disney changed anything, it most probably won't appear here in Germany, because the UFA always based its release of Miyazaki titles (translation, dubbing, titles) directly from the Japanese original.

John Paul Cassidy said...


Believe it or not, BRAVE RAIDEEN is the first anime I ever saw! And one of my favorites, light years ahead of whatever else got any exposure.

I will say this: Besides Gigantor, the most revolutionary robot in Japanese history is Mazinger Z, created by Gou Nagai in 1972. He is responsible for the Super Robot wave of the 70s, ultimately supplanted by the "Real Robots" (started by MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM) in 1979. There's only a handful you *really* need remember besides Raideen:

-Mazinger Z
-Great Mazinger
-Getter Robo
-Getter Robo G (Dragun in Shogun Warriors)
-Grendizer (Grandizer in Shogun Warriors)

(all the above created by Gou Nagai and his company Dynamic Productions, along with Toei)

Also created by Nagai is STEEL JEEG, which has a cyborg transforming into the head of a magnetic robot. This character was (unfortunately) used as the template for Baron Karza in Micronauts.

Then, you have the giant robots that combine together from different parts. Both Getter Robos were combined into three different robot formations from three different vehicles, but the combination wasn't realistic. (But who cares, so long as they form into super-awesome Mazinger-style robots?) The first realistically-combining robot, Combattler V, debuted in 1976. The ones I recommend the most are:

-Combattler V (Combatra in Shogun Warriors)
-Voltes V

Danguard Ace does have a neat design, but the show is very slow-paced, given that it was created by Leiji Matsumoto, who seemed to disavow its existence.

Believe it or not, the shows used for VOLTRON (GOLION and DAIRUGGER XV) were not very memorable in Japan! But then, upon seeing them, they pale in comparison to even VOLTES V (which has far better character development).

And TRANSFORMERS was derived from the Diaclone toy line in Japan, so they're a toy commercial to begin with, and you'll undoubtedly hate it. I don't blame you.

Like I said, Super Robots is where it's at! :)

Anonymous said...

John, you said when you were growing up you used to call them Japanese cartoons. I remember those days too. I think it was late 80s to early 90s a lot of us in school were calling it "Japanamition", which when I say that now I just get a lot of confused looks. Eventually it picked up and Anime was everywhere. I hate it. I hate the fact that even at comic book conventions now there are more anime fans attending than comic book collectors. Kids got all caught up into that Pokemon crap and opened the floodgates for it to come in and ruin everything. I can't believe I was forced to go see that movie Ponyo (which won all kinds of awards this past summer.) It was horrendous. Plotline was weak and I have no idea how this crap even made it to theaters except that the director had already made a name for himself and so the mass audience will always think whatever crap he directs is good. I can't wait for this fad to die out. Bring in something new and refreshing.

JohnK said...

I hate to not post all comments, but I won't post any with personal insults in them, like

"You're stupid"
or "You obviously don't know anything about art."

If you like or don't like a style or artist, that's fine. No one has to agree on everything.