Friday, May 24, 2013

The After-Effects of Watching the Gurren Laggan Movie

So, I watched the first Gurren Laggan movie, and I didn't like it, at all. Previous to me wathcing this movie, I had a generally positive opinion of Gurren Laggan. I had watched around 10 episodes of the anime, and seen some of the latter action in spurts, and my opinion then was: I may not like the characters, but the action is amazing, and this may be the best looking anime out there. However, after watching the first GL movie, I've come to realize some things about the series and the animation studio, as well as come to experience and appreciate other series.

First, I'll say what I think of GL and Gainax (specifically, director Hiroyuki Imaishi) after watching the movie. Basically, I have come to have almost zero interest in this series, and where I used to really appreciate and anticipate works from Gainax, and now Trigger, I know have much less appreciation, and, dare I say, respect for the studio. While a lot of this harsh criticism comes from how intense the fanboyism of this series is (including my own brother), most comes from the series content. First of all, and most importantly, the characters of GL are terrible, just terrible. Simon is boring and his story couldn't feel more by-the-books, Kamina is an unlikable idiot who may talk big, but rarely ever backs up his grand words with actions. Yoko might as well be named "Girl", as she does nothing but what a child would expect a girl to do in a manly story like GL, stand around, be sexy, and become the hero's girlfriend. Nia is only present to be a plot device as well as be a girlfriend for Simon. And the supporting cast is forgettable, however, I'd say a few of them are more likable than the main cast.

Now, the reason I bring up the characters is because they are the main reason for me not liking what everyone loves about GL: the over-the-top action. I've realized something after watching the GL movie, and that is that action, no matter how intense or "big", completely lacks impact if the characters behind those actions are terrible. And, I've come to realize that this is a big reason why I don't like any of Gainax's works, because I simply don't like the characters. And, well, that's that. There are other reasons I really didn't like GL, such as the poorly executed setting, poorly developed villains, and the over-excessiveness of "manly" visuals (I hate that Dai-Gurren's bow is basically a giant penis). But, honestly, its the poor characters that always stick out the most to me.

And, after I realized that, I'd come to another realization: the only reason I wanted to like GL so much, even after disliking it before, was because of all the hype around the anime, and the fact that it was in a genre I really liked and the animation style was unique. It was this pressure that made me feel like I had to like anime. And that's why I watched the GL movie. However, after watching the movie I came to many realizations:

1) Gurren Laggan is basically trying to be Getter Robo (the 90s OVAs to be specific), and failing hard at it. Getter Robo has much better characters, a much better realized setting, and the visual style has much more "oomph" thanks to the strong manga-like animation. The action in Getter Robo is also much better thanks to the great characters backing up that action. Still, I think it's a shame things turned out the way they did in GL, as Imaishi is a fan of Getter Robo, and GL was to be his homage to the series.

2) Gainax's animation isn't nearly as impressive as it once was; mainly due to the Getter Robo OVAs looking much better, and they were made long before GL. I will admit that the first 5-minute sequence of the GL movie was beautiful, and I wish the whole movie looked like that, but alas it didn't. And, that's another thing, I've noticed that GL really only looks good at certain parts, specifically, the action scenes, but other anime like Shin Getter Robo Armageddon, Nichijou, Madoka Magica, and Katanagatari look great throughout their entire lengths rather than at certain scenes. The bottom-line is that I gave Gainax far too much credit before. Their work can still be impressive at times, but its really not that impressive.

3) Gurren Laggan is a poor coming-of-age story. It even pales in comparison to FLCL, which was a decent coming-of-age story, even if it has far too much innuendo. However, I've experienced far, far superior coming-of-age stories before, specifically the manga Eyeshield 21, which I've been re-reading lately. After reading Eyehshield 21 again, I've come to realize how poor GL's writing is, and that if Gainax would stop trying to be so over-the-top and immature about their stories, they could actually tell some good ones.

All-in-all, watching the GL movie has come to make me appreciate what I had before, and that I really don't need to like Gurren Laggan despite what my friends, family, and the internet have to say. Because, I simply don't like it, for many reasons, and I have much, much better alternatives to GL, such as Getter Robo, Astro Boy, Eyeshield 21, and One Piece. Gainax used to hold a special place in my heart when it came to anime, despite me not really liking any of their series; it stood upon a pedestal that it could not be moved from, but no longer. And I'm happy about that, as it's allowed me to place other manga and anime upon that pedestal position it once held, and thus allowed me appreciate the strengths of other anime and manga, specifically, Shin Getter Robo Armageddon, which is a series that I really didn't appreciate enough.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Favorite Character Designs - Special Round: Men, Just Men.

So, after my previous post, this blog could use a little testosterone. So, here are some of my favorite male character designs:

Oswald (Odin Sphere)

"The Black Knight" is very romantic symbol in many stories. As far as I know, the concept of a "dark version" of a hero originated with the "Black Knight". However, sometimes the "Black Knight" is misunderstood, as most simply look at him at face value and fear him sue to his appearance, but rarely get to know about who the "Black Knight" actually is. Oswald is that "Black Knight", one who is both a monster and human, and his character design actually speaks that point very well.

Also, if there were ever a character I had a man-crush on, it's Oswald. Just listen to this line he spoke to Gwendolyn:

"I want… to see my reflection in your eyes. I want to hear… those soft lips speak my name. And if, for a moment… a smile lights your face, I will truly live. No one controls me now. From now on, I act on my own… for you."



Franky (One Piece)

In a series full of awesome character designs, its hard to pick just one, but when it came to raw impact, no other character design in One Piece made me smile like Franky's. He's just such an original character with a lot of crazy stuff going on, and yet, he can be pretty freakin' cool when he wants to. I just love every little detail about Franky's design.


Nofix (B. Ichi)

OK, it's actually hard to find a good pic of this guy without going into scans, and its also hard to describe how awesome this guy's design is for anyone who hasn't read B. Ichi, but, take my word for it, this guy's design is awesome and unique. His entire theme is spinning. This eyes are swirls, his necklace has a swirl, he's constantly moving his head in a twisting motion, and his special power revolves around spinning things really fast. In the end, Nofix's character design is so focused on one thing yet shown in so many ways that I just fell in love with his design.


Cars (Jojo's Bizarre Adventure)

Cars is perhaps the ultimate example of the male form in an artistic sense. His muscles, his poses, his posture, his hair; all of it just comes together so well, and it makes me feel like Joseph is fighting a Greek god whenever I see him.


Josuke Higashikata and Crazy Diamond (Jojo's Bizarre Adventure)

(image source

Like with One Piece, it's hard to pick a favorite design out of so many great ones, but, in the case of Jojo, it isn't that hard for me, as Josuke and Crazy Diamond always stand out to me. I love the peace and love motif, as well as the elements of "power" seen in both of them, such as Josuke's trademark pompadour and Crazy Diamond's helmet and tubes. I can't wait to main these two in the upcoming Jojo's All-Star Battle game.


Date Masamune (Sengoku Basara)

There are a ton of great character designs in the Sengoku Basara series thanks to the great Makoto Tsuchibayashi. And Date Masamune is definitely one of my favorites. Why? Well, simple, he's really cool. The crescent moon helmet, the eye-patch, the six swords, and the blue color scheme. He's just ... cool.


K' (King of Fighters)

Same as Date Masamune.


Advocat (Grimgrimoire)

Demonic and yet composed. I'm a fan of villains who have a sense of style, composure, and are gentlemen. Advocat is such a villain, and yet he isn't a villain. He is simply evil by nature, and goes about life as he wishes. Advocat's design speaks volume about him, like many of George Kamitani's designs, and I love that about his design.


Emperor Palamecia (Dissidia: Final Fantasy)

Same as Advocat.


Thanatos (Persona 3 and P4A)

I'm actually not a big fan of the persona designs from throughout the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series, but Thanatos is a huge exception. I love this design. His jacket, his belt, the tombs which are used instead of a cape, and his awesome mask. I especially feel his design works to great effect in P4A where he is paired with Elizabeth; seeing him animated is a thing of beauty.


Nightmare (Soulcalibur II)

Honestly, I love all of Nightmare's designs from throughout the Soulcalibur serires, but SCII's stands out the most to me. Why? Well, going back to the "Black Knight" motif from before, Nightmare is basically the "Black Knight" who is every bit as evil as his appearance makes him look. The Soul Edge also just gives him an even more nightmarish (heh) appearance. It all comes together quite nicely in a truly imposing and legendary character design.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My Favorite Character Designs - Special Round: Boobs are Cool

So, this post is going to be weird. Weird even for me. I mean it. I'm gonna say "boobs" a lot, and its gona be weird for both of us. Though I will say that this post will still be "safe for work"; well, except for all the art of busty characters. Anyway ... in light of the recent attacks against the character designs of Dragon's Crown, I got to thinking why I like so many character designs of women that have large breasts. And, well, the answer was simple: because big boobs can be pretty cool, and I'll explain why while showing some of my favorite large breasted characters.

Now, I'll address the big "note" to attach to this post: when I say "boobs are cool", I'm speaking about art, specifically drawings, animation, and all stuff encompassing fantasy,sci-fi, or simply fake stuff. I'm not speaking about real life, where this topic would be highly inappropriate, heh. So, c'mon, I'm a nice guy, and I wouldn't want to insult anyone. Actually, I find that if most critics would first think to themselves: "This isn't real. This is a drawing; a fantasy."; they'd be a lot more understanding of this whole subject matter.

So, why make this post in the first place? Well, because, in past posts and, most likely, in future posts (especially in my "Favorite Character Design" series), I'm going to bring up more large-breasted characters, and I'd like to explain a little bit why I like such character designs. And I'm gonna try to do that here, even though it still probably won't be clear and this may all end up just being pretty weird, heh.

I'll also say this right away: I'm completely aware that "sex appeal" is an element put into all of these character designs, even if I don't mention it. But the reason I like the following designs is because they go beyond the simple and boring execution of just putting large breasts on a character and actually make the designs "cooler" by having large breasts by executing the design in various ways, as I'll explain below.

Also, if you take one look at this article and just say "Nope. They're just big boobs; there's nothing stylish about it." That's fine. Maybe I'm seeing something that's just not there. Regardless, this is why I like these designs; if you have a different opinion, that's fine.


Sorceress (Dragon's Crown)

So, I'm just gonna address the two big ones first, as they are hot topics at the moment, and happen to be my two favorite designs in the forthcoming Dragon's Crown. The Sorceress has one of my favorite design styles for buxom characters: the stylish silhouette. By stylish silhouette, I mean that she consists of only a few colors and details; as a result, her hourglass figure is a lot more pronounced and noticeable. It's a simple, yet effective style for these types of characters, as the viewer doesn't have to look for very long to see the character design's appeal. Perhaps the most famous use of this stylish silhouette is the infamous Jessica Rabbit, whose bright red dress accented her figure perfectly. The only thing going against the Sorceress' stylish silhouette style is her exposed cleavage, which draws a bit too much attention to her top half; still, an amazing and effective design.


Amazon (Dragon's Crown)

The Amazon represents what is probably my favorite design execution of busty character designs, which I'll dub simple as: "powerful boobs". This style is often associate with strong female characters who are often muscular and tall (there will be several more on this list); and it works in a stylish way where the woman's breasts act similar to large pectorals on muscular male designs, as it accentuates the chest of the character thus giving the character design a strong presence. This design works well, imo, because it is the better executed version of what many artists use to try and convey a "powerful female character". What this commonly entails, is a designer simply taking a strong male character and just switching the gender; this often results in characters who are just soulless, and feel like they were created simply because the designers were too scared to make a character like the Amazon. Woman can be muscular, women can be strong; that's what the amazon myth was all about. Anyway, what's great about the Amazon's character design is her lack of clothing, as it really accentuates her muscular body, as none of it is hidden. It's a fearless design, and I love that. Her beauty is also not lost, as she has a gentle face, beautiful golden hair, and a pretty feather in her hair. A powerful yet beautiful design. One of my all-time favorites. 


Tifa (Final Fantasy VII)

Here's a unique design. In the original FFVII game, Tifa fell under the style of "powerful boobs", as her strength was accented through gameplay, and her large breasts felt like a way of showing she had muscle, considering they couldn't exactly show she had muscles on her character model back then. But, in the Advent Children movie, Tifa's breasts, though less accentuated than in the game, executed a different type of style for busty character designs, a style I'll call: "fighting boobs". I call it that because, it's a design style often found with busty character designs who fight. See, during fight scenes a lot of parts of the characters catch our eye: hands, arms, legs, eyes, and, if its long enough, hair. But, sometimes, breasts get added to that list, adding yet another layer to a characters movement during a fight; they're never as noticeable as the arms or legs, but its still a playable element. Tifa may not be the best example, but she has it. 


Angel (King of Fighters)

Angel is a great example of the "fighting boobs" design style. Her moveset is all about movement; from her long punches and kicks to her powerful running and grabbing game; Angel's moves are very accentuated by her body, thus why her design has rather long legs and short hair. So, how does Angel fit into the "fighting boobs" style? Well, because Angel moves around so much, her torso moves a lot as well, and we see her body turn and flow; her large breasts accentuate this "flow" of her body from one move to another. Other KOF ladies have large breasts as well, such as Vanessa and Shermie, but they lack the "fighting boobs" style, as their fighting movements lack a strong "flow". Granted, Angel's breasts aren't very noticeable when fighting, but I can't imagine her attacks looking the same without them.


Haruka Gracia (Basquash!!)

Haruka Gracia is one of my all-time favorite character designs. Her long hair, her stylish glasses, her stylish dress, and, most obvious, her large bust. Haruka is a different take on the design of "powerful boobs", as she is not a fighter, yet, thanks to her large bust, she has a powerful presence. This is the design style I believe many designers want to incorporate into their designs, but fail to execute it right because they believe that any female character with a large bust will gain this strong presence, which is definitely not the case. So what makes Haruka have such a presence, well, it's mainly due to the combination of her eyes and her breasts. Similar to Jessica Rabbit and Bayonetta, Haruka's eyes and composure just scream confidence, which allows her to "puff out her chest" both figuratively and literally, thus creating a supreme presence to the character's design from her eyes to her "powerful boobs".


At this point, I believe I've gone over all of the different ways I find boobs to be cool. I understand boobs are mostly always done for fanservice, but it's characters like those I've listed in this post that make large breasts so much more than just fanservice. Boobs can be stylish and cool, just like clothes, weapons, and colors can. It's just all about the execution. And I love me some well-executed boobs.

Now, for some more of my favorite busty character designs, just in a more concise fashion:

Yuugi Hoshiguma

Like a Amazon, a great example of "powerful boobs".


B. Jenet (Garou: Mark of the Wolves)

One of the best examples of both "powerful boobs" and "fighting boobs". Her animations are still amazing to see to this day; and its thanks to those stylish animations that B. Jenet may be the sexiest girl in gaming.


Daidouji (Senran Kagura)

Perhaps the most defining example of "powerful boobs".


Hilde (Soulcalibur)

Hilde is a rather unorthodox but great example of the "stylish silhouette" execution. While most examples of the "stylish silhouette" are done in a dress of some kind, Hilde pulls it off with armor. As we are most use to seeing men in the usual form of armor, it is oddly alluring to see Hilde in armor that fits her feminine form. Regardless, it's works very well, and has made Hilde one of the more alluring characters in the Soulcalibur roster.


Arsene (Tantei Opera Milky Holmes)

Arsene is a great example of both "powerful boobs" and "fighting boobs" alongside a bit of humor as well. Her design is one of my all-time favorites as its very stylish, but also humourous, as she is the only busty character in the show, which is constantly played for laughs.

Honorable Mention: Rushuna Tendo (Grenadier)

Rushuna Tendo is a strange beast. On one hand, she is the most fanservice-focused character on this list, but on the other hand, she has perhaps the most stylish use for her large bust on the list. So, to just get it out of the way, Rushuna's signature move is her ability to hold bullets within her cleavage, force the bullets out by shaking her breasts slightly, reloading her gun using said bullets, and then shoot her enemies all within one fluid motion. It's a really stylish and cool idea, and I have to give it praise for its originality. Rushuna also shows elements of "fighting boobs", as her fighting style is very acrobatic, and accentuated by her large bust. However, when reading/watching Grenadier, its obvious that her large breasts were also largely for fanservice, as she is not very confident and doesn't have a strong presence. So, while she may not be one of my favorite character designs, I think at least deserves mention.


Now, don't get me wrong. There are some busty character designs out there I don't like. For example, the manga/anime Fairy Tail is full of busty characters, and I don't like any of their designs except for Erza, and that's only because of her armor ability that constantly keeps the execution of her boobs stylish. Then there's every harem series ever made; don't like any of them. And, you know, I could just go on about this. I've explained my stance on fanservice before, so I won't dwell on it know. I just wish there were more stylish executions of busty characters more.