Today we talk Anthony’s taste in comedians from the sitcom News Radio, upcoming anime series that we might interested in watching if we ever find the time, why caveman fiction is better than science fiction and our main topic is the 2001 Crayon Shin-chan film – The Storm Called: The Adult Empire Strikes Back!
Today we are joined by Ayacon Events Overseer, Jon Anning to talk anime themed RPGs. Hear tales of UK cons of yore, RPG in-jokes that don’t really work in the cold light of day, unreadable old conbook articles, Guyvers vs. Vampires, Brian’s voice gradually turn into the Fast Show’s Bob Flemming and much, much more. If your name is Barry you must listen to this!
I’ve been thinking over this piece for around a fortnight now, written a bunch of words, deleted a bunch of words. I knew there was a connection between the popularity of the NES/Famicom and the trend towards stumpier character designs in anime, but was having a hard time articulating it. Then, when stretching my arms, it clicked.
Nintendo characters circa 1990 were trapped in a box.
The limitations of the sprites on the NES meant they were trapped in either a square or rectangular box. The square box has a pretty obvious parallel with super-deformed designs, squatness is forced on you if you are designing within a square.
Now a rectangular box would surely give an opportunity to design a character with more human proportions. That may be true, but these boxes were quite small. If you had a sprite 16 pixels high (and you weren’t combining spirites), and you go on the assumption that the ideal adult human proportion is eight heads high, you’d only have 1 or 2 pixels to draw a face.
For instance If you take Mario, he has a 7 pixel face on a 16 pixel body.
And his roided up incarnation, Super Mario, has a a 12 pixel face on a 32 pixel body.
So rather than taking up an 1/8th of their height they are taking around 1/3-1/2 of their form.
Now let’s take a look at some anime characters to see how their proportions compare.
The eternal presence that is Doraemon is more head than anything else, taking up more than 50% of his height.
Hat, the hero of Magical Hat, has a bonce that consumes 30% of his height.
Musashi likewise has a 30% head (more if we included all his headdress)
Meanwhile in the world of OAVs, Yang Wenli of Legend of the Galactic Heroes head was pretty much falling into the 1:8 ideal.
Now lets look at some of the videogame outings for these guys around this time:
As you can see in the above video, Doraemon is clearly identifiable in his NES version. Is the rest of the game in the tone/look of the franchise? Probably not, but your money maker is the Doraemon iconography.
Even though he benefits from the Megadrive’s increased capabilities, Magical Hat’s design, is more squat than the anime’s. He’s still identifiable though, and maintains all the design elements. It’s worth noting that the manga design resembles the game more than the anime.
Karakuri Kengo Den Musashi Lord really displays exactly how miniaturised character designs might end up during this era. Is our stumpy samurai still recognisable in this head-heavy form? Just about.
The LOGH guys were confined to home computer strategy games for a while, eventually making it the SNES in 1992. While the portraits of the characters look a lot like the originals, they are just that, portraits. The game itself is still a text heavy strategy adventure for spods.
If you check the blog, CHOKOCAT’s Anime Video Gamesyou’ll see that there was a vague divide to the sort of anime, the sort of game and systems they appeared on. Anime that appealed to otaku and had designs that were more realisticly proportioned, tended to appear on home computers in adventure and strategy games. Anime that appealed to the mass market and had more cartoony designs tended to appear on NES (and eventually SNES & Megadrive). Somewhere in between was that wooliest of consoles, the PC Engine.
It’s not a hard and fast rule, you’d see things like that LOGH game above on the SNES and even on the NES you’d have more realistic proportions attempted. But those attempts tended to be fairly horrific, this Sakigake!! Otokojuku game for example:
Obviously, as “Visual Novels”, the home computer anime game market survived past the deaths of the many systems that supported them during this time, and the death of the OAV market. In fact I wonder if it surplanted the OAV market to a degree? Someone who knows and cares more about those two topics should look into that.
What I do know is that we do see that market now feeding the late night/DVD/BD anime market segment with the various Visual Novel adaptations we’ve seen over the last 15 years. It strikes me as odd that a medium that developed as a way to ape anime designs more accurately, ended up decades later with character design trends that frequently translate so poorly into animation.
One video game company who do get animation character design right, is Level 5. Which is why I was quite happy for this historical post suddenly turn topical the other week when it was announced they’d be developing the new Gundam project, Gundam AGE. Obviously games systems today don’t have the same design constraints as two decades ago, but Level 5′s designs have varied proportions and more importantly they aren’t overly designed. They should transfer easily from game system to game system to animation to toys to merchandise with little need to compromise with each move.
Compare that to evolution of SD Gundam, starting as simple capsule toys versions of Gundams, the design ethic ended up frequently being more complicated than your full sized robots as they became a flurry of shiny attachments.
OK, this is drifting now. It’s like when I bought a 360 last year, all of a sudden I felt like was being called on to have an opinion on videogames again. My interest only stretches so far. Next time – TV anime, not videogames and the year 1991.
Gary Hedges is back! For another trip down memory lane, this time the one marked Marvel.
Face front True Believers as we go all the way back to the 1970s live action Spider-man. No not that one, the other one! Then we take in some international superheroes, a fast food eating vampire, some amazing friends, an amusement park ride with some serious health & safety issues, scented toys, ANTS, ANTS, ANTS and robots in disguise.
And guess what, there was too much chat to contain in one episode. So we’ll be back next week with MORE.
At first glance Azazel-san seems to share with Enma-kun the idea of bringing of the myths of the past into the present. That is just the surface though, it’s what those myths represent and how civilisation looks upon them that is at the core of the series. Where the demons in Enma-kun prey on mankind, the demons in Azazel-san bring out the basest of human behaviour.
I mentioned in the last post that distaste for older anime/manga may be down to a sense of civilisation vs the barbarism of the past. Well, Azazel-san addresses that head on. We are firmly in modern Japan, and brought into this world, are demons summoned into the service of pseudo-detectives. Each demon has powers over man’s most shameful behaviour, destroying the veneer of civilisation and reducing people to barbarians of one form or another.
The central joke is that mankind doesn’t really need much encouraging on this point, as various people who hire the detectives and their bound demons are usually grotesques themselves. So far in the series we’ve had a harridan (a parody of iconic character Sazae-san), a selfish vegetarian, a obese stalker, a drunken advertising executive and an obnoxious brat. While the demons would like to deal out some sort of punishment to humans of their own, much of the time they are tools of a human’s own desires, forced to act through various magicks. No one ever ends up completely satisfied, even our supposed “heroes” tend to get pyrrhic victories.
Unlike Enma-kun’s hotchpotch of mythology, Azazel-san is surprisingly specific in its choices of entitiy, their appearance and their associated powers. The title character is a goat demon, and takes his mastery of lust from the Pan idea of goat demons and his position within the show from Azazel’s relationship with the idea of a scapegoat. While seperate ideas in their original mythologies, history and occultism has associated and corrupted the two. So if you wanted to be fair to Go Nagai, you could say he simply speeds up the process when he deals with mythology in Enma-kun and his other series.
Azazel-san, like Enma-kun will pretty much let you know whether you will like the show or not within the first episode. The tone is set early, and Tsutomu Mizushima (xxxHolic, Squid Girl) was the ideal choice for director. It plays to his strengths, namely comedic tension bordering on horror (and vice versa) and comedic ultraviolence. The show hasn’t generated the same level of aversion as Enma-kun, in fact some commenters in the previous post expressed getting enjoyement from Azazel-san.
While it’s more modern in its visuals than Enma-kun, there’s only really one character so far who’s really felt a nod to modern sensibilites, the female lead Sakuma. Even then, her character avoids the usual off the rack personality thumbnails. And she’s an adult! The ostensible male lead, Akutabe (ostensible, because he actually gets very little screen time), feels more like a 90s character. Imagine Hell Teacher Nube shot through the prism of early 90s Satoru Akahori shows, and you’re getting close to his look. The guest characters have a tendancy towards gag manga grotesquery (what is up with the dog people?). And the demons, in their summoned forms… well, they are kind of Onstadian.
Azazel & Ray Smuckles. Seperated at girth?
If anything it’s the form that causes viewers problems. Running at 12 minutes it’s half the length that some viewers seem to expect, and you get complaints about the pacing or that it should be longer. It’s probably exactly the right length and pacing, and if anything, you can throw a stone and hit any number of other anime series that would benefit from shorter episode lengths.
I highly recommend the series, particularly if you’ve liked Mizushima’s darker comedies. The general level of animation that Production IG bring to the show is really high too. I’ve been down on the more serious TV shows they’ve put out over the last decade or so, but this lacks the stiffness that you see in some of those shows. Episode six in particular has both some great naturalistic acting and unusual action sequences that are worth your time.