March 31, 2008

Ranma 1/2: Series structure

I didn't get very far into Urusei Yatsura, which was Takahashi's first series. I bought three DVDs but only watched about half the first one. So this is all based on a pretty prelimiary exposure to the series.

Nonetheless: it's a series of 15-minute shows, and generally speaking the storylines covered one or two shows. They were mostly about gags, especially physical comedy.

Takahashi's second series was Maison Ikkoku, which has much more well-conceived characters, at least two of which are supposed to be sympathetic. I bought the first series of that one, and literally gave up on it after watching two minutes of the first episode. I don't know how to explain it, but major sirens went off in my head that said, "This is NOT for me." So I don't really know what the series construction is like, but I do know that I've been told that time passes, characters change, and the primary relationship does advance.

Ranma 1/2 was Takahashi's third series, and I gather also her most successful. It looks like it splits the difference between the previous two. It's more comedic and slapstick than Maison Ikkoku but the characters are far better conceived than in Urusei Yatsura.

One thing becomes clear at this point: the series is constructed of a sequence of multi-episode story arcs. There's an occasional one-off ep (like the "Ramen Delivery martial arts" story) but what you mainly have is arcs that cover 3-5 episodes. And that really does work pretty well. If the series were constructed entirely of one-ep stories it would come off as rather vapid. This way the stories are more deep. It keeps me coming back.

Another thing I've noticed is that the degree of ecchi is not constant. The first and second major story arcs had a lot of ecchi. Since then damned near none. And I think part of the reason is that it hasn't really made sense since then. Most of the ecchi in the early part of the series made sense in plot terms. Shampoo's rather dramatic ecchi entrance, for instance: in her cat form she jumps into Ranma's bath. Naturally, she appears nude in her human form.

Now that doesn't mean it isn't totally gratuitous. They're choosing their camera shots to let the audience have a good view. For instance, they could have shown us Shampoo from the rear. And the Ranma-chan topless shot during the costume change in the skating-martial-arts arc was totally gratuitous. But mostly the fact of Ranma-chan losing her clothes has made sense in plot terms.

This series is an interesting blast-from-the-past. It seems like anime back then was more... innocent... for lack of a better way to describe it. Almost naive. The accumulated canon of another ten years has made us all jaded, I think.

Oh, and the eyes were a lot smaller back then.

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Compare, for instance, to Clannad:

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The eyes, the eyes, they haunt me so. Will the Clannad pain never end? Please, tell me that the series isn't infinitely long, and that new episodes will stop coming out.

There's a sequel? OMG, the nightmares, I will never be free of those eyes in my dreams...

UPDATE: Seriously, did they have to make them so damned big? I think the only other thing I've seen with eyes that big is some of the characters in Sugar, a little snow fairy, and those are all children (or fairies). But KyoAni has made all the soap-opera show characters have eyes that big. They were like that in Kanon, too, and in Air. I guess that's how Key does their characters.

This now being the third series KyoAni has done based on a Key game, maybe if we're lucky they've used them all up and KyoAni can get back to doing good stuff again, like another Haruhi series, or something like Lucky Star. (Man, even those girls didn't have eyes that big.)

I've written before about "five bladed razors", such as the number of sisters in "Sister Princess", or tit size in "Eiken", or the number of maids in "Hanaukyo Maid Team La Verite". Is Clannad the five-bladed-razor of eye size? There's been a gradual increase in eye size over the last fifteen years; is this the series that finally takes it to such extremes as to cause a reversal of the trend? We can only hope.

UPDATE: Cue outraged shrieks...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 09:13 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Post contains 736 words, total size 5 kb.

1

Hmm. What about the size of Happosai and Cologne's eyes? Proportionate to their heads, they're even larger than Clannad's, though their pupils are little pinpoints. Of course, they are mostly humor characters...

One of the more interesting theories was hinted at in the video game Xenosaga. A sci-fi game set 2000 years into the future, all the human characters in Xenosaga had huge, Clannad-style eyes. However, there are also "ancient" recordings of 20th-century Earth in the game, and they all show people with such ordinary-sized eyes that it's jarring. It's never explicitly stated that humans have evolved (maybe by artificial selection?) to have much larger eyes than modern-day ones, but then it's probably as much an accepted fact to the future characters as we consider the fact that cavemen have enormous brows.

Sadly, other than the entertaining possibilities of the course of future human evolution, the game was pretty much crap. Two hours of FMV cutscenes to every ten minutes of actual interactive gameplay is not what I look forward to in a game. Still, postulating the possibilities of all anime series taking place during a "second cycle" following a fall of modern civilization so severe that even our history was obliterated, and all the characters are 2000+ years evolved beyond us but don't know it, is entertaining. To me, anyhow.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 01, 2008 04:59 AM (j8zCH)

2 It's not the eyes, it's the lack of a nose that gets me.

Of course, if you're going to draw the eyes that big, a proportionate nose would be even more freaky.

Posted by: ubu at April 01, 2008 06:13 AM (iOgmi)

3 Large eyes are a resource-saving measure.

Supposing we are able to construct organic computers that are a thousand times as space and energy-efficient as the human brain. By altering our DNA to produce the appropriate nanites to construct these brains in the place of ol' squishy, we could reduce ourselves to one tenth our present size - one thousandth the volume - and using one thousandth the natural resources. Earth's population could grow enormously in the space suddenly suddenly freed up.

However, our eyesight would be sadly lacking: If you're the size of a mouse, your visual acuity would be that of a mouse too. Forget HDTV; even standard definition would be more than you could take in.

Now, you can get back about a factor of four by building adaptive optics into the lens and shifting up to the near-UV, but beyond that, the only thing you can do... Is make the eyes bigger.

Anime. Not merely entertainment, but a vital lesson for the future of all mankind.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at April 01, 2008 06:57 AM (PiXy!)

4 Tatterdamalion- Are you referring to the first episode of Xenosaga, or the entire series?  I found the first game quite good, but cutscenes don't bother me if they actually tell a decent story.  And IMO, the first game tempted with hints about many, many secrets.

Sadly, haven't gotten around to playing the other two.  First ( four! ) times I got a copy of ep 2, it was defective. . .

Posted by: metaphysician at April 01, 2008 07:16 AM (9Lztf)

5

Only played the first one. Maybe I'm old, or maybe spoiled by reading all the sci-fi greats, but it takes a lot more than a couple of contrived references to Nietzche and the Bible to create a plot that grabs me. There's really not that much difference between technobabble and Illuminatobabble. Besides, by all the reviews I've read, the first game was the high point of the whole series. Parts two and three (of what was planned to be a six-part series that died in the middle) sold so poorly they didn't even bother releasing a PAL version. I read the storyline on the wiki, which pretty much confirmed everything I suspected about the angst-dipped plot. About all I cared about was whether Shion would ever notice how many times Allen saves her life, at extreme risk to his own.

About all I can say for Xenosaga is that it's like Neon Genesis Evangelion, only it remains internally consistent and doesn't have such a WTF ending. And it has just enough twitch gaming to annoy people who want to watch a movie, and way too much movie for people who want to just play the game.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 01, 2008 04:07 PM (j8zCH)

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