Friday, April 2, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
The final assignment for this project is due next week. And though technically I don't have the second assignment up here yet, (I hope to, but the video is half an hour long, hard to upload) I figure I should address the subject matter of my final project.
In the discussions on where my final project might lead, it was brought up that perhaps I still have not answered the question of "why." I have these figures and like them so much. The ideas of collecting was brought up again, which I dismissed as being a primary reason. The idea of relationships then came up, which seemed more accurate. Some of my best friendships have been partly formed by action figure purchasing and collecting, and there is also the relationship between the toys and myself. I figured actually exploring this relationship more closely would be a good way to end my project; but in what format? Well, after discussion with the instructor we both pretty much agreed that the best solution would be photo and video. And even from that moment I thought I should do a combination of the two.
I had thought about making some sort of photo story set to music and text, which could be quite beautiful, or corny. But I like those kinds of risks because as I like the sound of both of the results I couldn't lose. But then my internal gears started turning, I realized something which should have been obvious. Pictures... movement...music... Anime Endings (outros), of course.
Now, as I know my audience here in the class knows probably next to nothing about the significance of anime endings (and for that matter openings) I will now provide a little cultural education. As there is no convenient wikipedia page for this, I will have to use text and examples to explain this. Everyone knows theme songs. From The Munsters to the Simpsons, theme songs have been used in television for decades in both animated and live action series. However things differ in Japanese animation.
Anime Opening/Ending Crash Course
First of all, anime intros use songs by actual Japanese or foreign bands, and unlike most American shows, the songs often do not even feature the title of the show or any character names in the music. That being said, the lyrics usually do fit the theme of the series quite a bit and are often commissioned specifically for the series. The music for the theme songs usually fits the genre or energy of the show, with cute light songs for shoujo (romantic) series aimed at girls, and rock, heavier pop, or even things like rap or hip hop in more action or other series directed at a more masculine audience. Unlike most American theme songs, there is often much text on the screen during the opening, featuring some limited production information and music information. The animation used in these intros is most often completely original, like about half of American animated theme songs, and usually uses increased animation and production values. The songs are completely synced to the music and are usually very artfully crafted.
Now unlike most Western series, anime usually have a dedicated ending theme song in addition to an opening theme song. While less effort is put in to the ending theme, it is still a vessel for musicians to get their name out, and they often employ even more artistic or creative techniques to hook people into watching at least the first time. Endings are usually (but not always) slower in tempo; and use either still frame, or more limited animation. Sometimes full animation is used, but it is often only a part of the ending, or is stylized to set it apart from the opening.
It is partly because endings often use artistic still images that I decided to explore them with this assignment. Also, the ending theme song is significant as an ending to the project in general, though I may actually continue this blog. After all, anime openings and endings change every so often. In fact on average, an opening will change every 24 episodes, and an ending will change every 12 episodes. This means every three months at least one new music artist or visual artist gets to contribute to the series and make a name for themselves. Also, as character and plot is imperative to these openings/endings; changes in characters and story are very clearly referenced in these openings and endings, making the change almost a necessity.
These openings and endings are very significant to me. Part of the excitement of watching a longer running series is seeing the change of theme songs. I imagine characters I have created, or even people in my life in openings while I listen to them. Every story in my head I have ever thought of I have set to music and imaginary animation. They are simply a reality of fiction for me. Even in my Dungeons and Dragons group, we always use openings and endings to every session we run. Anime have these openings and endings, some Japanese games have them, but I am always sad that more non-Japanese series use this method to begin and end their series. Some American animation have got close, such as the 90s Batman cartoon, but none have really embraced this aspect of animation as they have the visual and expression styles in some instances.
So, what does this have to do with Action Figures, one third to half of which I own being non-Japanese? Well, anime openings/endings are important to me, like figures. An anime ending is steeped in references to the series in question, with nods to the narrative and characters everywhere. They are also very artistic, and this is an art class. Also, the still images used in endings mean that it would be an obtainable goal, but if it proves to be too much, I will at the very least have photos to share with the class next week. Upon seeing an anime intro, my instructor remarked that the often used technique of using images/limited animation clips which imply narrative reminded him of Cindy Sherman's work.
So, this has inspired me to at the very least make sure my still images are good enough to stand on their own, as well as be part of an "animated" outro.
To end, I will provide some examples of endings to show where I intend to go with this, or at least what I am planning now.
In order to make this possible, I need to either create a completely original ending animation, or reference one which is both steeped in cultural lore, or uses mostly if not completely still frames.
This intro from the shounen (aimed at young boys) series Bleach was notable for changing every week for 13 weeks, featuring a different set of characters each time. I am showing it because it features a still frame at the start of the song, which is where I am headed. I would love to put movement in there too, but unless I as a living person put myself in there, I don't think I have the time. And even then I would need a green screen, an understanding toy store, or a clean living space; I have none of the above. But as I intend to make this about my toys, which are by definition a part of me, it might be significant if I could play a part in this.
This ending is from the current anime Durarara. This uses almost completely still images, one still image in fact which scrolls down and shows the links between characters. In the short amount of time this series has been out, it has been parodied hundreds of times, using other series characters, their own characters, or even multiple shots of the same character. I'm honestly surprised I haven't seen a live action parody, though it's either a matter of time, or I am not looking hard enough. Now, Japanese and Foreign anime fans have been parodying intros and outros for years, so this is nothing new, and practically an established cultural happening. Almost every opening or ending which has a popular song or interesting animation has been parodied; Durarara is just the most popular one right now. In fact, it's so popular that when I searched "How to make an anime ending parody" in google, I got this:
Wow, it's... exactly what I wanted to do, and done with more effort and skill than I have time for... huh. This person has taken his fan comic based on his figma figures, and thusly made an ending for it; I think it's pretty fantastic actually. So, at this point I am probably going to look around for another song to parody, or maybe just use one of my many Japanese or Japanese-sounding songs and produce my own using stills of my figures and possibly myself. An original video would be easier actually, depending on how creative I feel that day; but I would sort of loose the cultural significance I would get by parodying and putting myself further into the culture, which is sort of one of the themes I am going with for this project. I also need to get appropriate backgrounds, and I am unsure if I want to use "real" backgrounds or animated ones; as the figures are real objects of animated characters... Just one of the unanswered questions left with this project I guess. But don't worry, I intend to make a wrap up statement by the end of next week to reflect on things like that. Well, I don't know how far I will get with this, but wish me luck, or throw me suggestions or ideas if you feel so inclined. Hope this was informative or at least interesting.
(And if not, hey, at least you got to watch a couple cool anime endings)
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
The idea for these photos came from reading the "What toys are up to" section of Tomopop.com (links to be updated) and wondering how I could turn this into something resembling an art project. Being that it's winter, my opportunities for toy exploration were somewhat limited. So, I took my ideas about my creativity being inhibited, and even a bit of my toys being alive ideas and sort of combined them.
The character I choose is relevant, but with emphasis on her character archetype rather than specific character. This character (Shana) is what is called a "Tsundere" character type which is one applied to females. The traits common with this type are hotheaded or brash attitudes, with an easily embarrassed, emotional inside. The mood I tried to capture in these photos reflects my own feelings toward my ability to express myself using toys and figures the way I want to, but I think it also just has a nice moody atmosphere going on.
Here is something I wanted to post in relation to one of the themes I hope to explore in this project. This is the theme of how important culture is to me.
This video has nothing to do with action figures, but it does have to do with cultural impact. The characters features in this video are from a game I have never played; yet they are familiar to me. I know some of their names, and many of the images are completely understood to me. I marvel at the original video, of anime girls moving in such a way that they seem completely alive. I also marvel at the creators ability to remix the original video, it simply shows a fan of the internet anime culture using his talents to express his love for the original video. I hope I can use some of my talents to express the love I have for this (these) culture(s) later on in this course, this blog, and my art practices in general.
If you watch the linked CNN report on this video, you can hear a woman say how she doesn't understand what is going on; and how she'll need to watch it a few more times to understand. I understood within moments. From the second I saw a familiar silhouette I recognized as the character Marisa.
I hope you'll excuse this video post, and I hope the relation to my subject matter is somewhat clear.