Monthly Archives: October 2013

Serious Animation

I watched Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood this week, finally, for the first time. Behind doesn’t even begin to describe my current status as an anime fan. If this is a taste of what I’ve been missing in the last few years, though, I’m going to be making a lot more time for watching.

I previously posted this on Tumblr:

So I’m watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood for the first time. I can’t get over how much darker it is. Everything really hits you in the guts. It’s what good storytelling should be, and the original series pales when compared to this one.

I thought that knowing some of what went on in the beginning might save me some tears, but…yeah. Hughes dies? RIVER ON MY FACE. Never fucking fails.

This reminds me how much better the Japanese are at thought-provoking storytelling in animation than anyone else. They’re not constrained by this “animation is for kids” bullshit that a lot of people seem to subscribe to. Animation is such a limitless creative medium for storytelling. It should be used more often.

I had watched just under half by then. Now? I still can’t get over how good this is. And that bold passage? That’s what I’d like to talk about.

FMA:B is a HUGE accomplishment. The author and animators and every voice actor that worked on that series should be proud. I laughed. I cried. I screamed “YES!” and “NO!” at the TV. You marvel at the sadness of Edward and Alphonse attempting to transmute their mother and losing almost everything in the process, and you think that it can’t get much worse than that and it does. It gets more heart-wrenching and cruel and amazing as it goes onIt doesn’t pull punches. Every little twist hits you right where it hurts and it doesn’t stop when you can’t take anymore. Each time someone dies it pulls on your heart a little, and most of them do not go gentle. They go hard and bloody and messy. They go down fighting.

Why don’t animators other than the Japanese use this medium to its fullest potential? Fuck if I know. Animation is amazing. The potential for storytelling is almost endless. The creative freedom that it gives you is staggering. Why isn’t it used more often?

I think that people are just scared, to be quite honest. I think that the whole ‘animation is kid’s stuff’ mentality runs deep, and I think that a lot of big wigs think that we’d rather have live actors. Like…take Avatar: The Last Airbender.  When I first heard that there was going to be a movie, I was excited. I thought, “Ooh, maybe we’ll get to see Zuko’s journey to find his mother. That would be awesome!” Of course, that was before I found out that it would be live action. My first reaction was, “WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU DO THAT?” Is animation not enough for the big screen?

When we finally watched it (on DVD, because I couldn’t bring myself to actually see it in theaters), I couldn’t even make it all the way through. It just…lost everything that was good about the series.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been decent live action adaptions of cartoons. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies weren’t bad if you were a kid at the time they came out. But on the whole? Yeah, there are some things that should stay animated for the sake of things. Avatar is one of them. And comics? I can actually say that I liked most of the comic book movies that have come out in the last, oh, 30 years, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more animated ones.

I think that writers, directors, and producers need to stamp out this way of thinking. There is no reason why American animation can’t raise itself to the standard that Japanese animation has held to for so many years. All we need is good stories and people with minds open enough to try it out.

You know what I think would be amazing animated? The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. If you’ve seen the graphic novels, you’ll know why. It would solve a lot of production problems. It would solve casting issues. It would be something the likes of which America hasn’t seen from anyone on American soil. There’s no reason why it can’t be done. And yet, if pitched, it would probably get shot down.

Ugh, it just frustrates me. The world’s most versatile medium is wasted on children’s shows and comedy.

NaNoWriMo will probably eat my soul.

In an attempt to make myself do something worthwhile, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year.  To be honest, I’m kind of scared of this.

I’ve had a novel idea in my head for about five years. A couple of years ago I started writing out the idea. That became a very basic outline for a world. Over the course of November, I hope to take that world and flesh it out into something rough and only somewhat resembling a finished novel. I need to create characters that are more thought out than the  vague notions in my head right now, and I think that’s what scares me the most.

I know, somewhere deep in my subconscious, that I can write really awesome, really inspiring characters. The surface of my brain is flailing, however. “What if my character is too perfect?” “What if my character is too flawed?” “What if this guy seems fake?” “What if I do this wrong?” To combat this part of my brain, I’m taking a little bit out of my world building to make a post in which to tell myself a few things.

  • Your characters do not have to be perfect in a rough draft. It’s rough for a reason, and they can be fleshed out more in editing.
  • By the end of the rough, you will know your characters well. You will have gone through some great trials together.  Don’t worry about not knowing them so completely when you start. You don’t just *know* about someone the minute you meet them. Getting to know your characters as you write them is like getting to know someone in real life: it happens gradually and naturally.
  • If you find something out about your character as you’re writing that you should remember for later, make note of it on a document for that character. By the end of the rough, you should have a good list of traits, interests, and feelings that makes the character unique and three dimensional.
  • When editing, keep these lists of things in mind. Use the tidbits of information in appropriate spots to flesh out characters and/or advance your plot.
  • You do not have to publish your NaNoWriMo novel as it is written during NaNoWriMo. Don’t write as though you do.

So this is my advice for myself. Hopefully I’ll actually take it.