Monday, August 16, 2010

What's right with anime?

Before I get into it I want to say that Gencon 2010 was pretty damned awesome! Thanks to everyone that stopped by and supported us. It was great seeing everyone again. I got some cool commissions so the next few months should be interesting as far as art goes. I was also approached for a project that I'm pretty jazzed about although I can't say anything about it. Yet. And as always one of the highlights was dinner with Abyss Walker author Shane Moore and Tracy...and the other Shane ;-)

Now, on to the topic:
I think maybe the best way to get to what is right with anime and manga is to show what is wrong, so what is anime exactly? Anime is "is animation originating in Japan...(characterized by) large eyes...a "vein" or "stress mark" effect, where lines representing bulging veins will appear on their forehead (to denote anger)...a massive sweat-drop (which has become one of the most widely recognized motifs of conventional anime) or produce a visibly red blush or set of parallel (sometimes squiggly) lines beneath the eyes (to show stress or embarrassment)" and so on. From Wikipedia. So anime describes an art style...Hmm. So lets look at manga.

"The genre includes a broad range of subjects: action-adventure, romance, sports and games, historical drama, comedy, science fiction and fantasy, mystery, horror, sexuality, and business/commerce, among others". Also from Wikipedia. The article seems to describe manga as a type of creative medium. Maybe that's how I'll approach the subject...

To get to what is right with anime and manga is to show what is wrong with us, the western world. We have to label everything! It has to fit into some sort of genre in order for our brains to process it. For instance there are the genres of fantasy, sci-fi and horror (and never the twain shall meet according to some!). And these genres are further divided into sub-genres. For instance under the horror umbrella we have gothic, splatter punk, torture porn, slasher etc which can be further divided into or grouped under vampires, zombies and so on and on and on. The same holds true for sci-fi and fantasy. And when you have a movie like Alien come along it causes many (usually laughable) debates. 

My art is usually categorized as zombie art, horror art, and the new and frustrating mash-up. I hate the term mash-up, BTW. The others I don't really mind even though it irks me a little when someone walks up to me and says "Hey, you're the zombie guy". Yes, yes I am but I am also much more than that. I consider myself a fantasy artist. Why? I don't do many dragons or elves or unicorns. But what I do is make shit up. I create scenes and creatures that didn't exist until I came along. It's all fantastical therefore it's fantasy. 

I know there are some out there that are hardcore fantasy fans and that the whole zombie/horror things is "beneath them" or "too gross" or whatever. Fantasy is full of undead creatures and horror is full of magic! Fantasy and horror should go hand in hand! And that, kiddos, is what is wrong with us.

The Japanese and the creators of anime and manga have none of the hangups we do. Whatever it takes to make an interesting story will be thrown in there. There is no steampunk or horror or sword and sorcery or post-apocalyptic anime. It's just anime that may have a little bit of each thrown in there. There are no explanations (apologies) either. The story just happens. And the reader/viewer just goes with it. But we here in the west feel the need to explain (apologize) by calling it alternative history. Or a parallel dimension. or a mash-up. So why do we not have genres that are just based upon art styles alone instead of subject? Good question. One that I don't have an answer to.

Granted labeling stuff by subjects makes it easier for us to find what we like but are we missing something? I think we are. I know as a creator (yes, I think I am going to lean towards the term "creator" more than artist) trying to create something within a specific genre can be stifling so I'm not going to do it anymore. Not that I really worried too much about it in the past but I am now going to worry about it even less. I may even take to the streets with my message...which will be..."Down with labels"?...or "Genre specificity is for those that can't think outside the box"...Too wordy? Perhaps. Maybe I'll work on that but you get the picture. 

And for what it's worth I am not a fan of anime or manga generally speaking. There's a few good additions to the genres here and there but I am not a fan. But I think we can learn a lot.

And speaking of mash-ups...Egad! I hate that term! So speaking of non-genre specificity here is the cover to the epic final installment to Shane Moore's Abyss Walker series. Fantasy and horror. This proves the point I made earlier.

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