Lights, Camera, Action!; First (Visual) Impressions of Noragami

[HorribleSubs] Noragami - 01 [720p]_Jan 6, 2014, 3.27.32 AM

What do you get when you merge a penniless god, a girl ghost with a cat tail, and a lot of excellent visuals? BONES answers with its latest series, Noragami. Continue onward for some delicious aesthetics and hella cool shots!

Recent years have not been kind to BONES. Lately, it seems like they’ve struggled to keep a rhythm between upbeat and memorable, creating results that land somewhere on one end or the other. Examples range from the messy AO and rather mediocre No. 6 and Gosick to the rather fantastic UN GO and Zetzuen no Tempest. This season, BONES has decided to spread out a little and go for a show like Noragami and Space Dandy. What gives?

The answer may be Tempest. While the show’s story wasn’t the most well-told or powerful, it was the execution that was stylish as heck and made the show stand out. Remember those four episodes of constant arguing and logic-twisting? The genre shift? The theatrics? Noragami in many ways seems to be of kin. The characters aren’t original and neither is the story, but the art of the show is what sells the most, and it sells wellNoragami understands spatial composition, color palette, and the choice of angles, which emphasizes its storytelling and distinguishes it from the rest.

Cinematography involves three major things: the placement of people and objects in a frame, the movement of said people and objects in the frame, and the movement of the frame itself. Every shot should have composition, which is specific focus that can be attained through manipulation of color, light, shapes, and patterns. Noragami accomplishes this using all of the above, and it it can be clearly seen in many of the frames of the first episode.

Color Palette. Color is extremely important in establishing the atmosphere of scenes in a series, and Noragami handles color palettes extremely well with its mastery of mixing and matching hues and saturations. From monochrome moods to combining unusual colors to create distorted environments, Noragami allows us to fall into one mood of a certain scene to another.

A study of spatial composition, use of pattern, and color palette. Notice the contrast of a fluid bodied monster amongst the backdrop of lines – an emphasis of contrast. This is also seen with color contrast; the backdrop of hollowed out blues, greens, and light yellows, amongst a saturated red.

An example of a monochrome palette; the use of blues only gives a cool and calming effect.

Saturated colors can make for the dream to be TOO dreamy…..

But on the other hand, saturated colors amongst a dim area create a surreal horror environment. Use of lighting can also be seen here!

Lighting and Contrast. Light and shadow are critical for contrast and thus, emphasizing certain aspects of a scene or body part over others. Lighting also helps with creating an atmosphere in scenes. Shadows and highlights also can distinguish the foreground from the background. In action scenes, lighting is especially important to not lose the viewer and point to the focus of the shot.

Here, the use of light not only creates a surreal mood but also distinguishes the characters from their setting, making them easier to see.

Lighting and alignment are important as well; with a solid cool blue palette, the show takes the time to focus in on the body as the light emits from the center point. Something important is happening!

Light and Shadow. By emphasizing shadow in certain areas and light in others (along with a rather unusual color palette) these scenes feel odd and surreal, as if from a dream or memory.

A simple cap here, but the lighting captures the moment.

Shapes and Pattern. Rearranging shapes and patterns create balance. Just as light and shadow can emphasize certain subject matter, so can the use of pattern and shapes, contrasting simple images with repetitive ones, or vice versa. Shapes and lines can also lead the viewer to the focus of the shot by either being in the foreground or background, while framing the subject so he or she stands out. By having a functional structure, one can create both a practical and aesthetically pleasing image.

Simplified character design against a repeated background.

The frame speaks for itself.

Angles and Zooming. There are different types of shots: an establishment shot which gives us the usual location or setting, the long shot, which shows how characters interact with their environment, the full body shot of the character, a medium shot, the close up shot, and the extreme close up shot. Noragami utilizes all of these with various effects, poses and angles to create a dynamic series of camera work.

An example of the long shot here, which shows how the character interacts with her environment. Noragami however, seems to prefer a mix and match of extreme closeups and long shots to create a particular style of direction.

Cropping is important. By zooming into the eyes and other body parts, we get a larger message of body language. Here, that sense is horror.

This particular scene creates tension by focusing specifically on the character’s body language and zooming in to create a claustrophobic effect.

My personal favorite is perhaps the negative view shot, which places the characters in a large, empty backdrop. It creates a sense of atmosphere, balance, and emphasizes the main subject.

Camera angle is also important; we tilt sideways with the main characters as they fall from one world to the other.

An “ant” angle adds style for the humor from time to time.

BONUS: Noragami also understands the allure of Big Damn Eyes in anime….

Of course, this is only the first episode, so who knows – BONES may just be piling all of its budget into the premiere. If it did, it wouldn’t be the first time; this is quite common in anime series, so to see less of a visual feast would almost be expected. However, Noragami has made a clear and stylish statement with 20 minutes of fantastic animation direction so far, and thus I can’t wait to see how things will be adapted next!

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4 responses to “Lights, Camera, Action!; First (Visual) Impressions of Noragami

  1. Wow, wonderful commentary on the use of composition of lighting. It’s indeed rare to examine the language of film in an anime, and a refreshing one at that. ^_^ If I do my own, could I reference this as an example of how wonderful an article you can make out of analyzing the mis en scene?

  2. Nice to see someone who can appreciate well-thought visuals in a series! The “sense of composition” is actually a rare trait among anime viewers…

    • Aw, thanks! I really enjoy Noragami’s style and use of artistic composition, and as someone who enjoys making art herself, it’s something I look forward to every week :) Thanks for reading!

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