Day Five: Me, Myself, and Sakuga.

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It’s hard to sum up how 2016 has affected me in brief words, outside of the absolute train wreck of political events, artist deaths, and sheer ignorance and bigotry of surrounding communities in general. Yeah, 2016 sucks. We’ve all heard it and said it, and just about all of us have seen John Oliver’s Fuck You 2016 video probably at least 3x (or maybe that’s just me), so we are not going to talk about that! If you’re looking for horror and tragedy, just look around you. But for me, 12 Days has been – and always will be – a place of comfort, personal space, and hopefulness. So instead of grumbling about the world today, I’m going to talk about three ways 2016 Anime (not necessarily anime IN 2016) have impacted me to be a more insightful, creative, and better human being.

Let it be known I’m a pretty lazy person when it comes to niche information. You can ask any of my friends in League of Legends – I’ve been playing the damn game for over three years now, and I still don’t know what Ryze’s passive is, or what Ardent Censer does. I have a knack for tuning out information that doesn’t really interest me, and it’s a particularly bad habit! 2016 was kind of the year I decided to change that, and one of the biggest ways was through investing myself in sakuga and the anime industry.

I see some people cringing. I know. Sakuga is a sensitive word in the anisphere, particularly known for gathering trouble and elitist bickering. The word carries a lot of weight behind it, as it’s a double edged sword – on one hand, you have a wealth of knowledge at your disposal and another lens to help develop and give context to the anime that you enjoy (or don’t enjoy) – but on the other hand, you have echo chambers for assertive opinions to the point where there’s little diversity and appreciation for differences. Say something shitty about Norio Matsumoto and you’ll be hunted. Mention how you didn’t like a well animated show like Hyouka and people are bound to question your decision making forever. It’s a precarious place to be in, especially for people like me who are still trying to learn their ways around identifying and appreciating animators.

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But I love art. I really do. As both an artist and consumer of anime, the process of transferring an image in one’s head to traditional and digital craft to create a world that defies logic and conventional rules is amazing. TV dramas are great, sure, but the fact that one can make their imagination come to life is something that will fascinate me to no end.

We’ve had some amazing pieces this year. Twin Star Exorcists had its first opening done by Yasuomi Umetsu, a guy who is stylish as heck and has amazing transition sequences (Seriously, check him out!!!) . It also had an incredible second opening by none other than Shingo Yamashita, a webgen master who you may have seen in things like Yama no Susume or Shinsekai Yori!  That’s not even touching the ridiculous stunts in Mob Psycho 100 or breathtaking fast-paced scenes in Scorching Ping Pong Girls. Add in some amazing openings this season, the final battle between Naruto and Sasuke in Naruto: Shippuden and Hibike! Euphonium‘s stunning photography, and the list goes on and on and on….

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Watching scenes like this come to life is exhilarating. You don’t have to be an artist, aniblogger, or really, anything to appreciate execution of scenes. You just have to be interested. And interest can take you far. It’s been a year or so since I’ve taken up the active commitment to paying attention to animation, to the point where it’s not so much an effort as much as it is a regular way of immersing myself in the art I’ve come to love since I was a child. I can pick out certain animators pretty easily now, whereas many others still are elusive and trick me! In other words, it’s a bit of a challenging guessing game. It does not make me a guru, a dominating voice in the sphere, or a better fan. But it makes me excited. It allows me to be able to know more about the people invested in the work I’m invested in.

There’s more information about the industry being released nowadays, far more than there used to be. I can easily look up about how anime is produced, how it’s released, who works on it, what animators use to add filters or sound effects, how many factors including merchandise and disk sales contribute to profit. I can ask friends if a scene was storyboarded by my not-so-secret love Masashi Ishihama. I can go on sakugabooru and check out a certain animators and track them to their earlier years. All this information does come with a risk of being surrounded by gatekeepers and elitists, but it also adds a rich context which allows you to come away with something intimate and rewarding. I sure as hell dislike Hyouka‘s first half. But I admire its scenery, beautiful color palettes, and focus on body language.

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jk hyouka still sux

Is this a plea for anime fans to start writing their own sakuga dictionaries? Not at all. I do think it’s worth it, however, to say that you really can have the best of both worlds if you allow it. But we’ll save that conversation for next time.

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