I Hope Nippon-sempai Notices Me: Prism Ark and Why Anime at It’s Core Can Barely Be Taken Seriously
I know, 2 Nippon posts in a row – where’s the game theory article you ask? Well this and the following week will be Nippon-Sempai articles due to next week being the final article of Nippon-Sempai. Yes by today’s date it’s been a full 2 years since I started this, and I’ll leave the reason why I’m ending it (because it’s not from a lack of faults to continue pointing out) for next week, this week let’s talk about Prism Ark.
Now if you don’t know why Prism Ark is awful, or even know of it’s existence – worry not because it goes my many other names and animes. Specifically Prism Ark was a terrible laundry list of anime cliches that came out a few years ago – but with a twist.
Specifically that the fansubbers who first gave the translation had decided accuracy was impossible without killing oneself, and gave us a short-lived romp of joke subs. Now I assume that there are people out there reading this, or that you know of; who have been genuinely enraged by subs being joke subs and not accurate. These people likely scare you as much as they scare me, because at the end of the day sometimes joke subs can be better than some accurate translation with 3 pages of TL Note explaining to you the meaning of chess moves.
I wondered why this is? I mean surely for a bad anime it makes it palpable, but then you have things like DBZ: Abridged – where a series that’s while admittedly overblown – is still a good show, and yet if you asked me what I would rather watch – I choose the funny comedy every time.
Sure maybe this is just as simple as enjoying a comedy more, or that something that’s either familiar by nostalgia or familiar by soul-crushing formula is better with a spice of the unexpected, but I think it runs deeper than that. In short I think I’m right in saying that too much of what is common in anime is so odd within the right context, that a parody of it can improve it.
Let me take you from where I am coming from. I think we can all agree that FMA and Brotherhood are great series. Certainly in the top 10 or 25 for nearly every fan of the genre, and rightly so for many reasons. Yet like bad cg there are moments where for no reason the characters are suddenly chibi-fied. This is done mostly to lighten the mood, and is something that the realm of animation allows to happen, but it’s treated as commonplace and is either outright ignored of single-commented on by a character in the background.
The problem isn’t that culturally this doesn’t make sense or even that this should never happen. Within the context of the story the reason for the chibi is often understandable – what I’m saying is that it’s almost always unnecessary. It’s unnecessary to show a character with fire and brimstone behind them when they are angry, or for tear drops on the head to form when sighing. It’s this codified language that has formed around anime that exists almost to be poking fun at itself – making the leap that either removes or exploits this a much better experience in most cases than the original.
This language is something built over and over, used not because it’s needed, or because it improves what you see and feel, but as a shorthand. As a way to nod and wink to the audience to make sure they understand. It is in short why it’s hard for me to take 95% of anime seriously. Because by doing this they don’t take you – the viewer – seriously. So much of what goes into film/tv/media creation isn’t just what you cram in, but what you leave out, and how you do it.
Anime spends so much time thinking about how it wants to work overall that it lets this old lexicon fill in the details – and as anyone would tell you details fucken matter. I spent a lot of my youth claiming how anime isn’t for kids, and that there are many adult parts of it, but to be honest I was only half right. Because while guns, tits, and violence are certainly not for kids and there are animes that are made for an adult mindset – most of anime really isn’t.
I’m not saying that everything needs to be serious or that there needs to be some sort of Kubrick-ification of anime. What I am saying is that anime does need to grow up, it needs to stop relying on it’s myriad shortcuts and treat the viewer, treat it’s characters, and treat it’s scenes with the respect and detail it deserves.
I normally suggest a way to fix this which seems a bit futile knowing I am going into the next week with the final column, but let’s give it one more shot. In short I want an anime made by let’s say a Swedish guy, a guy who has never watched anime before, and works with a creative team. The Japanese creative team can draw the show, but every decision around a way something looks, or where this spiral of ideas seeps into the script or animation – is questioned and rejected by the Swedish guy who is very much an auteur.
Anyway kids that’s all for this week, hopefully sempai notices me and makes Fjord Ark
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The Buffalo is Nerdfit's longest active content contributor. Having helmed various podcasts (What's Nu in Animu, WritersCast), columns (I Hope Nippon Sempai Notices Me, Advanced Game Theory, Booze Reviews, Anime Season Previews, etc) - currently he writes a weekly article column of 'Buffalo's Shit to Think About'