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Ima, kore ga hoshiin da! - This time with style

by Allen Divers,

A prevailing attitude that dominates the mass market when it comes to animation is that it's strictly for kids. That attitude usually carries with it the idea that animation has no real value beyond simple entertainment. Of course those in the know, realize that animation is simply another medium used to tell a story and has every chance to tell a solid story much like its live action counterparts. In many ways, animation is actually a superior medium to tell a story because the only limit lies in the imagination of the creators.

With animation being such a versatile instrument, it helps to adopt a particular style to help tell the story. The style adopted by a series helps define its character, establishing credibility to its story and defining continuity. Particular styles go a long way in helping to draw in an audience, especially those who prefer one style over another. Style comes in many forms, ranging from character and mecha designs, music choices and overall theme. Style does come with a price; too much style can cloud the original intent of the story. And a good style can become overused as many attempt to cash in on its popularity.

This week, I've decided to take a look at a couple of shows that establish their particular style and do a solid job of using it to help establish the credibility of their stories. Both shows push the edge as their particular styles push them into the category of other fan favorite Anime series. Shows such as these help promote the fact that Animation isn't just for children as the plots they follow maintain a very mature edge.

L/RLicensed by Royal

Harking back to the days of traditional buddy shows and films is a little show called Licensed by Royal. The basic premise of L/R is about a small country in Europe that uses groups of agents to protect the interests of the royal family. The best in the business is a small group called Cloud7, featuring the extraordinary talents of guy spies, Jacques Hefner and Rowe Rickenbacker. These two have it all; the cool gadgets, the pretty women, closets full of suits and clever disguises.

The nature of this show, so far, is very tongue in cheek, as Jacques and Rowe manage to defeat each villain with simple cunning plans. The animation and artwork are very detailed, and very reminiscent of many of the top action Anime series. Being the introductory episodes, the few episodes I've seen so far keep a fairly light tone, displaying a lot of wit and charm in the scripting. There's no sign of any major sinister plot appearing as of yet, and the first major recurring villain seemed to be taken care of quite quickly in one episode. Watching each episode you get an idea that there's a certain style the creators are going for, with a lot of the style being derived from the music. The music is very reminiscent of a late seventies, early 80s vibe, with very jazzy upbeat music. The music does become a bit of a hindrance as it occasionally drowns out dialogue. Some creators still need to learn that music with words is often distracting. Of course, since the words are in English and the dialogue in Japanese, it may not be as distracting to a Japanese audience.

With the music, action and character personalities, this show will see a lot of comparisons to Cowboy Bebop. The style used in L/R is very reminiscent of that, but so far doesn't have the dark undertone that Cowboy Bebop carried thanks to one of the lead characters. Licensed by Royal is sure to find a loyal following in North America with its strong style and well written storylines. Pioneer LDC is the big backer on this one, so expect to see L/R being announced by them sometime this year for release in North America.

Wolf's Rain

Following up with a similar visual style as seen in L/R is Wolf's Rain. While the character designs and tech feel for the show are similar, the overall setting and subject matter take a completely different path. In the near future, wolves have been extinct for over 200 years. Legend says that the wolves would know the way to paradise, and they wouldn't tell anyone else. Now, wolves disguised as men walk among the leftover citizens looking for the way to paradise. Right from the beginning, with its Mad Max convoy attack scene, this series sets out that it has quite a bit to prove. Where L/R was a light and almost carefree romp through almost non-connected storylines, Wolf's Rain presents a bleak world with a tight plot to carry it from episode to episode. It's style also screams with a ton of symbolism using the story of the wolves to describe the futility of man's existence.

Wolf's Rain is produced by Bandai Visual with art production done by Bones. Some of Bones' other work includes RahXephon, Angelic Layer and the recent Cowboy Bebop movie. Following in their visual style, Wolf's Rain adopts a depressing vision of the future, with mankind existing on the edge of survival, separated by vast differences in class. The story is also driven by the myth and folklore surrounding wolves. While the early episodes haven't made things fully clear, the characters of the wolves are quite clearly the protagonists in this tale. The artwork and animation are all high quality, producing a fine looking series. Overall, the story and artwork create a very dramatic piece of art that plays well against the standard cutesy stories. This is the one to get if you're looking for a solid story to sink your teeth into.

Wolf's Rain should prove to be a hot license for this year, especially when it comes to who actually gets it. While Bandai Visual is involved with production, two of Bones' titles have gone to ADV. Nothing is really sure in the world of licensing, so expect a lot of buzz in the coming convention season.

While both titles have very divergent storylines, it's their visual looks that should get a lot of people excited about both of them. Both shows are done in a very "realistic" style helping to lend a lot of credibility to the serious nature of their plotlines. While L/R has started off very campy, its visual style hints at becoming something much more. When people think of style and cutting edge story telling in animation, its series like L/R and Wolf's Rain that help bring credibility to the argument that animation isn't just for kids.

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