7 More Visually Striking Anime Productions
by Lynzee Loveridge,
In 2012, I'd written only two (2!) weekly installments of this column before tackling this topic. I wasn't exactly prepared for the response it got, but looking back on it six (6!!) years later, there's definitely more I'd like to add. "Visually striking" is probably one of the most subjective themes to tackle. What makes an anime visually memorable? Is it lush backgrounds, highly kinetic animation, or a disregard for what anime is "supposed" to look like? For me, it's all the above. It's anime that I found breathtaking in their beauty, starkness, or visual metaphor. I actually had a harder time narrowing down my choices this time compared to last time, either because I've become more aware as a viewer or because the volume of unique and exciting shows is higher than ever.
Belladonna of Sadness So, let's kick this List off with a little bit of erotica. Belladonna of Sadness is a strange tale of the gorgeous Jeanne, her impotent husband Jean, and the deal she makes with the Devil to exact her revenge on the nobility that stole everything from her. The 1973 film is at times exploitative, empowering, and erotic. As Jeanne, a woman with eyelashes that would make Twiggy jealous, sexually awakens and finds that the anger and torment she thought resided in Hell would instead spark a cultural and sexual revolution. Now, Belladonna of Sadness isn't animated in the traditional sense. Mush Pro had fallen on hard financial times during its production and animation is very limited throughout but it packs a punch. Gorgeous watercolor, psychedelic orgasms, and city crumbling to the effects of the Black Plague are just a few of the artistic highlights.
The Count of Monte Cristo Gonzo's retelling of Alexander Dumas' epic tale hasn't aged perfectly. The CG mechs and backgrounds are a little hard on the eyes after 15 years. Other elements remain just as impressive as when it aired though, and I still haven't seen another series tackle textiles in the same way. The characters' clothing are rarely colored traditionally. Instead, the staff opted imposing images or visual textures on the fabrics that moved on the screen with the characters. It's sort of similar to the effect of someone standing against a green screen while wearing a green shirt, so the imposed background also appears on their clothing. Sort of. The result creates this fantastical atmosphere in even the mundane scenes, to say nothing of the Count's own gravity and logic defying hideout.
Land of the Lustrous I had long been burned by CG anime adaptation and their noodle-limb movements and gummy faces. I kept trying but was usually unable to get past the look as a whole. Then last year's Land of the Lustrous officially converted me. The series was a gorgeous conversion of Yoichi Nishikawa's conceptual art. His notes and aesthetic played a large part in series' overall beauty. Studio Orange also demonstrated that you can make action-packed CG animation without the stilting problems that appeared in BBK/BRNK.
Kill la Kill Glowing nipples, twirling flashes of light, Ira Gamagōri imposing size, and Mako's unfiltered speeches. Kill la Kill is certainly memorable and unafraid to take risks but conceptually and artistically. Explaining the base plot of the series to a layman is near impossible without causing some head scratches, but sentient clothes aside, I want to highlight what the series consistently does well: it's frantic physical comedy and action sequences. Even Ryūko's biggest battles have sense of levity to them as she scissor-slashes her way through tennis club members, Gamagōri's BDSM armor, and an overzealous band conductor. It's these rapid-fire sequences that stand out and stay with you.
Space Dandy So, Space Dandy wasn't the next Cowboy Bebop, but despite it's failure to hit it big with Western fandom, Space Dandy was a memorable experiment that brought together three space losers and a stellar staff of creatives. The show mostly episodic, letting individual episode directors and script writers take full rein. Standouts include "The Big Fish Is Huge, Baby," pretty much soloed by Kiyotaka Oshiyama where Dandy ends up on a beautiful oceanic world and goes fishing. Sounds boring, but the episode is surprisingly zen, and then of course there's Sayo Yamamoto's rock concert episode of writhing abs and Masaaki Yuasa's dark comedic turn about an impending apocalypse and a fish love triangle.
DEVILMAN crybaby Speaking of Masaaki Yuasa, this guy is two for two now as his previous work Kemonozume was featured in the first take on this topic. Both he and Kiyotaka Oshiyama worked together on DEVILMAN crybaby; the explosively violent adaptation of Go Nagai's classic series. Like Yuasa's previous work, some are going to find his use of flat colors and fluid animation unattractive. Personally, I'm for anything that tries mixing things up and I think Yuasa's attempts are far more successful than not. DEVILMAN crybaby routinely stretches and distorts its characters to provide tension, visualize fear, add intensity to action sequences. It's definitely not "traditional" but it sure is captivating.
One-Punch Man I'll never forget the One-Punch Man series premiere. I think it was one of the first Preview Guide seasons I did and I went into the series absolutely blind. The experience was amazing; the show was funny, the fight sequences were unexpected and gorgeous, and the dialogue was sharp. Possibly more impressive is that it maintained its hyper-fast battles of punches, throws, and decimated landscapes throughout the entire show. One-Punch Man is yet another example where amazing line work creates this spark. Genos and invading molemen never stood a chance.
The new poll: The ultimate monster tournament begins! Which catcher/trainer would take home the gold?
The old poll: What anime car would you steal for a joy ride?
- The Mach 5 (Speed Racer)
- Rally Vincent's 1967 Shelby Cobra GT 500 (Gunsmith Cats)
- Sweet JP's Racer (Redline)
- The Utena Car (Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie)
- Gilbert's Visceral Heavy Industry (Blood Blockade Battlefront
- BeBop (Cowboy Bebop; this is a SPACESHIP GUYS)
- Takumi's 1983 Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT-APEX (AE86) (Initial D)
- Misato Katsuragi's Alpine Renault A310 (Evangelion)
- Roger Smith's Griffon (The Big O)
- Batou's Lancia Stratos (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex)
- Lupin's Abarth 500 (Lupin the Third)
When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.
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