Time and Deconstruction

Deconstruction in media is something I find intensely fascinating. And while this video by Under the Scope is a great exploration of deconstruction in anime, particularly in the ‘magical girl’ (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and ‘giant mech’ (Neon Genesis Evangelion) genres (though it was strange to hear someone refer to the show School Days as a deconstruction of the ‘harem’ genre). What I find puzzling about the evidence he uses, is possibly my own experience with discussing deconstruction. Particularly, calling Neon Genesis Evangelion a deconstruction of the ‘mech’ genre.

A few months ago, I wrote an article discussing how the deconstruction aspect of a piece of work is waisted, when that piece of work is recommended or introduced above and before the thing being deconstructed. A deconstruction without reference. The two examples I used were Watchmen, which is often praised as one of the greatest comics ever written (personally, I think it’s just ok, but I didn’t read it at the time of creation), and often on the top of ‘comic you should read for beginners list. And I paired that with Neon Genesis Evangelion for an example in another medium that is also highly praised, and first to be recommended to newbies.

The two most common responses I got to the piece had nothing to do with the content, but argued that Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t a deconstruction, and no one reads Watchmen first. And that I’m an idiot for thinking so. I did a little research into the profiles of the people who commented, and concluded that a lot of them were either relatively new to anime, had read Watchmen recently, or were jumping on the band wagon of the first few commentator’s due to other posts they had made being contradictory to what they had later said.

This makes me wonder something else about the nature of deconstruction. With both works being creations of (arguably) a different generation. The mid 80s for Watchmen, and mid 90s for Evangelion. Has the passage of time, and the effect these works had, changed how we view the media enough for them to no longer be considered deconstructions?

In the case of anime, Evangelion’s release spear headed a dramatic shift in the medium. Particularly in the production of original television properties. This change also allowed writers such as Chiaki J. Konaka to bring works such as Serial Experiments Lain to the screen. The Youtuber Digibro describes this shift well in his video How Evangelion Altered Anime Eternally. Concluding Evangelion’s full effect kicking in, with the series Now and Then, Here and There. Taking on the familiar trope of a young boy being transported to a magical new world. Something usually seen in a show aimed at young children. Only to be met with a dark dystopia, full of twisted characters, and plot devices including murder and rape.

In the realm of comics, Watchmen was part of a one-two punch, along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Eventually culminating in advertisements for comics presenting them as “Grime, Gritty, Grown up”. These kinds of stories lead to darker storytelling, particularly in the worlds of superhero comics. A genre created for a primary audience of children, and grew in the wake of the second world war, as a means of hopeful escapism. This darker tone has continued to reverberate through modern comics, particularly in DC. With the ‘Rebirth’ relaunch acting as a course correction, and the storyline ‘The Button’, and the current ‘Doomsday Clock’ actively blaming the darker tone on the Watchmen characters. Particularly Dr Manhattan.

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But this all leads back to my initial question. Is something still a deconstruction, if the deconstruction has become part of the norm?


  • Digibro (2017) How Evangelion Altered Anime Eternally. [Online] YouTube. August 3rd. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJ3F_hhzJ3o [Last Accessed: 01.01.2018]
  • Johns, G. & Frank, G. (2017 – 2018) Doomsday Clock. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Miller, F. (1986) The Dark Knight Returns. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Moore, A. & Gibbons, D. (1986 – 1987) DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995 – 1996) TV. Directed by Hideaki Anno. [DVD] Studio Gainax: Japan.
  • Now and Then, Here and There. (1999 – 2000) TV. Directed by Akitaro Daichi. Studio AIC: Japan.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011) TV. Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo. [DVD] Studio Shaft: Japan.
  • School Days (2007) TV. Directed by Keitaro Motonaga. [DVD] Studio TNK: Japan.
  • Serial Experiments Lain (1998) TV. Directed by Ryutaro Nakamura. Studio Triangle Staff & Studio Pioneer LDC: Japan.
  • Under The Scope (2016) What Actually is A Deconstruction? [Online] YouTube. July 5th. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBuo4vi_A0s [Last Accessed: 01.01.2018]
  • Williamson, J., King, T., Fabok, J. & Porter, H. (2017) The Button. DC Comics: Burbank.

 

 

 

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Bendis and Superman [Rant]

Comic Book Resources broke a story earlier that finally announced Brian Michael Bendis’ plans at DC. Having announced his leave from Marvel, in which he worked for 18 years and created characters such as Jessica Jones and Miles Morales. Noted for his work on Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the countless events he’s initiated and written.

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On a personal note, I loved Bendis’ early work, having come out in my childhood and early teens. Particularly the early Ultimate Spider-Man and House of M event. However modern Bendis feels as though he’s lost a fair amount of his spark. Struggling to finish up storylines he starts, forcing Marvel into universe changing events that shake up the characters in OTHER PEOPLES books. Professor Thorgi on YouTube sums up a lot of Bendis’ problems in a handy video.

The idea of Bendis moving to DC, while at one point laughable, seems like a good change of pace for him. A new world to write in, new characters to play with. It was announced a few weeks ago that his first work for DC will be as part of the Action Comics #1000 book. Completely unsurprising as he is a celebrated author and it’s a major milestone. However, the question still remained as to what Bendis would actually be doing for DC. What would be his main book?

Given Bendis’ preference and talents for writing young heroes, one existing book and one possible book seems like the perfect fit for him. Blue Beetle and Shazam! Given that he would also be just getting started in the DC Universe, putting him on a less high-profile book for a little while feel like the right thing to do. However. As CBR broke earlier, Bendis will be starting off on a Superman mini-series (decent idea and rather fitting given the name is Man of Steel, the same name as another former Marvel writter’s series, John Bryne), before taking over both Superman and Action Comics. The main problem here is that Bendis taking over both books is completely unnecessary and could lead to trouble down the line. The very same trouble Marvel have found themselves in in the last few years.

“Following the miniseries, Bendis will write both Superman and Action Comics. The former will relaunch with a new #1, while Action will continue its numbering, with Bendis’ first issue being Action Comics #1001.” [Gerding. 2018]

On the main Superman title, Tomasi and Gleason have been doing an amazing job. Being able to explore the family dynamic, as well as proving multiple times over that they understand the character. In Action Comics, which I can’t overly speak for as I am just about to start reading it, we have Superman veteran Dan Jurgens doing another celebrated run. Both titles have been holding strong with legions of fans. The problem with Bendis taking over both titles is that this gives him tremendous access to characters that could bring about earth shaking cross over events every few months. A problem at Marvel that many argue Bendis started. It feels like this decision from DC is giving Bendis too much power far too quickly.

To add insult to injury, Bendis’ take over Superman will set the book back to #1. Another problem Marvel currently has is a constant string of number 1 issues. DC during the Rebirth initiative proved that they understood this problem and did their best to return a number of their flagship titles to their original numbering. A decision which has lead to the landmark of the #1000 issue of Action Comics.

This decision feels like it’s done out of desperation. One made just to capitalise on a writer who people know, without taking into consideration the writers history. Time will tell, but frankly, my hopes are low.

Jorge Jimenez’s original Superboy costume designs

DC Rebirth brought us a brand new Superboy in the form of Clark and Lois’s son, Jonathan Kent. A bright and kind-hearted kid, newly developing his powers and discovering that the father he already looked up to is really Superman. In issue two of Superman, Jon goes along to help his father when he is asked to step up and use his heat vision in action. In the freezing cold arctic weather, he rips open his coat to reveal a two-toned blue shirt with the Superman emblem emblazoned across his chest.

Superman 002 (2016)

Once the action dies down, Superman gets to look at Jon’s shirt. Jon states that he got it from a second-hand store and liked that it had the “S” on it. Comparing it to people wearing Wonder Woman’s and Batman’s logos all the time. That he wanted to feel super, like his dad. Clark’s response is both incredibly poignant, and deeply personal to them both.

“Jon, you’re not like the boy who outgrew this shirt and donated it. I’m afraid someday soon – too soon – you will have to pick it up and embrace the “S” for yourself. it’s not about our powers or strength, or heat vision. It’s about character. It means doing the right thing when no one else will, even when you’re scared…. Even when you think no one is looking.” [Tomasi & Gleason. 2016:09]

Jon’s costume is a wonderful mixture of both the classic Superman and the New 52. The world Jon has lived in already had a Superman that was not his father. The shirt was created to celebrate the darker interpretation, and was donated by someone who outgrew it. Only for it to be picked up and embodied by someone who wants to stand for the same thing as classic Superman. Hope and justice. The two blue tones nicely show this divide between the two, while combining them into one garment. A few issues later, Jon gains a cape and completes his wonderful costume.

On Twitter, Supersons artist Jorge Jimenez released his sketches of the possible costume ideas before the current design.

They scream of the classic, and much missed Superman costume design. Complete with red boots and trunks. The lighter blue is striking, though the high collar is heavily reminiscent of the New 52 armour. But those classic trunks not only harken back to the classic Superman design, but the inspiration behind that. The circus strongmen of the early 1900s.

It’s clear that Jon is perfectly aware of the original costume. In Action Comics #967, Jon pulls up images on his phone asking his father why he never wears either the classic look, or the black suit he wore while in hiding. Clearly enthusiastic about both looks.

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While Jon’s current costume fits the character and world perfectly, it’s wonderful to know that in some version of the multiverse. The classic costume lives on through Superboy.

  • Jimenez, Jorge (2018) Do you want to see something curious?? Here my first versions of Superboy’s design. [Twitter] 9th Available from: https://twitter.com/JorgeJimenezArt/status/950760640771182599 [Last Accessed: 09.01.2018]
  • Graydon, D. & Brownie, B. (2016) The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction. Bloomsbury Academic: London.
  • Nerdsync (2015) Why Do Superheroes Wear UNDERWEAR on the Outside?!? || Comic Misconceptions || Nerdsync [YouTube] 16th Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOhQlqrp2oM [Last Accessed: 09.01.2018]
  • Tomasi, P. & Gleason, P. (2016) Superman #2. DC Comics: Burbank.

Digital Comics: Infinite Canvas meets Infinite Time.

The idea of a comic book would most likely bring to mind the image of dog eared magazine, decorated in the garb of colourful superhero action, such as Superman or Spider-man, or comical animal strips, including the likes of Garfield, found in your everyday newspaper, due to the image that the mainstream media has perpetuated. With this image in mind, the general public can view the comic book medium as a playground tailored for children and the immature, a notion once shared by the creators themselves [Howe. 2012], this can put off some creators, as they “have a very limited audience and little chance of seeing any returns for their efforts” [Shedd. 2005:05]. The advent and ease of access of the World Wide Web, allows for creators to share their own comics with a wide audience without the fear of distribution costs, the freedom of genre, and complete creative control over their work. With that freedom in mind and the implementation of web only features, such as HTML and Flash, the medium itself could be played with and experimented upon, creating interactive experiences and motion sequences.

However, the creation of motion and interactive comics, according to Scott McCloud, could fall into the same trap as the traditional printed medium, using the screen in the same manner as a standard page. Unlike a sheet of paper, which has defined dimensions and can be ripped and ruined, a screen can be viewed as a window, an infinite space. “The goal is to use the infinite nature of the web to the advantage of the medium, rather than be constrained by panels and pages” [Booker, 2014:1825]. The expansion of a comic beyond its original dimensions, allows for a creator to experiment with what we traditionally see as a comic, and take “advantage of the medium to a much higher degree” [Shedd, 2005:09], using the added space and flexibility to complement the story being told.

The implementation of an infinite X and Y axis can add a sense of time to the work, as information is being revelled to the audience in a controlled setting. A practice McCloud refers to as “gradualism – slowly gaining information by slowly scrolling through an image or sequence of images” [McCloud, 2007]. This practice can, theoretically, expand on an idea of Marshall McLuhan, and the notion of time between panels. That the space in between comic book panels is infinite and can only be determined by what comes before and after. “The viewer, or reader, is compelled to participate in completing and interpreting the few hints provided by the bounding lines” [McLuhan, 1964:174]. An idea also expounded upon by McCloud, with the example of an off panel death, “To kill a man between Panels is to condemn him to a thousand deaths” [McCloud, 1993:68].

  • Blake, C. (2013) The digital evolution: from infinite canvas to infinite comics. [Online] Comic Book Resources. Available from: http://www.cbr.com/the-digital-evolution-from-infinite-canvas-to-infinite-comics/ [Last accessed: 28/09/2016]
  • Booker, M. (2014) Comics through Time. A History of Icons, Idols and Ideas. Greenwood
  • Howe, S. (2012) Marvel Comics. The Untold Story. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McCloud, S. (1993) Understanding Comics. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McCloud, S. (2007) Reinventing Comics. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media. Routledge, Oxon.
  • Shedd, A. (2005) No Borders, No Limits: The Infinite Canvas as a Storytelling Tool in Online Comics. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Idaho.

Why was Yuri!!! On Ice so ubiquitous?

[This is neither an analysis, review, or critic of Yuri!! On Ice. This is simply a passing thought as to why was the show popular with a none anime watching audience when compared to the standard attention grabbing shows. None of this should be taken as researched analysis. This is a casual post.]

 

Occasionally I dip my toes back into the world of anime. My hay-day in the fandom was more than 4 years ago but I still try and look around at what is coming out every now and then. Last year, particularly on Twitter, I kept hearing so much about this random anime focused on ice skating of all things. What I found strange was not that a show about ice skating was popular, but that I was hearing about it from people I never usually hear talking about anime. And it was for a show about ice skating!?

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I understand that there is certainly a market for sports anime, I myself particularly loved the first season of Haikyuu when it came out and I’m not even interested in volleyball. So the idea of a sports anime getting a lot of attention was certainly not out of my range of comprehension. But then I sat and compared the idea of it to other shows I had heard a similar amount of buzz about from the same audience. Attack on Titan, Sword Art Online, One Punch Man. Mostly shonen action orientated shows with well animated moments, at least one or two strong characters, and maybe some humour mixed in. At the time I was too busy to take the time to stop and watch something subtitled. Meaning I knew that the few screenshots I saw and the occasional mention I heard was going to be the extent of my experience. By the time this winter break rolled around the show had been dubbed by Funimation, and I could easily have the show playing on a second screen while working, taking breaks to watch the more action orientated and heavily animated scenes. I have no real preference for dubbed or subbed, it more depends on how busy I am at the time, how old the show is, and how desperate I am to see it.

In the end I watched all 12 episodes in a single day and I still can’t answer why it was so popular with a typically none anime viewing public.

My suspicions were confirmed by the fact that it was indeed beautifully animated in sequences. Particularly in how fluid and detailed the characters skating routines were. Though at times their sense of proportion compared to their surroundings was a little questionable to say the least. Characters were well defined to the point that I can still remember their names (helped by the fact that two characters share a name) and with elements of comedy thrown in frequently. On the surface it fit everything I expected from a ‘breaking mainstream’ show. But even having seen it I can’t figure out why it was so popular. Many may jump to the fact that I did finish the show in a single day as proof that the show was compelling and highly entertaining. In reality, I kept it on due to the fact that I needed something to accompany me while I worked, and I immediately put something else on as soon as it ended.

The show revolves around a 23-year-old Japanese ice skater, Yuri Katsuki, returns home after a defeat in the Grand Prix Final. Conflicted over weather or not he should continue skating, he goes to his childhood skating rink and preforms a routine by his idol for his childhood friend. The routine is secretly recorded by his friend’s children and becomes viral online, catching the attention of Yuri’s idol, the Russian skater Victor Nikiforov. Yuri suddenly finds Victor moving in with him and becoming his coach. Re-inspiring Yuri’s drive to win the Grand Prix and in competition with other skaters like Yuri Plisetsky.

Admittedly, the opening 3 episodes are incredibly strong and compelling. Standing strong enough to be a self-contained short series about a down on his luck skater finding his inspiration again. But in the long run, the show becomes predictable in its plot points as it takes on the standard tournament style narrative from about episode 5 onwards. While tournament arcs in shows can be fun and exciting for the viewer, see how My Hero Academia handled it in it’s second season, being a shows entire main plot can become tedious and heavily predictable. With the exception of the amazing animation, and the admittedly addictive opening theme, History Maker. The shows primary appeal seems to hinge entirely on the relationship between Yuri and Viktor, and how the show handles a same-sex relationship.

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Overly homo-erotic in tone at times, Yuri and Viktor’s relationship is heavily sexualised in nature given their profession. Viktor’s introduction to Yuri in itself is heavily explicit, given they meet in Yuri’s family spa while Viktor is completely naked baring no shame in his body. The music and routine Viktor gives Yuri is explicit in nature being designed to bring out Yuri’s sexual nature, and put it on full display on the ice. Even beyond that the pair embrace each other in triumphant moments as though they were lovers, even to the point of the infamous ‘kiss’ in episode 7. The pair promise each other that they work together for as long as they can, with the scene playing out as though it was an engagement complete with matching rings. Leading to an admittedly funny and open scene where Yuri’s friend congratulates them both on their engagement.

While the idea that Yuri!!! On Ice managed to break into the none anime consuming mainstream still baffles me. The show stands relatively strong on the strength of it’s animation, characters and relationships above it’s story. An enjoyable though not especially deep show, that works well for binge watching.

Deluxe hard covers, The price of books, and Independent stores

Over the past two weeks it’s safe to say I have heavily added to my comic shelves. Specifically in the Deluxe hardback department. When it comes to DC and Marvel, though honestly more DC, there are some titles I end up buying multiple times over. For example, take my beloved Superman series. I buy the single issues which I then lend out to a friend. I bought the first two trade paper backs covering the first 13 issues, and the Rebirth one shot. And after that I really wanted the deluxe volume. So, if I was to add everything up at full price that would be $2.99 x 13, which is $38.87 (granted, over a long period of time). I’m doing this in dollar’s despite being English because of the listed prices on the actual item and I’ll do a conversion at the end. Just getting that info out of the way now. The two trade paper backs are $16.99 each. So, $33.98. and the deluxe volume is $34.99. In total that’s $107.84 for the same content 3 times over. And I know someone will say I made a mistake there because it should be $2.99 times 14 with the Rebirth one shot, but I never bought that one so discounted it here. Converting Dollars to Sterling that means I should have payed a total of £79.52. What I actually spent was £81.53 because issues cost an average of £2.50 depending on which store I visit, the trades cost £14.99 in normal book stores like Waterstones (which is not the best option for buying comics, supporting smaller stores has major benefits for both you and the owners) and I got the deluxe volume from Amazon for £19.05.

Yeah, if you can’t tell I’ve been seriously rethinking how I buy comics. Particularly from DC. None of this is a slight towards DC’s pricing I think it’s very reasonable. It’s more talking about the quality of their product to the point that I own the same content 3 times! To be honest its not the only DC content I own 3 times, and I tend to justify it by the fact that they are in different formats. The fact that I have 3 versions of both Kingdom Come and Superman Secret Identity doesn’t bother me. For the record that’s trade paperback, Deluxe edition, and French hardcover.

I love DCs current Superman title so I don’t mind owning it three times. What I do mind is realising how much it all cost me and how that money could have been used to check out other titles and support them. The problem I see is that the idea of spending £2.50 every other week seems fairly reasonable, until you consider the long-term price. But in the past I’ve actively avoided buying what I considered to be over-priced deluxe editions because I can’t afford it. Here in England, the recommended retail price for DC’s current line of deluxe rebirth books is £30 (though when you convert Dollars to Sterling, it should be only around £25.80, but I’ll give them the £4.20 for import charge). Buying these from regular books stores, like Waterstones or WHSmith, that is exactly what you would pay. Amazon lists them between £15 (The Flash) and £30 (Action Comics) with the majority around £20. A recent trip to Limited Edition in Stevenage (a rather charming and friendly comic store in the cities centre) netted me that £30 Action Comics Deluxe for only £20. A damn good deal in my books.

Over the winter break, I took advantage of a little extra money and caved in to my desire to own some of these beautiful deluxe editions. Happily picking up the Rebirth deluxe books for Superman, Action Comics, Batman, Detective Comics, Wonder Woman, and The Flash. As well as the recent deluxe release of Shazam: The New Beginning and a paperback copy of New Frontier. That trip to Limited Edition also got me the first ultimate collection for Image’s Invincible series by Robert Kirkman for £10. Something I am heavily looking forward to trying as Kirkman’s more famous series, The Walking Dead, has never managed to peak my interest. Either in comics or the television series.

Even discounting the fact that most of these books were brought with gift cards, the experience has forced me to evaluate my approach to buying comics and spend money more wisely. However, when taking this all into account I’m forced to think about the actual companies that produce the books I read. As I said earlier the money spend on multiple versions of the same thing could have been used to support other series. For DC’s more popular series, like Batman and Superman, this is less of a problem. They are flag ship titles that are guaranteed to continue publication and get deluxe volumes. However, especially at Marvel and smaller publishers. Good titles get cancelled frequently due to a lack of support. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed the Silk series from Marvel written by Robbie Thompson. Despite being a good series, the book was cancelled a year ago due to a lack of people buying the single issues. Ending on issue 19 of the second run. Granted, Marvel has become infamous for cancelling books early. YouTuber Professor Thorgi mentions how Chip Zdarsky’s Star Lord series was cancelled at only 6 issues in his video What’s Causing Marvel’s Low Sales – HINT: It’s Not Diversity – ediTHORGIals. Leading many readers to believe it was meant to be a miniseries (typically around 4 to 6 issues long), before it was confirmed that the book was cancelled due to low sales. He goes into plenty of detail in his video discussing the facts that the character is popular, the writer is well known and liked, but the book still sold poorly due to a mixture of Marvel’s pricing, constant relaunches, poor marketing and the amount of books Marvel release week to week. This is worse for independent publishers as they have no guarantee for collective trades even if their work sells relatively well.

With these recent purchases, I can say that the deluxe rebirth books DC have released are completely worth the money and the time to wait for them. Collecting at least the first 13 issues, 15 in the case of Batman. They look wonderful on the shelf with clean white spines, and bright defined covers using art from one of the single issues included inside. The paper stock is clear and of high quality with a sown binding to allow the pages to flex easily and creates less gutter space cut off when reading. The crowning beauty of these books is the added detail under the dust jacket. Gorgeous two-page spreads printed directly onto the books cover in place of the standard black. For bigger titles from DC it’s more than worth waiting it out and picking these up instead of the standard trade paperbacks.

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What I learnt about film from Pokémon: The First Movie (Yes, Seriously)

As a child of the 90s, there are several things I can’t deny. I watched SM:TV Live on Saturday mornings. Frequently forgot to feed a Tamagachi. Begged to stay up a little longer just to watch shows like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and the latest episode of Stargate: SG1. And the subject of today, I loved Pokémon. Granted, I was a bigger fan of Digimon, but I still loved Pokémon, alongside many of my classmates, and almost every other 90s kid. I remember being more than a little jealous of my Game Boy wielding classmates, rushing home to catch the new episodes, and occasionally being gifted a pack of the cards. The often celebrated and sought after, Basic Set 1 card deck.

Cue early 2000. The announcement of Pokémon hitting theatres. My 6-year-old mind went insane. Cinema trips were rare due to the expense, but this was something I so desperately wanted to see. No internet to hunt for plot points and images, no money to buy, or knowledge of, film magazines to get the latest scoop. All I had were the trailers on tv, and the rumours and mutters on the playground. I remember begging my mother to take me. Promising to be good. And then, May 2nd, 2000, my mother told me to get my coat. We were going to the movies. 6:30 in the evening, screen 2, of my local, now none existent, Warner Village Cinema.

That joy and excitement of seeing a much-anticipated film, is one that’s stuck with me. And my childish excitement for, what even I’ll admit is, a cheesy film, is something I still foolishly look back on and smile. I was getting to see one of my favourite series on the big screen. And given how long it did take for films to come to VHS, and the price of them. This was the only time I would be able to see it, for maybe over a year.

When it did finally hit VHS, I was graciously brought a copy of my very own. Along with just a few other tapes, such as The Fox and the Hound, Independence Day, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and The Matrix. This yellow brick, that mesmerised me so, was watched, and loved. Repeatedly.

(Yes, the first run of Pokemon: The First Movie VHS tapes were yellow.)

Looking back at that film now, almost 17 years after that first viewing. I can see the beginning of my film education. I can see the little strands of curiosity that the film sparked. The childhood questions I had, and the journey it took me on.

Stereo, Mono and Audio Mixing:

Something about the film constantly bothered me as a kid. The sound. The films main villain, Mewtwo, was a genetically created Pokémon, able to use psychic abilities, and was able to speak English directly to the main characters. In the cinema, it’s amazing. His voice reverberates around you. To a 6-year-old, it’s intimidating. Yet, re-watching this, on a child’s mono TV, at a low volume, I had to try and remember what Mewtwo was saying. The only line I could ever clearly hear from him was, “Fool. Trying to stop our battle”. For years, I thought this was a fault with my copy of the film, or maybe even my TV.

With the passage of time, and how technology advances, I learnt my tape and TV was fine, and that it had everything to do with film production, audio mixing, and mono vs stereo sound. With the audio mixed as stereo, this allowed for tracks to be played as if coming from multiple directions. Mewtwo’s audio is set to play through the back speakers of a full set up, as if surrounding the viewing. Impressive in surround sound, but hard to hear on a mono set. The DVD commentary by the producers, spoke briefly about the effect they wanted to create, and how they used the audio mixing to impose Mewtwo’s immense power to the viewer.

Cell Painted Animation:

There’s a moment when multiple trainers are attempting to get through a storm, using their various skills and Pokémon to get to New Island as quickly as they can. One trainer, one that does make it through the storm, is seen riding a Gyarados, a large blue water dragon, through the storm easily. The problem being is that the lower lip of Gyarados is miss-coloured the entire time, but the next time we see it, it’s completely normal. This is something that really bothered me, as it was incredibly obvious, and I didn’t get why it wasn’t fixed. I know this bothered others, as it was one of the few things I did talk about with others when the film came up.

Answer. Cell painted animation. Classic animation is painted on cells, one frame at a time, and done in layers. While this mistake is obvious, the number of frames it took up, and the fact that it would probably be on one of the first colour layer. Meaning the entire frame, for all those effected would need to be repainted. Something that is not cheap. It was easier and cheaper to leave a few seconds of miss-coloured Pokémon, than to redo the entire section of the film.

CGI and Traditional Animation:

There was something very strange about the castle, doors and stadium lights. As a kid, I could never figure out why they seemed so different to the rest of the film. Even when the characters were stood right in front of them, they looked off. Turns out, it’s because they ARE different. While the rest of the film is traditional cell painted animation, little touches like the castle (in certain shots), the doors when moving, and the stadium lights, are all CGI models imposed over the film. Interestingly, during the film’s original run in Japan, these were all done with cell animation like the rest of the film. But when the film got the go ahead to be released in America, and the rest of the world, they were able to go back and improve parts of the animation, for a little more polish.

And yet that Gyarados still has a miss-coloured jaw….

Framing:

During the three on three battle in the middle of the film. Ash’s Charzard goes up against a clone Charzard (trying to explain scenes sometimes gets surreal when you realise how crazy some of this sounds to people unfamiliar with the film). As the two dragons are crashing back to the ground, the camera holds on a shot of Ash, Misty, Brock, and the other ‘good’ characters. On the VHS tape, there is an odd editing jump, where the camera cuts from one side of Ash while Brock speaks, only to jump to the other side of him when Misty speaks. As a kid, this was a little jarring. I used to wonder why they weren’t both on screen at the same time. Why did they have to jump from either side, when they could have just had all three characters on screen? Why do I remember seeing this cut a different way?

Well, I had. The original cinema cut of the film had all three characters on screen, taking full advantage of the widescreen format. Emphasis on widescreen format. While not talking about this film, Bordwell and Thompson’s book, Film Art: An Introduction talks at length about framing, and screen resolution. To put it simply. VHS and televisions at the time, had a different frame size, closer to a square than the rectangle we are more familiar with now. Had the VHS release kept the scene the same, then both Brock and Misty would have been out of frame, and the voices would have seemed like they were coming out of nowhere. Thankfully, newer releases, such as the current Blu-Ray, return it to the original aspect ratio.

VHS Tapes can wear:

Film can wear. The more film is used, the more the image can fade, and become crackled and fuzzy. As a kid, it’s hard to understand why is it that your film looks different the hundred and fiftieth time, then on first viewing. Sadly, despite my love of my childhood VHS tapes, watching them so often taught me why the then upcoming DVD format was a good move. DVDs can scratch. They can break. But they are also fairly easy to copy. Later Blu-Ray’s are even harder to scratch. But the footage on those discs will never fade.

 

There are plenty of moral lessons the film taught me, and ones I can still recite from memory. Take Meowth’s realisation that “we do have a lot in common, huh? The same Earth, the same air, the same sky. Maybe if we focus on the same, instead of always on what’s different, well, who knows”. But it’s those curiosities it sparked in me then, that still bring me back to it every few years.

The first three Pokemon films are available on Blu-ray here: Pokemon Movie 1-3 Collection [Blu-ray]