Sakuga Culture Worries Me

This is a topic that has worried me for a while, but has bothered me more because of recent events. This event being the studio and staff announcements of the second season of One Punch Man. The biggest things that come to question around this are the fact that Madhouse is not producing it. JC Staff is taking the reins on this product instead. This really isn’t that much of a concern because most of the people who worked on One Punch Man came from outside of Madhouse, but that may  be affected by what comes next. Shingo Natsume isn’t the director, it’s someone else. Since I have read about how most of the people who worked on OPM were Shingo’s friends, there are some concerns that the battle animation might not look as nice. This is what bothers me about the whole thing. People aren’t worried about the story or character content, just how nice it looks. To me, this describes my concerns of sakuga culture to a T.

I remember when I was watching One Punch Man weekly. I was laughing a long with the jokes, interested in some of the characters that showed up, maybe interested in a little bit of the story, and was amazed by how good the animation was for a tv production. As time passed on, my opinion about the show got worse and worse. While the anime had some strong themes to it, it was incredibly shallow. The humor was the same all the time, each arc in the anime felt the same, everything had the same result in the end, the most interesting characters were the side characters and they didn’t get any development, and so on. (Mob Psycho 100 is better). The greatest thing about it to this day is how amazing the fight scenes were. They were truly breath taking and had so much detail to them that you can feel how powerful Saitama is, even though this was all animated. I know that I am making a baseless accusations and other bad things here that are just my assumptions, but I feel like the complaints over the announcements truly prove that not many people care about all the things going on in the story and just want to watch fights scenes all the time. I don’t feel the same way. Maybe when the show actually appears on TV again, we will see how true my statement is.

I know that anime is a visual art form and how it looks is important, but animation quality is one out of a huge number of details that matter when producing an anime. The general story is important, how the plot is presented is another, the voice actors must fit their roles, the music placed in correct spots (not to mention be orchestrated), the direction must make sense, the choreography must make sense, and somehow all of that needs to be done under a tight window. I don’t know about you, but doesn’t that make even bad anime being formed feel like a miracle? So many hands are involved and somehow they need to be in sync with each other. That is all amazing! So why out of all of that is animation quality something that attracts people more usually? I know that animation is very pretty look at and all that, but I wish people cared just as much about it as the writing. Thinking about animation all the time feels completely shallow to me. I love it too, but if the action scenes are based great characters and the action is required to bring out certain events, then they mean nothing to me. Some people can watch endless amounts of actions scenes without context, but that is completely impossible for me. I need some kind of anchor to make me feel for them.

Does this mean that I don’t like the study of Sakuga? Of course not. This is 2017 after all. I expect a huge amount of difference in animation quality from when anime started to now. There are a number of important people and some people that get left unnamed that help make the huge advancements in animation quality since then. Studying who they are and what they did to innovate the animation product is something that deserves to be studied. People who worked hard to make this product that we enjoy need to be given recognition. Seriously, animators work hard and they need to be rewarded it for it (PAY THEM MORE). Then there are the techniques that animators use in their works. Those are worthy of study as well. This is why I am glad that sites like Sakuga blog and youtube channels like Canipa exist, because they study a lot of this media for the animators behind the work and what techniques they use and present them to an audience in a very digestible manner. Sakuga blog goes further, because they also talk about the staff from individual episodes that have great animation behind them. Thanks for making that great content, people (if you even read this).

In conclusion, please don’t let animation be the only reason you watch anime. I know that it’s important and all that, but watching anime for fight scenes is incredibly shallow to me. Then I guess there are people more interested in battle series than any other series and these are people who never watch any other kind of anime out there. Probably why One Punch Man was a smash hit when it came out. I digress though, please be interested in the world the anime takes place, the characters that are in it, what themes the anime is using, how the direction is used to get messages to audience without anyone having to say anything, and the music used in the anime as well. When all of these aspects are great, then the anime is near perfect. That’s it for me, have fun.

25 Comments Add yours

  1. I really enjoyed this post! Anime visuals are only one part of what makes up anime. I think that we in the blog sphere tend to get a lot of discussion about visuals and the art behind them (which can be interesting; I really enjoy some of the insights about the production), but there’s lots of other interesting things which go into making an anime too. I really love soundtracks and sound design (I wish there were more people who were able to share some insight about how sound creation works in anime), and characters and story are also important for making an entertaining show! Getting too caught up in one aspect can detract from other things which make anime enjoyable.

    I’ve not seen One Punch Man, it’s not a show which really interests me, but hopefully the second season will also be entertaining for fans!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Scott says:

      Thank you, I’m surprised this one turned out decently, because it was one of those “I can’t get this out of my head, I need to write this out or I can’t sleep” kind of posts. I just quickly edited it before going to work this morning.

      And yes, sound things need more attention. I know that composers get famous enough to get attention, but that doesn’t go for everyone else.

      Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Merlin says:

    I disagree a bit about One Punch Man, but your point still stands. I think Bleach might be a perfect example of an anime that was all about animating fights. the story was choppy from the start, even when things became more cohesive it was just a backdrop for the fights, it later doubled back on some plot points, we were still getting to know the characters and their abilities even hundreds of episodes in during the climactic battle, everything revolved around how Ichigo was a powerful human-reaper-visored-fullbringer (and the manga went on to add quincy to that), and so on. Really, the story was incredibly lacking, aut the animation was good, the fights were interesting, the music was great, and the characters, however numerous and undeveloped, all caught the eye, so it was popular.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      Yeah, Bleach got really boring for me after a while, because it felt like watching the same thing over and over again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Merlin says:

        It’s one of those I was able to watch once, and there are some scenes I really like, but watching it all again feels a little like a chore, ya know? Heavy on the flash, not so heavy on the substance. And the filler seasons didn’t exactly help.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Merlin says:

    And, of course, it’s a contest as old as entertainment: flash vs. substance. Flash is nice, but substance is better, and people keep getting that backwards!

    Like

  4. Jon Spencer says:

    Great post as always Scott 🙂 In most cases at least, I care more about the story and such than animation. Not really worried about OPM S2 being bad and don’t care if the fight scenes aren’t as good. Visuals are important sure, like you said, but very rarely does that make for a good show on its own.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Scott says:

      Yay, thank you for reading 😀. Glad people agree with me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jon Spencer says:

        Any time 🙂 Yeah, I’ve noticed it too so definitely agree.

        Haven’t seen you around the blog much, just not been reading stuff lately?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Scott says:

        Yeah, life has been busy. Haven’t had much change to read other blog posts for a little bit of time.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Jon Spencer says:

        That’s ok, I can know the feeling. I gave you (and a bunch of other people) a shout-out on the blog recently, so thought you might like to know that 🙂 It was part of my 2 year anniversary post. Hope things settle down for ya too 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Scott says:

        Awesome. I’ll give it a look.

        I’m going to spend time reading instead of writing tonight.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Jon Spencer says:

        Sounds good man 🙂

        Like

  5. Karandi says:

    I’m all about stories and characters with the visuals only really getting a mentin when they are particularly good or terrible because mostly as long as they aren’t distracting I don’t much worry about the visuals. I will admit though, that when something looks exceptionally good it does add something to the experience.
    That said though, I think it is great that different people enjoy anime for different reasons. Some people are all about the sound track, others like the visuals or the animation techniques being used, some like particular settings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      It is nice to realize that people enjoy something for different reasons and that in complaining about One Punch Man, which was more visual spectacle then anything, I just get so put off by talks of visuals all the time. I see the whole “it didn’t look good, so I’m not watching it” thing a lot and that just frustrates me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I feel the exact same way about Sakuga culture and the importance of quality animation as you do, and I’ve always found those who care about nothing but animation to be a little… Odd.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love quality animation, it’s not enough to carry a show on its own. To get me to care, a show needs to have emotional appeal in the form of characters I care about or a narrative I’m invested in.

    An example I always use is World Trigger. The animation is sub-par at best, but its characters, story and incredibly well thought out fight scenes make it an amazing show despite that. I’d rather World Trigger have all that and have bad animation than the opposite.

    Anyhow, excellent post Scott! I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on the subject!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Scott says:

      I need to watch World Trigger at some point. I’ve heard a few mixed things about it, but from you’ve been saying, it sounds good.

      I’m happy about finding people who have the same opinion as me. Thank you for reading, glad you liked it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s one of my favourite Anime series, and it’s in my Top 5.

        If you’re not too bothered by stiff animation and a few Shounen flashbacks, it’s most definitely worth watching (although it’s very long and ends on a cliffhanger).

        Much of the negative backlash came from the poor animation, which improved as the series went on and became more popular.

        And no problem! Anytime!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. magicconan14 says:

    I’d much prefer to prioritise plot and characterisation over visuals, but I tend to favour shows with stronger visual aspects (simply because I’m more of a visual person). I sometimes wander around sakuga blogs and posts concerning staff and I know of so-called “Yutapon cubes” but really, I don’t care so long as the final product is at least watchable and something to back/not back…although of course we need to pay the animators more.

    I’ve watched OPM and am a fan of it – I own a volume of the manga, which for frugal ol’ me means a lot. However, as I said just then, it’s not just the sakuga that made it what it was – it was the plot. The characters. The comedy. So on, so forth.

    Like

  8. I’m not really a big fan of Sakuga, but rather how the animation flows with the narrative. Visual imagery and striking shots composed for a narrative purpose often get me more than just solid animation. You are right though about the fact that some concern themselves more with the animation than the content that goes around it, much like with One Punch Man as you expressed. To me there is something to be said about visual storytelling or what Hitckcock liked to call Pure Cinema that is much more powerful than clean and fluid action scenes that really grab me and mystify me in the same way Sakuga does to others. Just great images that you can frame because of either their importance to a character or just give a sense of scope are the type that I get more excitement from. I agree completely that one needs to take everything into consideration for a show and to only highlight one singular point is to unfairly view a show as a whole. There are so many factors that make something great, and its okay to hone on one feature, but if you forget that grand image over the smoothness of the lines then you haven’t truly taken that much of a look at all. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ospreyshire says:

    I had literally never heard of Sakuga, but the mindset of only liking something because of the animation production is something I’ve seen before online and real life. Yes, visual production is important especially in the context of animation, but it isn’t an end all be all thing. One anime series I really like is Yugo the Negotiator which has mediocre to average animation, but the writing, characters and story concept more than makes up for the production. Then again, I’ve seen things with great animation such as King of Fighters: Another Day or the French animated film The Rabbi’s Cat and I disliked both of them for mediocre writing and the latter having obvious unfortunate implications. Animation is just a part of a whole story, and I wish more people realized it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      Sakuga is a Japanese word that has come up much more recently in this anime fandom, so not everyone has heard about it yet. Pretty much means “nice animation”

      Yes, one day people need to learn about how powerful a good narrative could be.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ospreyshire says:

        Okay. That explains everything. Boy am I out of the loop when it comes to otaku culture. Hahaha! If this were the early to mid 00s, that would be another story for me. I guess it’s because I’m just more used to older series like most of the stuff I review and I also focus on international and independent cinema.

        Exactly. As a writer myself, it’s something more people need to pay attention to when it comes to plotting and characterization.

        Liked by 1 person

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