What Makes Animated Stuff so Interesting?


“What makes animated stuff so interesting?”

Sakaki and Cat from Azumanga Daioh

I pause to answer that question. For the majority of people, I guess it would be the same as why people like reading books, watching plays, and watching movies. We all love to hear stories. A story can send our hearts a-flutter with tales of young unrequited love; set our hearts ablaze with passion for an ideal; strike fear into our hearts from things unknown; or let our imagination fly wild and transcend the limitations of a physical body and imperfect logic. It could even make us laugh until we’re giggly roflmush.

Kamina from Gurren Lagann

Kamina from Gurren Lagann

A scene from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

A scene from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Angered spirit from Princess Mononoke

Angered spirit from Princess Mononoke

Shizuku and The Baron from Whisper of the Heart

Shizuku and The Baron from Whisper of the Heart

Mio turns people to roflmush

All that effort crushed utterly. From Nichijou.

The story underpins the passion we have for these activities. We want to visit a place far away from our own. We want to feel the deepest emotions of the characters in the story.  We want to know what happens next.

If the story is the message loaded with emotions and thoughts to be transferred, what then makes stories depicted by animation unique compared to other media available? These are my thoughts on what I think are the most common media and what sets anime in a special place. I’ll loosely classify them into the following groups, face to face storytelling, writing, plays/operas and similar stuff, movies and tv shows w/ actors portraying characters, and animated stories.

Face to Face Storytelling:

The simplest form of conveying a story. The use of words sometimes with facial expressions, hand gestures.

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Writing:

Storytelling in written form. Shares with face to face storytelling the advantage of allowing the listener/reader to make full use of his/her imagination. Since words can only describe so much. The listener/reader has the job of visualizing what the descriptive words actually look like. This I think is the greatest strength of these two forms of storytelling. The listener has to think to compensate for the shortcomings of the media, which is actually a good thing. Writers have an advantage over face to face storytellers in the fact that they can gloss over and revise their work. They have the ability, given enough time, to make sure that what they write creates the correct visualization and emotion for their readers.

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Plays and the like:

A step up from narrative storytelling. Makes good use of physical acting, props, music. The watcher is aided by the fact that the scenario’s details are readily made available. The color of the costumes and environment, the beauty of the leading lady, the sound of the drums of war, and so on. Since these are readily provided, the watcher’s now just has to experience these instead of imagining them.

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Movies/TV shows:

The same as plays save for the fact that now, you’re not limited by a stage. The stage is whatever your budget allows you and wherever your shoot locations are. You also have more freedom with fancy effects and such. If animation and effect heavy, blurs the separation between an animated story in that regard.

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Animated Stories (Comic books and manga will fall in between this and reading):

Similar to a story being told by a movie in that you have effects and such, but here almost everything is generated by an artist. It may be CG or use drawings based from things from the real world, but here most of the limitations of the real world are removed. You can still create a story of real things from the real world should you choose to.  That, but now you have the option of unlimited scenarios and characters to depict with less technical difficulty. You don’t have to blow up a building to get an explosion, you can now kill a character without risking a real person, exaggerations can now be liberally used. Not to say that animation doesn’t have its limits, but it has more freedom.

The biggest difference for me that sets animation aside from other forms are the characters. Yes they are still usually voiced by real people, but animated stories are that much closer to the ideal of creating a unique character very much similar to one you visualize while reading or listening to a story, but now that is not left to the watcher’s imagination. It is the actual character as the storyteller wanted him/her/it to appear. The character is as is without an in-between. Reading and listening leaves us to imagine the characters and environment, but whether if that was the exact same thing that the storyteller wanted to depict, is a different story. Good actors/actresses can make you forget that they’re acting and you see the character as is. An animated character/environment is that much more pure, the character as the storyteller visualizes it and wants you to see it.

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Arranging them in these following generalized orders regarding attributes may help understand this.

According to:

Storyteller’s Freedom of Expression:

Face to Face/Writing >  Animation > Movies/Plays

 – How liberally can a storyteller portray thoughts via the medium? I could say/write “a rainbow unicorn that sparkles as it runs on top of a rainbow,” but animating it would be a bit harder, and in general even harder to implement in plays and movies that strive for realism.

Accurate Portrayal of Storyteller’s Vision (Giving emphasis on emotion and thought transfer, animation’s strongpoint):

Animation > Movies > Plays > Face to Face/Writing

– Is the vision of the storyteller the same as the visualization of the observer?

I imagine this when I say “a rainbow unicorn that sparkles as it runs under a rainbow.”

       Unicorn Realistic

The reader imagines this —>   Unicorn

      But if I use a picture or animation the same picture is seen, we have the same vision.

      Likewise, it is a more direct transfer of thought when you express gloominess in a comical scenario using animation and exaggeration compared to something live-action.

Technical Ease of Using the Medium:

Face to Face >  Writing > Plays/Animation/Movies (depending on quality of production)

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That’s my long winded digression on what I think makes animation from other forms of storytelling. What makes animated stuff interesting for you?

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About colorfulcabbage

I eat pasta, study, babysit, petsit, watch anime, hunt monsters, and adore zerglings. View all posts by colorfulcabbage

2 responses to “What Makes Animated Stuff so Interesting?

  • Canne

    Interesting post and a nice read!

    Though I have one argument in ‘Portrayal of Storyteller’s Vision section’
    For the world building, anime has the advantage of creating anything imaginable. But for character portrayal, it becomes more complex because characters are human and human’s sophisticated emotions are expressed through body language, eyes and words.

    These things can only be expressed by real actors. Animated characters can only translate clear and simple emotions using words and simple expression. Animated eyes have no souls like real eyes.

    • colorfulcabbage

      Thanks for reading!

      Yeah it does get complex and I don’t want to hurt my head thinking too hard… 🙂

      I’ll have to contest the thought about being limited to the clear and simple emotions though. I just can’t think of any real life emotion or dramatic situation that couldn’t be portrayed and delivered well enough with a similar effect in animated form.

      That being said, I do agree though that real actors will always have that something special about them unique, that is a human soul that’s depicting a character. That will always be special.

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