Friday’s Feature: Was That Good Atmosphere Or Just Poor Visuals?

another

Welcome to October and the lead up to Halloween. I know Australia doesn’t technically do Halloween but I find it a lot more fun than a lot of other holidays (less tinsel for one) plus Halloween lends itself to movie marathons. So, tis the season to drag out all the B Grade horror you can find and binge to your heart’s content. In the meanwhile, my features this month are going to focus on various aspects of horror (some more directly than others).

Tremors

Today, I want to look at the visual aspects that make up horror. One thing  you know going in to a horror (of any sort) is that it is probably going to be dark. Tremors is probably an exception given it is set in a blindingly bright desert and most of the action happens in full daylight, but it is more a comedy than a horror anyway so we’ll move right along. One thing that is a problem when you have a lot of dark going on is that it starts getting hard for the audience to distinguish what is happening in a scene.

This is something that was a real issue in the early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the grainy quality of the show, plus poor distinction between light and dark, meant some scenes just ended up being a grainy mess. It wasn’t until the DVD’s came out that some of that got cleaned up and even now the first and second season aren’t exactly amazing. Don’t get me wrong, there are some brilliantly lit scenes that set the tone and give us the needed contrast and then there are all the other shots.

However, let’s link this back to anime.

During the Summer 2017 season I watched Vatican Miracle Examiner and while this isn’t a horror by any standard, it was trying very hard for a creepy and unnerving atmosphere. I say trying because it was let down by its writing and characterisation and ultimately what we end up with are a lot of dark scenes with poor contrast and very little to draw us in.

I don’t know about you, but that is a lot of brown, grey and black. I’m not even sure in most of those images what I’m supposed to be focussed on. Basically, this is someone thinking all they need to make something creepy is to paint it black and they’ve just kind of missed the point about how atmosphere actually works.

Another2

On the other hand, Another really gets atmosphere. The slow pace and ending to the story may irk some people, but looking at how the anime visually creates atmosphere is fascinating. It is every bit as dark in scenes as Vatican Miracle Examiner but in those moments brings the characters to the front, and the character usually contrasts sharply with the rest of the scene. You can always clearly see these characters, particularly their facial expressions (or in the case above, the blood splatter). You still get the sense of a dark place but now you have something to connect you to that scene and to distinguish it from all the other grainy black and brown backgrounds.

Another3

Even without characters in the scene, Another manages to make its point clear. Yes, the scene is dark and cluttered, but we have the red light in one corner that gives way to the green lighting on the other side of the room. It is darker in the foreground and lighter further back in the room, meaning we can actually see the room in all its creepiness (because dolls are creepy). The room, and actually most scenes in Another, lacks symmetry, which just adds another element of strangeness to the whole thing.

Another4

The final sequences in Another are all fairly dark, taking place on a rainy night, but a handy fire manages to illuminate sequences with an eerie golden glow. It creates strange shadows and a sense of movement, while at the same time allowing what needs to be seen to be seen. This show was dark and a lot of the sequences were dark, but it was never hard to see what was going on and you always knew what was important on the screen. These visuals when combined with the music and the fairly creepy story of a cursed class worked really well to construct the atmosphere that became the highlight of the show.

Vatican1cBack to Vatican Miracle Examiner and if we look at the scene above, well… At least there is a light source in the foreground because otherwise we would have lost the limited bit we can see. And I guess it kind of shows us the facial expressions of those in the foreground. However, the best descriptor for the image above is murky. By the time the audience has even figured out what they are looking at and what might be the focus, the anime will have moved on.

Given the kinds of stories I love, particularly around this time of year, I end up watching a lot of shows that are quite dark visually. I always appreciate it when they do more than just make things hard to see and actually consider what the audience is looking at and what affect that will have.

So over to you. Which anime do you think have managed to create an excellent atmosphere with their visuals and which do you think missed the mark?


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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Visually Appealing Anime Titles

Tuesday's Top 5

I’ve recently noticed that some anime have had some really interesting title images and thinking back I felt this list really did need an update. Not that the original titles on the list are in any way bad, just not so sure some of them hold up visually if I take away the nostalgia lens. So, here is the updated list of visually appealing anime titles. As always though, I would love to know what your choices would be so please leave us a comment below.

Please Note – Probably no spoilers this week.

Honourable mentions go to:

Vampire Knight and Tsubasa Chronicles and 91 Days.

Removed from the list: 

Evangelion – previously at number 3. I’m kind of sad about this one because the Evangelion title is actually really visually distinct and I certainly have very fond memories of it. However, looking at it now, it just doesn’t hold up to the others on the list.

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Attack on Titan – previously at number 2. As gorgeous as the image is and as iconic as the opening scene is, just looking at the title itself, this one really doesn’t hold up and needs to come off the list.

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Another – Previously at number 4. Another still totally fits the anime but again, it just can’t compare with some of the new titles I’ve added to the list so it had to come off. Still, it is a brilliant and simplistic title that serves its anime well.

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Number 5: Darling in the Franxx

Franxx-Title

Okay, I have a lot of issues with the Darling in the Franxx anime but the title isn’t one of them. Actually, the whole OP is pretty spot on even if it feels a trifle wasted on the anime it is attached to. It is full of iconic moments and visuals and the title itself really does an excellent job of getting you interested in the show. If only the show managed to be good enough to deserve it.

Number 4: Sailor Moon (1990’s)


Title5.jpg

Alright, it doesn’t look like much these days but back when I first saw this anime the opening song and the final shot with the girls striking a pose behind the title really left an impression. You have the main cast, including the cats (even before all the characters were introduced so you knew who was coming), you’ve got the crescent moon in both the sky and behind the title, you have the love heart over the I, and the weird spot light on the scouts with the rest of the background detail left kind of hazy but still quite pretty. By my tastes today, I probably wouldn’t think too much of this title, but the lingering impression it left forced me to concede this title serves an absolute purpose in appealing to the target audience of the show so it deserved a place on my list.

Number 3: Bleach

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This title used to be number one and in terms of nostalgia is still my number one (even over sailor moon). Why? Because it absolutely screams what the show is, which is larger than life. More importantly, this basic text title with it’s red, white and blue colour scheme is recognisable and stands out from the crowd. The flames out the side frame it perfectly. The whole thing is fun and not taking itself overly seriously while at the same time making you feel there’s something more to it.

Bleach actually gets a double hit here because in addition to the series title being iconic every single episode gets it’s own eye-catching thematically appropriate episode title screen. Preparing you for the episode to come in both subject matter and tone (even if you don’t get it when you see it at the start of the episode by the end you’ll know exactly why the title looked like that). I still haven’t done that top 5 list of Bleach episode titles and I really need to get on it.

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Number 2: Voice of Fox

Fox Title Screen

This really impressed me (for what it was) during the Autumn season. While it isn’t going to go on a best of the season list any time soon, there’s something quite enjoyable about it. However, the episode title is what really stood out to me as it really captures the spirit of the show and is incredibly iconic. You can get a fair idea of the emotions and ideas in the show just by looking at that title and the small details such as the flower in the centre, the use of limited colours, and everything else about that title screen just works.

Number 1: Banana Fish

BananaTitle

The text doesn’t get more basic than bold, black capital, however the words aligned beautifully with the water and the cityscape is visually compelling and there is no doubt that this was the title I most clearly remember of all the more recent anime and the one that I recognise the quickest when I see it. Not to mention, it lays the scene for the story and draws you straight back into the world of Ash and to be honest it is a fantastic title screen. Again, it doesn’t need to be complicated to be memorable.

Alright, over to you. What anime titles have grabbed your attention?

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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XENOBLADE CHRONICLES 2 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
XENOBLADE CHRONICLES 2 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK