Saturday, August 20, 2005

Inexplicably tangible differences?

Subject: Noir
I just finished watching the first disc of "Texhnolyze".

Obviously after a night of pure "MADLAX", I'm going to be watching most anything else through that lens for a little while, but it seems that this one has a few things to it that allows me to compare and contrast.

Mostly contrast. (Big surprise!)

So one thing I noticed right off is that "Texhnolyze" has, on it's surface, a lot of the same technical qualities that I'm oh so fond of flogging about "MADLAX": the camerawork is dynamic, the color design is well executed (though more muted), the attention to detail is pretty good, the lighting (like I went on about last night) was competent... and overall the visual technique had it's strengths.

But wow, was it lacking something.

Okay, sure, some of the animation felt a little on the cheap side as far as the shortcuts that were taken goes; but really, "MADLAX" is full of shortcuts as well. The story seemed to go out of it's way to try and be "mysterious", which "MADLAX" does, but "MADLAX" doesn't try to be so brutally shocking, to try and "challenge" you to the extent that "Texhnolyze" does.

But that in itself isn't a big deal; I've watched plenty of stuff that tries to push it a little in that respect. No, the issue is "what's missing".

My usual word-association game came up with something rather simple: "Soul".

Kind of an intangible thing, this "soul", but the word seems most appropriate for what I'm trying to get at, I think.

Another example -- I also finished disc 5 of "RahXephon". All-in-all it continues along the path that I've mentioned before, and like "Texhnolyze" it's quite competent, but it, too is "missing something". The inevitable "Eva rip-off" comparison takes on a new light in this context, though: "RahXephon" is "Evangelion" without "soul".

I'm going to misquote an anecdote my grad school academic advisor (RIP) told us in one of our animation theory classes: "When I read a Hemingway story, every word speaks 'truth', 'truth'. But when I read Stephen King, every word says 'lie', 'lie'".

And he wasn't referring to the subject matter of their respective prose. It's kind of hard to explain, but deep down, you feel the difference. The content can be technically adequate, even provoking the intended reactions, but you can still tell whether or not it's being disengenuous.

And I think that might get at what I think I'm calling "soul".


maromi said...

I'm surprised. Everyone says that episode 19 of Rahxephon was amazing, but you don't seem to be affected.

Here's some advice: skip Texnolyze and watch Haibane Renmei. It's from the same Character designer, but a lot better. My alltime favorite anime, and the most powerful and moving work of art I have ever seen in my life. It's the one anime I'd say every single human must see.

Fellini 8.5 said...

Well, I suppose I should clarify that "missing soul" doesn't necessarily equate "sucking". In the case of episode 19, I kind of saw it coming. The execution of it was fine, but I think the fact that I haven't really latched on to the characters or their relationship at more than an observational level may have something to do with why that didn't have a particularly strong impact on me.

Or maybe I was too sober... *Ahem*

Reegarding "Haibane Renmei", it just so happens that the first disc is on it's way from GreenCine. I was idly scanning through some recent recommendation threads looking to widen my net a little, as I've been feeling like I've been in a bit of a rut when it comes to finding new stuff. Thus "Texhnolyze" and soon "Haibane".

KT Kore said...

I like RahXephon, but I couldn't agree with you more about it. A lot of people like to call it "Eva done right," but that just doesn't register with me at all. Not in the least. "Evangelion without soul" is EXACTLY how I'd describe it. Nicely put.

(Ahh, word verification!)

Anonymous said...

If you're going to watch Haibane and Texhnolyze, you should watch Lain too. Its the same character designer, and it amazed me when I first saw it (albeit it was a long time ago).

Fellini 8.5 said...

I actually did see "Lain", almost exactly a year ago, I believe, when I was starting to really get in to sampling different series. My initial reaction is here, and my final impression here. It was competing for my attention with my new-found Mashimo obsession, so I really wasn't getting into it very much.

I've got it on a sort of "I'll give it a second chance someday" list. That some of the episodes were done by the director that went on to do "Kino's Journey" tells me that I might at least put it at the top of that list.