Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G
sinetimore

Make Install

Ralph Bakshi is an animator I have a sort of love/hate relationship with.  When he was on, he could do some brilliant stuff (New Adventures Of Mighty Mouse).  But he could also make some really stupid shit like Cool World (leave it to Ralph Bakshi to suggest all a woman needs to become "real" is one good lay).  He supports some great animators that I love, but also tends to disregard things that don't have to go for excess.  He thought Finding Nemo, one of my favorite movies, was okay, and his rabid hatred of Don Bluth, both the man and is work, confuses me.  However, Bakshi's philosophy for art in general and animation in particular is endlessly fascinating to me.  And every once in a while, I consider what the man says and wonder about my own artistic endeavors.

Bakshi likes to say that a cartoon or movie is worthless unless it is a reaction to something.  I turn this over in my head once in a while, because it seems not so much an understanding as an oversimplification of the creative process.  Inspiration hits at odd times, and since that is a reaction, that means almost anything can be considered art.  Likewise, just because someone is doing something because they think it would be a good idea, that doesn't mean it is worthless.  By Bakshi's own philosophy, An American Tail by Bluth is indeed valuable, as it was Bluth's reaction to how stale the Disney machine had become until they woke up and made The Little Mermaid.

I try plugging my projects into the philosophy.  Stress Puppy, for example.  Stress Puppy isn't exactly a reaction.  Maybe.  I mean, some of my likes and dislikes about comics pop up in there.  The Bloom County influence is pretty obvious, I think.  Some elements of the strip's approach are criticisms.  Aside from a few details, not much is known about the personal lives of any of the characters, certainly not central character Raff.  He's a reader, he's a Harry Potter nut, he's an Anglophile, but that's about it.  I haven't even established if he lives in an apartment or a house, does he live alone, is he married (the kids in his wizard rock band are his nephews), anything really personal about him.  Holly?  She's a rebel, she's Catholic, she doesn't let anything get in the way of a good joke, she's a reader, she's a Lord Of The Rings nut, she is definitely single, and while she enjoys sex, she's not a slut about it.  The two main characters are relative ciphers where their histories are concerned.  This is because a lot of strips have been ruined for me when the creators decide to show the characters' personal lives.  It shifts the focus away from what made the strip so good and onto something that isn't as interesting.  Comic strips, the joke is king.  Anything that detracts from the joke is a mistake.  And fleshing out the characters is a huge mistake.  It would work in a graphic novel (I expounded a little on Raff and Holly in the Stress Puppy graphic novel, but then again, I had 54 pages to work with, not just four panels), but not a comic strip.  A comic strip is like porn -- action, action, action, BOOM!  Everyone has a cigarette.  So I intentionally avoid stories that pull focus away from office politics or create a character to explore his or her personality while Raff and the gang get left alone.

Sound Waves, on the one hand, is no reaction at all.  It was simply an idea that charmed me and I decided to run with.  However, the approach I take is very much a reaction to what I perceive as the failure of modern anime and manga.  Most of your anime and manga seem to be created from a checklist and a box of cliches.  Modern projects are either hyperactive or oversexualized (I could only watch about a minute of Strike Witches before I squicked out and ejected the disc.  World Of Narue is another).  Save Me!  Lollipop! is a good example.  There is not one shred of originality in there.  Everything from the love interests to the rivalries to...everything, it's like all the major elements of pink sugar shoujo put in there just to have them.

Sound Waves is shoujo in general terms.  Shonen is concerned with conquering the outer world, shoujo is concerned with the inner world.  My two favorites, Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon, the world in general is unaware of the fantastically powered individuals walking among them, and the participants aren't interested in changing that.  Rhapsody is on a personal adventure in Sound Waves, interacting with a world few humans even know exists.  Shoujo has a heavy emotional component.  Yup, that's there, especially in #4.  Love interest?  That's coming.  But the rest of the "checklist" I'm disregarding.  Rhapsody does not have a rival.  She is not the focal point of some cosmic event (in fact, as the series progresses, Melody's dad tries to keep Rhapsody out of such situations).  Rhapsody is a brave little girl who is seeing this bigger world is not all gentle fun, there are potential risks here.  She's also a reader (I've noticed that almost all my starring characters, especially the female ones, are readers).  She independent.  She appreciates love, but it doesn't rule her goals and focus.  She's cute as in charming, not cute as in sexy.  Lots of modern manga and anime have no problem sexualizing girls who are underage even by Japanese standards (lolicon).  Rhapsody is 14.  She swims in her summer dress instead of a swimsuit, and I am constantly adjusting the length of the bottom skirt or reblocking scenes so that no one can be suggested as looking up her dress.  In other words, this would be rejected by every modern manga publisher because it breaks too many rules.  But the rules are so restrictive and self-serving, I don't want to follow them anyway.

I think Bakshi is ultimately wrong.  What gives something worth is not that it's a reaction to something else, but the reaction it generates.  Your best artistic works inspire respect, not only from the consumers of the art, but also from the creator, bound and determined to do justice by his characters or vision or whatever.  And it illustrates why so many creators, doing things because they are cool instead of good, are losing their audience as they go.
Tags: art, comic books, comics, important life lessons, sound waves, stress puppy
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