I just learned today that Japan is airing a new Full Metal Alchemist anime series. Full Metal Alchemist is an on-going manga series that was adapted to a 51-episode anime with a subsequent movie. Unfortunately, the original series and movie only had a few volumes of manga at the time to use for the storyline. Instead of waiting for more volumes to be written, the production studio decided to write their own story, which angered many original fans of the manga.
Personally, I did not read the manga until after I finished watching the series. I wasn’t thrilled by the ending, but I did like the series. However, once I started reading the manga (which you can do for free, if you are so inclined) , I realized just how different (and inferior) the anime storyline was from the manga’s.
So the new anime was created with the intent of following the manga more closely. But it doesn’t follow the manga in lockstep (like the Hellsing Ultimate OVAs are doing, another series that had a similar problem with its first anime run). The first episode, for instance, never appears in the manga. But it does a good job of introducing a lot of the characters and sketching out the various relationships between them.
You might be wondering how I know what happens in the first episode. It’s because I just watched it online through the US distributor! Funimation announced that they will release subtitled versions of the episodes online within four days of the original Japanese release. There are currently five episodes online (I have only watched the first). The fact that the episodes are subtitled may turn you off to watching the series online, but personally I am excited to get to see the series now that I have become more of a follower of the manga.
Somehow, this fact slipped under my radar for months: Keanu Reeves has signed on as Spike Spiegel in the live-action remake of Cowboy Bebop.
If you have never seen Cowboy Bebop, run out today and buy, borrow, or beg a copy to watch. Cowboy Bebep is one of the best anime productions ever made and has a very strong following. The strength of the show comes from the combination of great, believable characters, fun action sequences, and excellent soundtracks. What really solidifies Cowboy Bebop as my favorite anime are the over-arcing story lines that reveal each character’s past and then show that past catching up to them. And most of the time dedicated to those story arcs are spent on the main character, Spike Spiegel.
Unfortunately, that style does not translate well to a movie format. Although the characters can stand on their own, the movie will lack the story-telling magic that defined the success of the series. Instead, the movie will have to rely solely on the characters and a well-written, self-contained story. And in a live-action adaptation, that means that the actors must do a good job of matching the original character from the series.
So that means that the big question for the movie is: Will Keanu be believable as Spike? I guess we’ll find out when (if) the movie is released.
I also want to know: Who will be cast as Faye?
When I was watching Ratatouille the other night, I watched most of the credits because I enjoyed the 2D animation that ran during them. Shortly after the animation ended, I noticed the image to the left scroll by. I knew that Pixar animated everything by hand and did not use motion capture, but I find it interesting that they make it a guarantee. I hope that they stick to their guarantee as an animation studio, because it lends a certain “hand-crafted” charm to their movies that cannot be replaced by motion capture. The animations are actually works of art, as opposed to just virtual representations of data captured from the real world.
In the past few days, I watched two recent Pixar movies that I have not had a chance to see yet: Ratatouille and WALL-E. Ratatouille wraps up my efforts to see all of Brad Bird‘s movies; I saw WALL-E because it looked to have some great animation from a great studio.
Ratatouille, along with the other Brad Bird movies I watched, was fantastic. It is an excellent story that is well animated and well directed. It might not be as good as The Iron Giant, but I did like this movie better than The Incredibles (not that I have any problem with The Incredibles – it was a really good movie, too). And that fact suprised me — if I guessed in advance which movie I would prefer, one about superheroes or one about a rat that likes to cook, I would have gone with the superhero movie!
Unfortunately, I don’t have such high praise for WALL-E. Although it was very well animated and the 3D work was very beautiful, I could not connect with the story enough to really care about what was happening. I don’t know if it was the fact that the characters were not easily relatable, or if the story wasn’t written well enough to make me interested in the characters, or something else, but I found myself checking my watch and waiting for the end of the movie. I personally blame the story, especially if you contrast this story about robots with The Iron Giant, where you really care about the giant robot by the end of the movie.
On a final note, I really liked the specials available on the Blu-Ray disc for Ratatouille. It has a lot of interviews with Brad Bird and other Pixar staff, a few deleted scenes with commentary, and a couple of extra shorts.
Last night I watched Karas: The Prophecy, an animated OVA. The story is a bit slow and confusing, but the animation and visuals are easily one of the best I have seen in long time. The show uses a combination of 2D and 3D, but takes a much different approach than other animations. Much of the animation is originally 3D-animated, but then drastically altered using 2D techniques to finally achieve the final composition. Wikipedia has a good section on the production of the show, which summarizes the various 2D and 3D techniques used.
This DVD comprises the first half of the full story, which is concluded in Karas: The Revelation. It was actually a six episode OVA, but the U.S. release combined them into two movies. This first DVD is less than an hour and a half long, so they kept the pace moving pretty quickly. If you want to see some amazing animations and fight scenes, add it to your Netflix queue (or try to find it at your local Blockbuster, if you’re still doing things the old way).
There is also an interesting extra feature, which shows several shots in different phases of production, including the initial bone animations (“bones” control a character and his movements), wireframes, render output, and then the final shot after post-processing. I was very surprised by how different the render output and final shot looked; the production team drastically re-worked some of the scenes to create the final look and feel of the movie, which is definitely unique.
Take a peek at this extensive archive of classic animation: The Hollywood Animation Archive Project.
My favorite section on the site is an animation course that steps through a book by a legendary animator, Preston Blair. His book provides simple, fundamental instructions for animation. The “course” is lead by John Kricfalusi, aka John K., the creator and animator of Ren and Stimpy (among other shows). The lessons seem simplistic, but they are actually very informative and helpful.
One last thing — in case you missed my post below, check out the new University State section and videos on PiVisuals.com.
I found an interesting program that can generate and edit fractal flames. The program, Apophysis, is open source and free to use. It can generate some very interesting fractal images and is very configurable. I think that it could be a useful tool, as long as it is not too difficult to generate images that meet my needs.
For fun, I tried out the software and generated this image. I didn’t have anything specific in mind, so I just started with an interesting fractal and played around with modifying it. I spent about 10 minutes playing with the software before rendering out this image.
I’ve been doing some drawing and starting to work on a new project that will help me get acquainted with the animation capabilities of LightWave and Mirage, so hopefully I’ll have some new updates in Gallery section soon.