Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Both in the beginning and towards the end of Koe no Katachi there’s a fundamental scene where Ishida walks in the school hallway in anxiety while avoiding eye contact with his fellow students. The key difference between the two scenes is that the first one was done in a subjective point-of-view while the last one in an objective point-of-view. The difference in POV was to visually accentuate the contrast in narrative between the beginning and the end.

Subjective POVs are usually shot in first person perspective and this is exactly how a large portion of the first “hallway scene” was shot. In this POV the audience sees the world from the character’s eyes, a far more visually and emotionally engaging experience. The viewer is in Ishida’s shoes as he walks through hallway, nervously looking down at the ground and avoiding the faces of other students. The camera shakes and moves unevenly. This motion of the camera not only emulates Ishida’s movement but also highlights his discomfort and immerses the audience into his social anxiety.

Towards the end of the scene there were two eyeline matches consisted of close-up shots of Ishida’s eyes looking down then a cut to a shot of the ground. The use of eyeline matches was to further drive the point that you are seeing and experiencing the world in Ishida’s eyes during this scene.

The last “hallway scene” was shot in an objective POV where the audience is more of an observer. Again the camera gives a view of the hallway floor but this time it’s a side view shot with no shaky movement, just a simple lateral tracking shot. There were no eyeline matches, just simple cuts between some straight medium shots.

The contrast between subjective and objective was to reflect the shift in narrative. The subjective POV of the first “hallway scene” was to have the audience experience Ishida’s isolation first hand. The objective POV of the last “hallway scene” was to allow the audience to observe that Ishida is no longer completely isolated. Even though his social anxiety is still present in this scene, he now has a friend in Nishimiya walking by his side and providing emotional support.

Hibike! Euphonium S2 - Episode 9

Thursday, December 1, 2016

There was a part of the episode where Asuka opened up about her mother and described her as crazy, possessive and hysterical. These are words with strong negative connotations and yet Asuka uttered them in a nonchalant and cold manner. She even rationalized that she didn’t hate her, as if putting on a façade. Fittingly her dialogue was shot as a direct overhead shot. This type of shot tends to be flat and minimizes perspective lines. This visual, depending on context, can feel cold, sterile and unengaging. The coldness and sterility of this visual captured her tone and demeanor. The unengaging flatness accentuated the sense of disconnect presented by her façade.

Overhead shot

Kumiko saw through this façade and didn’t mince words. She immediately insinuated that Asuka actually hates her mother despite her calm and carefree demeanor. The façade was broken as reflected by the drastic transition from the unengaging overhead shot to the more emotionally engaging close-up and extreme close-ups.

Hibike! Euphonium S2 - Episode 3

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The beginning of the discussion scene between Kumiko and Asuka purposely broke the 180 degree rule in order to build tension. The 180 degree rule is designed to maintain the camera on one side of the line of action so that the subjects stay on their side of the frame consistently. This is done for visual continuity, which makes it easier for the audience to follow the scene. The rule is broken when the camera jumps the line and the subjects suddenly switch sides on the next frame.

There are times the rule is broken for either practical or narrative purposes. The scene between Kumiko and Asuka broke it for the latter reason. The characters switching sides multiple times created a subtly disorienting and jarring visual that enhanced the tension of the scene. This disorienting visual also reflected Kumiko’s feeling of unease and nervousness throughout the entire exchange.

180 degree rule broken: Asuka on the left side in the first then switches to the right in the next shot.
The rule was not broken since the extreme close-up acts as a reset but the switch still has a similar effect when in context with the other shots. 
180 degree rule broken: Again Asuka on the left side in the first then switches to the right in the next shot.
The first and third examples above broke the 180 degree rule. In the next shot for both examples the characters are on the different side of the frame. The second example doesn’t technically break the rule since the extreme close up works as a reset. Despite not breaking the rule, it’s cohesive with the other examples and still maintained the uneasy visual.

When Asuka was about to reveal the reason she’s against Nozomi rejoining the band, a dramatic coverage was used to build suspense. As you can see in the shot sequence below, it starts with a wide shot, cuts to close-ups and then cuts to extreme close-ups for the moment of truth.

Shot size progression is a common practice and often happens multiple times within each scene, while using different angles. It can be striking when a single angle is used, just like the example below where it stays as a straight profile shot that just gets tighter and tighter.

The Case of Hana & Alice

Monday, May 30, 2016

When the camera moves it’s always good to have a reason behind it whether it’s practical or narrative driven. Camera movement with perspective changes is even more dynamic in traditional animation since it’s a lot rarer. This rarity makes the camera move a powerful visual storytelling tool and The Case of Hana & Alice made use of it to a great effect.

The Case of Hana & Alice is a story about two teenage girls dealing with significant changes in their lives. The movie conveyed these changes through camera movement and perspective changes. Horizontal tracking shots were utilized as a visual metaphor for the pivotal transitions in the story and the characters’ development. The rare perspective changes in these shots aided in giving more emphasis to the visual metaphor.

The first horizontal tracking shot of the movie is Alice and her mother walking to her new school. Transferring to another school comes with the challenges of getting to know new people, getting accustomed with a new environment and dealing with bullies. It’s a big change in life and the tracking shot helped visually demonstrate it.

The perspective changes in this shot are also quite subtle. It’s really only noticeable in the shadows and stains on the ground. These small changes can represent how little we know about the characters but as the viewers get to know them more the perspective changes become more drastic.

There’s also parallax scrolling in these shots but it’s merely an illusion of depth with no actual changes in perspective lines.

Prior to the shot above Alice’s father was encouraging her to join the relay team. The tracking shot is more than just a sign of her joining the relay team; it’s an emphasis on the major changes it will bring. Not only being in the relay team helped her fit in with her classmates but it also lead to knowing more about Hana and eventually meeting her.

The tracking shot beginning with a walk and ending with a run can also be interpreted as an escalation in the story and character development. After this shot the story became much more adventurous, emotional and personal.

The tracking shot above marks the beginning of a close friendship. Alice has become comfortable enough with Hana to hug her and ask a personal question about why she has become isolated. Shortly after this scene Hana shares her deeply personal and emotional reasons on why she ended up as a shut-in.

There were a few more tracking shots like these in the movie but these three were the most effective in demonstrating its use as a visual metaphor for change.

Beautiful Bones -Sakurako's Investigation- Episode 7

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

During the conversation about Sakurako’s autopsy of her pet cat, there was a sequence of close-up shots that only partially framed the face or didn’t show it at all. This practice is quite common in anime, especially during dramatic moments. I think these are done for an effect. Watching a dramatic exchange without seeing the character’s face is visually odd and uneasy, which is an effect that can add tension to the scene. Another effect of these types of shots is they put more emphasis on the voice acting and body language, which at times might be a more effective emotional stimulant than facial expressions.

The aforementioned reasons for these odd and uneasy shots hold true for this sequence in this episode but they also match the mood of the conversation. The visually uncomfortable framing accentuated the naturally unsettling idea of dissecting a pet, an idea that really bothered Shoutarou. There was also a tension between two differing personalities that this odd framing helped bring forth. Shoutarou is more emotionally sensitive while Sakurako can easily detach herself emotionally and think with pure logic.

Another effect of not seeing their faces is when they’re finally shown it can be done for emphasis. Towards the end of this sequence the centered medium close-ups of both characters really punctuated their vastly contrasting feelings on the subject. Sakurako has this cold and unflappable expression, while Shoutarou has a pained and sad look.

There were also a couple of wide shots that were nice visual story images. The first one is a frame within a frame of Sakurako that visually separates the two and reinforces their difference. The second one distorted the size difference. Making Shoutarou appear bigger accentuated his anger and irritation.

Beautiful Bones -Sakurako's Investigation- Episode 6

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The major conflict in this episode was the differing beliefs between Yuri and Isozaki about the issue of suicide. After failing to find the woman they assumed to be suicidal, their disagreement came to a head at the river bank. I thought the visual storytelling in this scene was effective at displaying the conflict, understanding and compromise between the two characters.

Low Angle
High Angle
The first set of visual devices was the commonly used high and low angles. What made the high/low angle usage in this scene a bit different than the usual was it switched on the characters. These switches were narratively driven but also done in practical manner which made the switches feel natural.

If you rewatch the sequence above it starts with Isozaki at the top of the steps and Yuri at the bottom. From a practical sense in order to account for differing elevations of the characters, a low angle was used on Isozaki and a high one on Yuri. Even after Isozaki came down the steps, a low angle was kept on him due to difference in their height. The practical usage also reflected the narrative. Low angle is often used on a dominant figure which is true for Isozaki, a teacher who’s in a position of authority. At this point he was also lecturing Yuri about his beliefs. Yuri is a student expected to defer to a teacher and a high angle reinforced her subordinate status.

When Yuri became more emotionally animated about her beliefs, their positions switched with her at the top of the steps and Isozaki at the bottom. The camera on Yuri switched to a low angle, which matched the change in elevation and the narrative. Yuri’s emotional assertiveness turned her into the dominant voice, which was appropriately emphasized by the low angle. While Isozaki was still stern in his disagreement, there was a tone of acquiescence which was made more prominent by the high angle shot.

The other visual devices used were flat space and deep space. So if you keep watching the sequence, you’ll notice the camera switching to a straight-on wide shot as shown in the above-left picture. Despite the shallow depth of field this shot feels very much like a flat space, it lacks perspective lines or depth in movement. Flat space lacks visual intensity, which was quite fitting to the sense of calmness when the two characters reached a form of understanding and compromise. When Isozaki was reasserting his advisor role, the sequence switched to the more visually intense deep space shots. These have prominent perspective lines as shown in the above-right picture. This visual intensity gave his words more weight. The sequence continued to switch between flat and deep space to match the subtle changes in the mood.