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.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

In this episode the side view wide shot of Araragi and Oikura was used repeatedly in order to function as a constant for the lighting changes. This made the changes in lighting more perceptible, which helped it visually convey the changes in the mood of Oikura.

The first shot was in the beginning of the episode. This shot was at its brightest, which matches the relatively less serious start. As Oikura reveals more about her dysfunctional family, the lighting became dimmer and the shadows heavier which accentuated her state of misery. The third shot was especially apt, since at this point she was describing Araragi’s happy family as so bright to the point of being unsettling.  The contrast between her description of his family and the dimmed room visualized how comparatively miserable her family life was.

In this second sequence of shots it again started off bright although not as bright as the first couple of shots. At this point she was still using Araragi as a scapegoat but eventually admitted he was blameless. This admission caused her to sink further into self-hatred and self-pity, which was reflected by the shot turning dark, with even heavier shadows and the characters almost being silhouettes. Also, there were now rays of light coming in, a visual intensity matching the strong emotions and quivering voice of Oikura.

One thing that was a bit more subtle was in the last shot, where the rays of light on Oikura were shining brighter. In this portion of the sequence, Araragi was encouraging her to find happiness. The brighter light on Oikura seems to signify a tiny glimmer of hope that she found in Araragi’s words.

The Portrait Studio

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Portrait Studio is a short by Takashi Nakamura that chronicles the shared life experiences of a little girl and a photographer. It begins with a young couple visiting the studio for the wife to get her portrait taken. Later they return with their baby daughter who always looks grumpy. The jovial photographer futilely tries to coax a smile out her; he does so again and again every time the little girl returns. As time passes the two of them share important personal moments and witness historical events.

As you watch the film what becomes apparent is the use of visual repetition. Specifically the repeated visual motif of the wide shot of the photographer’s house and the stairs leading up to the house. Also, throughout the short the house and stairs barely change. The lack of change combined with the repetition establishes them as visual constants. By having constants to contrast against it made the changes that occur in the characters and the setting more dramatic and striking.

The visual repetition also helped depict the routineness of the little girl getting her portrait taken. Every time she goes up the same stairs to the same house as she and everything else around her change. It’s a reflection of real life which can be full of repetition and routine but as time passes by things do gradually change around us.

The repeated wide shot of the house remained constant amongst the modernization, urbanization, the earthquake and the destruction brought by World War II. The evolution of transportation from a rickshaw to the modern train was also a nice touch.

Here the constant are the stairs and we see the little girl and her family travel up the same steps throughout the years. The changes here are more personal as we see her grow up to a young woman, become a teacher, and then grow old.

Also, the art and composition of this short are very flat. The camera work was straight forward and neutral. Any shots that would provide a sense of depth were mostly avoided such as angled shots, over the shoulder shots and shallow focus. There were very little perspective lines especially in the beginning. Even as the architecture of the surrounding buildings became more three-dimensional they weren’t organized to together form cohesive vanishing points. This lack of organization maintained the illusion of flatness.  The flatness of course was intentional. The simple and yet elegant visuals fit the subdued and quiet nature of the film.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

As the sun begins to set it brings the warmth of different shades of orange and red but what follows is the night which tempers this warmth. The appreciation of this little daily life occurrence is the essence of this short film Fade. The sunset was blissfully brought to life with clever usage of shadows and color changes. Watch the short film below:


The first two shots of the short were establishing shots with a nice cold and warm color contrast. The visual contrast of the night creeping in and the warm light of the sun slowly receding immediately expressed the central idea of the film. The floating balloon and the strips of orange and red that followed quickly engaged the viewers’ eyes to lead it to the direction of the sunset. It’s a subtle preamble to the main action of the film which is the chase of the sunset.

The liveliness of the sunset was best expressed by the playful use of shadows and color. As the scarf and bicyclist pass by, the luminosity of color red seeps out to be taken over by the shadow of the night. The fading light of sunset making things less colorful is often left unobserved and the film captured this moment in such an endearing way.

Fade is part of Sun Rise & Set by Hajime Kimura.

Hibike! Euphonium - Episode 11

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

In the audition scene there were a few subtle changes in the camera movement in order to differentiate the performance between Kousaka and Kaori.  The clip below is a side by side comparison of their performance.

The camera work in Kousaka’s performance was more dynamic which gave her a superior presence as a performer. This of course supports the notion that she’s the better musician. The first example is when the camera pulled back from an extreme close-up of their eyes. In Kousaka’s performance the camera pulled back farther and faster. As you’ll notice in the shots above, for Kaori the camera pulled back to a medium close-up while for Kousaka it pulled back farther to a medium shot.

Another difference is the shot size of the concert hall during their performance. The first image above is a wide shot of the concert hall when Kaori was playing and the second image is an extreme wide shot of it during Kousaka’s performance. The extreme wide shot gave Kousaka’s performance a larger sense of scale, which conveyed the better resonance and sharpness of her trumpet playing.

Kousaka’s performance also had more camera movement. You might have noticed that the pans, tilts and lateral tracking shots had a wider movement during her performance. These camera movements also showed more of the audience and their reaction which gave her trumpet playing more impact than Kaori’s.

Hibike! Euphonium - Episode 8

Saturday, May 30, 2015

During the festival Kumiko and Kousaka decided to go hiking which lead to a beautifully executed scene of the two characters sharing a moment that cemented their friendship. The most apparent visual aspect of this scene was the strong usage of lighting on Kousaka in comparison to Kumiko. The lighting on Kousaka made her look ethereal and created a sense of reverence that epitomized her desire to be special.

Another visual aspect in this scene that was not as conspicuous as the lighting was the meaningful use of the city lights backdrop. It was used to both differentiate the characters and connect them towards the end of the scene.

The city lights backdrop were used for Kousaka’s solo shots, while Kumiko’s were set against a dull background. This contrast in vibrancy formed a perception of differing personalities between the two. The colorful city lights reinforced Kousaka’s ambitiousness. The bland background complemented Kumiko’s understated and reserved nature.

As the scene progressed Kousaka pointed out the similarity that they share, which is their indifference towards conformity. Kumiko attended a high school away from her former classmates in order to have a new start. While Kousaka decided not to join a school with a more relevant music club in order to shine on her own. Coming to this mutual understanding established the bond between the two. This moment of burgeoning friendship was wonderfully captured with a wide shot of Kumiko and Kousaka finally sharing the vibrant city lights together. The city lights were once used to differentiate the two but in a single shot it became an imagery of their connection.

Hibike! Euphonium - Episode 5

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

To Kumiko high school is a new beginning, a way to make new friends and perhaps to experience the concert band club in a more gratifying way. In the scene where Kumiko gets reacquainted with an old bandmate, her pursuit for a new beginning was demonstrated in a way that earnestly expressed her feelings.

When Kumiko was invited to meet with other former bandmates, she stopped and looked back at her new band club and new friends. As Kumiko looks on you might notice a slight shaky cam effect and shimmering movement in her eyes. The shaky cam and shimmering effect were obviously done for dramatic effect but more importantly the similar movements visually connected the close-ups of Kumiko and the shots of her new bandmates. This visual connection conveyed her attachment and commitment to her new bandmates and to this new experience.

The sequence above is when Kumiko finally told her old bandmate that she attended Kitauji to have a new start. This sequence made use of centered and off-centered shots in an interesting way. Often times centered shots are used to add emphasis to character reactions and lines but in this sequence it was the opposite. The centered shots along with inserts were used for the build up and the off-centered shots were used for emphasis. Off centered-shots were used to emphasize Kumiko’s delivery of “Afresh, from scratch” and the emotional looks the two were exchanging.

Knights of Sidonia: Battle for Planet Nine - Episode 3

Sunday, April 26, 2015

There was a long take in this episode, which I thought was executed well. It was done with a free-moving camera work that moved from one exchange to another, creating a seamless dialogue between four characters.

The most interesting parts were the exchanges involving Ochia, the camera always moved to shoot him at a low angle in order to accentuate his condescending attitude. Ochia is an intellectual who’s much older and more experienced than Nagate and Izana, thus he most likely views their opinion as simple minded. This notion is more pronounced in his exchange with Nagate where the camera moved to show Nagate at an extreme high angle. Ochia thought Nagate’s hope for a peaceful resolution with the Guanas was a sign of weakness and perhaps naïve. He was looking down on Nagate’s opinion and the high angle reinforced that.

Death Parade Episode 12

Friday, March 27, 2015

During the part where Chiyuki was watching her mother from outside the house, the glass panel was used as a visual motif separating Chiyuki and her mother. This could be interpreted as an imagery of the lack of understanding and the disconnect between mother and daughter. It also can be seen as a symbolic barrier between the living and the dead.

The interesting thing about this sequence was the restrained use of the glass panel as a visual motif. In the beginning of this sequence, Chiyuki, her mother and the glass panel were not shot together. The feeling of separation between the two was mainly expressed through eyeline matches of Chiyuki watching her mother from behind the glass panel. The four pairs of images above are shots of these eyeline matches paired together.

In the first three pairs of shots you might notice a shot size progression of Chiyuki. These shots progresses from a medium shot, close-up, and finally to an extreme close-up. This progression served both as a build up to the drama and the symbolic nature of the glass panel.

In the extreme close-up, Chiyuki was watching her mother walk to her shrine with her favorite food. This sequence finally led to a shot of Chiyuki, her mother and the glass panel between them (1st above image). At this moment the glass panel’s symbolism as an emotional barrier and a barrier between the dead and the living became more apparent. The build up to this moment made the imagery more tragic. This is relevant because after the mother expressed her feelings of guilt, Chiyuki deeply regretted her suicide and wanted to rectify her mistakes. She wanted to break the barrier separating them by living again, by fixing her wrong doings, and by coming to an understanding with her mother. The establishment of a symbolic visual motif made her desire for a second chance feel stronger and consequently made her decision not to do so feel more difficult.