Ca­reer Check-Up

Animation Magazine - - Tv - By Martin Gre­bing

One of the big­gest dif­fer­ences between suc­cess­ful and happy peo­ple, and peo­ple that per­pet­u­ally strug­gle, is that suc­cess­ful and happy peo­ple con­stantly check them­selves. They mea­sure ev­ery as­pect of their life to see how they are do­ing and ask per­haps the most im­por­tant series of linked ques­tions pos­si­ble: “Is this what I want and where I want to be? If so, how can I achieve even more? If not, what do I want and where do I want to be? And what do I need to do to get there?”

It’s very com­mon for peo­ple to keep track of and rou­tinely mea­sure a car’s gas mileage, in­ter­net speed, fi­nan­cial in­vest­ments, blood pres­sure or weight gain or loss, but most peo­ple rarely stop to take in­ven­tory of their ca­reer on a deep level. The good news is ev­ery­thing you do can be mea­sured and im­proved.

Be­fore for­mu­lat­ing a plan with spe­cific ac­tion items to im­prove re­sults, you must take a de­tailed look at your cur­rent sit­u­a­tion. You can’t pos­si­bly blaze a clear path to where you want to go with­out first know­ing where you are.

Here is a pow­er­ful self-au­dit that can help shed some light on im­por­tant ar­eas which are in need of at­ten­tion, if not a com­plete makeover.

Take your ex­ist­ing ca­reer and make a list of the three main du­ties in­volved for your two to three most-im­por­tant func­tions. Break down each of these du­ties into spe­cific steps or tasks needed to per­form each duty. Now, break out each task into three ar­eas: com­pe­tency, pas­sion and pur­pose.

Com­pe­tency: How well do you per­form each duty? If you are not com­pe­tent with your du­ties, the amount of ef­fort and en­ergy re­quired to per­form them re­sults in a mas­sive dis­si­pa­tion of your time, not to men­tion it will in­evitably add un­told amounts of stress to your life, both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally. Per­haps more pro­found than be­ing in­ef­fi­cient, the stress and neg­a­tive en­ergy caused by in­com­pe­tency can seep into any num­ber of ad­di­tional nooks and cran­nies in your mind and body which builds up over time and in­evitably leads to other prob­lems.

Pas­sion: How ex­cited are you about your ca­reer? One of the most un­der­min­ing ac­tions that one can take is that of en­gag­ing in a ca­reer and in a life­style that holds no pas­sion. When you think about your clients and your in­dus­try, is your stom­ach filled with but­ter­flies or does a sick, sink­ing feel­ing wash over your body? You may be the most com­pe­tent, ef­fi­cient per­son on Earth at per­form­ing cer­tain tasks, but if there is no pas­sion you es­sen­tially serve as a robot on an as­sem­bly line. Or even worse, if there is con­tempt for what you do on a daily ba­sis, this neg­a­tiv­ity will per­me­ate your en­tire be­ing and can eas­ily turn into self-loathing. Af­ter all, what you do is of­ten equated, at least on some level, to who you are. If you hate your job but you con­tinue to ac­cept it day af­ter day, year af­ter year, your mind can even­tu­ally learn to re­sent it­self.

Pur­pose: How rel­e­vant is what you do to ful- fill­ing your pro­fes­sional du­ties while also ad­vanc­ing your pas­sion pur­pose? How much does your in­volve­ment and ad­vance­ment of your ca­reer help oth­ers? Even if the du­ties you per­form are done with great com­pe­tency and pas­sion but do not pro­vide a sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fit ei­ther to your­self or oth­ers, it would most likely serve you best to seek a dif­fer­ent pur­pose.

Take a deep, in­tro­spec­tive look at each of the break­outs you’ve cre­ated and rate them on com­pe­tency, pas­sion and pur­pose from one to 10, one be­ing least and 10 be­ing most. This anal­y­sis can pro­vide you with a very re­veal­ing sta­tus check on where you stand pro­fes­sion­ally which can have a pro­found ef­fect on your en­tire be­ing and those around you. Any cat­e­gory rated six or be­low in­di­cates some­thing that needs to be im­proved, changed, del­e­gated to other peo­ple, or re­moved en­tirely and re­placed with some­thing that fits. Any­thing rated seven or above serves you well and helps serve oth­ers. Make it your mission to find ways to im­prove and re­fine your seven-and-aboves un­til they’re all 10s.

Self-check­ing your core du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in your cho­sen ca­reer based on com­pe­tency, pas­sion and pur­pose, can pro­vide a pro­found aware­ness of where you are, where you want to be, and a roadmap of how to get there. The longer you wait be­fore per­form­ing this self-au­dit, the more you risk wast­ing the most pre­cious com­mod­ity of all: your time. [ Martin Gre­bing is an award-win­ning an­i­ma­tion di­rec­tor and pro­ducer who has fo­cused on smaller stu­dios and al­ter­na­tive mar­kets. To­day, he pro­vides pri­vate con­sult­ing and is the pres­i­dent of Fun­ny­bone Anim-ation, a bou­tique stu­dio that pro­duces an­i­ma­tion for a wide range of clients and in­dus­tries. He can be reached via www. fun­ny­bonean­i­ma­tion. com.

The 2016 An­necy fes­ti­val was a vic­tory for the host na­tion on pretty much ev­ery front. In ad­di­tion to be­ing an­other well-run and de­light­ful cel­e­bra­tion of the world of an­i­ma­tion, the fes­ti­val demon­strated the strength of French an­i­ma­tion with a special fo­cus that ran from the open­ing-night film, Michael Du­dok de Wit’s La Tortue rouge (The Red Tur­tle) — earn­ing a stand­ing ova­tion — and the world pre­mieres of Il­lu­mi­na­tion Mac Guff’s Paris-pro­duced The Se­cret Life of Pets and Jean-François Laguionie’s Louise, through the clos­ing night awards cer­e­mony that saw the fea­ture Cristal go to Ma vie de Cour­gette (My Life as a Cour­gette).

The only damper on the cel­e­bra­tion was the wet weather, which only in­fre­quently stopped long enough for the sum­mer sun to dry out the idyl­lic lake­side vil­lage a bit.

This year’s fest wel­com ed 9,153 badge­hold­ers (up 10.3 per­cent over 2015) rep­re­sent­ing 85 coun­tries, watch­ing some 500 films screen­ing dur­ing the fes­ti­val. The MIFA mar­ket and con­fer­ence alone drew 2,800 badge­hold­ers (up 4.5 per­cent), mark­ing its most suc­cess­ful year yet af­ter a steady in­crease in at­ten­dance over the past 12 years.

The wider an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try was out in force as well, with pre­sen­ta­tions that in­cluded new footage from Fox and Blue Sky Stu­dios for Ice Age: Collision Course and Dis­ney for Moana.

DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion also pre­sented sneak peeks at sev­eral up­com­ing projects: A Mas­ter­class by Guillermo del Toro on Troll­hunters; a WIP Fea­ture ses­sion on Trolls; a fo­cus on the Voltron: Leg­endary De­fender Net­flix series; and on up­com­ing fea­ture, Boss Baby.

CEO Jef­frey Katzen­berg was a sur­prise guest, and was awarded the first-ever “Golden Ticket” grant­ing him life­time ad­mit­tance. Chat­ting with Katzen­berg An­i­ma­tion Magazine had a rare op­por­tu­nity to meet one-on-one with Katzen­berg dur­ing the fes­ti­val and talk about the stu­dio’s projects.

With Trolls de­liv­er­ing a vi­brant new look for CG an­i­ma­tion, and more com­pe­ti­tion than ever in the mar­ket, Katzen­berg says tech­nol­ogy has never driven creative de­ci­sions at the stu­dio.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a time when the an­swer was, well the tech­nol­ogy isn’t up to de­liv­er­ing to the creative mission of the movie; it’s just the op­po­site of that,” he says. “I don’t think there’s ever been an in­stance where a film­maker at our stu­dio said, ‘Well, I want to do this,’ and some­body said, ‘Sorry, but the tech­nol­ogy to do that doesn’t ex­ist.’ It’s just never hap­pened. (The tech­nol­ogy) may not have ex­isted, but they didn’t say they couldn’t de­liver it.”

Katzen­berg says Boss Baby — due in the­aters March 10 — is a per­fect fit for di­rec­tor Tom McGrath, who pre­vi­ously helmed the Mada­gas­car tril­ogy and Mega­mind for the stu­dio.

“He has just a very unique sen­si­bil­ity and a unique sense of hu­mor and I think this movie has ac­tu­ally cap­tured that Tom McGrath magic more than any­thing he has made up un­til now,” he says. “I think it’s one of the best orig­i­nal movies we’ve made at the stu­dio in a long time.”

At­tend­ing An­necy for the fi­nal time as head of DreamWorks, Katzen­berg says the fes­ti­val’s growth re­flects the growth of an­i­ma­tion as a re­spected medium all over the world.

“An­necy has al­ways been a kind of heart and soul for the real an­i­ma­tion cin­emaphiles,” he says. “It’s re­ally a place where it’s a true cel­e­bra­tion of it, and that was long be­fore any­body was pay­ing at­ten­tion in the rest of the world. An­necy was al­ways this oa­sis that ev­ery­body could come to and just for a hand­ful of days get com­pletely im­mersed and lost with ... (thou­sands of) geeks, like us, that re­ally love this stuff.”

The special pro­gram­ming around French an­i­ma­tion of­fered in­sight for both in­ter­na­tional ad­mir­ers and lo­cal pro­duc­ers. François Hol­lande, the pres­i­dent of France, and Au­drey Azoulay, the French min­is­ter for cul­ture and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, came and met the pro­fes­sion­als on June 16.

Frédérique Bredin, pres­i­dent of the CNC, spoke about the op­por­tu­ni­ties for French an­i­ma­tion pro­grams abroad at a panel mod­er­ated by An­i­ma­tion Magazine edi­tor in chief Tom Mc- Lean. And the SPFA gave its 2015-2016 re­view-out­look of French pro­duc­tion.

Euro Awards Prep The first Euro­pean An­i­ma­tion Awards’ Gen­eral As­sem­bly took place June 14 un­der the aus­pi­cious guid­ance of Peter Lord (pres­i­dent) and Di­dier Brun­ner (VP). Special at­ten­tion was paid to the French and Euro­pean an­i­ma­tion fea­ture film in­dus­try, a sig­nif­i­cant and strate­gic theme dis­cussed dur­ing two meet­ings: the Euro­pean Film Fo­rum Panel Dis­cus­sion, or­ga­nized by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and Europe Creative; and the Con­fer­ence or­ga­nized by CITIA talk­ing about the po­si­tion­ing of in­de­pen­dent Euro­pean films in the­atres.

The 2016 An­i­ma­tion Per­son­al­ity of the Year Award went to Lord and David Sprox­ton, founders of the cel­e­brated Bri­tish stu­dio, Aard­man An­i­ma­tions.

More than 800 can­di­dates were se­lected to take part in 60 re­cruit­ment ses­sions. More than 60 of the most well re­garded stu­dios in the world (Il­lu­mi­na­tion Mac Guff, Pixar, Ubisoft, Mikros An­i­ma­tion, Xilam, etc.) met with the bright­est young pro­fes­sion­als in the mar­ket for over 100 job of­fers. [

The fast-footed mu­tant steals the spotlight again in with a scaled-up res­cue se­quence that set a new VFX bar for the fran­chise. By Bill De­sowitz.

ture Past, Days of Fu- age­ment and ef­fi­cient work­flow de­sign. RSP also ma­nip­u­lated Quick­sil­ver’s sur­round­ings to heighten the comic ef­fect of his whimsy.

What were the most dif­fi­cult parts? “Feed­ing lots of photo-real high-res ge­om­e­try into rigid body sim­u­la­tions prior to sim­u­lat­ing high-res vol­u­met­ric and hard body in­ter­ac­tions un­der­go­ing time ma­nip­u­la­tion,” says Jones.

“We learnt lots about re­tim­ing sim­u­la­tions on the pre­vi­ous film and ap­plied the same prin­ci­ples here only on a grander scale,” Jones says. “Pre­vi­ously we ma­nip­u­lated mostly rain­drops and par­ti­cle ef­fects with a touch of cus­tom vol­umes such as a muzzle flash.

“This time, en­tire rooms are be­ing sim­u­lated for de­struc­tion and then vol­umes such as smoke and fire are sim­u­lated within the de­struc­t­ing en­vi­ron­ment. These get sim­u­lated at real speeds and then slowed down to a frac­tion of nor­mal speed for ren­der­ing. At this point, we also use the sim to add higher fre­quency de­tail such as dust and fine de­bris.”

RSP used 3DEqual­izer and Maya for all scene setup, an­i­ma­tion and as­set cre­ation; Mud­box, ZBrush and MARI for as­set de­tail­ing and tex­tur­ing.

In ad­di­tion, Hou­dini was used for all ef­fects el­e­ments, in­clud­ing build­ing, room and prop de­struc­tion; de­bris and dust; smoke; and fire. A cus­tom de­struc­tion work­flow was im­ple­mented dur­ing pro­duc­tion, al­low­ing a faster and more pre­dictable re­sult for the foun­da­tion de­struc­tion sims.

Arnold was the main ren­der­ing plat­form with all light­ing scenes as­sem­bled and man­aged within Hou­dini. To­gether with Mantra, Arnold de­liv­ered deep stereo im­age se­quences for fi­nal com­posit­ing in Nuke.

Work­ing closely with John Dyk­stra (pro­duc­tion VFX su­per­vi­sor), MPC teams in Mon­treal, Ban­ga­lore and London (led by VFX su­per­vi­sor An­ders Lang­lands) worked on nearly 1,000 shots for the fi­nal bat­tle, the Cere­bro Room and mul­ti­ple mu­tant pow­ers. City Break­ers

Modo was get­ting some heat even be­fore The Foundry ac­quired it and be­gan to in­cor­po­rate it into its suite of prod­ucts. Af­ter nu­mer­ous it­er­a­tions, ad­vances in UV map­ping, an­i­ma­tion and an in­cor­po­ra­tion of a so­phis­ti­cated Boolean tool called MeshFu­sion, Modo is up to ver­sion 10.1 and its mo­men­tum doesn’t ap­pear to be slow­ing down.

The big­gest splash for Modo 10.1 is the ad­di­tion of what is re­ferred to as the layer stack — which is a dy­namic and pro­ce­dural way to model and rig. Now, to be hon­est, this idea isn’t ground­break­ing. The 3ds Max mod­i­fier stack is based on this con­cept. And any­one you talk to who works in Hou­dini — well, “pro­ce­dural” is the name of the game. But for long­time Modo users, or Maya users who have mi­grated to Modo, this idea of pro­ce­dural mod­el­ing could be a game changer.

The con­cept is that a model is made up of a num­ber of tasks: cre­ate base mesh, se­lect faces, bevel, sub­di­vide, etc. But fre­quently, this is a lin­ear process, and it’s dif­fi­cult to go back­ward. Pro­ce­dural mod­el­ing keeps each step alive and ac­ces­si­ble, and (to an ex­tent) if you make changes up­stream, those changes will prop­a­gate through­out to the end of the change. It’s quite pow­er­ful.

These pro­ce­dural meth­ods have been in­cor­po­rated into other new tools such as some ad­vanced text tools. The layer stack al­lows you to change text, font, etc., with­out hav­ing to re­model.

But Modo doesn’t stop at mod­el­ing. The pa­ram­e­ters in the tasks are open to data in­put and can be driven dy­nam­i­cally by con­di­tions or by user in­put. So the struc­ture of the model can be set up to change based on cir­cum- stances. Modo has adopted a Hou­dini-Ice-Bifrost type of nodal sys­tem to con­trol the rig. In this day and age, it’s re­ally the best way to go. Ev­ery­one’s get­ting into the act.

Not all of the model tools have made their way into the layer stack as of 10.1, but plans are to con­tinue to mi­grate them as the soft­ware evolve. With Modo jump­ing into this mod­el­ing method­ol­ogy — and I pre­dict Bifrost’s phi­los­o­phy will bleed through­out the rest of Maya — we are go­ing to see a mass move­ment with mod­el­ers to­ward this way of think­ing. And once clients get wind that you can dy­nam­i­cally it­er­ate ver­sions, they will de­mand it. If you are still in the old-school, lin­ear-mod­el­ing mind­set? Well, you just better be a damn fast mod­eler.

Mocha Pro has made it­self the go-to tool for track­ing, track-as­sisted ro­to­scop­ing and ob­ject re­moval. So much so, that its team was awarded a Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Award from the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences. Not too shabby. And their lat­est ver­sion makes the tools even eas­ier to in­cor­po­rate as well as ex­pand­ing into new tech­no­log­i­cal fields.

The big­gest an­nounce­ment for Mocha Pro 5 is that there are plug­ins that open a pipe di­rectly from Af­ter Ef­fects, Pre­miere Pro, Avid or HitFilm into Mocha Pro. What does this do? First, be­cause the tools are shar­ing data there is no need for ad­di­tional file se­quences for Mocha to track — it can use what is avail­able within Af­ter Ef­fects (for ex­am­ple), in­clud­ing com­po­si­tions. Not only can the footage be used for the track source, it could be the el­e­ment that is tracked into the plate. And in turn, tracks and masks can be sent di­rectly back to the host soft­ware.

Ad­di­tion­ally, other pro­ce­dures can be pulled from Mocha, and then ren­dered di­rectly in Af­ter Ef­fects. Ob­ject re­moval for in­stance, would be pro­cessed in the comp, rather than be­ing re­quired to ren­der out an en­tirely new se­quence.

And don’t worry — the plugin for Nuke is on its way.

Be­cause of the open pipe between pack­ages, this means that Mocha Pro can be used with other plug­ins in the mix. For in­stance, a prob­lem that is be­com­ing more and more prom­i­nent as vir­tual re­al­ity be­comes a thing is in­cor­po­rat­ing VFX into VR, or re­pair­ing it — like ... where does the film crew hide? VR tools such as Met­tle al­low for re­con­fig­ur­ing and pro­cess­ing of VR data. The VR footage can be flat­tened and ma­nip­u­lated, and then fed into Mocha where ob­jects can be tracked in, or ob­jects re­moved. Then the footage is re­stored to it orig­i­nal for­mat for use in the tar­get VR sys­tem.

If you are in VFX, Mocha Pro should al­ready be in your ar­se­nal. If you are start­ing to look into vir­tual re­al­ity, you are walk­ing into a mine­field of post-pro­duc­tion un­knowns, and the Mocha team is one group that is look­ing for­ward into the prob­lems of a nascent in­dus­try.

The lat­est ver­sion of Af­ter Ef­fects has a bunch of cool tools that make things eas­ier and faster for us com­pos­i­tors and de­sign­ers. But I re­ally want to fo­cus on a tool that, in fact, is still tech­ni­cally in a pre­view state. And that is Char­ac­ter An­i­ma­tor. When it first came out, I was pretty dis­mis­sive of it as a vi­able an­i­ma­tion tool. And, due to the sim­plic­ity of the setup and the lack of a re­quire­ment of any earned skill, I pre­dicted that we would prob­a­bly see a whole ton of aw­ful an­i­ma­tion be­fore it even­tu­ally got into the hands of artists who knew what they were do­ing.

And fi­nally, it hap­pened. Through a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort between Adobe and Film Ro­man, the tools were re­fined and honed to help cre­ate a live Q&A with Homer Simp­son. The ex­pe­ri­enced an­i­ma­tors from the show took the tools Adobe has cre­ated, pro­vided feed­back (which Adobe took to heart) and they crafted it into some­thing kind of amazing. And fol­low­ing on their foot­steps, Car­toon Trump ap­peared on Late Night with Stephen Col­bert in a num­ber of live seg­ments. This was all done with a new fea­ture in Char­ac­ter An­i­ma­tor that feeds the an­i­ma­tion — driven by a per­for­mance cap­tured on a we­b­cam — and then trans­poses the mo­tion to a rigged char­ac­ter, and then feeds to the broad­cast.

And it’s all tech­nol­ogy that is avail­able — just add tal­ent and stir.

That said, I’ll briefly touch on what Char­ac­ter An­i­ma­tor does. You set up a char­ac­ter in Pho­to­shop or Il­lus­tra­tor in var­i­ous states — pho­nemes, head turns, etc. Those are brought into Af­ter Ef­fects and tagged as spe­cific el­e­ments, which are then driven by you on your we­b­cam. The lip sync, move­ments, etc., drive the trig­gers and call up el­e­ments de­pend­ing on the per­for­mance. All of which can be over­rid­den, of course, to fix, re­fine or add to an­i­ma­tion.

In Pre­view 4, things have be­come more stream­lined, where char­ac­ter setup used to re­quire el­e­ments to be ex­plic­itly named for the tags to work, you now can con­nect the tags vis­ually. So, you can have Square486 be the right eye if you want — but I wouldn’t rec­om­mend it. You can now setup auto blinks to hap­pen ran­domly or based on be­hav­ior. The fa­cial anal­y­sis al­go­rithms have more fi­delity. And it works with Syphon (on OSX) to feed the an­i­ma­tion into a live broad­cast sit­u­a­tion — like Simp­sons or Col­bert.

I was skep­ti­cal. But I’m happy to be proven wrong.

IRu­miko Taka­hashi’s anime clas­sic took Ja­pan’s tra­di­tion of gen­der-switch­ing sto­ries to new places and new heights. By Charles Solomon.

n the United States, cross-gen­der en­ter­tain­ments are usu­ally nov­el­ties — Dustin Hoff­man in Toot­sie or a per­for­mance of Shake­speare with an all-male cast. In Ja­pan, there’s a long his­tory of blur­ring gen­der lines in pop­u­lar cul­ture, from the on­na­gata (trans­ves­tite hero­ines) in Kabuki to the all-fe­male Takarazuka Revue.

That phe­nom­e­non ex­tends to an­i­ma­tion and manga. The fa­ther of Os­car François de Jar­jayes, the hero­ine of the ad­ven­ture- fantasy Rose of Ver­sailles, wanted a son so des­per­ately, he trained his daugh­ter to be­come an master swords-woman, a crack shot — and an of­fi­cer in Marie An­toinette’s royal guard. One of the most sym­pa­thetic char­ac­ters in Yuu Watase’s overblown ro­man­tic fantasy Fushigi Yûgi: The Mys­te­ri­ous Play is the trans­ves­tite war­rior Nuriko.

But noth­ing takes gen­der bend­ing fur­ther or fun­nier than Ru­miko Taka­hashi’s anime clas­sic Ranma½ . The ti­tle char­ac­ter, Ranma Sao­tome, is a 16-year-old, black-haired mar­tial-arts cham­pion who at­tends Furinkan High School. Be­cause he fell into a cursed spring in China, Ranma turns into a buxom, red-haired girl when­ever he’s splashed with cold wa­ter. (Hot wa­ter re­stores his proper gen­der.)

Ranma and his fa­ther, Genma, who turns into a panda when hit with cold wa­ter (he fell into a dif­fer­ent spring in China), are per­ma­nent free­loaders in the home of Soun Tendo, the long-suf­fer­ing owner of the Any­thing Goes Mar­tial Arts Dojo. Genma and Suon de­cide that Ranma and Soun’s youngest daugh­ter, Akane, are en­gaged and will in­herit the fam­ily dojo, de­spite the cou­ple’s ve­he­ment ob­jec­tions.

The di­a­met­ric op­po­site of the tra­di­tional meek Ja­panese girl, hot-tem­pered Akane Tendo is a for­mi­da­ble mar­tial artist who can beat the mochi out of any­body. Ranma com­plains that she’s “un­cute”; Akane calls him a jerk. Akane and Ranma are for­ever hav­ing to aid each other while bat­tling ri­val mar­tial artists in such outré ac­tiv­i­ties as Sur­vival Flower-Ar­rang­ing, Ob­sta­cle Course Cook­ing, Mar­tial Arts Cal­lig­ra­phy and Bath House-Fu. But ev­ery vic­tory leads to an­other ar­gu­ment, with their many would-be suit­ors adding of­ten hi­lar­i­ous com­pli­ca­tions.

A Com­edy of Ro­man­tic Er­rors A num­ber of guys at Furinkan High — in­clud­ing school kendo cham­pion and wind­bag Kuno — nur­ture crushes on the lovely “pig­tailed girl” who mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­pears when­ever Ranma shows up. Sham­poo, the Chi­nese Ama­zon, is equally ded­i­cated to killing girl-type Ranma and mar­ry­ing boy-type Ranma. The ge­o­graph­i­cally chal­lenged Ryoga — he once got lost try­ing to find the va­cant lot behind his house — wor­ships Akane and dreams of pound­ing Ranma into so much wasabi. When Akane re­al­izes her dream of play­ing Juliet, the com­pe­ti­tion to be­come her Romeo turns the bal­cony scene into a WWE Smack­down. Al- though he wins the role, Ranma isn’t go­ing to out­shine Olivier. Af­ter Akane speaks, he asks, “I got lines?”

“Am I Pretty” in sea­son three may rank as the fun­ni­est episode in a very funny series. When he in­sults her cook­ing for the Nth time, Akane clob­bers Ranma with a cast-iron skil­let, which some­how brings out the fem­i­nine side of his nature. The usu­ally loutish Ranma sud­denly be­comes ob­sessed with frills, gourmet cook­ing and maid­enly mod­esty (he blushes at the sight of his own jockey shorts). The re­sults are up­roar­i­ously in­con­gru­ous.

The film­mak­ers bal­ance the free­wheel­ing may­hem, meta­mor­phoses and mar­tial arts with just enough warmth to leaven the in­san­ity. Ranma, Akane and Ryoga use kind­ness to de­feat a Snow-Woman ( Yuki-onna) and a bizarre Abom­inable Snow­man who threaten to freeze the town of Furinkan. To as­suage Akane’s hurt feel­ings, Ranma eats the cook­ies she baked, know­ing ptomaine is in­evitable. Like the Simp­sons and the Ri­car­dos, Ranma and Akane re­ally do care about each other, but they also drive each other crazy.

Some crit­ics have in­ter­preted Ranma½ as a commentary on re­la­tions between the sexes in Ja­pan — an idea Taka­hashi dis­missed: “The sit­u­a­tion was sup­posed to fo­cus on the wack­i­ness of a guy be­com­ing a girl. I never ex­plored any deeper im­pli­ca­tions of such things in the comic — nor would I have wanted to. I just wanted it to be part of the comic story telling.”

Mil­lions of fans feel she suc­ceeded. [

Per­sonal bias may be show­ing, but: whether you caught the lim­ited U.S. theatri­cal re­lease of this long-buried gem of Ja­panese an­i­ma­tion or no, Bel­ladonna on Blu-ray is well de­serv­ing of a slot on your must-have list. This psy­che­delic, psy­cho­logic story of an in­no­cent young woman cor­rupted by her own vic­tim­iza­tion is ev­ery­thing adult an­i­ma­tion should be. Ei­ichi Ya­mamoto’s cult film is e have GKIDS to thank for get­ting two trea­sures on disc this

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