The “Anicamera” in Arcane

Arcane immediately had my attention due to the way in which it used its own “camera” to frame its first act, in addition to other visual languages used in tandem with the series’ emotional narratives. In its second act, Arcane completely changes the framework that it set in its first act with poise and purpose.

Years ago in my anime blogging infancy, a friend wrote a blog post titled The Ani(ca)me(ra) and Lensing a Critical Lens. They opened my eyes to a lot of things that I had either taken for granted while watching both anime and live-action films, or internalized without giving much thought. The latter is likely because, at least in the United States, animation is typically reserved for children’s cartoons or specific comedy shows for teens and adults. There are exceptions to this and people have become a bit more open-minded towards animation in recent years, yet societally this is still the general mindset and animation is still frequently othered in a way that pits it against live-action as an inferior medium when it really doesn’t have to be this way.

I’ll summarize their work here, but I highly suggest you also read their post. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re interested in animation generally and it’s a great (and quick) read.

Spoilers for Arcane and League of Legends lore below.

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Art Nouveau and Art Deco in Arcane

Two specific points struck me as I was watching the first three episodes of Arcane.

The first was the series’ use of a “camera.” Animation, by nature, unchains the camera view or perspective from having to be anything grounded by reality. Arcane deliberately chose to use shots that could only be achieved by an actual camera following the characters (to a point where, in the first episode, mud spatter appears on the camera “lens” and obstructs the shot as characters are sliding down a dirty metal tube.)

The second was the use of art nouveau trappings specifically for Zaun and art deco trappings for the architecture and design of Piltover. These appear to be very deliberate choices due to how consistent they are and also, the few times that these unspoken design “rules” are broken.

Full disclosure, I am contracted by Riot Games for their League Championship Series esports broadcast as an analyst. I had no idea as to what Arcane would be about, saw no preview material that wasn’t publicly available to all, and was not told to write this; however, in the interest of disclosing any and all biases, I felt this necessary information.

Also, there will be spoilers for Arcane‘s first act.

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Flower language in Heike Monogatari

“The color of the sāla flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline.”

-The Tale of the Heike

During her time at Kyoto Animation it was a truth universally acknowledged that any Naoko Yamada work must use flower language in some capacity. This remains true in her first work with Science Saru, an anime adaptation of the Japanese epic, Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike).

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Hundreds of ways to say hell is other people and also love is other people: Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time

There are myriad reasons why I feel unqualified to talk about anything related to the Evangelion franchise, but the primary one is that it’s not my thing. It’s a lot of other people’s thing, but not mine. Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, is the first time I felt myself so deeply affected by an Evangelion product.

My thing is the much less acclaimed ending of Sailor Moon Sailor Stars where Usagi Tsukino tells us that the proper place for chaos or evil is in the hearts of everyone — a shared burden for humanity that can only be mitigated (not defeated) by love. This is hardly a new concept but I’d not seen it done at a time where I could understand the message in anything close to its simultaneous simplicity and depth. You cannot defeat your darker impulses, only mitigate them with genuine connection. The message of Sailor Stars was accompanied by another major influence my obnoxious and precocious high school self was obsessed with, Jean-Paul Sartre’s Huis Clos (No Exit). Combined, this meant that the mantra of my younger self was that even if I could never understand others and building relationships with them would sometimes make it more difficult to understand myself, seeking genuine relationships with them would provide profound answers to the many questions I had about the value of my own existence or why I existed at all.

Despite thinking I understood this on an intellectual level (I didn’t), I certainly didn’t follow this example on a practical level. I still don’t always follow this on a practical level.

Relationships are difficult. I seek them out despite this.

(Spoilers for all of the Evangelion franchise below.)

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