anime

Welcome back to Love Live!, Takahiko Kyougoku (visual direction in Love Live! Superstar!!)

The opening sequence to the original Love Live! School Idol Project still charms me to this day. It was made back when Love Live! was a budding multimedia adventure and not the successful franchise it is today, the time period of its latest iteration, Love Live! Superstar!!. It features a shot that’s actually rotated in a spinning motion like you would rotate a photograph in photoshop. It comparatively janky, clunky, and sets an odd tone of fourth-wall-breaking stage musical style that the series continues for the entire season, despite the fact that it never returns to this Episode 1 moment where protagonist Honoka Kousaka breaks out into song like a musical.

It’s perfect. Director Takahiko Kyougoku knows how staging works, which isn’t something every idol show gets. He’s aware not only of how to use the figurative camera to give idols a better stage that even the most competent music show wouldn’t be able to do. And most importantly, he intimately knows the liminal space between the reality of a stage show and what it’s trying to project onto an audience, something that myriad accomplished movie directors have failed at miserably when turning musicals into movies. The first episode of the original Love Live! not only features Honoka’s movie musical moment, but a fantastic sequence featuring established idol group A-Rise as they perform on a dark stage that quickly becomes a pocket space that they own before cutting back to a stunned audience, watching them on a large screen.

You can see similar attention to the grandeur of Kyougoku’s panning shots in the opening sequences of Land of the Lustrous, which has a similar staged quality that draws the audience in immediately, and even his work on Korean pop-idol group TWICE’s music video for “Candy Pop.”

In the first episode of Love Live! Superstar!! we see this same exact understanding of staging. Kyougoku revisits his own franchise and uses similar staging to give Kanon Shibuya her own movie musical moment, all while presenting a world that’s both completely different from Love Live! School Idol Project and wholly familiar.

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The flowers of Wonder Egg Priority’s opening (and series reflections, I suppose)

Following a three-month wait for a finale that was half-recap and half-nonsense, Wonder Egg Priority will go down in anime history as yet another promising passion project that was stymied by poor planning — exacerbated by the general state of the industry. Wonder Egg Priority‘s production woes have been thoroughly documented and were especially apparent in the twelfth and thirteenth episodes of the series. The thirteenth episode is particularly egregious given how it not only fails to make important emotional narratives of the four main characters resonate but how it inexplicably introduces even more details about in-universe mechanics that few asked for and were not tied whatsoever to any of the aforementioned emotional narratives.

What was most noticeable to me in these two episodes was the lack of flower language which, until that point, had become a visual story that ran parallel to the girls’ own individual character arcs. The use of both Victorian and Japanese flower language was so consistent — even in the expository Episode 11 that I personally disliked — that the absence of it in the final two episodes is jarring.

I’m still trying to work out my own feelings and disappointment regarding Wonder Egg Priority, but wanted to revisit flower language in the series one last time, through the opening animation sequence.

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Colors and Cinematography in SSSS.Dynazenon

ssss.dynazenon opening sequence cold open anime episode 1 dynazenon backpacks

The opening shot of SSSS.Dynazenon is purposefully reminiscent of its predecessor, SSSS.Gridman. Anyone who has watched Gridman immediately will recognize the sequence of shots. This time, these snapshots begin with a nod to students’ various backpacks, which were used to define and color-coordinate characters by their tokusatsu archetypes (or defy them) in Gridman.

With that visual language brought over from Gridman, Dynazenon and director Akira Amemiya and staff are moving beyond an homage to kaiju and tokusatsu series past and looping in their own universe and visual language established in Gridman.

(major spoilers for SSSS.Gridman)

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