Saturday, August 13, 2011

State Of The Kaijyu: Exceeding The Obvious II

After two big anime reviews posted for Anime Diet that more or less stray from the path of what I had been covering before, it occurred to me that a lot has changed within me regarding looking at works with less of the kind of wonder that comes with being a fan, and with a more discerning eye for critical detail. It especially came clear upon dissecting Toward The Terra, that a certain amount of wide-eyed innocence had indeed been shed since last time I watched it. Not that this is any kind of lament, mind you. But something had to be documented here to chart the difference between being a devoted follower of certain types of media, or of certain creative entities, and being a filter for examining how something connects to the public at large.

This also came about when discussing an upcoming project (no large details provided) that demanded us to dig deep into our collective black hearts to see what kind of bad films we enjoy. And what came of this was something of a revealing mishmash of diverging tastes. These differences may have been generational, you see. And since "bad" is something of a relative concept, binding us all together in an endless web of relative suck, it becomes hard to decide what justifies attention, and therefore potential exposure to the masses. And without going into any internal debating as to what constitutes bad in regards to Hollywood-borne mediocrity brain-drain, perhaps its best to say that having grown up throughout the loudest parts of the latter days of the Drive-In, and the salad days of VHS, I have a slightly different view on what constitutes quality, as well as what works for me despite limitations. But what was revealing about my cohorts' entries is that a majority (not all) of what was mentioned was often material best known during the home video franchise era ala Blockbuster/Hollywood Video.

Which is by no means any kind of sleight, there were many bizarre and fun enchantments to be had in those plastic-lined aisles. From the occasional anime discovery, to over the top italian gorefest, there was often something fitting for Saturday viewing. But having admittedly worked for one of these two mechanized behemoths for nearly four years, I can honestly say that there was something lacking in their respective selections. A sense of all-inclusive schizophrenia that often could only be found in the local Mom n Pop. Hailing originally from the more desolate ends of the Coachella Valley, I can attest to there being a good number of these within the vicinity despite what some might imagine. And it was within these very stores that my brothers and I stumbled upon works, particularly from independent production companies, that no doubt primed us quite nicely for the "blood n boobs" marketing trajectory for anime & HK cinema at the time. Having spent years salvaging our allowances to take in a nearly 5 rental-per-weekend diet of genre-cheapies was something of a morning preparation for baptism. But when BV, and Hollywood came into the picture, so many restrictions, and codes were put in place under the assumption that they were for "family viewing" despite the fact that some unknowingly carried La Blue Girl, that it became harder to see some of the more standout diamonds in the rough. I would even argue that after the last gasps of the Drive-In, the direct-to-home-video market virtually squelched a lot of what made smaller productions strive harder to make any kind of impression, save for a fancy (albeit gaudy) cover sleeve on a shelf.

So a disconnect of sorts seems to have resulted. Not only this, but an H-Town eager to capitalize on mimicry in a post-Tarantino world has helped blur the line between what was trashy out of necessity, and trashy in an ironic, post-modern sense. And while I can attest to liking both (one obviously much more than the other- but I'm sure you can guess which one), there is definitely a difference displayed by those who have a firm grasp of what they are attempting versus having little options besides.

And this all spills into how one can love something despite its glaring flaws, and possibly even because of them. There is indeed a gulf between being objectively well-constructed, and loveable. The same happens in any other kind of art. Music perhaps being the paramount example. And even as a large population of these posts seem to reflect certain sectors of my critical mind, there are going to be instances when the upstart kid in the garage is going to overpower the studio employee with a steel-trap for a work. And while I do love well constructed narratives, and visual inventiveness, there will always be a part of me that roots for simple passion. So perhaps this new project will help expose this debate further, and help spur on further discussion as pop culture seems to be reaching something of a turning point. And hopefully, my thoughts can serve as something of a map, not only for me, but for anyone else curious about themselves, and what leads them to like what they do.

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