Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~: Initial Impressions, or “Where Did This Budget Come From?”

The answer to the titular question is, of course, that they tapped Kobayashi Osamu (dear Japan: stop naming kids who go on to become important or at least recognizable figures in the anime industry “Osamu” as it’s getting confusing now). Of course, not having seen either Paradise Kiss or BECK, I did not know what exactly to expect when I fired up ~Natsu no Sora~. I expected something on the production levels of the previous series, which I quite liked, but couldn’t have been called “high budget” by a long shot. Maybe it’s just that HAL Film Maker is rich off the proceeds from Aria. Or something.

At any rate, I totally was unprepared for the background visuals, which knocked me for a loop. At first I was like “holy crap, where did this money come from?” and then I was like “wait, these look like photographs” and then I looked even harder and they weren’t photographs, but they were actual drawings. So I was pretty much in a state of confusion for the first half of this episode, trying to figure out what was going on with the backgrounds. But I know now!

The mobile/character art isn’t quite up to par with the backgrounds, lending a kind of strange dichotomy to the whole thing, but there’s nothing wrong with the character art or animation at all. In fact, it reminds me of watching various American cartoons growing up, especially Looney Tunes, where there was a very similar disjoint between the backdrop and the actual props–if something was going to be used as a prop in a take, it would be drawn in the much simpler style of the characters, but if it wasn’t going to be used as a prop, it was drawn in the much more complex style of the background. Which sometimes led to amusing moments like a prop drawn in the background style in one cut, and then in another cut it’d be used as a prop and would be drawn much simpler. I hadn’t seen this in a while, and I’m not sure if it’s an anime thing, or just an advancement in modern animation techniques. I suppose this is the difference in budget and time allotment between a 13-episode TV series and a feature-length Shinkai Makoto film, but given the extreme complexity of the backgrounds, I’m not going to fault them on this matter.

As for the actual episode itself: it was a prologue, so there’s not much to say other than “it was good.” Various elements of ~Natsu no Sora~ seem to have been improved over the original Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: the writing feels much better, for instance, in what little we’ve seen, and other small things. It also retains the feel the first season had, which I of course cannot put into words, because I don’t think there are words. I think it’s fairly safe to declare HAL Film Maker the champions of the slice-of-life/iyashi-kei anime genre at the moment, considering they have Aria, Sketchbook, and now ~Natsu no Sora~ under their belt. Can they be stopped? Do we want them to stop? I don’t know!

3 Responses to “Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~: Initial Impressions, or “Where Did This Budget Come From?””

  1. 1 Dop 6 July 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I dream of a world in where HAL Film Maker do a full length adaptation of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou.
    It would be the best anime ever.

  2. 2 lelangir 6 July 2008 at 1:44 pm

    My favorite part was when Sora was eating dinner, and her mom kept ‘pestering’ her with questions, but she was just like “mmhmm mmhmm [I’m eating leave me alone] mmhmm mmhmm.” The first half of the episode was kind of slow but it picked up and overall I really enjoyed it.

  3. 3 Akari_House 6 July 2008 at 3:07 pm

    I don’t think most of the backgrounds are drawings. They look suspiciously more like photographs that have been “rotoscoped” with a good photoshop sketch-type filter (or combination of filters) to make them look hand-drawn, possibly retouched a little to add to the effect (insert obligatory “I can tell by the pixels and have seen quite a few shops in my day” line here).

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I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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July 2008

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