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It’s the early 60s, anime has struggled to find structure and hasn’t yet been able
to compete with other industries.
It simply hasn’t been able to make money in its current form.
The best works of the previous decades have been unprofitable or government funded, which
has proven to be a slippery slope.
But a young man named Osamu Tezuka has a dream to turn anime into a global industry.
He rounded up unhappy animators from other studios at the time and started to create
Astro Boy, a revolutionary series that would set the template for every Tv anime to follow
and establish a business model for anime that hasn’t changed in over half a century.
You could say that even today, the industry if running because of Tezuka’s Astro Boy.
Tezuka wanted to break anime into the TV industry, he saw a far more efficient and feasible future
for the medium here instead of at the cinema.
And he was right, Tv was far cheaper to produce and very profitable if the right sponsor was
found.
But there was one problem, Anime in its current state was incredibly expensive to produce,
it was estimated that for the production of Astro Boy, Tezuka would need 3000 staff and
a budget of about 70 million yen.
There wasn't even half that many animators in Japan at the time and a TV time slot would
never be able to make that money back.
But Tezuka adapted and set about re-inventing the wheel.
He created a whole new system of anime production, it was called Limited Animation and it established
production techniques that are still the most efficient in the industry today.
Astro Boy started its broadcast on New Years day 1963 and marked the start of a new age
in anime and arguable the start of anime as we know it.
From here onwards, every year is filled with profitable, large productions of TV anime.
But, it was called limited animation for a reason.
Tezuka was able to fund weekly episodes of his series because he cut corners with the
production.
He used his skills to create a series that would be both look good and not strain the
studio.
Over the following years, other studios continued with this system and it became the standard.
But that was about to change.
In this video, I want to look at the wave of creators who came after the advent of limited
animation and who tried to blur the lines between high quality animation and profitability.
Creating projects that would shape the entire medium.
And when talking about this evolution of anime after Astro Boy, science fiction shows are
usually cited as the most important over other genres.
Shows like Space Battleship Yamato were massively popular at this point which progressed into
the colossal Mecha boom in the late 70s and early 80s.
And it’s easy to get the impression that Science fiction anime for a young male audience
was the only the important genre of the time, which just isn't true.
Massive chunks of the industry were aimed at completely different audiences.
Zuiyo Eizo were a studio at the forefront of one of those markets.
They started the 70s doing contracted work for other studios and went on to produce a
number of popular shows during the first half of the decade.
It’s where individuals like Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Yoshiyuki Tomino got their
start.
And they would be crucial in a very important artistic movement.
The studio began production on the series Heidi, Girl of the Alps, taking inspiration
from early magic girl shows like Sally the Witch.
These shows targeted a young female audience instead, which usually means it gets discredited
as females didn’t buy robot toys to fund their anime.
But In truth they did, just in the form of different merchandising like toy wands.
This sector of the market was massively important and not mentioned as much as it should be.
The production of Heidi was a hectic one, Miyazaki has noted many times in the past
that Heidi was a far more intricate production to most other TV anime at the time.
Some episode having as much as 8,000 cels of animation, considerably more than most
TV anime.
It was also possibly one of the first productions since Astro Boy were critical reception was
put on a higher pedestal than financial gain.
The creators wanted to make a kids series that was authentic and timeless.
The team went the extra mile to make sure Heidi was fully realised, even making trips
to Europe for research.
Heidi was completed and to an extremely high standard.
Miyazaki even discusses how the bar was set to a dangerous high as most other studios
wouldn’t be able to match it.
Although, Heidi wasn’t a financial success, it wasn’t a disaster but this level of production
didn’t become the standard.
What’s important is Heidi’s reach and critical success.
The series was dubbed and spread across the globe, reaching audiences that wouldn’t
have even heard about anime before.
And it proved that there was a market for shows that weren’t action oriented.
And Heidi achieves a magnificent look, with gorgeous painted backgrounds and animation
that was far more intricate than most other TV anime at the time.
What’s impressive I think is how well the complex animation blends with the static portions
of the show.
Moving objects in the world don’t stick out like a sore thumb and animation seems
very natural.
Where Heidi excels most above its competition is in its character animation.
The way facial expressions and body movement is presented here is magnificent.
What was also important about Heidi, and the shows that followed was that it established
a new timeslot in anime.
It actually ran alongside Yamato, you would think that ratings would drop because of this
but they actually both held very high ratings.
Meaning there were two large, different audiences watching TV anime now.
One interested in Science fiction and one more interested in drama.
One theory is that sons would watch Yamato with their fathers and daughters would watch
Heidi with their mothers.
Heidi had created a whole new sector of the medium: now known as ‘Masterpiece anime’.
The idea of adapting classic works of literature into anime to tell compelling stories hadn’t
really been done before.
And this was really changing how creators approached anime, suddenly they could create
stories that didn’t necessarily rely on fight scenes or space battles, they could
put their resources into subtle character animation and melodrama and actually find
a market.
The Success of Heidi would prove to be extremely valuable.
Zuiyo Eizo transformed into Nippon Animation in 1975, bring along its key staff members
and gained a lucrative sponsorship deal from the drink Calpis to start the ‘World Masterpiece
Theater’ series.
The goal was to adapt a classic piece of literature into anime every year, and from this spawned
some of the medium’s most polished and tightly written shows.
The first two years were instant classics with Dog of Flanders in 1975 and 3000 Leagues
in Search for Mother in 1976.
These shows repeated the critical success of Heidi and found their way overseas.
Dog of Flanders continues the style that Heidi established, fantastically atmospheric backgrounds
with simple but evocative character designs.
What’s incredibly powerful about the series was how sad it was.
The infamous ending really moved me when I watched it, i can only imagine how powerful
it would of been to a child.
Even the town in which is takes places has a slight melancholic feel to it.
For a show aimed at kids, this was very different, and it becomes one of defining qualities of
World Masterpiece Theater.
The following years had no title sponsor but were equally packed to the brim with classics
like Akage no Anne and Swiss Family Robinson.
Akage no Anne, I think can be seen as a peak of the World Masterpiece Theater series, it’s
the perfect execution of subtlety and story progression.
From an animation standpoint aswell Akage no Anne really excels, especially in its more
surreal scenes where Ann’s imagination leaks into the reality of the story.
I’ve seen very few other series that have created a world and story that so successfully
feels real and dynamic.
World Masterpiece Theater carried on until the late 90s where after 23 seasons, it was
unfortunately cancelled.
Sadly, the younger market were more interested in the new wave of battle shounen anime and
World Masterpiece Theater got pushed off the TV.
It returned shortly in 2007 but only for a few years.
What was is astonishing I think about World Masterpiece Theater is how long it ran and
how prosperous it was.
Even just a handful of these titles would be a complete gift, but to have so many over
the years, developing so much talent within the industry, i think we’re very lucky.
These aren’t shows that would've been easy to fund, and the creators working on them
would've have had to put an enormous amount of effort and time in.
The level of meticulous animation and storytelling isn't something that can just be produced
on a normal timetable.
Creators sacrificed years of their life making these shows so that the medium could have
something more impactful and children could have a greater range of messages to take away
from anime.
These shows are crucial for how diverse anime is today, who knows if these other demographics
would even exist without World Masterpiece Theater.
Especially when looking at studios like Kyoto Animation who thrive off of stories about
subtle character moments, would they exist without shows like Akage no Anne?
I really don't think so.
And who knows if the individuals involved in World Masterpiece Theater would of been
able to flourish without it.
Surely Takahata and Miyazaki would find it hard to develop the skills that made Studio
Ghibli so unique on more mainstream projects.
Even creators that didn’t necessarily develop into the same style still had their starts
here.
Toyoo Ashida for example went on to design some of anime’s most iconic character designs
or Yoshiyuki Tomino who went on to change anime completely when he created the Gundam
series.
World Masterpiece Theater was crucial in the diversification of anime.
Without these shows and the broader market they targeted, anime would have been a drastically
different landscape.
Like I mentioned, studios like Kyoto Animation create shows that are a product of World Masterpiece
Theater and i’m sure many of the staff grew up watching them.
It is unfortunate that very few people have watched the World Masterpiece Theater classic,
they’re not easy to get a hold of as DVD releases of them were rare and streaming sites
wouldn’t go near them due to their lack of loud shouty protagonists.
They’ve become a kind of lost relic in the community.
But i’m not surprised.
Most anime fans don’t want to sit through 50 episodes of slow meticulous story development.
We’re in a world of instantly available episodes and 7 second clips of Sakuga.
But I think its important that people know the influence of shows like World Masterpiece
Theater and respect the individuals who created the medium we all love today.
And I hope this video has done just that, given you a good enough understanding of these
shows to appreciate their influence.
And a lot of my videos recently have been focused on spotlighting various aspects of
anime to hopefully create a greater general appreciation of the medium.
So make sure you’re subscribed and following me on social media to keep an eye out for
future projects.
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那些動畫名作的誕生 (The Masterpieces That Shaped Anime)

101 分類 收藏
二百五 發佈於 2019 年 9 月 11 日
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