I’ve never seen When Supernatural Battle Becomes Commonplace. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, renown or not. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. The entire show could be utter crap and I wouldn’t care. No matter what, it wouldn’t take away from one scene which I just so happened to stumble across.
I hold this scene in incredibly high regard since it’s so rich in quality on multiple fronts. Most obvious is Saori Hayami’s incredible voice acting in tandem with the script. The way her speaking exponentially increases in speed and pitch is beautiful. Along the way, her voice breaks more and more to accentuate everything. A lot of it goes against what you normally want from voice acting: clear readings which have a natural but not noticeable pause between strings of sentences. For emotional scenes, you can say you want to evoke emotions and to add sobs, gasps, pauses, and whatnot, but nothing I write can express how good Hayami’s execution was. There’s literally nothing I feel the need to critique about it. Actually, I don’t think I can find something to critique about it.
The most amazing part for me is how well this scene can be portrayed between mediums. Remove the audio component (as heretical as that is) and there’s still brilliant ways of translating the weight of the words. For manga, you can increase the size of the type font and purposefully overlap dialogue boxes to serve as borders atop the illustration. This is also a great way VNs can portray outbursts:
It’s a literal wall of dialogue without periods that confuses itself by blending inner monologue to portray the character faithfully. It’s tough to read and hard to follow which is exactly the point if you know anything about Rin (She has difficulties understanding people and best expresses herself through her art).
Here’s another way to portray outbursts and fast talking in VNs: abuse rolling dialogue. It has the same effect as the wall of text except, unless you look at the history, the player is forced to read and comprehend facts quickly lest they miss things (which is fine). I will say though, this should be done cautiously and may be why we haven’t seen it too often. Artificial full stops, half created by how we code dialogue and the other half created by players pausing to take in the info, is precious. It makes players think and can increase the weight of the situation in their minds. Think of it like playing a horror game versus watching a horror movie. The player is forced to move the conversation forward of their own will without external forces compelling them.
The wall of text is a great addition to contemporary novels and stories too. Even before beginning to read the wall, the reader sees a large block which keys them into what’s going on. Bonus points if you leave a leading question at the bottom of the page so that the reader must turn it before seeing the block.
Okay, that’s enough of that educational stuff for now. More breakdown of the original scene-
The directing is rather good as well. This is where the visual medium of anime triumphs over LNs or novels. Quick cuts, close-ups, and dutch and low angles make it so thrilling and confrontive. When we get quick cuts between Hatoko’s face, our eyes are chasing after her desperately. At other times, she takes up most of the screen so that we can’t look away. We even get a great close-up of the mouth where we can see her gritting her teeth in certain frames. Other close-ups are of her hands which are gripped tight and shaking.
Those dutch angles are basically when the camera is skewed and not on a normal plane (eye-level). They’re supposed to create unease since it’s slightly off from our usual perspective and it does. The low-angle is a great addition too since its function is to make the viewer seem small, us having to look up and inversely making everyone else look down on us metaphorically and literally. There’s also a great high-angle shot in this scene that’s at the very end; the only high-angle shot in the scene actually, which was a great way to show detachment.
There are some minor gripes I do have though:
This low-angle is… I don’t know. It feels like it strays oddly into fanservice. And it’s not like they couldn’t make a different low angle shot work. They do exactly that a few seconds later. I don’t think it detracted anything from the scene in my case, but it doesn’t add as much as other low-angles would’ve. Confusing. And that’s not the only confusing thing.
The music and SFX are odd. I love the ambient sound of the pot’s contents boiling and her slam turning off the burner, but why add anything else after? It’s probably the biggest critique I have. There’s absolutely no reason to drown out the VA with somewhat melancholy music. The absence of any sound besides her voice was perfect. I’m especially critical of the “slamming” sound when she discusses Kanji. In fact, there’s no reason to visually represent that either. Look. It’s small in the scope of the scene, but I can say for sure it would’ve been better without it.
They misstep on stuff like that, but then they succeed in amping up the sound for her tear droplets hitting the floor. You win some, you lose some I suppose.
Now, that’s (mostly) everything great about the scene from a cinematography standpoint, but the actual message of the scene is phenomenal-
Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’ve all fallen into the trap that Hatako talks about. Some of the shit we spew as anime fans is ridiculous and we need to realize that. It’s an entirely different culture that people don’t understand unless they’re immersed in it as well. That’s why we need to take the time to explain things, even if we fear sounding stupid.
There’s loads of people who just don’t watch anime and that’s fine. They shouldn’t have to. In fact, for as popular as anime is, I dare say that we’re still the minority and I don’t foresee a change in that. We shouldn’t expect anyone to know anything about it and a good relationship with them shouldn’t be conditional on the fact that they like it too. Don’t get me wrong, anime is a great shared hobby and friends are often made through that mutual passion. Nevertheless, please don’t restrict yourself and most importantly don’t force your opinions on anyone.
Hatoko is a fictional character, but what she stands for in this scene is real. A person who wants to understand, evidenced by her being able to recall all the tropes, cliches, and terminology, only to be ignored and never given the chance to.
This isn’t a critique of anyone in particular. In fact, everyone I know actually supports the spread of anime in a positive way, even if they don’t know it. That’s right, I’m talking about all you anime WordPress bloggers. You aren’t part of the group Hatoko is meant to criticize. When you talk about anime, you talk about its technical components, its themes, its plot structure, the culture around it, the community, etc. By doing that, you open up a hub where people from multiple specialties can come together and appreciate anime as an art form, even if they don’t necessarily watch it regularly. Good on you!