Anime. What does that term mean to you? Well, if you’re reading this, probably nothing, so I’ll actually give you a proper definition in addition to my usual bunch of confusing similes and pop-culture references from the 80s.
“Anime” is a hand-drawn or computer-animated production that follows a characteristic style. Well, that’s the broadest definition I could get. Apparently, it means different things depending on what country you’re in. The Japanese use it as a blanket term for animation of any type, from anywhere, while most outside of Japan use it to specifically denote animation that came from – or took its style from – Japan. Odd, isn’t it?
Anime is usually based on manga (comics, basically. They read right-to-left), and, just like western stuff, there are many different genres and styles. Though they use some different terms than we do.
For instance, “Shonen” and “Shoujo.” Don’t try to pronounce them, you’ll probably get it wrong, and trying to understand phonetic lettering is like being dyslexic and reading Swahili upside-down. “Shonen” literally means “boy” and so in the context of manga and anime it means “boy’s comic.” Shonen manga feature lots of action and all that cool stuff.
Now, Shoujo is pretty much the opposite. Those are girls’ comics, and so are usually the equivalent of those novels where a ship sinks off the coast of an unknown tropical island and the only survivors are the female protagonist and a tall, dark, attractive stranger. Well, maybe about five different but equally boring attractive strangers. Of course, both of those descriptions are as general as can possibly be, and so don’t always apply. Dig into history further and I’m sure you’ll find something that will surprise you (though possibly not in a positive way).
While art styles have evolved and differed very much since the beginnings of the medium, key features remain: large eyes, simple facial structures allowing for good expression of emotion, etc. Oh, and crazy hair. Like, lovechild of Lady Gaga, Billy Idol and a troll doll crazy, with a large jug of hair gel thrown in. The kind of hair that would be confiscated by the TSA along with your silverware collection as “a possible knife or other sharp, dangerous implement.”
As you can expect from such a popular visual medium, anime has become a style of drawing that many kids want to learn. Amy Surina was one such kid.
“I’ve drawn my whole life,” she said. “I started drawing manga-style about five years ago, in grade seven. I was self-taught.” Now on the verge of going off to college, she can draw such things as hydrocephalic bobbleheads—er, I mean, chibis, with the best of them. Perhaps not wishing the younger members of Nakusp to have to go through what I can only guess is a large amount of trial and error, she and her friendly wizard at special effects makeup Morgan Leontowicz helped a gaggle of kids take their first steps to being the savants of the future.
Amy started off teaching us (well, everyone except me—my margin doodles make ancient stick figures look like the Mona Lisa) how to draw the aforementioned chibis. “Chibis” are basically super-deformed versions of regular anime characters—somewhat like western newspaper comic strips. They’re usually short and simple, with big heads and tiny bodies. Their noses are either practically or literally nonexistent. Such features make them ideal for people starting out –a large range of expression can be achieved with few changes. Eyes, hair and posture swaps can create virtually limitless combinations. Even my mom got in on the act! Though, she did misspell chibi as “chibby” which seems kind of like what you’d call a fat baby bird.
Morgan arrived late due to unexplained reasons (I’m gonna go with giant space monsters clogging up the highway), but did not disappoint. She’s an expert on makeup and visual effects, and it showed. Wielding a makeup kit of the perfect size and heft for bashing a crook’s skull in, she whipped up a skull design worthy of Skeletor himself (I mean, that guy can’t ACTUALLY be a skeleton. He has Hulk Hogan biceps). She even had with her a werewolf mask that reminded me of “An American Werewolf in London”–a movie that serves as a reminder to how potent visual effects can be. I challenge you to find a CGI transformation as well done as the good ol’-fashioned one in that movie. Maybe if you see a movie 10 years in the future, she might be the one behind whatever monstre-du-jour is on screen.
When all was drawn, slathered in makeup and $100 markers and done, everybody had fun. Amy and Morgan got to show off their skills in art and in dealing with kids, I got to make snide comments about Pokemon, and a few of Nakusp’s youngest generation got to do something interesting for an hour or so.