Cinematography: The Art of Anime

For decades, motion picture has been able to captivate its viewers in many ways. Color scheme, camera angles, character positions, character design, lighting, contrast, and movement, all make up cinematography. What that is is the art that motion picture utilizes to portray a deeper meaning to what you see on screen, without the use of words or narration, only using visual stimuli. What novels and books have over motion picture is the vast detail they can put into what makes up a single shot you may see in a video. Conversely, motion picture uses cinematography to portray deep meaning in ways the a novel could not otherwise tell. Over the years that anime has grown, many directors have been using this technique to make their series more creative and distinguished.

Symbols are very powerful tools that a director of photography can use in motion picture. They carry more than one meaning, and that number can be from any number from two to two-hundred (that’s a little outlandish though). However many things a single symbol can represent, it makes for very flexible use. Important uses with symbols is camera angling, positioning, and setting. Placing one in an aptly designed setting tells multiple stories, one of what it is literally, and one of what it represents; for example, a king chess piece. Without being direct, and without words even, you’re able to tell pages worth of detail and information.

Amongst characters, cinematography can define personality, charisma, feelings behind their actions, and even their thoughts. Placement and camera are integral for portraying characters well in motion picture. Height differences, distance, and perspective can carry dozens of different meanings. It may define a character’s ranking towards another character, for example, how highly or low someone thinks of another. Or it might not even consider characters’ feelings, and may just be what they truly are. Even simpler than that, it may just be used to reflect a characters’ feelings towards what is around them. A gloomier or more dull tone gives off a negative and bland emotion, while the more vibrant something may be, the more poignant the emotion, whatever it may be.

Sometimes, a director only has to be creative, in an artistic sense. Sure, cinematography is at its best when it carries significance for the viewer to decipher. But sometimes, it just works when it’s something nice to look at. This is where colors and lighting take the stage. Mixing colors is the most common thing to do when being creative. Above is Akiyuki Shinbo’s use of the three primary colors which sharply conflict each other. It doesn’t particularly mean anything significant, and it doesn’t have to be. It just has to look good.

Cinematography plays a large part in motion picture, whether it’s animated or not, but in the case of Japanese anime, it has amazed its viewers in many ways for many years. It does what novels can’t, and does it with style. It’s important to understand what you’re seeing to be able to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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About Suda
Video games and anime reviews.

4 Responses to Cinematography: The Art of Anime

  1. lerxst2112 says:

    Clannad and Shaft in a Gabe post?

    NOOOOOOOOOOO, IT CAN’T BE TRUE!!!

  2. catchercatch says:

    Another anime fan that talks about cinematography! I like you, sir!

  3. tanukininja says:

    I think Shaft is a great prime example of Cinematography; Shaft uses a lot of great techniques when it comes animation. Their angles, shots and setting convey great scenes and speak a 1000 words.

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