Ai Mai Mi and Visuals in Current Anime

Christmas has passed and the once New Year is now the current 2013, meaning that we have a whole new year of Anime upon is which is only just beginning (and, you know, one more year toward working to our goals in life, time with friends and family and all that jazz). 2012 ended on a rather positive note as far as Anime is concerned, with the airing of Kokoro Connect’s Michi Random arc and Nekomonogatari Kuro (which technically was aired on New Years eve but was subbed later and watched by me a day or 2 into 2013 itself). Both of which were excellent continuations (well, not Nekomono in a chronological sense) to equally excellent series which I love dearly. Whether it be Kokoro’s wonderful characters and excellent drama or Monogatari’s exceptional dialogue and fantastic visuals, both in my opinion are an excellent example of the power of Anime and Animation in general as an artistic medium, just as much so as the 90’s Batman cartoon or a Miyazaki movie. And while the Monogatari series demonstrates it far more strongly, it is fair to say that the good Anime of today both looks good and has good content. Even the not so great modern day Anime still often looks good. I was not fond of Hanasaku Iroha or Guilty Crown for instance, but I can’t knock their visuals. It’s very rare nowadays that I take any major issue with visuals in Modern Anime. With the advent of HD it’s become par for the course, almost expected to have good visuals. This is pretty critical when it comes to the major character love that is one of the defining characteristics of the Japanese Otaku, the predominant buyers of the product of Anime. So… what happens when a Current Anime can’t even pass that first criteria?

Concerning myself, I always thought of myself as being able to see past outward appearances. I understand that not everything can have the visual impact of SHAFT or the technical details of KyoAni. I know that Animation is costly, and I usually accept the practices of using CG effects/models in 2D or bottlenecking the budget to the more dynamic/high movement scenes. Strike Witches does the former and The iDOLM@STER Anime often does the latter, and I love both shows. I understand and readily accept that certain genres do not need high quality animation to work. I’ve always understood the arguments made by gamers that graphics and sheer specs are not everything, and I do take that to heart being a longtime fan of the Pokemon games along with the fact that all the fighting games I play are sprite based. However, I suppose that having so much access to good looking shows and media has changed my outlook somewhat. Everything Anime-wise nowadays at least looks good. Even poor shows tend to have nice visuals now, and the good shows all around are often just as good or (more often) better when only visuals is concerned. Perhaps our standards, my standards, are being raised even if unconsciously so, and perhaps they are beginning to get in the way of my ability to truly enjoy an Anime and honestly judge it’s merits.

Or perhaps I am just thinking about this far too deeply and should  take Ai Mai Mi exactly as it is, as a mini-show with absolutely horrid and grotesque visuals.
Ai Mai Mi Blog Pic 1

Considering Ai Mai Mi’s Animation and Visuals, it is truly mystifying that Ai Mai Mi is actually made for television broadcast, as it looks bad even for a Net Anime. The bottom of the barrel on newgrounds looks better than this load of spinge cheese. It has been a long time since I have seen Animation this bad and, as already mentioned, it would be bad even for a Web-only Anime. The fact that this show is on TV broadcast is ludicrous in every sense of the word.

However, there is really no deeper meaning to all of it. This is not a case of unreasonable standards rising uncontrollably due to taking HD quality visuals for granted. This show would have looked bad in the 90’s, and it looks worse now. It’s simply a show with bad animation, and should be left at that, so as to move on to bigger and better things. I guess what made me do a mental double take was the fact that Ai Mai Mi is the first show I dropped due to visuals alone. The other things, like the humor itself just not being good or lot being fond of the characters, is overshadowed in my memory by this Anime’s visuals. It is something of a first for me and I suppose I was just concerned about whether my reasoning was overly shallow, even for me. Though I think that I was just over thinking it in this case, and at the end of the day Ai Mai Mi is just a show with bad visuals which didn’t appeal to me, simple as that.

Though as an added twist as to why I found the visuals to be so stinging to me, a friend of mine said in conversation that Moe Anime should be visually pleasing, which I do agree with. While the genres most heavily associated with Moe (SoLs, RomComs, etc.) don’t need highly technical animation to work (although KyoAni shows that it is a very, very great perk) they do need good looking artwork and pleasing visuals to work. Part of the feeling of Moe is aesthetics, whether it be bright colors, youthful looks, charm points like nekomimi, school-mizu or thigh-high socks, or whatever else ignites the passions of the viewer in question. Fanart containing original characters works entirely off the ideas of Moe aesthetics as there is literally nothing else to draw in the viewer and ignite those budding passions so central to what Moe is. Anime is also a visual medium, so the aesthetics Moe is also relied upon by all shows that use Moe elements to some extent, it’s just that Anime also has the benefit of dialogue and voice acting. But before you can get to eliciting Moe through character traits and dialogue, you have to get people on the visuals first. The aesthetics are the hook which will reel in the viewer, everything else deepens the initial connection and makes the viewer stay put. Ai Mai Mi was clearly trying to elicit the feelings of Moe for it’s characters, but it failed on the first step of aesthetics. As such, it put the bike before the wheel and killed any attempts to elicit Moe from me, and probably many other people. What made me the visuals of Ai Mai Mi stand out so much to me was the fact that it is the type of show which needs to be aesthetically pleasing in order to really evoke the desired feelings from the audience, but it was so far from doing so. It failed on the very first step needed to elicit Moe. In the days of yore when Haruhi was new and the concept of Moe just reached the western fanbase, Moe was at times translated as “turn ons.” Well if anything, Ai Mai Mi’s visuals have ensured just the opposite, being turn offs instead.

Though what about the earlier question about raised standards? We have already established that Ai Mai Mi would not apply to this, simply being poorly made instead of a victim of taking quality for granted, but is there anything which actually does apply? Arguably there are a few, but both are shows that I dislike for reasons beyond just lackluster visuals. The examples that come into mind for me are Campione and the still airing Little Busters. Both have animation nowhere near as bad as Ai Mai Mi, so already there is more of a foot to stand on. Little Busters I talked about somewhat in a previous post, being well liked by fans of the VN but being railed upon for it’s lackluster visuals. Even I think they are not so great, and would have looked nice about 4-5 years ago but not in 2013. It is true that ever since Haruhi the visual quality for late-night Anime have risen substantially over the years and have never really dipped since then. Our standards as fans who follow the Japanese broadcast as they come out as also risen, as I think it’s rather impossible not to when even not so great shows have nice visuals. Little Busters was then understandably criticized for looking a little dated and having a level of polish below what is generally expected. However, is this really a new development I wonder? To be honest, I don’t feel that it is. The level of technology in media has shifted many times in the past, and we have now shifted from analog to digital. It is only the most recent technological shift in media, whether it be radio to TV, black and white to color. The shift to digital and HD has given us a new standard of quality which is to be expected. This is not our lack of appreciation for quality, it’s simply a new standard for what quality is, which shifts in almost every field creative of technical. This is not a modern issue, but simply an inevitable change. Also when it comes to the aforementioned shows in particular, it may be true that both have lackluster visuals and animation and I happen to dislike both shows to varying extents. However we are forgetting the problem of content. I may dislike both of these shows with not-so-good visuals, but that’s not the main reason I dislike them. I dislike the characters, the story, the pacing, etc. For both of these shows I have other problems besides some off models, it’s the actual meat of the show. The bad visuals are just one more problem on top of other issues. These too are not victims of having HD being taken for granted, but just being shows with problems with visuals being among them.

Hm, it’s interesting how much one can react to a poor experience even if it was incredibly short. I hope you enjoyed this filler post spontaneous reaction to recent events. How did you feel about Ai Mai Mi? Do you think that the profusion of good visuals is causing us viewers to take them for granted? What do you think of Moe shows needing good aesthetics to work? I hope all 1/2 of you are able to respond and thank you for taking time out to humor my rambling.

From Mahora With Love:
– VillainousHanacha

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