Saturday, January 17, 2009

Eve no Jikan, Episodes 01-03

Japanese animation is all too often an emotionally and intellectually shallow subset of a medium. If an anime series features young girls in contrived, tragic situations, why it must be very deep -- ask any otaku who seeks out tragedy porn that isn't far removed from daytime soap operas, save for the characters' ages. And for depth? Who needs actual examination of socially and philosophically relevent themes (any of the four yoshitoshi ABe anime or Satoshi Kon's works) when all you apparently need is a love of pastiche and superficial real-world references (Ergo Proxy, Boogiepop Phantom, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence).

In this industry of melodrama and allusions, it makes it all the more satisfying when works like Yasuhiro Yoshiura's Eve no Jikan (Time of Eve) are created.

To give a brief background: Yoshiura's first foray into anime was Mizu no Kotoba (Aquatic Language). It's a quirky nine-minute short, charming in its rough artistry and decidedly different sense of humor. This was followed by an extremely ambitious work, Pale Cocoon, which remains as the best short film that I've ever seen. Aside from an interestingly subverted cyberpunk setting and gorgeous visuals, it features satisfyingly sharp commentary on heritage and knowledge. The film is is suitably moody; while not dark as is common with these type of stories, it definitely leaves a fair bit of time for introspection, in spite of the quick editing.

It only makes sense, then, that Yoshiura follows such a weighty piece with a story that is the tonal opposite, though not lacking any of the intelligence.

The premise and concepts are hardly originally, as has been pointed out with snide remarks by science fiction readers. Yet Eve no Jikan still succeeds because of the frank, playful nature of Yoshiura's storytelling. From wink-turned-stars to thought bubbles to fast-paced sequences of overlapping dialogue to the most convincing "camera illusion" in anime, it's hard not to view the series as straightforward fun. This lightning-fast writing and wit is complimented by a simple structure of introducing and fleshing out new characters -- be they human or not -- and ideas, all in the span of 15 minutes.

In fact, the short runtime of each installment is the only major mark against it, really: the production team is the same for each episode so as to maintain visual consistency (which is well worth the effort). This emphasis on detail means a long wait between releases, with the first episode of the "second season," episode four, set to come out in April.

If there is any sort of justice in this world, then the North American anime fandom will at last catch on to Yoshiura's underappreciated genius. Eve no Jikan is accessible and entertaining enough to do just that.


  1. Tragedy porn. Awesome. Joe once called it "emotional voyeurism." Glad I'm not the only one who thinks it has that vibe to it.
    Yoshiura's managed to remain largely off my radar; I think I had him mixed up with Makoto Shinkai, and since every word of praise I hear about that perversely convinces me I'll despise his stuff, I kind of avoided.
    Sounds like I need to correct that.
    And probably work up a rant on how Boogiepop Phantom is a bastardization of the franchise.

  2. Pale Cocoon - Austere; definitely saw an ABe and company influence, but there was a hidden warmth to it that sort of played against it, and that song - which I would normally have despised - worked really well in context, after 15 minutes of clinical sterility on the soundtrack.

    Mizu no Kotoba - Man, every film student wants to come out with a stunt reel like this. Totally awesome.

    Eve no Jikan 1 - Definitely felt really different to me. Playing the theme on more levels than I expected, even after watching his earlier stuff. I spent the first minute or so kind of wishing he'd stuck with the more distinctive art style from Mizu no Kotoba, but I forgot that pretty quickly; stopped seeing them as designs, but as people, I guess. The other two episodes will have to wait till morning, sadly, but this is clearly shit I should have watched ages ago.

  3. I love Pale Cocoon but I forgot what it was called about half an hour after watching it, and somehow I never got around to searching it out again. I'll definitely check this out. The most inventive stuff I've seen is in shorts but I don't follow anime closely enough - mostly due to the overabundance of shit; I'm feeling a kind of catch-22 here? - to find out about them until some time after the fact.

    Also liking "tragedy porn", if only because I called it the exact same thing once. It's kinda creepy, and not just the "emotional voyeurism" - its also the emotional manipulation. Most of the time it's not so much emotionally involving and sad as blatantly signposted "THIS IS WHERE YOU CRY", and, lo and behold, a million otaku cry tears of grief and declare it the most meaningful show they've ever seen. Watching some on a recommendation made me feel dirty (and like I should find some better friends).

    I guess that was more about tragedy porn than Eve no Jikan. Sorry.

  4. What's the status of the legal availability in America? Crunchy?

  5. @Andrew: "Emotional voyeurism" -- I'll have to steal that.

    The amusing thing about a Yoshiura and Shinkai comparison is that the former has been influenced by the latter to some small degree. Aside from being a one-man work force to create his own anime shorts, there's also certain stylistic bits that are too similar to be coincidental.

    Thankfully, though, Yoshiura doesn't share Shinkai's admiration for repetitive symbolism and sentimentality, and opts for subversion of sci-fi tropes and concepts entirely new to anime. Glad to have another fan on board.

    @774: Creativity in anime has been traditionally reserved for OVAs and film, though that's been changing over recent years -- you can think Evangelion for that. Hell, 2007 delivered a lot of wholly unique and arguably visionary works; Mononoke (not the Miyazaki film) in particular represents a near-perfect marriage of accessibility and experimentalism in visuals, writing and direction.

    What you're also talking about seems paradoxical to me. Entertainment is defined by escapism, and moe-inducing anime even moreso; that makes it all the more bizarre when a series comes along that tries to wring out some sort of contrived pathos that has no real-world attachment. They want viewers to obviously cry over these poor, angelic abstractions of female purity, but I'm continually stuck at the stage of trying to come to grips with the premise of the situation itself.

    @ザイツェヴ: Only available on crunchyroll currently, yeah. Doesn't bode well for a North American license -- not that the current economic climate helps much, either -- but it's not as though my expectations haven't been off before.

  6. Eve 2 and 3 - Definitely can't get the next bit out fast enough.
    One thing I picked up on here that I'm not sure I managed in the first episode is how much of it seems to have grown out of Mizu no Kotoba - particularly the quick camera shifts up and down the length of the long, narrow shop.

  7. Yasuhiro Yoshiura does indeed seem to be somebody to watch out for, but speaking for myself my interest in his works stems primarily from comparisons made between his work and Shinkai's.

    As for the points you bring up extraneous to Yoshiura's works, we'll have to agree to disagree.