18 July 2012

The Lily and Andresh Project.

Since joining Deviant Art I've been actively searching out artists to commission work that features the two lead characters of my book, The Name and the Key.

I've named this mission The Lily and Andresh Project,  because I'd like this to be an ongoing partnership between myself and artists, where we help each other out and show off each others' work.

The first artist to do wonderful things to Lily and Andresh was Molly Carlson of MMC Illustrations. She's also on Deviant Art, under the username RyouGirl.

I commissioned a full-color, full-body, plain background of the characters, and she did a beautiful job with it:

I love all of it--she did so well with both characters, but I have to give a special shout-out to how well she did with Andresh's coat.

Now that I've got one commission out of the way, I've settled on another artist: Juhaihai. She is also doing a full-color, full-body composition with a blank background, but her art will be digital (although she's giving me a 300dpi copy so I may print it). This will probably take about two months or so, and I've given her a lot more information to work with along with a similar request I have to Molly: "Make it better, make it your own." And when I say I gave her a lot more to work with, I did. Maybe I went overboard...but I think (I hope) this gives her more freedom to do some original things with the characters--an interactive pose, or maybe even Andresh doing some magic.

I gave Juhaihai my own artwork as references, plus Molly's art, and then these new pieces I created for Deviant Art (shout out to Fox Orian for making this meme)!:

Image (cc) by KEB

Whenever I picture Lily, I picture a composite of these images, although the first three boxes on the left are the closest real-life images to her I could find.  All the other photos illustrate aspects of her appearance. The next two rows are how I see her if she was illustrated--they feature different artistic styles, East and West. In the penultimate row, there is a little box that focuses solely on the inspiration for Lily's scar--a broken mirror, a Lichtenburg figure, and Molly's drawing of the scar. The remaining boxes are full of costume influences for her character.

Image (cc) by KEB

Andresh's character sheet is of a similar vein to Lily's. Although it was harder finding people who could double as Andresh in real life. Like Lily's, the first three boxes on the left are the closest to real life I could find. The rest of the photos are kind of all over the place; they depict single features or aspects of his appearance, not necessarily the whole person. I think everyone on his sheet is famous enough for you to guess, except the last portrait photo. That is El Gitano--he is a Spanish gypsy, and was featured on the cover of the book by the same name. The Romani had to be represented on this chart somewhere, because Andresh is, in fact, Roma. The next rows feature anime/manga influences, but when you get to the second row of anime artwork, you see that things start to get a little more...supernatural. I've not kept this hidden--Andresh is possessed for a good chunk of the book. So the last three images are demon influences, and the last two rows are costume influences.

Every time I note an artist with a commission request, I now have plenty of info to give to them as references!

I'm excited to see what everyone comes up with, and of course I'll keep you posted on the status of the artwork, as well as any other new character commissions. 

06 July 2012

The Epic Anime Watchlist Begins

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-----------------------------Note: This article dates from 2012, and I've watched tons of anime since this posting! I've established a special ratings system for what I've seen; and I've asked several VAs what they would like me to watch (and so they have their own special list)! For the latest up-to-date watchlist, check it out here.

The neatest thing about openly admitting you haven't seen a lot of anime is that it invites all sorts of knowledgeable people to recommend series to you.

Here's my brand-new Epic Anime Watchlist, and I plan to conquer it whenever free time allows it:

  • Samantha Halloway told me to watch Inuyasha, Cowboy Bebop, The Big O, Trigun,  RahXephon, and Chobits
  • Drew Brigner recommended Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL, and Casshern Sins, as well as the anime-styled series Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra
  • Anne Packrat suggested Cowboy Bebop, Pumpkin Scissors, Scrapped Princess, and Escaflowne 
  • Shishtastic suggested History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi
  • Serena Stokes recommended Samurai Seven, Peacemaker Kurogane, Kyou Kara Maou!, and X/1999 
  • A random student at Seton Hill University advised me to check out Death Note and Bleach
  • My sister received random anime from work and "gifted" some of it to me to watch; now I can add Deadman Wonderland to the list
  • Vic Mignogna recommended Ouran High School Host Club when I asked him what I should watch after Fullmetal Alchemist 
That should keep me busy for a while, but not really, because finishing my book is supposed to be keeping me busy for a while. Which is why I'm going to tackle this list in small doses. I feel like once I get through all of these series, though, I'll actually know enough about anime to not feel like I'm in the dark about it anymore. Or like an outsider.

As a point of comparison, here's how much anime I've watched in my lifetime. And by lifetime, I mean exactly that--spanning almost thirty years, at all ages and points in my life.  And as I review my history of watching anime with you, I've realized that I've seen a lot more of it than I originally thought. Whoops.

Time for a nostalgia trip!  

For early childhood (the 1980s): This was substantial enough that I gave it its own special post: My History of Japanese Anime: The Early Years, featuring works like Unico, Little Women, Sea Prince and Fire Child, etc. 

  • Sailor Moon
  • Dragon Ball Z  
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
  • Pokémon (original series)
Confession time: I barely watched anything during this period in my life, and I was very, very judgmental of what I did see. I guess it was part of the joys of being a preteen and teenager, saying things like, "Omigod, that looks stupid" about everything, without giving it a real chance. Anyway, here's the truth behind this watch list, and insight into how I felt about these series at the time:

Sailor Moon (1996): Watched maybe two episodes total. Thought it was stupid. Especially the name Tuxedo Mask. Hated it and quit watching it almost immediately.

Dragon Ball Z (1998): Familiar with this show only through its advertising campaign on Cartoon Network. Never viewed any episodes, but friends talked about it all the time.  I hated the animation style. Thought it looked stupid. Refused to watch it.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (2000): Familiar with this show only through its advertising. Never actually watched it. I was interested in it, but I thought it looked too complicated so I didn't even bother with it. But the Toonami promos for it back in the day were exciting enough to get me curious about it.

Pokémon: Ok, I'm embarrassed about this. Embarrassed about it enough to have blocked it from my memory until I made this list. BUT! I actually watched episodes of this almost regularly for about a year. I know we had Pokemon-related video games (we were never into the card game), but I started watching the series because the animals were so freaking adorable. And I wasn't alone in watching this; my sibs sat through episodes, too. The series was so all over the place that we enjoyed it, got really into it, then started making fun of it, then stopped watching it because it got on our nerves.

I will say, though, at one point I had Team Rocket's spiel memorized and I could do Jessie's voice pretty well. Me and a school friend, James (really--James! So guess which part he played)-- we would get up and just perform the thing all the time, even doing the poses--especially when we had drama class together. Because drama kids accept geekiness of all kinds. Ohhhh yeah!

  • Spirited Away
  • Princess Mononoke
  • Howl's Moving Castle

Princess Mononoke (1999) will always be my favorite Miyazaki film and probably one of my favorite animes overall. Love this movie. 

After I graduated from college, I didn't watch any other anime...for about five or six years. And then:
  • Ponyo 
Which I hated. Hate, hate, hated. Thought it was annoying (especially the lead character), so I couldn't get into it at all. Which was disappointing because it was well-reviewed, but nonetheless, I couldn't stand the movie. I think at that point I thought I was done with anime altogether and didn't really care to watch any more.

And then I joined Netflix, where I had an enormous library of things at my fingertips. As I sorted through things to add to my cue, I found Fullmetal Alchemist there. Someone I dated at the time told me about the series and highly recommended it. After we broke up, I still remembered the plot summary he gave to me, and how much he loved the show, so I decided to check it out. 

I made the mistake of starting with The Conqueror of Shamballa. For some dumb reason, I thought FMA was a movie first and then a spin-off series. I was so confused by the film that I stopped watching right about when the gypsies started singing:

Instead of enjoying the scene, I was like, "WTF? Ok, I'm done."

Then Summer of 2011 (about a year after the failed first-attempt to get into FMA) I found the actual series for streaming. And the rest is history, as I've chronicled repeatedly over the course of this blog.

FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST is my saving grace for anime. If I hadn't watched it, I really, really don't think I would've been willing to view anime on the whole, like ever again. 

Edward Elric, anime savior.
(Image Source)
So, since the SUMMER of 2011, I've now seen:
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  • Casshern Sins I only made it to episode 7-"The Woman of the Tall Tower" before I got bored with the series and quit. 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • Metropolis
  • Tales from Earthsea
  • Spice and Wolf  - I only watched the first season...didn't realize there was more! 
  • Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike
  • Origin: Spirits of the Past
  • D.-Gray Man I made it to episode 31- "Lost Miranda" before I got bored with the series and quit. 
  • Ouran High School Host Club I started watching this almost right after Colossal Con. I left off at episode 20-"The Door the Twins Opened." I will still watch this show, but almost gave up on it completely at episode 8- "The Sun, the Sea, and the Host Club," because some of the logic in that episode really pissed me off. But the series got subsequently funnier and sweeter with each episode after it, so I think I'll be able to make it through the rest of them, meaning it may be the only non-FMA program I've been able to complete so far.
Unfortunately, most of what I've seen has disappointed me or annoyed me, and the majority of it has to do with the storytelling choices the series has made. So in a way, you could say that I actually dislike most anime that I've seen, and that would be correct.

Out of everything on the list, I love FMA, FMAB, and Princess Mononoke. That's it.  I am okay/contented with maybe four other series, and then I can say without qualm that I actually hate everything else I've watched. Which makes me feel kinda crappy, because lots of people love what I dislike or couldn't get into.

My all-time favorite anime film!!!
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I know that sounds very negative...but to be honest, I can say the same thing about the genres in which I write. I write fantasy, and I write horror. I love very few fantasy and horror novels, (I'll even say films, too) and I hate pretty much everything else that's out there.

When fantasy and horror works, I love it more than anything I've seen or read, and will love it for ages. But when it fails, to me, it fails spectacularly.  So that's exactly how I feel about anime...

I'm hoping that, with the help of everyone else's anime recommendations, I'll find another series that I truly love, because I would like to keep enjoying anime. But if not, no worries, because at the very least I've find three really good things that I'll cherish forever. 

I'd just like to expand that list of cherished anime...and I'll let you know how it goes. I've got a lot of catching up to do!