Friday, 19 August 2011

Summer inspiration

Well it's been a good summer, and I have spent most of my time trying to rediscover inspiration from the materials that inspired me to start creating when I was younger.

Of course, looking back on the films and comics I used to love has left me with the realisation that quite a lot of them are childish rubbish - or could be viewed that way. So I decided to get off my high horse and try and find what I enjoyed so much about these works. I could describe things as simple and childish, but some of these things really stuck with me visually and creatively and it would be selling work short to simply ignore it.

So, here is a list of things I have been reading and watching and why I found/find them important and inspirational. If anyone has any similar works or stories, or has similar/opposing views to mine on the works I speak of, please feel free to comment with your feelings on matters.

1 : Appleseed Manga/ Masamune Shirow

I turned 12 in '93 and I don't know about you, but anime and manga simply exploded into mainstream view. My first experience was with the movie 'Akira' which - when I first viewed it - was an absolute revelation in what could be done with animation. I was too young to view it, and several scenes made me uncomfortable watching, but it got me looking at a an art style I had never heard of or experienced (I read comics and watched cartoons, the comics pretty much being 2000AD and it's spin off publications - I'm not sure if the Megazine existed then)

By my late teens I had pretty much grown out of my Anime=Genius! phase. As I had explored more and more it seemed that Akira and others were pretty much the only greats amongs a sea of exploitative trash. I started to resent anime and it's fans, thinking I was cleverer than they for I had seen through the sham of 'Art' to see it was just an excuse for big eyes, big boobs and lots of gore. As such works that had initially inspired me to draw and create were forgotten or tarred with the same brush.

If he knew how many had turned their back on what they truly enjoyed because of peer pressure and the laughable attempts at maturity it causes, he certainly would be!
This brings me roundabout to Appleseed which is a comic I initially dicovered at about 13-14 thanks to a British publication called Manga Mania- Published by the video company who were responsible for bringing the animated works over here as well.

I read science fiction primarily in high school, with Lord of the Rings and Terry Pratchett's Discworld being my only other loved books (He's not going to be reading this, but I'd like to give a shout out to my high school librarian, Mr Strang, who saw me struggling with a copy of 2001 and quite rightly realised I had seen the film and wanted to learn more abouit sci-fi, but was being put off by one of the densest books I have ever read. He came to speak to me, showed me the entire sci fi collection they had, where to find more, took 2001 away from me and gave me the first book in Asimov's Foundation. Thank you Mr Strang, that book started a life-time obsession with science, fiction and the art that can be used to describe it. I'm only sad that I never learned your first name or thanked you properly while I was in school)
The original artwork for Foundation, By Tim White

Anyway (this is turning into a beast of a post, and it's only the first) my love of the Foundation series and giant robots drew me to Appleseed originally, and the exceptional art got the hook in. By the time I had read the second book (He's only ever wrote 4. Shame) I was in the boat and gutted as a sworn fan.

Appleseed describes the life of two ex-police officers living in a post world war 3 world. In classic manga style, one is a beautiful woman (Deunan), and one is a big robot (Her mentor/friend/lover? Briareos)

They are both contacted by an agent called Hitomi who informs them that the world is rebuilding. The center of this revitalisation is the city of Olympus (There's a ton of Greek references within this work, even Briareos' second name appears to be Hecatoncheires, although this refers at different times to his model number or name)

Olympus city is a vast utopia with one creepy difference. 88% of the people are genetically engineered clones of humans called 'Bioroids', genetically programmed to obey the law and work for the city. People brought to Olympus (The plan is to slowly rehabilitate them into society) start destroying, seeing the lack of true freedoms the bioroids have. It eventually starts to speak on William Gibson's utopia thoughts: Without perfect people, you cannot have a perfect society - without a perfect society, you cannot have perfect people.

Storyline wise it is a classic, with book 2 being the high point in my opinion (I feel it tries too much in books 3 + 4 and becomes confusing and unweildy)

Artistically it was a revelation to me, causing me to take art as a standard grade in high school (I didn't do very well) and technical drawing as a side module - I enjoyed this far more. Art class seemed to be too 'loose' for what I wanted. I still have a drawing board for doing 2 and 3 point measured persective, despite the fact that a computer can do it in less than a second.

Recently, I have repurchased and reread the entire series, and I am saddened that the 'maturity' I tried to display regarding Manga had caused me to completley forget one of my main inspirations for creativity in the first place. Read it if you can - I have only watched the original film in '94 and it completely missed the point, I don't hold out much hope for the recent movie attempts - and be inspired by the only comic I know of that mixes the intelligence of Isacc Asimov (Laws of robotics, zeroth law) with generic manga tropes (Big robots, lots op explosions and blood and big eyed girls that take their clothes off - nothing sexual though, they just go to sauna's and such and sit around naked discussing philosophy. It's like the authour thought: How can I make teenage boys read 3 pages of philisophoical discourse? Naked girls! What a genius) - on a more serious side, re-reading the books made me think of Iain M. Banks' Culture series amongst others in it's treatment of nudity. We're all naked under our clothes and being shocked about it is just another societal barrier.
Not sure on what blogger would allow, so I'm playing safe and blocking out Hitomi's bum. I'm also not getting into the art/manga debate regarding nudity. In short: I am a coward.

In short, find the manga if you can. It's well worth the read and even beats many full novels I have read for depth and breadth of scope. And here is possibly one of the most inspiring images from it. At least, for me - anyone who's read a bit of my tripe will recognise this from my influence map)

Thanks for reading, please share your thoughts if you have any - and if you believe in a god, may he bless you. If you don't believe in a god, may something better than what you expected befall you.

Next Update: The Patlabor movies! Mamoru Oshii's hidden masterpieces.