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I have an irrational hatred of taste elitism. I realize that it’s probably unfair, but when I see people heaping scorn on things like K-On!! or So-Ra-No-Wo-To and then turning around to hump anything Shinbo directs, it starts to get to me. To me, it’s the same as the rabid Wes Anderson fans to spooge all over his work, and blast other people’s taste in movies. It’s not constructive, and actually smacks more of a desire to have your taste respected than of actually having an opinion and standing behind it.
But that’s neither here nor there. Currently, I’m watching two SHAFT anime and enjoying both. Since Bakemonogatari caused mixed feelings in me (I didn’t QUITE get it), and I never got into Dance in the Vampire Bund, I had mixed feelings about jump cuts for their own sake. Shinbo’s anime are so obvious in their directorial style, it’s sometimes hard to separate them from the source material. But of course, I’ve been looking at the whole thing wrong: Shinbo is Quentin Tarantino, but doesn’t have the luxury of getting original material with which to work.
As such, Shinbo shines best when the source material matches his aesthetic. Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei works so well with his direction, because the show moves at a mile a minute, jokes bursting from every expression, interaction, and nuanced word. Arakawa, though much slower, shares its random humor and heavily reliance on beautifully constructed sight gags with SZS. Hidamari Sketch also benefits from excellent symbiosis. Between Shinbo using the Art school setting as an excuse to juxtapose as many different visual styles into every scene as possible and the 4-koma pacing, he has ample opportunity to display his penchant for disjointed narrative and out-of-left-field visuals. Add to this brilliant sound direction, and you have a hit.
Thanks to these two shows, I think I dodged a bullet. I walked into them with a vague dislike of SHAFT due to its rabid fanbase, but each episode helps me understand a little more of what people see in Shinbo’s work.
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