Double-J 1 – first impression (two double perspectives on traditional arts)
June 30, 2011
The first anime of Summer 2011 is out, although it is not a major one. I present to you, Double-J, a comedy series about high school students in a Traditional Arts Preservation Club. This is one of those very short (4 minute long episodes) Flash-based anime that have been growing in number. I’m going to give some pros and cons as I see them. In short, it had some clever ideas, and good voice acting, but poor visual production.
The concept itself is interesting. Comedies set in school clubs are, of course common, but the topic of traditional Japanese arts is interesting. You can already see that the show has a fresh (somewhat silly) take on the traditional arts by avoiding more obvious (and glamorous) arts, such as ceramics, in favor of rain gutters and tooth picks.
In addition the show put a clever spin on the subject by using two double perspectives. Art, in general, has two identities, an inside identity (roughly the creator), and an outside identity (a non-creator appreciating the finished work). In a brief 4 minutes, Double-J not only presents both the inside and outside views on traditional arts, it also presents each view from two perspectives. The outside view is embodied by Hajime and Sayo, two new students who have just learned about the club. Hajime represents a Romanticized view of the traditional arts, while her friend Sayo has a more cynical view, for example she views the students in the club as condescending. The inside view are the various members of the club, to whom we have barely been introduced, but already we have seen the (very Japanese, very conservative) view that the arts are performed (as they always have been) by the descendants of artisan families (whether they like it or not). The other inside view, here represented by the club president, Ichirou is that revering the arts as an unchanging tradition is causing a decline in their practice and appreciation. This tension within the inside view is referred to in the episode title, “Tradition or Alive?”. These are all reasonable positions; it is the context of toothpicks and rain gutters that make the arguments seem over the top, and, thus, humorous.
The artwork is poor. Compare Ichirou and Ema in the screen shots above. They don’t look like they are in the same show. Neither design is awful, sort of uninspired, but I could imagine them working … in different shows. Also, there is a real laziness in the approach to the artwork. The background art is all reference photographs. Normally one uses a reference photograph as a REFERENCE and draws something based on it. But what is worse is that there are cheap and available technological tricks one can do to process an image by computer in a moment to derive an image based on the photograph that looks like someone drew or painted it. There are even special filters to process a video stream (essentially a sequence of photographs) to give it the look of cell shading.
The poor visual production is really a shame, first, because the subject of traditional Japanese arts can make use of higher quality art, and second, because the voice actors are pretty decent. We have Chiaki Omigawa, Ayana Taketatsu, Noboyuki Hiyama (and Yu Kobayashi in an upcoming role). Also, as mentioned by Psgel in his mini-review, the ED features some interesting artwork, as you can see below.
So, should you watch it? I probably will check out future episodes, but I’m not expecting this to be a great series. The four minute length of episodes is very constraining. I don’t expect them to do much more than tell a couple of jokes each time, and the artwork was very weak. On the other hand, the ideas in this episode were pretty clever, and I like the arts, so I think I can get something out of the four minute investment. YMMV.