Tuesday, June 12, 2007

:anime: First Impression:: Sci-Fi Channel's Ani-Monday Block

The Sci-Fi Channel shot off its first salvo at Adult Swim with its Ani-Monday program block--their first foray into anime in over a decade. A hodgepodge of stylized caricatures accompanied a J-Pop-inspired/skewered anthem promoting a rather stereotypical view of Japanese animation (mainly focusing on the violence and "coolness" factors) before going into their premiere feature, the broadcast premiere of Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society. This was very much in the spirit of the promos being shown. Commercial breaks were reasonably placed and lengthened, not interfering with the flow of the movie, and were normally introduced after a quick eyecatch showcasing an aspect of anime (e.g. a clip of the cloaked suspect from early in the original Ghost in the Shell movie shown gyrating his legs in the air in on a "broken record" sort of loop, appearing to looking like a breakdance move, until it shows his ankle getting twisted, leading to a caption reading, "Ani-break"). These were actually more humorous than eyeroll-inducing.

The primary mistake Sci-Fi made in their return to anime broadcasting was their apparent decision to show GITS:SSS in a Pan & Scan format--that is, in a 4:3 standard TV format rather than the 16:9 widescreen viewing ratio the movie was in. A normal practice for many stations showing movies, it not one that is very beneficial for an animated film, as much more of the picture is reliant on the visual aspect than a live-action work. The result led to a number of incidents of characters having parts of their heads (or the whole thing) cropped out of scenes and the movie as a whole having a sort of cramped look to it. Thankfully, this did not hamper the enjoyment of GITS:SSS itself, arguably the better of the three Stand Alone Complex works.

So far, a good return outing by the network in anime. They chose a very good title with name recognition and a big following to kick things off, though it would be for the best in future Ani-Mondays that they lessen its stylings (i.e. the voiceovers and the anime characterizations), which give it a bit of a dated, corny feel, and retain each feature's original screen aspect. Overall, very good, but not yet at the pedigree of Adult Swim. They do have a good line-up in Macross Plus and especially Noein, and possibly the original Ghost in the Shell movie and fan favorite Ninja Scroll (as seen in the promos and eyecatches), so it is at least a start in the right direction.

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