Akiyuki Shinbo, the Irrational Surgeon
January 27, 2009
“[…]the predilection for stringing together unpredictable compositions in a way that some might say distracts from the story but to me enhances it.[…]the locus of excitment in [Shinbo’s] directing is the space between the shots and the compositions.[…]” – Ben at Anipages Daily
Why am I still watching Maria†Holic? Is it the comedy? Kinky premise? The guitar maid? Ever since falling in love with the brilliance that was Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, I always wanted to at some point explore Akiyuki Shinbo‘s visceral style of direction, which definitely carries over to Maria†Holic. So here it is! I first want to go over what Deleuze called “irrational cut”, and hopefully I can relate that to appreciating the genius of Akiyuki Shinbo in a different light. Feel free to skip the below paragraph if you don’t feel like too much reading.
In classical cinema, the “cut” between two shots is rational in that they are linked by an unifying element (i.e. chronological order, similar locations); a coherent chain of images. In modern cinema, the cut is often irrational in that the shots are not linked in ways that make sense. It may be a cut from a person’s face to a shot of their shoes, or any two shots where one ‘has no more an end than the other has a beginning’. These cuts are ‘spacings, intervals’, where each image is plucked from the void and falls back into it, causing a momentary ‘shock’. This puts more emphasis on immediate and visceral reaction over association of images. Neither rational nor irrational cut is superior to another, only that they are experienced differently.
The above is one of many examples of irrational cuts employed frequently by Shinbo. I think Deleuze explained well why his style seems to provoke reactions on more visceral side. This isn’t to say such a technique is unique to Shinbo, since we see irrational cuts all the time. Just that in my observation, he pushes it to the extreme. Some more pictorial examples:
As you can see, the difference between each picture in terms of background art, sound effects, character design is momentary and can be outrageously diverse. Another thing I observed is that in comparison to his student Okita Ouma‘s ef series, Shinbo seems to focus lot more on visceral reactions triggered through sense. His emphasis is not on hidden meanings (Maria†Holic is really, just a simple, straight-forward show). He’s interested in contrast of colours, lines, unique cinematography, the atmosphere…the ‘feel’ of each image, or sometimes in repetitions of such cuts (as seen above) and other techniques to effecitvely trigger our senses; a more intuitive, momentary and visceral approach to engaging the viewers.
The question is…does it work? Is he rationally thinking about how he is producing these irrational cuts? Is he intelligently ‘dechaining and rechaining’ these images together or is he intuitively doing this without much thoughts? Or maybe bit of both. That is for us to decide, as it will certainly appeal to us in different ways. I’d love to hear other people’s opinions on this.
In comparison to Zetsubou Sensei though, Maria†Holic is really tame. I’m disappointed with its ‘content’ and regressed creative energy, but for a guilty pleasure…Maria†Holic is doing okay.