2012/05/12

"sukiyaki" typeface, work in progress


We had an assignment to design a sans serif font within a week, main goal was to get friendly with FontLab Studio program, as well as think about the concept of the font – how can it be used, what inspired the design.

I started by painting calligraphic letters with brush and gouache, though I wasn't sure what I was aiming for, I just tried to get consistent look with brush. I didn't move forward very quickly until I started sketching with pencil, it was lot easier to figure some traits for the font. For some reason japanese singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu name was stuck in my head so I sketched her name and realized it looks really nice in round and low. I started thinking of shapes in hiraganas, since I also happened to hear that there doesn't likely even exist a serif font of hiraganas.

"SAKURA" Hiragana font
I couldn't get in my head what did my texting look like, then I was reminded that art nouveau was very oriental inspired, so especially my letter "k" in sukiyaki reminds of art nouveau.

I was afraid it'd look too wannabe-japanese, as I've seen so many horrible hiragana inspired fonts that aren't sophisticated, merely imitating the ornamental aspect of Japanese or Chinese glyphs. Trying to make western alphabet look oriental is just silly. Example granted by google:

I AM CRYING NOW.......

It helped out to pick up some words –even if they were silly like Kyaru Pamyu– when trying to figure out what shapes I'm after. After all, it was particularly "k,y,a" that ended up giving most of substance to the font I'm working with.

I chose working title "sukiyaki" for that reason, but it's also kind of fun, since the font looks like it could be used in a logo of a sushi restaurant. Sukiyaki is in fact a japanese dish, sort of hot pot. I thought it's nice wordplay too, "everyone loves sukiyaki" when "suki" means "to like, to love".

Our teacher often repeats a quote of Matthew Carter's: "...type is a beautiful group of letters, not a group of beautiful letters."

Review of new anime on spring '12

This post is completely spoiler free.

I've been checking out surprisingly many new animes this spring. I'm very picky about my animes, too. I'm the kind of person who's frustrated by animes that support the cycle of fanservice and rely heavily on clichés and prove very little originality on any area, be it narration, character design, music, voice acting, animation itself or overall stylization. Most of anime try to strive out simply by picking some theme in hopes of standing out of immense amount of anime, like Sankarea, which is most average anime of romance and ecchi, except for the zombie theme that made me initially start watching it.

I admit, I kind of purposely look for animes tagged with Intense questionable content. I can even forgive super annoying characters in such anime, because there is always  a chance they'll die violently and world will be better  place with one less moe or tsundere. (screenshot from Sankarea).

Most of the time, I feel like I can tell from first 15 minutes if I can stand the anime at all (sometimes intro alone is enough), if anything of the forementioned aspects manages to pop out during that time, I'll give it a chance. One original or strong point isn't usually enough to satisfy me till the end though. There are plenty of animes that have maybe one interesting character, or the episode is particularly well animated and has appealing in style, maybe at the best, the "idea"– the initial problem – strikes out interesting. It just usually isn't enough, as good animation is combination of more than one successful aspect. Sankarea's greatest stumble proved to be the forced ecchi and fanservice – elements that really diminish the characters and make everyone seem like out of place and out of character.

From the new animes of this spring, I've seen at least 3 episodes of each: Sankarea, Hyouka, Tsuritama and Sakamichi no Apollon. I'm writing this, for I'm fairly honestly surprised that people are hyping so much over Hyouka in particular, and Tsuritama which just to me seems like gliding on the pretty art style, while a real gem compared to them, Sakamichi no Apollon is quietly standing on the background.

Hyouka: shit is coming down.

Let's start with most hyped anime, Hyouka. Hyouka to me seems like prime example on anime that has decent budget and experienced director and crew behind it, same folk that worked on Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, K-ON and Lucky Star. The thing is though, I really, REALLY, dislike all of the mentioned animes.

They're certainly well-animated and I find the expressions, escpecially body language, very vivid and the art is beautiful. Hyouka is beautiful. But with dialogue, I'm already swaying on the edge. It's not complete copypaste bullshit, but it certainly isn't catchy either. And why's that, is because the characters are incredibly.... BORING. I find myself completely incapable of relating to their feelings and actions, when all of them are like walking white boards. I suppose such characters usually give the viewer a lot of space to relate to them but I simply find myself thinking the creator doesn't bother to define their characters too much, afraid that audience won't be able to identify with them. Quite contradicting compared to how I feel. When you see shit-ton of anime like that, you really start to appreciate characters that are strong and individualistic. Second and quite good reason too to be turned-off by Hyouka is the fact that it's mystery anime, yet the mysteries in first 3 episodes are so easy it makes you feel like an idiot for watching the characters being troubled over them.

Poor guy, I really hoped they'd leave him alone with their mysterious mysteries.

Then there's Tsuritama, that I've tried to squirm forward with. Well. The art, it's very bright, happy and colorful.
The style, I can't argue, it stands out nicely from the bunch.

For the intro and outro, as well as myth within the story, they've used very cute style of illustration.


Overall, there isn't anything particularly wrong with Tsuritama. At the best it's cheerful, doesn't require lot of attentionspan and "just for fun", plus would be if you have knack for fishing theme. Perhaps if you're satisfied with just colorful graphics and fluid animation, you should run off to check out Hyouka and Tsuritama. However, if you're looking for any kind of anime that could offer something less superficial, swift story development and characters that you actually can like for other reasons than cutesy-factor, a real breath of fresh air to me this spring has been Sakamichi no Apollon - Kids on the Slope.

Sakamichi no Apollon - Kids on the Slope.

Kids on the Slope is categorized as "Josei" – an anime/manga for more mature female audience, literally "ladies" or "womanhood" comics/animation, whereas more commonly know "shoujo" is generally comics for girly girls and usually associated with magical girls and school drama.  "Josei" suggests the story themes can be drama, romance and coming of age. Until now, I didn't really even know such category existed, but I suppose it only makes sense, as there is "seinen" (=for young men) and shounen to counterpart shoujo. Such categories are really misleading though, as shounen for example, is widely enjoyed by both genders (for example: Naruto, Bleach, Soul Eater) and I personally think many comics categorized as seinen, such as Naoki Urasawa's Monster and Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira are just excellent comics on their own and have nothing to do with audience's gender.

If you're already turned off by an animation that is mainly about character's relationships to each other and you got the image stuck on your head about 50 episodes of hesitation and slow-motion moments, you can relax – Kids on the Slope is surprisingly fast-paced without making you feel like left behind. Direction is in trustworthy hands, as the director of the series is Shinchiro Watanabe – director of favorite series of yours truly, Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop.

Overly exaggerated expressions are something that I'm happy to see being completely cut out of this animation, giving space to more significant dialogue and thoughts of characters. Overall feel of the narration is pleasantly relaxed and warm, without being boring example of slice-of-life – something is going on all the time. It counts for something that I tend to avoid slice-of-life, since it usually means stuff like "girl who is loved by everyone goes shopping for food, makes dinner for everyone – end of episode". Problem with many relationships stories in manga and anime is that the author is forcing feelings down reader's throat, so it's really nice change to have a chill drama. Atmosphere is perfect for the theme, jazz music.



And wow, am I impressed that the animation on playing instruments is so smooth. It's probably been drawn over actual video footage of playing jazz, but I don't see it as a problem – in an anime where playing musical instruments has a huge role, it'd be horrible to watch stiff and badly synched playing. There's one big name behind the music of this anime as well: Yoko Kanno (Wolf's Rain, Cowboy Bebop)  is the composer of the original soundtrack. Of course, there are also versions of famous jazz tracks included in the anime.

Animation in Kids on the Slope doesn't fall behind in terms of quality compared to Hyouka for example. Art style may remind someone of boy love comics, but it's definately more consistent in facial expressions and anatomy (see: yaoi hands syndrome). Perhaps not everyone finds the characters handsome or beautiful, but I personally approve of all kinds of styles that are less seen in mainstream anime. 

If you enjoy yourself good music, quality animation, swift story development, yet all in beautifully subtle tone, I warmly recommend Sakamichi no Apollon

2012/05/10

"Puppet Zelda" and more about Ganondorf

Contains spoilers of Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess and The Wind Waker.




The WindWaker's Ganondorf design is my favorite. It took me a while to pick up all the sources of inspiration for TWW designs – and surely, since I haven't done any profound research I wouldn't know all of them – but I noticed how Ganon's design was so obviously inspired by fashion of Chinese empire, although I wouldn't know the exact era, I found it wicked cool and inspired me to dwell into Ganondorfs overall design more. The Wind Waker's design felt so perfect for the character, who no longer really had a place in the new world, an echo from the glory of the past, fire and gold.

There, they literally state he's the emperor, yet I completely failed to observe rest of the game for ancient China references on first playthroughs. DUH.



How gamers would describe Ganondorf's character, I think he seems like very classic villain. He wants to take over the world and turn it into kingdom of darkness. He doesn't need any explanations, he's just, evil. I feel that he's originally a combination of two very simple but contrasting elements. Fire symbolizes his hatred and lust for power, and destruction which he wants to bring to the people, and darkness for that it's the opposite of light, "the good"and associated with fear, death and despair – it contrasts nicely to fire, as his character is mostly depicted as cool and calm, rather than aggressive. Ganondorf is seen appearing from fire at least in Ocarina of Time and the Wind Waker,  and referenced as "Dark Lord"and "Prince of Darkness". He's seen to cast dark blobs of magic in several games.

As for main elements for big baddie, fire and darkness are not too shabby. Yet I've seen countless of bad executions for character designs that try to utilize those elements. Main problem to me is that everything is so damn awful over-designed in most of the games, and the elegance is drowned under needless ornaments and gimmicky accessories.

Ganondorf in Twilight Princess. Whereas I can see the cape is obvious for an illusion of  following flames and I even liked the silly headdress, the overall outfit just doesn't communicate to me at all. It's just, dull. Is it really a battle armor fit for a king of all fucking evil? I suppose I should note that he was titled merely "Dark Lord" in TP, and he keeps changing titles from King (OoT & TWW) to Prince (OoT) to Lord (TP) to GOD (TP).
I'm interested in studying the process of how do you exactly work an idea of a character into concept, and concept into finished visualization. All Ganondorfs have some basic elements in common, the pure evil, dark powers/magic, a holder of Triforce of Power and ever greedy for more, aka fulfilling his desire of ruling the world via wish granted by complete Triforce. Ganondorfs since A Link to the Past have been also known as thieves, supposedly because it'd make sense only a master thief would be able to snatch part of Triforce for himself. One particularly mean thief too, wanting to shit on the balance and harmony of the world. The power of Triforce is never questioned thorough the series, as it is the power of gods itself.

In old 2D games the graphical capacity made it impossible or at least foolish to design something complicated, and the character needed to be extremely recognizable, something that HD graphics these days don't really respect in terms of character design. Originally Ganondorf was simply Ganon, a man turned into beast, resembling mainly a pig, or a boar, as the fangs would suggest. Blue/green at that.

As my Zelda fandom started rather late, I couldn't help but finding his design a little too amusing. I'm not belittling it though, original Zelda games are ridiculously hard and by the time you reach Ganon he really must seem like one fearsome motherfucker.
In here, I'm sure it's nothing very complicated thinking with his character design. You can't have him skipping around nude blue, so he needed some outfit, and red is pretty obvious pair for blueish green he is on the screen. It's universally most well known color after all. And well, skulls, he's really evil you know.

First time Ganon appears as human and is confirmed with the name Ganondorf, is in Ocarina of Time, which in many ways shaped the future of Zelda games, but also confirmed many elements of Ganondorfs past. A Link to the Past already stated that he's a thief, but in OoT it was explained more carefully that he in fact is the leader of an entire tribe of thieves. What makes him the leader, is him particularly being the only male being born in the tribe, therefore destined to lead. 

Ganondorf of Ocarina of Time, leader of Gerudo tribe and King of Evil.

His skin color can be explained by designers to want the Gerudo tribe to be separated as differend race from Hylians, and typical Gerudo features as seen on other members of the tribe are red hair, dark/olive skin, nose like beak and round ears, whereas Hylians have pointy. Slightly exaggerated green tone of Ganondorf's must however be homage to original design, and connection to his beast form which has remained greenish in newer games. His beast form must define his human form in some manner, so he's depicted as muscular and taller and bulkier than average human. Something that I prefer in comparison to more popular anime bad guys with overly compensating weapons. 

When I look at Ganondorf's design in OoT, it strikes to me as some sort of style mix between aesthetic of motorcycle gang punk with light, ornamented fabrics and wrappings worn by people who live in extremely hot areas – ragged fabrics indicate the harshness of desert environment. I find it rather funny combination, actually. I guess you have to be pretty badass to wear black leather on a goddamn desert, but at least you got those white rags here and there to keep you cool.

In OoT, Ganondorf being the King of Thieves and the whole aspect of exploring his origins at the desert support his character design overall pretty well, although I don't think it's truly very strong to depict a character who is more literally a king, or a ruler of something as large and vague as EVIL or DARKNESS itself. In those terms, he resembles more of those dumb and bulky motorcycle punks who kidnap and harass chicks in 80's movies and anime. Gotta love that nose though, damn.



I nearly peed myself when I found TWW concept art section in "Hyrule Historia" artbook.  The designs are just so delicious. AND OH LOOK ANOTHER COOL NOSE


After Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, The Wind Waker was highly anticipated, and fans expected some style consistency, only with better graphics than N64, for GameCube. Welp, weren't they surprised when first screenshots of TWW were published. Childish and cute graphics --- In MY epic, serious legend of Zelda?! I admit, I was only 13 or so when I saw the first pictures, I wasn't terribly impressed either, because I only expected some handsome and cool adult Link I suppose. As soon as I started playing the game though, all my prejudices were forever scrapped away. By far, TWW is visually the best designed Zelda game, and the risk they took with design revamp was worth it all.

Ganondorfs design stirred a lot of emotions too. Many fans were disappointed to see him fat, and common headcanon seems to be that his years in sealed away realm were spent eating lots of chips and burgers. I personally find his plump shape not fat at all, but rather, highlighting his pompous attitude and power. In the history, large stomach was also a clear sign of social significance, because only nobles and other people of high status could afford to eat their stomachs full.

The Wind Waker succeeded also in bringing out the tragedy of his character without pushing it as obvious as JRPG's tend to do, in comparison. I compare them in my mind, although Zelda games are without a doubt puzzle and adventure games, there are elements of RPG, and there are fans who get huge boners imagining Zelda MMORPG, more character relationships and drama-oriented Zeldas. However, The Wind Waker manages, while being subtle about it, reveal a lot about Ganondorfs character.



...."My country lay within a vast desert. When the sun rose into the sky, a burning wind punished my lands, searing the world. And when the moon climbed into the dark of night, a frigid gale pierced our homes. No matter when it came the wind carried the same thing... Death. But the winds that blew across the green fields of Hyrule brought something other than suffering and ruin. I coveted that wind, I suppose. "

Zelda games have never been made to be highly narrative and character oriented stories, as current lead designer Eiji Aonuma has stated, priority in Zelda is in game mechanics and fun gameplay. Without a doubt, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, both they were fun games for me, but I was still disappointed. I do yearn for these characters I grew up with, and the character development and exploration that particularly happened between Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker. 

Sadly, after the Wind Waker, both TP and SS have visually been overly cautious combinations of previous games – what with TP trying to return to OoT-like realism and therefore becoming a mere OoT v.2 and SS trying to combine TWW brightness to TP's proportions. 

As a final note, Ganondorf is likely hanging out in some form in future Zelda games as well, as the ending of SS would suggest. With regret I am braced for the fact that, future Ganondorfs won't be likely to top the ancient emperor, true ruler of darkness Ganondorf, for me.

Awakening


Long time ago, beast was sealed in the depths of a golden temple, for she had angered the gods. Before dying of her bitterness and sadness, she laid an egg. From that egg, forgotten child was born, after dreaming for half a century.

I do some drafts of writing at the times, this a snippet from one text I wrote about this picture. The girl who hatched from an egg, I call Reed.

...."– I lived in a house, though I know that house doesn't exist outside the shell, it was still my house. I grew up there, in my own dream house. In a dream time stretched to every direction, but in the middle of it all, there stood my tiny house. You say you are never tired or hungry in a dream, but I knew those feelings. As indefinite as my world was within the egg, I'm happy my mother was always by my side, as my guide.

…I have lived just like you, but not in this world with these feet, hands and brains of mine. I can't return to my world no more." Reed turned her eyes on the ground and rocked on her chair. Floor was creaking under her feet.

Fey coughed. –"You mean, the egg?" Scratching the back of his head, uncertain of how to position himself he paused and sighed: – "of course you can't go back. You were born, I suppose…though, certainly you were born before that like…like people are born."

2012/05/09

Pottermore

Me, the Gryffindor in the middle of my IRL friends who all are Ravenclaws.


I was super excited to join Pottermore, once it was finally opened for everyone. It turned out to be pretty cool! Not that I spend much time there anymore when I've browsed through the first book, but it was still lots of fun seeing to which houses my friends were sorted, and imagining how it'd be in Hogwarts for real haha.

Cellist

I had an image stuck in my head of animals playing strings. This rabbit, very serious and little sad of things to come and his cello, and a fox playing next to him, cheerful but restless with a violin. That I yet have to draw.

Game of Thrones

Jon and Ghost.

Arya Stark and Nymeria.
Cercei Lannister. "I shall wear it like a badge of honor."

Daenerys Targaryen: Fire and Blood

I'm a fan of this series. I first saw the season 1 on TV, but started reading the books as well, I warmly recommend reading the books too. Currently I'm reading the Clash of Kings.

Girl and the Jackdaw


I've always liked jackdaws, you see them all around in Helsinki too. Crow-birds are said to be very intelligent yet there are all kind of legends tied to them, mostly said to be ill omens, related to death and sickness. I find them fascinating and beautiful in every way. 

I came up with this princess character, who is most likely rather lonely in her palace with no siblings to play with, and unallowed to leave the grounds, of course. One day she finds out a jackdaw has been carrying out tiny jewels and valuables from the vaults of the palace to his nest. As expected, guards and knights are told to shoot the bird at sight, but the princess is impressed by the freedom and bravery of the bird, so she tells him she can give her any treasure he wants, but no longer to steal, or otherwise they'd kill him. 
The jackdaw is taken aback by her concern, but tells her instead: "It was never the jewels or crowns I wanted, but the thrill of finding them. Now that I know where to find them and how to get them, I am no longer interested."
Before the jackdaw takes flight, the princess shouts after him;
"Let's find more treasures together."

And, together they hunted for all kind of treasures, nothing of value to knights and kings, but still more precious than anything you could find from castle vaults.

Shrine fox


I was very inspired by some photos of shrines around the world. Some of them were abandoned and moss was growing all over the place, and some of them seemed like really difficult to reach, because paths were rocky and narrow. I got this image in my head of shrine in the middle of a frozen lake, and a fox spirit leading you there, over ice that reflects eerie light as the fox glides over it.

Watercolor deities

Many great spirits live in all corners of world, one greatest of them being the Forest Deity, sent to protect the life in the woods of the world.He was once grand and agile, and where ever he ran free, the forests would grow and prosper. He met his wife and had many strong and beautiful children who were also spirits and became habitants of the forests around the world.Those times are long since. As time passed by, and though he was still grand and thought to be the most wisest of the deities upon the world, he had started to live in solitary. Time had slowed down. The days of the young forests and countless springs seemed like nothing but memories. He no longer runs, but spends his days resting, dreaming. Sometimes rarely seen, he strolls silently in the oldest of the forests of the world.

As much as fierce and noble ancient race of the dragons prefer not to have any business with the mankind, their duty has always been to deliver messages between the upper world and the land.
According to the belief among the men, the bones and organs of the dragon possess medicinal powers.

According to creation myth, he raised the waves that flushed over the lands and made them fertile.

A spirit who carries the souls of deceased children over the sea. Its destination is unknown. Sometimes sailors have caught glimpse of tiny glimmers of the souls on its back far in horizon.
These are all from December - January 2010–2011. 


Bird Cards







I made these cards for Tokyo Christmas sale '11, and I sold out! This was a first time testing a new digital technique too, combining Illustrator and Photoshop CS5. I am very happy about the result.