1 PremiseI am going to look at thestorytelling in animation, more specifically the micro-narrative within a fightscene. How does the animation drive the ebb and flow within the duel and whattechniques does it utilise in order to deliver a compelling narrative? I am going totake a look at three key parts: cinematography, usage of colour andmanipulation of a frame rate.One of anime’s greatest visualstrengths is the degree of artistic freedom, something not just limited todirectors and storyboarders; due to the harsh realities of the industry theycan’t always afford to, but even individual key animators are allowed to showoff their personal style as long as their supervisors are fine with that(Cirugeda, 2015).
The scene chosen is the first half of a fighting sequence between in theepisode #22 “Reunion and Farewell” of a TV animation “Fate/Apocrypha”, an adaptationof the light novel1 by the same name. This episode inparticular is one of the important landmarks in the current trends in the Japaneseindustry as it is primarily a webgen2-curatedone. It has been confirmed that only 6 of the 27 people credited for keyanimation3in this episode worked on paper (Sakuga Blog, 2017). 2 What is a fight scene?Fighting and action are two words that might seem to mean the same,especially when it comes down to pointing out the difference between the two. Quicksearch will prompt that the closest definitions of a fight and action would be”a hostile encounter” and “a movement of incidents in a plot”(Merriam-Webster,n.d.) respectively.
To put it frankly, fight scenes generally take place between twopre-established characters, who both tend to have a clear and defined motivefor being there and both usually have clear consequences for if they win orlose. Whereas action scenes tend to take place between a large group of people,usually with the protagonist facing down a large undefinded crowd of facelessenemies. A fight scene is most importantly a dialogue between two characters. It isa conversation with questions and answers, challenges and responses. Therefore,the point where a fight scene truly becomes engaging is the point where theaudience can follow this physical communication playing on screen (Walsh, 2015).The case on hands is a fightbetween two characters (Karna and Sieg) with third character (Astolfo) joiningthem at the very end. 3 Central characters and motivations 3.1 SiegSieg is theprotagonist of the series, a homunculus4,who came into the existence and acted as a catalyst for many events in thestory.
After escaping the house of the magical clan that used homunculi asdisposable soldiers, servants for their castle, and living magical energybatteries for Servants5, hewas on the verge of dying, until he was saved by Saber of Black – servant – whogives his life for Sieg by transplanting his own heart into him.Aftergaining Saber of Black’s heart he receives an ability – Command Spell – whichallows him to take the form of Siegfried for 180 seconds (TYPE-MOON Wiki, n.d.). In theFate/Apocrypha’s story, Sieg comes into the consciousness without anything toform a personality. 3.
2 Saber of Black – SiegfriedSaber ofBlack is a servant, who is a spirit of Siegfried6. 3.3 Lancerof Red – KarnaLancer ofRed is a servant, who is a spirit of Karna74 Types of narrativeThe technical narrative of a fight i.e.
the strategic back-and-forth asboth fighters attempt to adjust to their opponent’s strategy and counteraccordingly is a physical story that runs through the fight. The concept of atechnical narrative separates the good fight scene from an average one. Thephysical actions of a fight scene, the actual punches, kicks are actually wayless important than the narrative beats of a fight. A strong and clearlydefined technical narrative is what keeps a fight from being a mishmash offlailing bodies or just a ho-hum of large-scale special moves. It’s what givesthe audience a story to follow and a strong technical narrative is more thanenough to keep a combat encounter compelling and interesting (Collins, 2014).There is however another type of narrative that can run through a greatfight scene. One that encompasses not only the fight but everything thatsurrounds it.
And that is the emotional narrative of a fight. The best way toexplain it is that if you think of a fight in terms of a game of chess, thetechnical narrative is everything that takes place on the chess board. Eachstrategy, each move and counter move. While the emotional narrative encompasseseverything that takes place off the chess board. Mainly the two players, whothey are and what brought them here to play and what this victory or defeatmean for each individual one. In terms of a fight scene, the emotionalnarrative encompasses everything about the combatants up until this point. It’stheir character arcs, their backstories, their drive and their motivation and awell-established emotion narrative to a fight can override the need for atechnical one (Collins, 2014).
While fight scenes can definitely be interesting by relying on either astrong narrative of either kind. It’s the true exemplaries that succeed on bothlevels and it’s not an easy thing to do considering how much writing andforesight it takes, especially when it comes down to adapting a novel. Lightnovels tend to rely heavily on internal monologue, dialog, and explanations inorder to convey action, since it’s difficult to write about a series of complexmovements occurring in quick succession without losing the reader (Collins,2014).
That is a task given to the animators: how to adapt a source materialtruthfully and deliver both types of narrative – technical and emotional – withouthaving shots ofcharacters awkwardly standing around, ponderingas their voice actors are reading the internal monologue lines. The task is complex and on its own is a differentdiscussion, touching on what makes a successful manga or a light noveladaption.5 Shot layout and narratives 6 Technicals and manipulating the frame rateAnimation is a visual medium comprised of several hand drawn images thatare meant to convey whatever the animators want them to.
When it comes to howto visually convey a fight between two or more combatants there isn’t reallyone correct answer. Anime has had amazing battles that span universes andequally as engaging fights that happen in train cars or classrooms. The qualityof motion is entirely subjective based on what exactly the scene is trying toconvey.
(Anime Editorial, 2018)The fight sequence chosen is the first part of the duel that takes placein the near end of the series, in the episode 22 out of 25 as well as being thelast appearance of both of its central characters (Fate/Apocrypha:”Reunion and Farewell”, 2017). The duration of the full clip is 215seconds sharp and can be broken down into 79 individual cuts.Most 2D animation is done “on twos”, which means 12 distinctimages per second are used to achieve 24 frames per second, by repeating asnecessary. Due to the harsh realities of the industry most TV anime is done byusing from 2 to 12 distinct images per second to achieve 24 frames per second, again,by repeating as necessary (Anime.stackexchange.com, 2013). Going back to revolutionizing the way anime is being, ironically enough,animated. Digitalization of the process is allowing to trick the eye intothinking it sees something is moving at 24 fps, while in reality the cut iscomposed of several pieces, each drawn on a separate layer, but timeddifferently.
As an example I shall dissect the cut #4, which can be broken down into 4parts:1. Karna flying and casting attacks (movement animated in “twos”) on the foreground2. Siegfried standing on the ground as the panning background3. the red visual effects (animatedin “twos”):a. bolder red (and white) lightning Ab. rotating beams B Contact sheet of cut #4. Key animatorTakumi Sunakohara (Hakuyu G. et al.
, 2017)Going part by part it becomesevident that Karna is animated on “twos” on the count of the odd frame (#1, #3,#5, etc.) from the beginning of the sequence until frame #33 where he “flies”off-screen. Therefore, for frames #1-32 the moving part on the screen isrotated between Karna on odd frames and background with Siegfried constantlypanning to the left upwards.The latter is not technically animated on “ones”,but the slight movement on each frames makes it look like it is. Important tonote that the red lightning that is on screen alongside Karna on frames #1-24is not the one noted as 3.a in the list above. Rather, it acts as a part ofKarna’s movement. Playing on starting at adifferent frame, the lightning A is changing each even frame, starting on frame32 and occasionally (also rhythmically) disappearing for frames 34-35, 40-41,46-48.
In order to not lose the flow as well as to add more dynamic and to the 1Light novels – aimed atjunior high and high school students, compared to classic novels, they are a form of entertainment thatspecialize in characters and make extensive use of illustrations (The Platformto Produce Innovative Content – Kadokawa Annual Report 2012, 2012).2Webgen (web?): Popular term to refer to the mostly young digitalanimators that have been joining the professional anime industry as of late;their most notable artists started off gaining attention through gifs andfanmade animations online, hence web generation. It encompasses various wavesof artists at this point so it’s hardly one generation anymore, but the termhas stuck (Sakuga Blog, n.d.
).3Key Animation (??, genga): These artists draw the pivotal moments withinthe animation, basically defining the motion without actually completing thecut (Sakuga Blog, n.d.
)4Homunculus – a term for anexistence created through an alchemical formula to produce fully functionallifeforms from sperm and other elements without the use of a womb (TYPE-MOONWiki, n.d.).5Servants – spirits of a heroeswho achieved great deeds in life, having become objects of worship after theirdeaths made into familiars summoned by the Holy Grail for the purpose ofcompeting under Masters in the Holy Grail War, the Battle Royale-esque war,winner of which gets to ask Holy Grail to grant them and their servant a wish. 6Siegfried (Sigurd) – theDragon-Blooded Knight and the “Dragon Slayer” who defeated the evildragon Fafnir with the holy sword Balmung in hand. He is a great national heroof Germany that has many different depictions in the various legends attributedto him.
His most famous role is his introductory appearance in the German epicpoem of the Middle Ages, the “Nibelungenlied”, portrayed as its maincharacter (Fate/Grand Order, 2015).7Karna – the Son of the SunGod, the invulnerable hero of the Indian epic Mahabharata, as a hero on thevanquished side. The central conflict of The Mahabharata is the war overinfluence between the Pandava royal family and Kaurava royal family (Fate/GrandOrder, 2015).