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Jul 13th, 2016
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  1. For animation, form is sound and moving image together. Folk understanding, because it’s trained in binaries, will usually oppose something, most often ‘plot’ or ‘narrative’, to form. It is said that they’re both equally valuable or that they’re just categories for use in approaching a whole. But in fact everything else depends on form (this is why supervention was on my mind earlier). We can and do get valuable animation which is form without character, narrative, or even representation. Form is what is: it’s the aesthetic equivalent of God, ‘I am that I am’.
  3. Criticism must therefore be grounded in form. It can be motivated by all sorts of things and go in a great many directions but it travels by acknowledging form. Traditionally English-language anime writing hasn’t done this. This is not exceptional: nearly all discussion of all creative spheres ignores form entirely. Most people will never be formalists. That’s not a problem or a sin, it’s an environmental condition. Most writing about literature, for example, is about character and narrative in one small and narrow category of literature, the modern novel. Goodreads reviewers and newspaper columnists lack the necessary interests and vocabulary. They can’t be blamed for that and their enthusiasm remains valid. But I don’t enjoy reading them. Anime writing’s in a similar situation. So the commentariat’s not formalist enough.
  5. When it comes to animation, I’m not a formalist, and I doubt I ever will be. The sakuga community have /some/ of the technical understanding necessary to talk about anime in a formalist way. Their endless taxonomies and logs come in for criticism but I think they’re necessary steps (I’m thinking -- heh -- of Stallybrass’s memo ‘Against Thinking’ here). But they don’t have a culture of producing anime writing which is entertaining AND accessible AND formalist, which is what, selfishly, I’d like to read. Writing well for a general audience is a rare skill and takes a lot of practice. I know I’m not good at it. Plus sakuga fans seem, looking from the outside, to share some of the problems which hinder public writing about anime in general: they’re young, possibly STEM heavy &c. So the formalists are stuck at the taxonomy stage.
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