I’ve found myself of two minds when it comes to sakuga, not in whether or not I enjoy anime that is well animated. I do, of course. However I feel I don’t put the same emphasis on it that some other people do. Or rather, I find it to be a surprisingly minor part of why I enjoy anime.
If you have no idea what I mean by “Sakuga”, I suggest you check out the Sakuga Blog, a great resource and run by some of the nicest people around.
One of the reasons I made this blog to begin with was I was irritated by some of the discourse surrounding Flip Flappers, particularly how its shift in the later half away from the Pure Illusion worlds was a disappointment, considering how beautiful the sakuga was in those sequences. And while that’s a fair enough opinion, it really crystallized something for me that I’d been trying to sort out for quite some time.
A lot of discourse around sakuga has, historically, pulled it out of the larger context of the series it is in. Simply taking a single cut or set of cuts as a stand-alone work. This is not universal, Sakuga Blog is great at examining a show’s animation in the context of the show itself, and makes it far more interesting to read than most other sakuga analysis. However there is still plenty of the rest going on.
A good example is this article from Wave Motion Cannon, which asserts that Flip Flappers is flawed by not allowing the characters to be expressive enough via animation. I don’t agree, just in general, but what I’m most interested in is the clip they embed. If you just look at the clip, you can sorta see what they are getting at, assuming you buy into their original assertion that looser, more deformed expressions are a universal good. That’s an entire article on its own but my opinion boils down to “it depends”. Anyway, the point I’m making here is that that clip is only part of the scene.
I don’t mean that in terms of run-time, but in that its missing another entire aspect of information, the sound. If you want to compare, its episode 4 at timestamp 21:24. The sound here includes the distorted sounding music, that changes into the build to the ED song when Papika grabs Cocona’s hand (the ending sequence is very heavily focused on them holding hands…) and their voices, of course. Papika declares that she’ll never let go of Cocona, never ever ever let go even. Cocona’s response that she’ll never go away, both delivered in a tone of joy. These are two girls who are having one of the happiest moments of their life as they affirm how important they are to each other.
Removing the audio kills this. Now, some would say that the animation alone should convey all of that, with no sound necessary. I find this absurd. Animation, sakuga, is an important part of anime of course, but its not the only part. Animation by itself does not make anime. The voices, the music, the characters and the story. All are integral to making the thing we call anime. For myself, I would never watch a show just because it has great Sakuga, while I have (frequently) watched shows that are, being generous, very poorly animated, but who’s characters or story I find fantastic. This is of course all a matter of personal opinion and priorities.