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An exploratory statistical analysis of Akira and Ghost in the Shell (nibnalin.me)
191 points by nibnalin 12 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 61 comments

Interesting! Particularly the discovery of the sparing use of green in Akira. I haven't seen either of those films in quite a few years and it really brought back to me how staggeringly beautiful they are.

When I was in Sydney in 2018 I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the 'Anime Architecture' exhibition[1] at the Japan Foundation, which included various pencil drawings and hand-drawn cells from Ghost in the Shell. It's a traveling exhibition so if it ends up near you and you're a Ghost in the Shell fan I highly recommend checking it out.

[1] https://anime-architecture.org

Other than ghibli films, what other anime films look as good or iconic as those two.

Tokyo Godfathers

Cowboy Bebop

A Wind Named Amnesia

The Girl who Leapt Through Time

The Place Promised in our Early Days

Macross Plus (Watch Super Dimensional Fortress Macross to get the background, even though it's not that good)

As for Ghibli, Miyazaki's most moving work is Grave of the Fireflies.

Miyazaki was not involved in Grave of the Fireflies. It was written and directed by Isao Takahata.

For darker stuff pretty much any https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoshiaki_Kawajiri film will be good. Ninja Scroll is very violent but worth a watch for the animation at least.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo_Tokyo_(film) is a good 80s compilation.

Otomo has another nice anthology: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memories_(1995_film)

From Oshii related work - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jin-Roh:_The_Wolf_Brigade is fantastic (but slow moving except for a few places)

Since we're talking Oshii works, I feel obligated to bring up Patlabor 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patlabor_2:_The_Movie

It's a good example of extraordinary detail in design and animation around mechs/military vehicles, cityscapes, and retro UI designs, plus Oshii's proven directorial chops.

I also quite like the plot, which is an unexpectedly serious look at things like the JSDF's case for existence and the danger of military/intelligence bureaucracies to democratic governments.

The opening sequence, which these days looks super vaporwave: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsMTpSDAGxM

Quite right, Patlabor 2 is fantastic as well!

It does go well together with synthwave: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=redlketVxn4

Tekkonkinkreet [1] (a truly amazing film), the OST by Plaid [2] is next level too. Here's a nice review that captures some of what it's about [3]

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfQjc2hs34Y

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WixQfMABnFA&list=PLCE193349F...

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBtaqdXIVv8

Somehow reminds me of Aeon Flux:


Not the same style, and probably not as good, the films of Makoto Shinkai are really beautiful to watch : https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1396121/

Someone else mentioned Satoshi Kon, and i strongly second that. Every film he made was amazing. Also, if you want to see Mamoru Oshii (director of ghost in the shell) getting real artsy in his debut, check out Angel's Egg: https://youtu.be/YopWyb75G7o

For me at least, that movie's like a bug bite i can't stop itching.

Hadn't seen Angel's Egg, such a spare concept -- TY for that!

PS. For ESL readers curious about itching vs. scratching:

If you have an itching itch which itches, you might scratch it scratching a scratch.

More here: https://www.dictionary.com/e/itch-vs-scratch/

I'd say anything by Satoshi Kon, especially Paprika and Tokyo Godfathers.

I'm partial to Perfect Blue, but those two are great as well.

well then Sword of the Stranger (Stranger: Mukô hadan) must have a honorary mention too for those kickass main characters

Upvoted for mentioning Red Line, most amazing anime you have never heard of.

> Ninja Scroll

Haha oh boy

It's not a standalone one, but I'd recommend The End of Evangelion.

Not sure if "iconic", but I recommend Millennium Actress for an interesting way to weave a story which goes through the evolution of the Japanese film industry.

The screenplay was written by Sadayuki Murai, who put a unique touch on whatever he worked in (he also worked with Satoshi Kon in Perfect Blue).

Also not a film, but I found "Mōryō no Hako" (a short series adapted from a 1995 book) worth watching: at the heart it's basically a crime story, but the execution, with some "hallucinated" scenes, and also the characters are interesting.

Metropolis (2001), directed by Rintaro with screenplay by Katsuhiro Otomo (the Akira director). Phenomenal set illustrations, unusual character animation that intentionally harks back to the 1950s or earlier, and a fab soundtrack. The plot isn't the strongest and the aesthetic is divisive - I know some people really don't like it - but if it's your kind of thing, it's glorious.

Recently saw this video on YouTube about Dragon's Heaven short "movie" but it's one of those super-heavy-detail hand-drawn type animations.

Not a film, but would recommend Attack on Titan

I muchly liked Your Name; quite Ghibli-esque.

makoto shinkai /studio 4c

venus wars

Thanks for this. I've always been very interested in fictional architecture and this looks amazing.

Take a look at Cities of the Fantastic [0] as well!

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Cit%C3%A9s_obscures

Check out Blame! if you haven't already.

Really, anything involving Tsutomu Nihei, even the Sidonia 3dcg anime.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou's also got some neat, pretty Nihei-inspired megastructure architecture.

Finally, Texhnolyze does a lot of fun stuff with using architecture (in both Lux and the surface world) to contribute to atmosphere and tone as well as plot.

Somehow reminds me of the "Typeset in the future" serie of movie analyses from the perspective of typography used.

Highly enjoyable (if you like typography and sci-fi movies): https://typesetinthefuture.com/2016/06/19/bladerunner/

Last year somebody posted this [1] right here in HN. Speaking about being mind blown.

[1] https://fontsinuse.com/uses/28760/neon-genesis-evangelion

I remember reading that post. Particular interesting for a chinese reader since the high impact visual style largely comes from the japanese kanji which strikes much more weighted than say someone who don't read chinese/japanese (it might be a subjective feeling) can perceive.

Interestingly the japanese kanji fonts have a very tiny slight difference than the fonts we use. It's not exactly the calligraphy. They definitely do visual style right and impressive.

I remember!

Other Gainax animes also use typefaces creatively:


502 Bad Gateway? :-)

Oh. I picked it up from the chat with a friend where I knew it was.

That's so sad, it was a really incredible good article.

Fortunately, it's available in Google's cache [1] (And I just made a backup with SingleFile because of the 502)

[1] https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:WYjiVt...

The original image is still available


Typeset in the future is a treasure. I cannot see eurostile anymore without thinking of it.

GITS is an immensely deep philosophical tour de force, an emergent masterpiece of synthesis.

I enjoyed the analysis even though it feels incomplete without examination of the ambient music (you could write a thesis just on that alone).

Why is Akira considered good? I watched it as an adult a few years ago and did not get the appeal. The story made little sense and appeared to have little, if any, depth. I wasn't really taken by the atmosphere or the 'feel' of it either. The graphics looked dated and not very inspiring.

Is it one of those movies that is noteworthy because it was the first to try certain things? Because it was very impressive for its time? Because people associate a sense of nostalgia with it? I would hardly recommend it today to someone looking for a good movie to watch. Some of my most favourite movies are old and some are anime, and I am a big fan of cyberpunk, so I don't think it's because of my aversion to the genre.

As albertyezer’s comment noted, this was definitely a very influential project for film and art in general.

On the other hand, to understand the significance of the story, you have to notice the subtle “identity” of Tokyo. The city is described as “Neo-” Tokyo, and we hear the characters discuss that the transformation from Tokyo -> Neo-Tokyo occurred after a big explosion. And the film itself ends on a big explosion destroying the city.

In some ways, all these events are subtle references to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombings of Tokyo. At the end, we see the city’s natural state restore itself (with floods of water and sunlight) in an oddly meditative moment. I think for the Japanese population in particular, Akira portrayed an underlying message of hope, trust and humanity, something very important for a recovering nation.

The message is probably much harder for us to relate to, given our time dilation from such historical events.

It’s hard to overestimate the gigantic /smack in the face/ that Akira was when it came out on screen. Much of us had only seen Disneyish / childish stuff so far, and even adult-themed animation was cartoonish in nature. And here walks in the room bikers hitting themselves in the face with steel bars, incredibly detailed sets, flawless animation (Akira was 24 fps on one), exotic graphism and insane music. I skipped class once in my life. It was to take the train and go to the big city to see Akira.

This. In my country of origin it was shown at prime time in the mid-nineties, and even then it was kind of controversial. I was a kid and didn't understand much, but I still remember the experience of watching it. Akira was definitely a watershed moment in anime.

> The story made little sense and appeared to have little, if any, depth.

I felt similarly the first time I watched it, but I walked out feeling confused rather than feeling like the film lacks depth. IMO a large portion of the film is spent exploring the notion of power than one can't control. In fact, we can split the different characters of the film into those who are corrupted by this path (the scientist who clearly wants to see Akira's power blossom, the military lead who wants it controlled for public safety/the military, Tetsuo who is always trying to take on more responsibility and leadership then he can. Only character's like Kaneda, who don't submit themselves to their own desires for power, seem to faire well in the world around them .. but that's just my two cents.

> The graphics looked dated and not very inspiring.

I can't disagree with this more. This film came out in 1988, and nothing else even came close in terms of its visual effects for an animated film. I'm sure at the time people couldn't believe what they were watching, it must have seemed really alien.

I'm honestly surprised that you think it looks dated. Even today, animes I've seen (although granted that isn't many) don't achieve the same level of beauty in their animation of light. You can see examples throughout this link to jog your memory if it's been a while: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xf0WjeE6eyM

It is a matter of taste of course, but, say, Makoto Shinkai's 'Garden of Words' I found a lot more visually pleasing. I know you cannot compare works from different eras, but that just highlights that today, one would watch Akira more for its history than for how it stands on its own today. In comparison, the original Blade Runner stands very well in its own right today and I would not hesitate to recommend it to someone who hasn't watched it.

Akira just didn't captivate me, and I watched it for the first time in a packed out cinema.

Fair enough, I'm just surprised

Interestingly, when I search for Akira on Google, Google remarks that people also search for "Why is Akira so popular?", and links to this site:


Yes it was made in a time when there was few big budget animated movies with adult themes.

The art direction is still great. Gorgeous backgrounds and animated gems such as tetsuo transformations are still impressive today.

The story suffers from the fact that it is a much more condensed version of the comic book series.

It's kind of impossible to condense a 6 volume dense manga into a feature... I read somewhere that even Jodorowsky chipped in some advice for the ending.

For me the anime shines as a companion to the manga. It's the same age old problem: an ultra rich story dumbed down for the screen.

As to the graphics: 1988 Akira looks anything but dated. I used to watch a lot of anime and it ages amazingly well. They just dont make them like that anymore. Cell animation at it's best with very little CGI.

If you want to enjoy Akira as the creators intended, read the manga first. Then listen to the soundtrack a couple of times. Then sit down and watch it with on a good screen and a loud sound system. Anything less is a felony.

One thing to note is that it's a film version of a much longer story; the manga is a lot longer (and disturbing) and is (arguably) less vague because it has more room to tell a story.

Note to author: you have many "its" typos in the visualization captions & elsewhere. It would be good to have an abstract in the paper.

I am also a little puzzled by the GitS section: the Akira section makes a point about green=good that seems correct and I'd never realized before, but the GitS section does not actually seem to draw that much on the color analysis? There's just the one point about shifting into action. Is that really all that can be said about the colors for GitS?

Hey Gwern! Thank you for your note. You're right about the "its", I think a lot of them happened because quotation marks in my Latex setup need to be dealt with individually. I'll make a pass and fix those soon.

I suppose you are also right about the GitS section. The main useful observations I made there were the abundance of skin tone and the gothic look of the museum towards the end, but those are not as significant as the green in Akira. I'd love to hear your (and anyone else's) thoughts on the colors in GitS.

( Also, on a separate note, thank you for all your advice related to ML things in the TPU Discord over the past couple days :) )

...In my essay, I want to explore the “shadows” of these stained glass windows (i.e. films) to understand the patterns exhibited by the church (i.e the art of filmmaking).

You can't do that! Church is holy! No x-raying of wonders allowed! That would show the extent of the cargo-cult :)

Anyways, I liked it, though it felt somehow incomplete?

What do you make of [1] https://theabyssgazes.blogspot.com/2010/03/teal-and-orange-h... in this context?

This is enjoyable reading. It is always interesting to see different ways of visualising things to extract new meaning from them. The dominant colour graphs remind me of kymographs from single molecule biophysics which track the movement of proteins while they carry out some biologically important process.

Wonderful exploration of film data. It would be great to learn from the same process applied to film material in the public domain. Extra brownie points for using "Python, Julia & R" in the same dataviz.

> In any other anime film, we might be quick to dismiss these suggestive, voyeuristic shots as "fan service", but Ghost in the Shell uses these to express something deeper. When bodies are purposeless shells, what does it even mean to sexualise them?

While I agree the nudity in GITS isn't gratuitously sexual, I was quite surprised when I learned what a large portion of Shirow's oeuvre is erotic art books.

Interesting colour analysis that would be great to see applied to other movies. Minor note -- "Batuo" in the context of GitS is surely "Batou"?

Man this is so well done !! Congrats :) I love the barcode-method ! It's like a "dimensional-reduction-technique" but visual.

While I disagree with several of the author's conclusions, this is a novel technique of data visualization.

I haven't seen chord diagrams used like this before but back in the early 2000s I worked in a shared office with a guy doing movie colour analysis using barcodes, so that at least has been around for a while.

What do you think is particularly novel about it?

What conclusions do you disagree with?

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