1 Premise I am going to look at the

1        
Premise

I am going to look at the
storytelling in animation, more specifically the micro-narrative within a fight
scene. How does the animation drive the ebb and flow within the duel and what
techniques does it utilise in order to deliver a compelling narrative? I am going to
take a look at three key parts: cinematography, usage of colour and
manipulation of a frame rate.

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One of anime’s greatest visual
strengths is the degree of artistic freedom, something not just limited to
directors and storyboarders; due to the harsh realities of the industry they
can’t always afford to, but even individual key animators are allowed to show
off 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 the
episode #22 “Reunion and Farewell” of a TV animation “Fate/Apocrypha”, an adaptation
of the light novel1 by the same name. This episode in
particular is one of the important landmarks in the current trends in the Japanese
industry as it is primarily a webgen2-curated
one. It has been confirmed that only 6 of the 27 people credited for key
animation3
in 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. Quick
search 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 two
pre-established characters, who both tend to have a clear and defined motive
for being there and both usually have clear consequences for if they win or
lose. Whereas action scenes tend to take place between a large group of people,
usually with the protagonist facing down a large undefinded crowd of faceless
enemies.

A fight scene is most importantly a dialogue between two characters. It is
a conversation with questions and answers, challenges and responses. Therefore,
the point where a fight scene truly becomes engaging is the point where the
audience can follow this physical communication playing on screen (Walsh, 2015).

The case on hands is a fight
between two characters (Karna and Sieg) with third character (Astolfo) joining
them at the very end.                                                                                                              

3        
Central characters and motivations

 

3.1       
Sieg

Sieg is the
protagonist of the series, a homunculus4,
who came into the existence and acted as a catalyst for many events in the
story. After escaping the house of the magical clan that used homunculi as
disposable soldiers, servants for their castle, and living magical energy
batteries for Servants5, he
was on the verge of dying, until he was saved by Saber of Black – servant – who
gives his life for Sieg by transplanting his own heart into him.

After
gaining Saber of Black’s heart he receives an ability – Command Spell – which
allows him to take the form of Siegfried for 180 seconds (TYPE-MOON Wiki, n.d.).

In the
Fate/Apocrypha’s story, Sieg comes into the consciousness without anything to
form a personality.

 

 

3.2      
Saber of Black – Siegfried

Saber of
Black is a servant, who is a spirit of Siegfried6.

 

3.3      
Lancer
of Red – Karna

Lancer of
Red is a servant, who is a spirit of Karna7

4       
Types of narrative

The technical narrative of a fight i.e. the strategic back-and-forth as
both fighters attempt to adjust to their opponent’s strategy and counter
accordingly is a physical story that runs through the fight. The concept of a
technical narrative separates the good fight scene from an average one. The
physical actions of a fight scene, the actual punches, kicks are actually way
less important than the narrative beats of a fight. A strong and clearly
defined technical narrative is what keeps a fight from being a mishmash of
flailing bodies or just a ho-hum of large-scale special moves. It’s what gives
the audience a story to follow and a strong technical narrative is more than
enough to keep a combat encounter compelling and interesting (Collins, 2014).

There is however another type of narrative that can run through a great
fight scene. One that encompasses not only the fight but everything that
surrounds it. And that is the emotional narrative of a fight. The best way to
explain it is that if you think of a fight in terms of a game of chess, the
technical narrative is everything that takes place on the chess board. Each
strategy, each move and counter move. While the emotional narrative encompasses
everything that takes place off the chess board. Mainly the two players, who
they are and what brought them here to play and what this victory or defeat
mean for each individual one. In terms of a fight scene, the emotional
narrative encompasses everything about the combatants up until this point. It’s
their character arcs, their backstories, their drive and their motivation and a
well-established emotion narrative to a fight can override the need for a
technical one (Collins, 2014).

While fight scenes can definitely be interesting by relying on either a
strong narrative of either kind. It’s the true exemplaries that succeed on both
levels and it’s not an easy thing to do considering how much writing and
foresight it takes, especially when it comes down to adapting a novel. Light
novels tend to rely heavily on internal monologue, dialog, and explanations in
order to convey action, since it’s difficult to write about a series of complex
movements occurring in quick succession without losing the reader (Collins,
2014). That is a task given to the animators: how to adapt a source material
truthfully and deliver both types of narrative – technical and emotional – without
having shots of
characters awkwardly standing around, pondering
as their voice actors are reading the internal monologue lines. The task is complex and on its own is a different
discussion, touching on what makes a successful manga or a light novel
adaption.

5        
Shot layout and narratives

 

6       
Technicals and manipulating the frame rate

Animation is a visual medium comprised of several hand drawn images that
are meant to convey whatever the animators want them to. When it comes to how
to visually convey a fight between two or more combatants there isn’t really
one correct answer. Anime has had amazing battles that span universes and
equally as engaging fights that happen in train cars or classrooms. The quality
of motion is entirely subjective based on what exactly the scene is trying to
convey.
 (Anime Editorial, 2018)

The fight sequence chosen is the first part of the duel that takes place
in the near end of the series, in the episode 22 out of 25 as well as being the
last appearance of both of its central characters (Fate/Apocrypha:
“Reunion and Farewell”, 2017). The duration of the full clip is 215
seconds sharp and can be broken down into 79 individual cuts.

Most 2D animation is done “on twos”, which means 12 distinct
images per second are used to achieve 24 frames per second, by repeating as
necessary. Due to the harsh realities of the industry most TV anime is done by
using 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 into
thinking it sees something is moving at 24 fps, while in reality the cut is
composed of several pieces, each drawn on a separate layer, but timed
differently.

As an example I shall dissect the cut #4, which can be broken down into 4
parts:

1.      
Karna flying and casting attacks (movement animated in “twos”) on the foreground

2.     
Siegfried standing on the ground as the panning background

3.      
the red visual effects (animated
in “twos”):

a.      
bolder red (and white) lightning A

b.     
rotating beams B

 

 

Contact sheet of cut #4. Key animator
Takumi Sunakohara (Hakuyu G. et al., 2017)

Going part by part it becomes
evident 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 is
rotated between Karna on odd frames and background with Siegfried constantly
panning 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 to
note that the red lightning that is on screen alongside Karna on frames #1-24
is not the one noted as 3.a in the list above. Rather, it acts as a part of
Karna’s movement.

Playing on starting at a
different frame, the lightning A is changing each even frame, starting on frame
32 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

1
Light novels – aimed at
junior high and high school students, compared to classic novels, they are a form of entertainment that
specialize in characters and make extensive use of illustrations (The Platform
to Produce Innovative Content – Kadokawa Annual Report 2012, 2012).

2
Webgen (web?): Popular term to refer to the mostly young digital
animators that have been joining the professional anime industry as of late;
their most notable artists started off gaining attention through gifs and
fanmade animations online, hence web generation. It encompasses various waves
of artists at this point so it’s hardly one generation anymore, but the term
has stuck (Sakuga Blog, n.d.).

3
Key Animation (??, genga): These artists draw the pivotal moments within
the animation, basically defining the motion without actually completing the
cut (Sakuga Blog, n.d.)

4
Homunculus – a term for an
existence created through an alchemical formula to produce fully functional
lifeforms from sperm and other elements without the use of a womb (TYPE-MOON
Wiki, n.d.).

5
Servants – spirits of a heroes
who achieved great deeds in life, having become objects of worship after their
deaths made into familiars summoned by the Holy Grail for the purpose of
competing 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.

6
Siegfried (Sigurd) – the
Dragon-Blooded Knight and the “Dragon Slayer” who defeated the evil
dragon Fafnir with the holy sword Balmung in hand. He is a great national hero
of Germany that has many different depictions in the various legends attributed
to him. His most famous role is his introductory appearance in the German epic
poem of the Middle Ages, the “Nibelungenlied”, portrayed as its main
character (Fate/Grand Order, 2015).

7
Karna – the Son of the Sun
God, the invulnerable hero of the Indian epic Mahabharata, as a hero on the
vanquished side. The central conflict of The Mahabharata is the war over
influence between the Pandava royal family and Kaurava royal family (Fate/Grand
Order, 2015).