Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

Books are tools to stimulate your senses and adjust your thinking

May 3, 2014, 4:58 PM

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When a show references Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick, George Orwell, William Gibson and then goes on to analyze the benefits of reading and paper books versus ebooks, you know you’ve picked a great one. Here’s the transcript:

“This city is like a parody of the sort of novels I used to read when I was younger.”

“Oh yeah, what kind, like a William Gibson book?”

“More like Philip K. Dick. Not as controlling as the societies George Orwell depicted in his work and not quite as wild as the ones in Gibson’s either.”

“Philip K. Dick, hm? Never read him. So if I wanted to check him out, which one should I read first?”

‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, it’s a classic.”

“There’s an old movie based on that, isn’t there?”

“The content’s quite different. You should compare them when you have time some day.”

“Then I’ll go ahead and download it right now.”

“No. Find the paperback. Ebooks lack character.”

“Got all the same words, don’t they?”

“Physical books are more than the words they contain. They are also tools to stimulate your senses and adjust your thinking.”

“How do you mean?”

“When I don’t feel well, I’ll stare at a page for ever before realising I haven’t absorbed a word. When that happens, I try to understand why. What’s gotten in my way? On the other hand there are books I can take in effortlessly, no matter how awful I’m feeling. Why do those books draw me in? I think it may be a sort of mental tuning. It’s the feeling of the paper against my fingers, that familiar smell of pulp and glue, a momentary stimulation to my brain when I turn each page. These sensations regulate and focus my brain, they make it work better.”

“Wow, that’s discouraging.”

“Hm?”

“Why is it every time I talk to you, I leave feeling like there’s something I’ve been missing out on my whole life up to now?”

“That’s just silly.”

“I sure hope so.”

How great is that? How many shows have you seen, lately or not, that pose questions and ideas like these, making you stop to think for a while?

The dialogue is taken from the anime series Psycho Pass (episode 15). It goes on between Shōgo Makishima, the main antagonist, and his right hand man, Choe Gu-Sung. I’ve used the dub version for the quote, although I usually prefer anime in Japanese with English subs, as very few English dubs are good enough. The subs however have a better version for the penultimate line: “You’re reading too much into it” – a bit more serious, and I liked the reading pun (intentional or not).

The story has many cyberpunk elements, reminding often of Philip K. Dick’sMinority Report‘ (again, worth comparing the book with the film), and also of Ghost in the Shell (the series mostly, both produced by Production I.G., best in the game), Monster (similar ‘contrast’ between two of the main characters) and sometimes hints of Cowboy Bebop (due to the noir feel and two main characters reminding of Spike and Jet).

Definitely worth watching, plenty of food for thought (besides the thrilling action), the above quote being just one example of many. Be warned though, it’s not for the weak of heart, it often gets very violent, even if not gratuitously.

The top image is a screengrab from the opening of that episode. Needless to say, being a Production I.G. show, it’s a treat for the eyes, and not only.

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Tsunami, a beautiful illustrations-project

April 23, 2011, 2:27 PM

Tsunami is a laudable project started by the CFSL community, gathering illustrators and other artists to create works as homage to the March 11 Japanese catastrophe. The best works have been included in the Magnitude 9 book, which you can buy and help raise money for the Give2Asia fund.

There are so so many beautiful works, the techniques ranging from awesome watercolours, pencils, ink, photo-only, typography to even oil-like Photoshop paintings, like this ‘Island of the Dead’ reinterpretation (the classic painting, by Arnold Böcklin). Obviously, there are some child-like drawings too, but even some of those have their own touching effect. Be warned, there are 17 pages of entries so far, but most of them are really worth it.

As expected whenever there’s a Japanese-related contest, the Japanese sun is the most used symbol, but there are a lot of anime & manga characters present too: Astro Boy, Godzilla, Pikachu, Akira, mechas and many more. Plenty of samurais as well, Mount Fuji, kimonos, temples, toriis, ukiyo-e-like or Hokusai waves, bamboo umbrellas, koi fish, dragons, Noh-theatre and other folk-related characters.

Among these, it’s no surprise that Miyazaki’s characters are some of the most heart-touching: Totoro, Catbus, the Kodama or the Laputa Robot — all of them being nature protectors or spirits in their original stories. There’s even an over-whelmed Porco Rosso (or maybe he’s resting a bit between searches).

Here are some of my favourites:

• this touching Totoro, by Virginy Coste:

• another equally touching Totoro by Redec (you can visit his blog too):

• a simple-yet-strong one by Sylvain Guinebaud:

• one unrelated to Miyazaki, but nontheless beautiful, by Mista Benny:

• and last but not least, this beautiful Laputa robot, protecting Totoro (if you look carefully, you can see yet another Miyazaki character) — by Sébastien Vastra:

Many thanks to Florian Nistor for the find
— hopefully, you’ll get your website up & running soon, mate! :)

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Tekkon Kinkreet – the savage beauty of innocent life

October 13, 2007, 3:50 AM

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Listening to the beautiful soundtrack, made by Plaid, I would’ve liked to write about the sensations Tekkon Kinkreet gives you. But I can’t, and I really shouldn’t. Because Tekkon Kinkreet does what movies should do (at least in theory): it touches you. I really felt the movie gave me in the end a small part of what Shiro was talking about, “Anshin! Anshin!” – meaning peace of mind, happiness.

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I highly recommend it to anyone who likes to “feel” while watching a movie. And even if the story will fail to touch you, the visuals will surely blow you away with their insanely detailed city scapes, streets, buildings, and with its wonderful colors.

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There are also the wonderful main charachters, Shiro (meaning white), contrasting with his “aniki” (older brother, but not necessarily by blood), Kuro (meaning black), both full of life in thei own way, complex, completeing each other.

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Pingmag writes about the visuals, Catsuka posts some nice hi-q screens, SuperHeroType interviews the director (non-japanese, if you can believe) and highly talented Audrey Kawasaki shows us scans from Tekkon Kinkreet Art Book, just pure eyecandy, if you needed any more proof that Japan is ages in front of everybody else when it comes to animation.

later edit:
Some time ago I was reading about Paprika and Tekkon, and reviews said that Satoshi Kon’s Paprika is better, making Tekkon look like something incomplete, with only great visuals, but little substance. How wrong they were… While Kon’s Paprika is beautiful, raising many questions about human’s psyche and dreams, Tekkon is way ahead, dealing with human emotions, and not in a rational way, like Paprika, but in a personal, introspective, i-feel-it kind of way.

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