Saturday, May 14, 2011

What can Cirque Du Soliel teach Anime?

Since its inception in 1984 Cirque du Soleil has rocked the circus world with its inventive storytelling, incredible music, and its daring interpretation of the great circus tradition. As a long time fan of Cirque du Soleil, I have been enchanted by this troupe for a very long time. Cirque du Soleil has a very strong influence on one great anime, Kaliedo Star, which borrows the circus setting, the circus music, and uses many visual cues present in a Cirque du Soleil show. There are many things present in a Cirque du Soleil that can be imitated more in anime that can improve an anime. They can borrow a simpler storyline, more meaningful dialogue, and a stronger musical score to improve their experiences.

Simpler Storyline
When I was watching Cirque du Soleil Quidam a few weeks ago, what got to me was how simple the main theme of the storyline and how simple the story is. The story of Quidam is about a young girl named Zoe who feels alone and isolated in the world. As she goes through the surreal world of Quidam that combines joy with darkness she learns that connecting with her family again will take away her loneliness and isolation. It is a simple, yet extremely effective storyline that gets the point across. There are some who may argue that a simpler storyline is "dumbing down" the product. I argue otherwise, making an effective yet simple story creates a rich, memorable experience since it has a stronger focus.

Nowadays, what I see in many media (especially in anime and video games) is this desire to make everything an epic saga with an extremely complex storyline. While an extremely complex narrative is good, the problem is that many of them get so complex that they lose sight of the major theme. A modern example of simplifying the storyline is the transition of Evangelion from the TV show to the Movie. The original anime had lots of great concepts and it had a great cast of characters, but it had a mess of a storyline. When transitioning to the movie remakes, they took many of the superfluous scenes and they make the storyline easier to digest. The result is a product that is a richer experience that has a stronger focus.

Meaningful Dialogue
In Cirque Du Soleil, there is a small amount of dialog for the characters. In fact most of them speak little to no dialog. That gets to my point that should be emphasized, there are some instances where dialog is there for the sake of dialog in anime. It really gets on my nerves when you have a character say something, only to have another character essentially say the same thing a couple of seconds later, that is just lazy writing. It irritates me even more when characters have to explain the storyline when it just happened. Anime is a visual medium, being redundant in your dialog is not taking advantage of the medium. Instead of talking about how a civilization was destroyed because of a tyrannical king, how about have the cast of characters walk through a dilapidated town and have them stop walking in the town square where a guillotine lay? That will have a much stronger impact than describing everything.

This goes to my point, when you watch a Cirque du Soleil show, there is very little dialog. There is no one to tell you what a character is doing, nor is there an overriding narrative during an intimate scene. That is the beauty of it, because actions speak louder than words and using the visual medium they tell a storyline. When I saw Cirque du Solil Kooza in Irvine back in 2010, the story ends in a poignant moment where the King gives the Innocent his crown and then walks away. After that he grabs a kite and starts playing with it with a beautiful piano solo. If it were an anime the Innocent would be talking for 3 minutes how he got the crown, then you would get 5 minutes of flashback, then get 2 minutes of the innocent giving an ending narration. It is not necessary, and toning down on redundant dialog would improve the experience of many series.

Ore no Imoto, a great anime with an awful soundtrack.
Stronger Musical Score
When you watch a Cirque du Soleil show, there is one guarantee, that it will have an incredible soundtrack. Each show has a very different theme to it, but maintains this incredible quality of music. Kooza has an eclectic mix of big band music and Indian elements. O has a haunting epic score that has a strong Chinese feel to it. La Nouba has a great vocal soundtrack that has a great urban feel to it. Zed, the resident show in Tokyo, Japan has a great mix of vocals and middle eastern music. What stuns lots of people is that the music for Cirque du Soleil is performed live in every single show and that each show has a band of 6-10 people. A small band is able to come up with such an incredible soundtrack, which means it is not about having expensive hundred-piece orchestras, but the quality of the compositions.

If you don't remember, it had an incredible soundtrack.
In lots of anime, the musical score is treated like the red-headed stepchild. There are lots of anime series out there with absolutely horrible music. The kind of music that is just there to fill up space and time. In the many years I have been a fan of Anime, there are only a handful of soundtracks I would personally buy. The reason is simple, having good music is not a priority for lots of anime out there. I am not knocking on all anime, any musical score from Yuki Kajura and Yoko Kanno are incredible soundtracks. Those two female composers are my favorite anime composers and they have a track record of incredible musical scores. Good music elicits strong emotion, they can elevate the scene, and they elevate the soul. There are many anime series I love, but I hate adding the phrase "...but the music is not that memorable." Music should be a high priority, just as high as storyline, dialog, character development, and animation quality.

In Conclusion
Anime is a great medium of storytelling, and there are a lot of great things about it. There are companies in the medium who can take more cues from Cirque du Soleil, mainly a simpler storyline, better dialogue, and a stronger musical score. A simpler storyline allows the storyteller to have a stronger focus, which in turn will create a more memorable anime. More meaningful dialog will cut the fat and leave the audience with a stronger impact. Stronger musical score will heighten the emotion and leave people with more memories of the anime. In the end, it is about making sure that the customer gets the best experience. Cirque du Soleil is one of the most successful brands in the world, they get how to create a memorable and endearing experience that will leave customers coming back. Anime can learn a thing or two about creating memorable and unforgettable experiences from Cirque du Soleil.

1 comment:

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