Category: Arts & Features

A Brief History of Anime

By Rebecca Dow

Nowadays, anime permeates deep into Western and Japanese pop culture, showing its face in merchandise, entertainment, literature, et cetera. Within the sea of people who enjoy Japanese animation, there are many niche fanbases, cult followings and fan-artists. One does not need to know the history surrounding anime’s development to appreciate its unique style and varied content. By digging into the past, however, one can uncover a broader perspective on what anime really is as an art form, and how it has changed over time. Regardless of one’s positive or negative feelings for the medium, anime is undeniably something creatively driven, that has evolved eclectically over time.

1907
A screenshot from Katsudō Shashin. Creator: Unknown.

During the birth of animation, Japan fell behind in the industry compared to, say, Americans, due to the fact that they were using cut out animation techniques as opposed to cell animation, which was the standard for the time. Anime, in some form, has been around since the early 19th century. The oldest known footage categorized as anime was titled “Katsudō Shashin,” created in 1907 by an unknown animator. This short, three-second depiction of a boy writing on a chalkboard was Japan’s first step towards a massively successful international industry.

While animators in America were using cel animation, Japan was still using cut-out techniques. This slowed their progress early on. Records of early animations are hard to come by as most were destroyed in 1923’s Great Kanto Earthquake.. By 1933 though, they too began using cel animation, greatly improving the quality of their products. During World War II, most Japanese animation was created as propaganda, disallowing the freedom for creativity regarding plotline and style. Nevertheless, the techniques and technology perfected over that era helped further improve the quality of anime, and in 1948 “Hakujaden” was released; this was Japan’s first feature-length color film.

It was around the same time that anime really began capturing the attention of the public, with studios like Toei Animation acting as prominent leaders in the production of new content. The 1960s saw feature-length films such as “Astro Boy” (1963), which set the standard for future Japanese animations, and “Kimba The White Lion” (1965) which was Japan’s first color anime TV show. New genres began dominating the market, like “mecha” anime — centering around epic battles between giant robots either automated or manually controlled.

The 1970s saw a massive mecha boom, in fact; after toys began hitting the market, viewership exploded as a result and studios had that much more money in their budgets to go towards bigger and more experimental productions. A fitting example of a successful anime in the mecha genre would be “Mobile Suit Gundam” (1979). At its start it was so unpopular that it almost stopped airing. Once toys were produced, viewership went through the roof, and overall, anime became more of a worldwide market. Side note: let’s not forget “Heidi Girl of the Alps” (1974); this was famed animator Hayao Miyazaki’s first successful film. Even back then, one could clearly see his distinct animation style through character design and his detailed nature shots.

The 1980s gave us space operas, sports anime, and the martial-arts genre. The latter of the three paved the way for many modern shows such as “Naruto Shippuden” (2007-2017) and “Bleach” (2004-2012). Some anime, like “Dragon Ball Z” (1989), focused more on profit, marketing and merchandise rather than on creating a gripping plot.

A&F - Studio Ghibli
Logo of famed studio, Studio Ghibli – founded by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, Toshio Suzuki, and Yasuyoshi Tokuma.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that content went from lacking to rich in depth with mature themes. Films like “Perfect Blue” (1995) and “Neon Genesis Evangelion” (1995-1996) led anime to experience an experimental and artistic shift in tone and style. The latter of the aforementioned anime helped revive the industry and spark interest within more diverse demographics of people. “Sailor Moon” aired weekly for five years, beginning in 1996, even though it was only given six months – aiding in the development of the magical girl genre. Studio Ghibli (arguably the most well-known and successful studio I can think of) released Princess Mononoke in 1999; it did very well financially. By the early ‘00s, Adult Swim began airing anime on their channel, such as “Cowboy Bebop” (1998-1999) on Toonami — a late-night program dedicated to airing Japanese and American animation, and an important program that allowed more anime to be spread to Western viewers.

By the time we reach the 2000s and 2010s, anime had turned into a leviathan of many different genres, many of which owned a certain aesthetic “look” to the characters, which became a relatively standard style for a number of popular shows continuing on to the present day. There was no longer a set formula for creating anime series and films, so there was at this point no shortage of creativity. Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away” (2001) is the second most successful Japanese film to date, with Makoto Shinkai’s film, “Your Name” breaking its record in 2016. “Spirited Away” has been interpreted over the years to be an allegory for greed, child trafficking, the search for one’s identity, as well as a number of other meanings. It’s nice when a film can elicit such depth of thought from the public, regardless of the creator’s original expressive intent.

Today, anime exists as a beautiful hodgepodge of genre diversity and pop-culture fandoms that are rich with the acquired artistic techniques gained over the years by experimentation, boundary pushing, and niche interest that grew into something recognized internationally as a popular and relevant facet of modern cinema.

Sources:
AnimeEveryday’s “History of Anime” playlist on Youtube; Wikipedia.

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Printmaking At SMCC

By Rebecca Dow

As an assignment for Mary Hart’s Printmaking 1 class, students were asked to create drypoint intaglio artwork for two exhibits titled “The Exquisite Corpse: A Surrealist Drawing Game,” and “Memory and Forgetting”. Images from the latter exhibit are shown below.

Left to right, Mother’s Wedding by Mitch Bradshaw; Family by Namio Ukash; An Old Street In Portland by Trisha Poulin; and Memory Of Childhood In France by Solange Kellerman. Photos by Mary Hart.

According to Hart, regarding “Memory and Forgetting”, “Images were incised on PETG plastic plates with a metal etching needle and printed in oil-based ink. The project required students to examine and represent a personal memory with clarity and detail, then explore a variety of printing techniques to introduce the concept of forgetting. As time passes, images become less clear, or changed by new experiences and understandings. The color printing techniques of chine collé and à la poupée were also applied in this project.”

Students’ work was displayed in the SMCC Library for a time during the Open House hosted on April 7. Since then, the exhibits have been disassembled to make way for a photo display organized by instructor Christian Farnsworth for his classes. The artists involved in both displays were Mitch Bradshaw, Michael Claar, Robin Fagerlund, Hawa Jelle, Solange Kellerman, Deeqa Mohamed, Trisha Poulin, Ashlie Roderick, Naimo Ukash.

Gallery Under the Stairs

By Rebecca Dow

Gallery Under The Stairs has been in the works for about a year, initially conceived by instructor Mike Lewis and supported by Professor Rachel Guthrie. These two created a space for students to showcase their artwork in glass frames, displayed in the Hildreth New Media building on the South Portland Campus.

ArtsAndFeatures
An art piece by Vanessa Porier, currently on display under a first floor stairwell in the Hildreth building at SMCC’s South Portland campus. Illustration by Vanessa Porier.

The project was installed on April 6, 2018; exhibits will continue indefinitely. The current batch of art showcased for the month of April was created by Vanessa Poirier, depicting free-flowing themes touching on sexuality and abstract concepts of thought.

“My favorite thing to draw is the human form because it’s capable of so many things, good or evil. We all experience sadness, pain, disgust, happiness, life and death at some point in our lives and I love being able to use the ultimate freedom of artistic expression to take the reality of life’s unpredictable moments and turn them into something neat to look at.

I enjoy using multimedia on paper because it adds slight dimension to the pieces. Each colored in section plays an important role in the over all look and feel of the drawing. I carefully select my colors and only fill specific spots. Most of the time I draw in the center of the paper so that the subject of the piece stands out against the white paper.
My expertise doesn’t lie in being able to draw ridiculously realistic portraits or perfect cookie cutter copies of things. What I really love is adding my own spin on things and taking them to a whole new level and giving new life to things that were once “flat” or “boring”. I like to combine elements that contradict each other and maybe even evoke a sense of discomfort to the viewer.”
Vanessa Porier

These pieces (example shown above) can be viewed until May 6, 2018, when the display will change to another student artist’s work. If anyone has an interest in having their artwork shown in this exhibit, contact Michael Lewis at mlewis@smccme.edu, or Rachel Guthrie at rguthrie@smccme.edu.

Poetic License; Happy National Poetry Month!

By Rebecca Dow

poetrypagedrawing
Illustration by Vanessa Porier

In celebration, let’s allow ourselves a moment to recognize famous (or not-so-famous) writers from the past. Throughout this month, Kevin Sweeney is hosting weekly poetry readings in the All Faiths Chapel on the SMCC campus — every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Bring your favorite poem to share at the pulpit, and keep a work of your own in mind for the last Thursday of the month, as there will be an Open Mic on this date at the same time as the readings. Today, I’ve two poems featured! My hope is that these inspire all of you writers to become involved this month with the spirit of art through literature. I’d like the Poetic Licence to be filled with as many poems as possible next issue — so please, send your poetry to Rebeccadow@smccme.edu.

Wandering Bird
By Rebecca Dow

Wandering bird, flying and
Plucking feathers like bread
Crumbs, not to eat.
Watch them settle in familiar grass
As your skin grows colder.
Playful pipes,
Plead
To the sun –
The moon;
Each honey-wrapped hope
Is kept as a whisper –
Locked within your trembling
Hy-per
Ac-tive
Heart.
You beg to be chased,
Not erased in bloody toil
But rather engulfed
By the warmth of another’s
Downy affection.
Why then, do you wander?


I Survived You
By Cali Atwood

The impression of your touch is just beneath the surface
Haunting me
Fear and panic etched deep in my bone
The helplessness of a lost soul
My blood carries the poison left by you
To my heart
Sleep is like a time machine
To a year plagued with casualties
War between a guy and a girl
The death toll? Me. My innocence. My sanity.
My nights are spent remembering how to breath
Crushed under the weight of your memory
Desperate to feel a new life in my lungs
One you can’t reach
You took a part of me with you
Or rather I left it when I fled
Trying to avoid the bullets
Firing from the guns you call fingers
You left scars on my soul
Carved by your lips
And in my heart
Holes burned in the shape of I Love You
You may think you made me a victim
And in a way I was
In every moment you touched me
You were predator, I was prey
But I’ve since ripped off the label
Stitched to my forehead
With every moment we shared
“I am a victim”
But I survived you


Poets’ Statements

“This poem is about longing, rejection, and simple desire for acknowledgement. The bird keeps plucking her feathers, leaving it bald; this is a metaphor for one giving time and energy to others, but denying oneself the same. The bird wanders without direction, pleading with the sun and moon but to no avail; in the woe of rejection it hides its true emotions within, despite desperately longing for recognition. In conclusion, the bird simply ponders the contradictory nature of its actions.” ~ Becca D.

 

“I wrote this poem about working through a relationship that was sexually abusive. For a long time I struggled with the way that made me feel, the guilt and the shame. It took me a while to reach this feeling of acceptance, of understanding what this meant for me and my life. This poem was written one night when I was struggling with forgiving myself for being a “victim”, for allowing this trauma to define who I was. This poem is my way of reminding myself my self-worth is not defined by this trauma. No one’s is.” ~ Cali A.

Featured Musician: Undeniable

By Rebecca Dow

A&F Rapper Review 4
Photo Courtesy of Ashton Altvater.

In a college of over 6,000 students, there are bound to be artists hidden amid the brick-and-mortar classrooms on campus, weathered by salt and time. Some artists are not so hidden, however; some continually reach for the recognition they know they deserve in this world of shifting interests and fashions of perception — regarding what “is” and “isn’t” art. One such talent peeking out from the shadows is Ashton Altvater, a student at SMCC who has a passion for rapping stating that “It’s more than a hobby, it’s a passion.”

Originally from Pleasant Point Indian Reservation in Washington County, Maine, Altvater is a proud member of the Passamaquoddy tribe. “I think it’s pretty neat being a Native American rapper from Maine, and just doing something different this game hasn’t seen before,” he states. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Altvater, delving deeper into the history behind his music, as well as his inspirations.

Regarding the start of his musical journey, he said, “Honestly, it was kind of like a joke at first; I used to freestyle with my friends. I guess I started to take it seriously when I was about 17, 18 — senior in high school. I made an established YouTube page.”

You can find his YouTube channel by searching “Ashton Altvater,” and clicking the channel of the same name. Additionally, he has a soundcloud account at “https://soundcloud.com/mc-undeniable”. Both accounts have original tracks and videos that can be accessed for free online.

 

As our interview progressed, Altvater revealed the production process of his first official-feeling song. “We recorded ‘Tryin’ To Make It’ when I was 18, in April of 2012,” he said.

“We recorded with a shitty 10- to 15-dollar Walmart mic that we were hanging from the ceiling. That’s how I started … It looked really corny — but I guess, that’s the humble beginnings.”

As for his backing tracks, he replied, “I lease the beats usually, but I’ll go to the studio and I’ll record in there and mix a master [of the track]; stuff like that. Thirty-eight hours in the studio. It’s pretty tight.” The fact that he is seeking out finer equipment for better audio quality seems like a true sign of his unwavering interest in refining his work. As artists, we too should seek to refine our styles and tools to achieve fresher, higher-quality works.

When asked if he ever collaborates with other artists, Altvater replied, “Yes and no; I do, and I’ve collabed before, but I don’t like doing too many collaborations because you’ve got to put a lot of investment, time and hope into someone else for a song. If you did it by yourself your product would probably come out quicker.”

Not only has Altvater remained diligent in pursuing his passion for music, he has gained the support of family and friends throughout his journey. He is active in his community, going to open mics and circulating his content via the web. Additionally, he told me what kind of people inspire him: “Big L is definitely my favorite artist of all time; I guess, people who bring you motivation in life, who go through the same struggle.”

I felt honored to be able to interview someone so confident and filled with motivation for their passion as Undeniable. I encourage you all to listen to his tracks and dip your toes into the local music scene in your area. Take care to be true to yourself as you discover what your innermost self craves.

Altvater could not have given me a better ending quote to the interview: “To be different in this world you’ve gotta separate yourself from everybody else — and you’ve got to pursue your own thing of happiness; find your own path in life. And do what makes you happy, and don’t give a damn about what people think, just do what you love, pursue it to the fullest — 100 percent. Nothing is impossible in this world.”

I raise my proverbial glass of spirits to toast all who are able to express their talents for the world to see. That requires a level of courage and confidence which can be very difficult to achieve for some people. Thank you, and keep sharing your work with us here at The Beacon.

A Flashcard History (On Drugs)

By Joel Congleton

9/15/1981
Brunswick, Maine. I emerge from my mother, kicking and screaming and covered in goop. It might be the most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to me, but I don’t remember it, so I’m not sure.

Late 1990’s
Topsham, Maine. I wake up with a glistening forehead and a damp pillowcase. I’m shivering, and my head hurts. So this is what dopesick feels like. It’s finally caught up to me. Feels like the flu, really. I begin to calculate when and how I can get more heroin.

Early 2000’s
Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Summertime. I’ve moved here to pursue a degree in Video Production. I’d hoped that a consequence of moving would be that I’d end my growing opiate addiction. This is not the case. Dope is much cheaper in Florida.  I’m waiting for a green light at the intersection by my friend’s house. There’s a homeless man standing on the median, peddling newspapers that were given to him through a local program. I know him. He’s the same guy that’s always there. We rap for a minute and I give him a dollar for a paper, as I always do. I intend to read it, or at least skim it, but I don’t. I toss it in the back seat and it lands on more newspapers that I didn’t read. My car is a 92’ Honda Accord. I love it; it has a sunroof. No A.C. though, which is problematic in the summer.  The light turns green and within a few minutes I’m approaching the on-ramp to the highway. As I tear down I-95 with my windows open, the newspapers in my backseat flutter to life. They dance, kind of like that plastic bag in “American Beauty”, reminding me of their presence and occasionally obstructing my view.

2/4/2010
Brunswick, Maine. I got sober. People sometimes ask me how I did it and I tell them I went to meetings. I’m not lying, but I never really feel like I’m telling the truth. Yeah, I went to meetings, but I’d gone to meetings at other points in my life and it didn’t get me sober then. So what do I tell them? It was just my time. Or I got lucky. Or maybe there was something greater at play. But for the grace of God, there go I.

5/2/2012
Portland, Maine. My son is born. It’s so cliche that I can’t even say it. Fuck it, I’ll say it. He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

11/21/2017
Freeport, Maine. I ease my forks under the wooden pallet, and with a flick of my wrist I raise it a few inches off the warehouse floor. Another flick and I’m in reverse, as the beep-beepbeeping indicates to everyone nearby. I crane my neck to see behind me, stomp my foot on the pedal and I’m off, steering the fork truck towards the other side of the warehouse so I can drop my pallet off and pick up another one.  It’s all muscle memory now, gained through daily repetition. I could probably do it blindfolded. Not what I’d envisioned for myself, but I’m making moves in the field of videography when I’m not at my day job, and that gives me hope. In fact, I’m expecting a text about a freelance motion effects job. I’m excited about it. Perhaps too excited, I realize as I feel the familiar double-vibration in my pocket that indicates a text, and a wave of giddiness washes over me like I’m Pavlov’s dog. I park my fork truck and dismount it, careful to follow safety regulations. I look at the text and my heart drops. It’s not from a potential client. It reads: “Chris’s nephew Nathan died this morning. Ashley found him. Shits super fucked up, I remember when he was a baby. I’ll let you know if there’s a service.” I assume it was an opiate overdose. That’s a stone-cold assumption, but it is what it is. Nathan was in his 20’s. Another name on the list. Chris must be devastated. Suddenly my warehouse job isn’t so bad. Suddenly it’s not all about me.

Today(s)
The alarm starts screaming at 5:30a. I crawl out of bed. Meditate for twenty minutes,  get dressed, insert contact lenses, eat cereal, brush teeth, kiss my sleeping son. I’m in the car and off to the warehouse by 6:30am.  I drive a 2012 Toyota Corolla now (I blew my Accord’s engine on the way to the methadone clinic some time around 2007). I like it okay. There’s no sunroof. The A.C. works though, and I mostly drive with the windows closed these days. A controlled environment. I’ve settled into a routine. There’s freedom in routine – that’s the secret to learn. Without it, I’m left with good  intentions and promises to myself that just flutter around in the back seat with no direction or purpose. That’s not to say that the routine doesn’t get stale at times or that the chaos is never alluring, but I’ll leave the chaos for the kids. I just hope that they survive it.