What makes silence in anime so effective?

The likes of Mushishi, Haibane Renmei, Serial Experiments Lain, and Texhnolyze, despite their disparate histories, have at least one thing in common.

Overall, it’s safe to say that anime isn’t known for being a silent medium in general. Most shows employ a lot of dialogue, music, or both throughout their episodes, which means that most scenes are rarely totally silent. This is the case even for titles that are not necessarily action or adventure set pieces that naturally involve a lot in the way of screaming, fighting, and explosions like the classic Dragon Ball Z or the massive delight of the crowd attack on titan.

However, there are some anime shows that are extremely quiet, and their comparative silence can make them just as emotionally or thematically effective in terms of their storytelling, if not more so, than series that lack these lulls. Also, this doesn’t just apply to iyashikei or scene-of-life shows, but also those with psychological, cyberpunk, or even suspenseful scenarios and themes.

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Part of the reason so many anime shows are so “loud,” even outside of traditional action scenes, is that anime isn’t just a visual medium. Particularly when it comes to titles that feature great lead actors, all of whom deserve roughly the same amount of screen time (eg, the critically acclaimed feature film). sailor moon), it is logical that the dialogue plays an important role in the narrative.

Add to this other equally important elements of contemporary anime, like the soundtrack and background sound effects, and titles can be (justifiably) a pretty noisy affair. If a show like cowboy bebop, kill the prey, Evangelion or full metal alchemist was stripped of its music, it just wouldn’t be as iconic. If comedies to laugh out loud like Azumanga Daiohfantasy adventures like jojo’s bizarre adventure or high-tech titles like sidonian knights had to get by without audio effects, the goings-on just wouldn’t have the same impact.

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Of course, this is not to say that the quieter anime shows don’t contain important dialogue, fantastic music, or comprehensive sound effects—quite the contrary. It’s just that these aspects are usually fewer and farther apart, the spaces between people talking or a moving piece of music starting out longer, sometimes to emphasize or heighten tension, sometimes to allow viewers to appreciate the anime calm. physical environment… or sometimes simply because at the time, the noise wouldn’t add anything of real value to the story.

In that sense, it could be argued that anime is frequently guilty of over-filling silence with unnecessary sound. If a scene could stand perfectly well on its own without involving a bit of dialogue just to give a certain character an extra line, would including the dialogue enhance the narrative in any way, or would the superfluity of the line detract from it? If the calm of an early-morning scene is interrupted by background music that in itself does little to enhance the mood, is it necessary to have it, or is it just present because anime tends to shy away as having too much silence?

However, programs like Mushishi, haibane renmei, Lain serial experiments and Texhnolize proves that not only does anime not need to be inherently loud, but even these much quieter anime can have a lot to say, often without involving the use of actual sound. Of these titles, the Miyazaki style Mushishi is perhaps the most obvious example. Iyashikei “healing” titles, which tend to emphasize their rural or naturalistic settings, have made a name for themselves as being innately peaceful, calming, and soothing to the soul. So it makes a lot of sense that something like Mushishi I wouldn’t want to be too loud or over the top.

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haibane renmei is another anime that makes a lot of sense in terms of its overall calm. Although it deals with some important psychological themes (death, acceptance and forgiveness), it also incorporates a great sense of life in its proceedings. As a much less intense action and more introspective version of Angel punches!, haibane renmei it makes very effective use of its soundtrack and dialogue, but mostly uses its relative lack of sound to tell its story and not the other way around.

On the contrary, anime like Lain serial experiments and Texhnolizewhich heavily involve the use of cyberpunk themes and technologies within stories that are heavy and foreboding, seem more unusually calm. Texhnolize in particular, it may well be one of the most physically quiet anime of all time: its opening episode contains around five lines of audible dialogue in total, and it’s not until halfway through that anyone speaks at all. However, far from appearing bored or self-conscious on presentation, this complete lack of expression makes the anime seem unique and bold, even visionary.

It may not surprise you that haibane renmei, Lain serial experiments and Texhnolize they all have at least one tangible thing in common: some of the staff behind the titles, including Japanese graphic artist Abe Yoshitoshi and producer Ueda Yasuyuki, who often collaborate on anime projects. However, the plot, characters, and tone of each of these titles, as well as those of Mushishi, differ widely. Even so, in terms of sound, despite all having different sound directors, they are also clearly linked by another fundamental aspect, although less quantifiable: their silence.

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