Trapeze: Too Close to Call

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One of Moe Suck’s last real prospects for the fall season dropped today. Trapeze (you may also see it listed as Kuchu Buranko) brings a lot of style, but it’s not yet clear how much substance there is to the show.

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Trapeze is wild to look at, filled with bright colors, mixed media, and a preponderance of polka dots. Just watching the Mind Game-esque first episode makes me want to go ahead and declare it the genre-crushing savior of the season. In a field of shows that are so similar and so bad, it feels like because it’s so different Trapeze must be great.

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Well, is it? That’s hard to say. The show’s crazy mix of reality and cartoon might be a metaphor for the differences between reality and the trapeze artist’s perception of events. The terrifying presence of the all-too-real nurse and her weirdly erotic injections could be an important subplot about sexuality. The way the trapeze artist sometimes is shown with a bird’s head might be a powerful symbol that’s meant to hint at the source of his stress.

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Or the mixed media could be a cheap way to do backgrounds, the nurse could be fanservice, and the bird head could be a meaningless artistic flourish. Trapeze obviously badly wants to have a meaningful subtext, but I am not entirely convinced that it does (and E Minor is leaning towards thinking that it does not). And even if there is a consistent symbology to the show’s wild visuals, does that automatically make it smart? Or is it just regurgitating boring ideas borrowed from outdated psychiatry?

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To my mind, it’s too early to tell. If future episodes have similarly interesting themes and symbols, Trapeze might prove to be an instant classic. If they end up shallow or obtuse for the sake of being obtuse, it’s could turn out to be wannabe pretentious crap that, in our desparation for good anime, we projected meaning onto. If nothing else though, I have to admit I’m very intrigued. One way or another we’ll be revisiting the show next week for some answers.

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9 Replies to “Trapeze: Too Close to Call”

  1. This was supposed to be included in the post above as a joint impression of Trapeze, but Fin is a jerk and published it without me.

    The first time I saw Trapeze, I lost track of the plot. Out of nowhere, Irabu had solved Yamashita’s performance issues without any build-up. With such an eclectic art direction, a mishmash of animation styles, and a loose narrative thread, I thought that maybe I was unprepared to digest Trapeze. After all, I had committed a week of intellectual suicide trying to watch stuff like Shin Koihime Musou and Kampfer. I restarted Trapeze, ready to make sense of it only to have my attention wane again near the end. What I could understand wasn’t all that profound and if there’s anything left that I am missing, I don’t particularly care to connect the (polka) dots.

    Toei’s decision to meld live action and animation is nice to look at but it also offers nothing new. Shaft, for better or worse, has been notoriously known for taking the same liberties with anime. Unfortunately, the same doubt that nags Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Bakemonogatari also haunts Trapeze: okay, it looks cool but does it add any real depth? At times, Shaft could channel their artistic vision into poignant moments (ex: certain scenes in ef), but they flaunt it so much that it often felt masturbatory. Toei could run into the same dangers here with Trapeze; I felt that the art direction in the first episode was more often distracting than anything else, concealing a rather threadbare short story underneath. There’s no doubt that it looks different; one might even say that it’s refreshing compared to all the generic anime out there. I am wary, however, of giving Trapeze too much credit. For instance, unless there was a profound need for Mayumi to segue between 2-D and 3-D, this whole sequence felt rather self-indulgent.

    You suggested that the art direction could potentially fit a theme of the show: perception and how it shapes reality. Obviously, we’re only one episode in, but let’s grant this viewing of Trapeze’s first episode. I reviewed certain scenes with it in mind, but in the end, I don’t think it’s enough. If a story has depth, I expect something profound and revelatory, perhaps regarding human nature. Watching Trapeze currently feels like watching a chapter from an intro to psychology textbook, if only with Japanese neo-surrealist flair. No, I don’t think the show is meaningless; I don’t think anything can be completely meaningless even if the author/artist insists it, especially not a mainstream anime series by a big studio like Toei. I’m sure there are layers of symbolism packed into every scene (e.g. the bird and bear heads), but the conclusion of the episode was so inconsequential, I don’t think the symbolism was all connected. That, ultimately, is how Trapeze’s first episode feels as a whole: disjointed and hollow.

  2. Trapeze has gotta be the most amazing thing to watch while on drugs, (not to say it should only be watched that way, of course.) It’s so strange, but it’s at least a surprise and a welcome one. I’ve never seen such a bright anime, nor one solely about a psychologist and his patients. I guess all types of plots haven’t been covered yet. Hell, if they’re gonna take that road, they might be overdue on making an anime about the many other fascinating aspects of normal jobs in the real world.

    1. One of my biggest issue with most anime is that it is absolutely irrelevant to the real world 99% of the time. It’s always trashy and escapist, the themes are shallow but even the settings and characters have nothing to do with reality except for maybe a couple years in highschool (and even then only in a really stereotypical way). I’d gladly watch something about someone with a real job that isn’t ‘assassin’ or ‘shrine maiden’ or fucking ‘highschool student’ for once. I dunno if Trapeze is necessarily that show, but yeah at least it’s not completely focused on a damn school.

  3. With all the excitement over Trapeze, I feel bad for the fact that for some reason, I just can’t be arsed to download and watch it. But I liked reading your thoughts. Knowing that this was the guy who made Mind Game, I’m willing to bet that the things you’re seeing are at least deliberate. Possibly unoriginal, possibly uninteresting, but deliberate.

  4. I’m beginning to lean toward Trapeze being an artsy fartsy anime that wants to be deep and meaningful but ends up being pretentious. Still I have not completely made up my mind yet.

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