Friday, September 25, 2015

A Guide to Anime Images

Anime Images

Whether you are a fan or a blogger, or somewhere in between, anime images tend to fascinate a good amount of the population. However, unless someone is extremely computer savvy or knowledgeable about search engines, many anime-image websites may be hard to find. Even if you can find them, their reason for existence may not be clear.

So if you're having trouble finding the images you need, please take a look at this post. As a Graphic Designer and Blogger, I can definitely provide you with some of the best resources. There's more to images than a pretty picture, and there's a lot to look out for when it comes to using and finding anime imagery.

Brief Explanation

Anime Teaching

If you already know about the basics of image types, searching, and other tools, feel free to skip over this brief explanation. If not please read this section!

When it comes to searching for anime-related images, the most important thing is to understand what your goal is. If you're just an anime fan that's searching for images for a collection, then you can basically just go wild. If you're looking for an avatar or a wallpaper, it may be a good idea to look for those specifics pre-made, or find the necessary images to make them yourself. The list goes on. 

Basically the more specific your task the more limited your search will be. With that being said, regardless of your goal, everyone who is finding and using images in anyway should know the difference between the most common file types. Let's keep this simple using Yui from K-On!

K-On Yui PNG
This Yui looks pretty much normal, but the area surrounding her is transparent!

PNG - Used for transparent images and is common for Anime Renders. Renders involve taking an image and removing its background, like removing the surrounding color from an anime character. This allows graphic designers and artists to create custom avatars, wallpapers, and signatures.

K-On Yui JPG
Similar to the previous picture, but contains the background that goes with Yui.

JPEG/JPG - Is another common image type. Basically used to for most images, it's good to make use of these on your blog because of low file size and compression. Make sure to use lossless compression before using them, since it's basically a free file size reduction. Ex: JPEGmini

K-On Yui GIF
Finally, this Yui is alive and fully animated!

GIF - Usually used for moving images such as GIF. When creating layouts or others images, you can add GIFs to create animations or such to make images jump out at viewers. Usually too many of these in one area can be off putting however. GIFs are also good choices for avatars as GIFs can be mixed with static text.

(Extras) - PSD and XCF (Technically not image formats, but they are used for pre-made layouts and templates that can be edited in programs such as Photoshop or GIMP.) Vectors also fall into this extra category, and are basically images taken from anime scenes and the like. They are simplified and are excellent for use in design projects. They can be re-sized with minimal quality loss.

Hatsune Miku Car Design

So now that we've summed up the basic image types, what now? You might ask, what type is most suited to the task at hand?

Well on a general basis, it goes something like this:

PNG is best for: Images with Added Text, Renders, and Extremely-High Quality Images. (Therefore good for wallpapers.)

JPG is best for: Anime Blogging, Images with Size Limits, and Photographs. (Best to keep in mind if you're taking cosplay photos and such.)

GIF is best for: Mostly Animated Images. (Such as anime scenes and the like.)

Finding Images

Now that you've learned about images and what they're used for, it's time to finally start searching! There's many ways to go about this, but the most common is finding a good website. Since the internet is such a vast and wide place, there's naturally a lot of them out there.

Thus, I have created a list of some of the best places to go for finding anime images, renders, wallpapers, and more.

If there are other anime-related websites that you feel should be included in this list, please let me know and I'll update it!

Anime Images

Danbooru/Safebooru - Probably one of the most common places for anime images. Has a vast range for almost any anime. Danbooru has a wider selection, but you can browse Safebooru without worry.

E-shuushuu - An image based website similar to Safebooru that has quality, safe images. I used to upload images here myself, and the community is very active and friendly. Definitely recommend this one.

Zerochan - Another website that focuses on providing images, however Zerochan uses a different system in contrast to the others. You can find quite a lot of fan art here.

Avatars and Icons

Live Journal - Great outlet for many smaller anime icons. Although not as popular anymore, you can still find a lot of anime icons in archives.

Tumblr  - You can find many icons and avatar packs just by doing a quick search. Many of the creators also take requests and can easily make icons/avatars for your favorite anime.


Giphy - Website solely dedicated to GIFs, contains quite a few anime ones.

Reddit - Consists of a subreddit dedicated so solely posting anime GIFs. 

Tumblr - Again, Tumblr gets a special mention for GIFs, majority of the website consists of these.


Baka Renders - Well known for having quality, anime renders. Check them out!

Deviant Art/Google - These two are also good for renders. Just doing a quick search for "anime renders" will get you quite a bit. 

Screenshots and Screencaps

Anime Screencaps on Live Journal - A website I use a lot, it's great for high quality/high definition screencaps.

Sad Eeyore - Somewhat of an odd website, but a great place for finding shots of your favorite anime scenes.

Wallpapers and Large Images

Konachan - Specializes in mostly anime wallpapers and other large images. 

Minitokyo - Full of many fan-made wallpapers and scans from art books and the like. Great for extremely huge images.

The Anime Gallery - Similar to the previous, but featuring a different selection.

Misc. Tools and Resources

GIMP/Pixlr/Photoshop - These three are image editors, useful if you want to take anime images to the next level. GIMP and Pixlr are free to use, the only difference is that Pixlr is usable through an online client. Photoshop is one of the more powerful and easier to use, but most of its functions can be done in the other two.

Grabber - Used to view images from many sites at the same time, thus saving time and making searching and saving a breeze. Talked about more in my other post!

Pixiv - Contains a lot of different anime images, but can be a bit timely to navigate due to it's layout. Best used when searching for images of less-known anime. 

That's all for now! I will try to update this post with oncoming comments and resources. So please check back here!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Anime and Life: Old and New

Anime Girl Writing

Hello, and apologies for the lack of blog posts again. Before I begin this post, I would like to give a shout-out to Albert at his blog A Sound Upgrade, for providing me with this post idea through Shooting Star Dreamer's suggestion box. If you want to see something else on my blog or want to spotlight a certain anime or individual, please take advantage of this new feature! It can be located under Suggestions in my blog header.

Moving on, let us begin! Before I began writing and creating Shooting Star Dreamer, anime used to not matter much to me. When I got into anime for the first time, which was around middle school, I mostly relied on others thoughts and opinions. One of the first anime I watched was Vampire Knight, which is a shoujo series. I mainly got into this anime because my friends were always talking about it, which led to my curiosity.

 Anime and Life: The Old

Plusle and Minun
Anime just felt like a party to me, that I could attend whenever I wanted. However, I only saw the surface.

Given that this was my first taste of anime, outside of things such as Naruto, Pokemon, and the rest, I just viewed anime as a thing that was interesting and most importantly fun. I didn't really look for any undertones beneath the plot and characters; I just took the characters and the series at their face value. I believe that there was nothing wrong with this, just a way of thinking given my age.

Later on as I began to enter high school, I was introduced to other anime that consisted of harems, shonen, and other series. One of my favorite anime and manga from this bunch was Negima. I really loved the colorful cast of characters and I liked how Negi Springfield was a character that was young, but doing something I enjoyed as well, teaching. I was able to connect with Negi, and that was enough for me to keep watching and reading. Another thing that was really interesting about him as a character was that he was intelligent, something that is usually forgotten. I believe high school was the time when my views began to shift.

Anime and Life: The New

This looks a lot less fun, but understanding the traits and culture beneath anime make it much immersive and fun!

As of now, I have the ability to examine anime and look deeper, and see that there are messages and symbols hidden beneath a world of amazing stories. Characters are representations of their writers and creators, others are made for the purpose of teaching a moral or a lesson. One of the most important things I've realized about anime, is that even though there are many series of the same genre and type, there is almost no anime that has the exact same character types or plot line. In a way, this makes things interesting because anime will not always be predictable. This was one of the few things I began to realize about anime, and wanting to undercover the mysteries that lurked was what lit the fire of passion for me.

If anything, growing older and experiencing more anime hasn't really altered my base view on the media; I believe anime is fun and should be enjoyed, the same goes for life. For me now, anime is a teacher, as well as a friend. I've connected to many characters in anime and they've helped me grow into the person I am today. Through anime I've experienced many different areas of life that have affected who I am. I believe that both anime and life are connected, one influences the other constantly.

Anime and Life: Summary

Hatsune Miku
Basically how I think at this current time!

In a simple way to summarize, my change in views regarding anime and life are pretty simple. In the past I viewed the two as being separate, while now I see that both are connected and influenced by each other. In the past, I saw anime as just a hobby. Now, I see that anime and other forms of media are so much more. In a way, it took me until now to learn how to connect the dots and identify the treasures hidden underneath the episodes.

So my views from my beginnings of anime and now aren't too much different, instead they've just been built upon. I never thought of anime as an "escape." I enjoyed my real life, but loved the fictional world as well. Both were considered part of my "life" so both were important and meaningful. This still holds true for today.

So with that being said, there's a few lessons I've learned over the years from my shift in viewpoints. One of the main ones is definitely that, there's more to something than it's appearance. There's quite a few people who see anime as a childish cartoon or something that isn't to be taken seriously, and something that is completely outlandish from real life. At one point, I began to wonder if these judgments were true, but its hard to believe that when there's so much evidence that states otherwise. I think anime is something that can be for all ages. By more than it's appearance, I don't believe it needs to contain hardcore violence, profanity, or other "adult" traits, but more like mature concepts, lessons, or something that's enjoyable.

Which brings me to the next lesson, there's nothing wrong with celebrating and enjoying anime. Back in the day, anime was somewhat looked down upon. Now, it pretty much seems like something of the norm. Mention anime and usually someone knows about it. There's less of a need to hide your interests like before.

Finally, the last lesson that has stuck with me is that, sometimes you've gotta do what you love, and not give up on it. If I had listened to what other people told me and acted out on it, my blog wouldn't exist. I wouldn't believe anime is anything more than simple fiction, and I probably wouldn't have met the wonderful people who are connected to anime. While its a pretty bad idea to ignore all advice, it's sometimes a good idea to listen to yourself when it comes to things dear to you. I believe a lot of anime showcase this as well.

So as you can see, these are my views on anime and life, which I basically believe are connected. My views didn't really drastically change, but instead they adapted based on what I learned and experienced. In no way do I believe that this is the only way to view anime, but it is the way I feel is best.

If you have any questions, comments, or want to share your views of your own I'd love to hear from you. As always, thank you for reading!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Unique and Unusual: Anime Openings and Endings

Contrary to yesterday's post, today's will be a more lighter topic. The subject of focus is anime openings and endings that stand out from the rest, or are just exceptionally good. I think an opening is very important for an anime, and can either put off the audience or attract them.

Many people do end up skipping both the opening and endings, but likewise, many of those people will watch them at least once. From the view of the producer, creating an opening that has good music and animations is hard. What's even harder is creating one that is good enough to snag viewers upon their first hearing, while not becoming dull upon further replays.

So with all that in mind its pretty easy to see that anime openings and endings take a lot of work. How about we move on to a few that, in my opinion, stand out from a few of the rest?

For those who can't see the posted videos, I have include the song name and anime in hopes that you can find them at your own leisure!

Shokugeki no Souma OP 1 ~ "Kibou no Uta" by ULTRATOWER

Shokugeki no Souma is a shonen anime that is still airing, featuring an unusual subject, cooking. Although the second opening may be seen as more popular and more fitting, the first one feels just right for me.

I feel like this opening paints a picture of an anime that isn't your typical shonen. We don't have fast paced fighting action, we don't have your generic shonen music, we have a laid-back and calmer song that conveys the feeling of cooking food leisurely, while pumping you up for the anime. This opening is an example of a time where fast-paced does not equal better. 

In regards to the animation, I believe the opening does a good job at portraying the premise of the anime and funnily enough, I feel like we're supposed to view this opening from the perspective of Yukihira Souma, the main character. My basis for this is his reflection in the knife at the beginning. 
We're also shown a passage of time or a reflection of what Souma wishes to accomplish. Towards the beginning Souma is shown facing a group of characters that are positioned higher than him, and later we see him in a shining shot holding his knife up high almost as in victory. This could be interpreted either as his vision or foreshadowing the anime's plot itself.

People have also recently stated that the ending is the respective song for Tadokoro Megumi, another major character, then it is possible that this opening is meant to be for Souma. Overall, I believe this opening is very good and different from many other's that are present in shonen.

Ano Natsu de Matteru ED ~ "Vidro Moyō" by Yanagi Nagi

Ano Natsu de Matteru is a wonderful anime, but commonly overshadowed by it's predecessor, Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai, or more commonly, Anohana. While the opening is pretty great itself, the ending always had me in awe. I felt the animation and the song were amazing. I can't give much analysis on this ending without spoiling the anime, so instead I will try to keep this one brief.

There are two main subjects of this ending, one being space or an out of this world feeling. The second are the colors that are used to represent the character. Ichika, the girl who is shown first in this animation, is given the color red. Now red can be used for many things, but in certain areas, red can mean alarm or alert to something different to the norm. I believe this color fits Ichika well, not because of her red hair, but the mere fact that she is exceptionally different from the rest of the cast.

Moving onto the song, each line represents a character. Ichika has the beginning portion of the song, while the other characters share lines, and Remon, has no line at all. I believe that these lines represent their personalities and actions throughout the anime. For the pairs, they also note the similarities they possess although their goals are aimed elsewhere. 

Upon watching more and more of the anime, this ending began to make more sense. Although we may see a casual group of friends involved with each other, we see the hidden regrets, desires, and actions that take place between them all. After all, this anime has heavy romantic traits.
If the ending interests you I recommend checking out this anime a bit more!

Renkin San-kyuu Magical? Pokaan OP/ED ~ "Senketsu no Chikai" by Yōsei Teikoku and "Shichaimashou Sensuous"

These last two are a bit weird. They come from an anime called Renkin San-kyuu Magical Pokaan. The anime features four main characters, consisting of a werewolf, witch, cyborg, and vampire. By its description it doesn't sound like a light-hearted anime, and the opening paints a very serious picture. However, the reality is very far from that painting.

I decided to spotlight these two because of how unusual they are. Sure, the opening isn't really weird, but it is very misleading. The anime regarding these four girls revolves around comedy and showcases their everyday lives, which doesn't involve any sort of solemn environment or action of any kind.

So I believe unlike the previous two mentions, this opening doesn't add to the series or summarize the plot. It instead, draws away from the series and can potentially attract the wrong audience. Meanwhile, the ending draws into the anime's true nature and has that comedic feel to it. 
Regardless, I feel that both are very nice and the ending is especially a treat since the seiyuu sing the lines. It adds a little bit of flare to the endings as well as giving the fans something that's nice to listen to. 

With that being said, these were the three I specifically want to showcase, but there are many others that exist and are notable. For these, I will include them in a list below, with respective links for those who are curious. Please take the time to view them, you might potentially find an anime you want to watch!

Before I go, I would also like to say that I have received my first suggestion via Shooting Star Dreamer's Dropbox! I will be working on the post soon, so please be patient! For anyone else who is interested in suggestion a post or needs assistance of any kind, please fill out the form that can be found here.

Thank you for reading!

Notable Mentions

Sega Girls OP
Negima!? OP
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches OP

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Power of Body Swapping in Anime

Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches

Although not always brought into the spotlight, the term body swap, (along with gender-bender and gender swap) has been present in anime for the longest time. Body swap involves an exchange between two people, typically a male and a female, in which they inhabit the other's body for a period of time. These anime may be seen as weird and unusual, but are there hidden meanings behind these series?

In a way, body swap can be seen as a curse or a power. There are instances of it appearing as both, but for the sake of this post we will only be examining the positive. For one, body swap does something that's usually not seen in a real life situation, at least in the same shape or form. Swapping with someone allows you to experience their version of the world, contrary to experiencing your own most of the time. Of course, such an experience opens many opportunities for both sides.

Unfortunately, I do not have much experience with anime that feature these activities, so I won't be able to provide a large amount of knowledge of this subject. Despite this, I have finished watching a new series that puts this trope into frequent use, an anime by the name of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches.

At first the anime may be somewhat misleading. The title speaks about witches which may give off the impression of a more action-based anime. While this anime does have action, it is not the main focus at all. The focus is that it goes into the supernatural, but in a different way than usual. There's no demon lord or demonic background behind the main characters, and there's nothing going on with ghosts of any sorts, but there are tons of unusual events taking place, specifically in this sense, body swapping.

This post may contain minor spoilers, so please beware.

Yamada Swapped with Shiraishi

To summarize the anime, Yamada (blue hair) is a delinquent who attends a high school. He goes about his days normally and alone, but bumps into a girl by the name of Shiraishi Urara (blonde hair), who is prestigious, intelligent, and a successful student. The two come from completely different worlds, but after accidentally falling down the stairs together, they kiss and find themselves in each other's bodies.

As the plot goes on, Yamada finds out he has the ability to swap bodies with other people and by doing so, he begins to learn more about them and his school. By seeing what they have to deal with and their ways of living, he begins to understand others more, and is no longer forced to spend his school days alone.

While this is true for majority of the characters that take part in the body swap, Shiraishi is the focal character. Yamada and Shiraishi at a glance, come from two completely different worlds. One is a delinquent who doesn't follow the rules and ignores what he is told. He is also prone to using force to solve his problems rather than careful thinking, but has a "never give up attitude." Meanwhile Shiraishi can be seen as his complete opposite. She is the perfect student, a quick thinker, calm and collected, and popular with both the male and female student body. Many people would think that a union between these two, whether it be friendship or romance, is a recipe for disaster.

However, the reality is that, these characters aren't that different at all.

Bullies Ruin Shiraishi's Notes
Yamada finds this in Shiraishi's notes.

In the anime, specifically episode one, Yamada swaps bodies with Shiraishi and goes out of his way to cause her a problem. He doesn't think much of the girl, while Shiraishi doesn't think that much of Yamada at the time either. Upon going through the school day his attitude changes as he finds out that Shiraishi is subject to bullying from her peers. He finds pretty of mean things, her locker is vandalized, her notes are scribbled over and ruined, and other passive forms of bullying are present.

I believe that this is the point where Yamada realizes that Shiraishi isn't living a perfect life and that there are multiple layers to a person. To add to this, he finds out that just like him, Shiraishi has been going about her days alone without any sort of friends to call her own. With that Yamada finds his similarity with the girl.

Later, Yamada confronts her bullies in Shiraishi's body and is promptly stopped before he can do any harm. The situation was then solved without any violence, with Shiraishi feeling thankful to Yamada for his help. Similarly to before, it was at this moment that she sees Yamada for more than the picture he is painted on the outside or by others, but as the real him that is willing to help those in need without any reward.

Yamada sees Shiraishi alone

Once they realize these things, I think they both understand that they are actually pretty similar people despite their varying background. This would have been possible without the use of body swap, but I believe this example shows how helpful the ability can be.

So in a way, such a thing could be related to empathy or role-playing, allowing one to see life through another person's perspective. So although we may not be able to swap bodies in our world, we still have the power to accomplish the same through use of empathy and compassion, and encompassing the desire to understand other people. I believe this anime also highlights the fact that society's views or the opinions of the majority are not always correct.

I also believe that the same thing can go back to other mediums such as video games. Although many people stick to the traditional roles of playing as a character of their own gender, playing one of the opposite gives you a chance to experience something new. I feel there are too many negative connotations for this type of behavior, when it offers players a chance to live a different life, which is the premise of many role-playing video games. Although this is a topic for another day, I think it fits in very well here.

Shiraishi Urara Smile

For my readers, how do you feel about body swapping/gender-bender in anime? Do you enjoy the genre? What have you learned from it?

Also if you haven't already, please check out the anime, Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. While it features romance and comedy, the story has a extreme level of depth, and each character has many layers to unravel.

Thank you for reading!