Welcome to the Analysis Series. In this series, a single moment is taken apart and analyzed. This moment could be 1 second or it could be 10 minutes. What I hope to accomplish is to inspire readers to wonder more about what makes anime tick, to see anime as creative process rather than just a final product. I will also hopefully hone my skills of analysis over this series, since I am not trained in this sort of thing at all.
The first thing I wish to analyze is a moment from Death Note. I am simply going to observe techniques here, and speculate on what the techniques accomplish. Read on if you have either seen Death Note or you don’t mind spoilers.
(just in case this link ever gets broken, it starts at 4:24 of episode 25)
This scene is a delightfully perverse scene in which Misa performs killings set to a waltz dedicated to Light. This is actually an anime-exclusive scene, and really showcases what the creators can do without relying on source material. Misa has regained her memories, she has halved her life a second time for the Shinigami eyes, and she has started killing off criminals in Light’s place.
1. Camera Into the Light. One of my favorite techniques, and it’s used a lot in this clip; this clears out the background bringing emphasis to the characters. However, it also puts the characters into shadow like at the 13 second mark. It’s a symbolic technique because it usually is a setting sun, meaning something is going to come to an end. In this case, it could be seen as foreshadowing L’s death, or else it could just be seen as symbolic for the criminals she’s killing.
In this specific screen-capture, we also have a double entendre: “Light” is talking to her. It makes sense, since she looks up to Light as a god (and indeed, he considers himself a god).
2. Smaller Eyes. Lots of anime have large eyes, such as Shakugan no Shana (pictured on the right). By choosing smaller eyes for the character designs, it makes the anime more grim and less escapist.
3. Split Screen + Freeze Frames. In this case, it is used to show different dead people. A freeze frame is oddly appropriate for a dead man, isn’t it?
4. Cutting out sound in flashbacks. Of course, memories of the past will be clear and won’t have background noise in them. These are the words of her beloved, why would she remember any other sounds from that moment? This is a useful technique actually because it shows us the past as she remembers it, rather than objectively. Thus, the scene becomes more personal.
5. Body Part Close-ups. In this case, the hands writing and the feet walking. The hands one is pretty obvious, she’s writing death notes, creatively accentuated by juxtaposing it against one of those dead-guy freeze frames.
As for the feet, that’s a bit more complex. Since they show them at the beginning and the end of her little walk, maybe it’s just intended as some sort of visual punctuation to the whole walking scene. It also makes the walk seem more important. You don’t usually look at someone’s feet unless they are somehow intimidating you, and often when we are introduced to an important character the camera starts at their feet.
6. Color to Contrast. Notice how the other people in the shot are faded out and she’s given more vivid colors? Yes, it’s yet another technique to draw attention to her. It visually affirms that this scene is about her, not anybody else.
7. Dolly Shot. When the camera travels with Misa, it draws the viewer in, making it feel like we’re traveling with her (obviously a screenshot won’t capture this). But, the overall effect was the same as cutting sound out of her flashback, making it less distant objective and more immersive. Also, like the contrast colors, it makes sure the scene is about Misa by keeping her in the center of the camera.
8. Camera Angles. The dolly shot and the feet shots are good uses of camera angles that put us at Misa’s level. The other angle we see is an above angle. There aren’t any shots from below or anything like that. I don’t know if it says anything about her motives specifically, but it conveys well that she isn’t so powerful. Think back to all those distinct shots looking up at L or Light. That was showing a powerful character, someone who dominates the camera. Here she is, a puppet lacking superior intelligence, and the camera angles reflect this.