In animation, a line means everything. Take this scene in Kizumonogatari for example:
Panicked and afraid, Araragi’s gaze pierces us. He trembles until his panic overtakes him, clambering to get away. The action feels frantic. Part of that is due to the fact that animator Yuuya Geshi decides to contort Araragi’s outline, but I want to point out the smaller lines that assist the action. Speedlines are nothing new, they’ve been used since the dawn of animation, and before then in the still images of manga.
In animation, lines are the words that are used to convey meaning. Sometimes many words are needed to tap into the realism of an object. Other times profound thoughts are stated in simplicity. This concept is perfectly encapsulated in Yuuya Geshi’s cuts as just described. Too often the term ‘sakuga’ is all about movement, and while that’s not wrong, it’s important to remember that movement is often how and (more importantly) when lines appear.
But what makes Geshi’s next cut so visceral is how those lines evolve. Frantically, our hero (if he can be called that) flees. His limbs flail wildly, clawing at a chance to escape in a brazen display of pathos. His face sours from terror. All of this emotion is captured in the thickness of the lines that distort Araragi’s true shape. The lines bleed his hysteria, and give each action the perception of actual physical weight which only heightens the sensationalism.
Geshi’s depiction of running taps into a deep subconscious understanding that we have developed as a species: being able to guess what an object will feel like just by looking at it. This is a critical ability when it comes to discussing animation. Physical characteristics (like weight, speed, malleability, etc) as well as emotional characteristics (heavy, gentle, openness, vulnerability); all this information is conveyed with lines. In this case, the strength and thickness of the lines translates into the savageness of Araragi’s retreat.
Further punctuating the drama are closeups of Kisshot’s crying. As she lays helpless on the ground, abased and bloody, Kisshot’s face conveys her torture. But she stays beautiful. Relatively few lines touch her face in comparison. It’s a brilliant juxtaposition between using less lines and using many. ☕