Monday, March 31, 2008

Identity II: The Transformation Pen

So there's this phenomenon in animé where the heroine has the ability to "transform" into different roles. Sailor Moon(1992) had the Transformation Pen (Henshou Pen). Depending on what the situation called for, she could become a university student, waitress, doctor, etc. Whatever was necessary for her to complete her "mission." It was pretty cool, she would get a uniform, new hair, and whatever equipment she needed to be convincing. Another well known transformer is Cutey Honey/Flash(1973 +). Wicked sex object (with apt title considering she "flashes" the entire audience by stripping naked to transform), Honey becomes a biker, photographer, singer, and other things that, at first consideration, leaves you wondering what the practicality of those forms could possibly be.
In my studio, "Identity" has been a big word. I have lots of wigs, costumes, and accessories that pop up in my portraits, leading to the comparison to Cindy Sherman, a relationship I won't deny. Sherman is well known for her "Film Stills": photographs in which she assumes female movie stereotypes with shocking poignancy. The word "disguise" comes up, and that is a word that I battle. "Disguise" sounds so treacherous . And I am no way in the business of deceit or lies. Honesty is a huge proponent of my studio and lifestyle, so how does one mix costumes that are apparently "disguises" with the mission of "honesty?"

When the concept of the transformation pen popped up (While Watching Re: Cutie Honey, an amazing remake by studio Gainex) things made some sense. Maybe I'm not pretending to be different characters. Maybe I'm just dressing up. Maybe I'm the same character in different outfits, not trying to fool anyone into thinking I'm actually a cowboy or a superhero. They become many aspects of ONE identity, rather than separate identities. I'm one character in many costumes, not many characters! Painting is my transformation pen, giving me access to different aspects of my media heritage. It sounds cheesy, I know, but let's roll with it. These are pictures of Kori playing dress up, not of an alter-ego.

I'd like to think I'm owning these roles. But from what angle? I'm a far cry from Cindy Sherman, but maybe we've got more in common than I thought.

Question: Help me out, what are some more animés that include a phenomenon like the "Transformation Pen?"

Image Top: Naoko Takeuchi, Sailor Moon Transformation Pen. Bottom: Kori Michele, Drawing with Blue Wig 2
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, I think there are a lot of anime shows out there that feature some kind of transformation. It's one of the mainstays of mahou shoujo, right? Although I can't think of many series in which a character changes into many different 'people'. Usually it's a single alter ego, which becomes more of a disguise/identity crisis issue.

Full Moon o Sagashite is in the classic style of 'girl transforms to become an idol!' along the lines of Fancy Lala or Creamy Mami (I haven't actually seen those series, so this is kind of hearsay).

Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne is different because Maron is actually the *reincarnation* of the person into whom she transforms (Jeanne D'Arc). Another series sort of like it, with a male transforming for once, is DN Angel.

Pretear, a series always close to my heart because it was the first anime I saw all the way through, is more what you're looking for; Himeno transforms into any one of the seven Princess Pretears (well, eight actually...) Coincidentally, Pretear was originally created by the same man who created Sailor Moon.

A theme I see often in that type of anime is the character using their alter ego, not as a disguise, but as an inspiration? They gain strength by acting strong as Jeanne, or the Pretear, or whoever. The negative aspect of this is that their 'inner strength' becomes externalized, so they feel they need this 'alter ego' to be strong.