At first I was thinking, great, people have been wanting this, Okami needs more love, etc. etc. Plus I’m always starving for new Okami stuff, official or no. I
t’s not like it’s my life or anything… And this has nothing to do with the touchy Capcom/Clover business. This is my bone to pick as someone who has been studying traditional Japanese art and culture for the last few years. And if you disagree with a point, fair enough. I’m aware that I’m not arguing for what most people think. But keep in mind that I’m writing from the perspective of a student of the very art in question.
Now that I’ve seen the trailers and thought about it for a while… yeah, it looks awfully pretty. It’s Okami, of course it does. I was disappointed again by the lack of the parchment filter, but it looks awfully colorful and sharp. Sharp enough to puncture the hull of an Empire-class Fire Nation battleship. Just what we like to see in our game graphics.
But wait, Okami’s supposed to emulate traditional ink painting, right? Sumi-e isn’t very sharp.
In fact, it’s mostly soft edges. It’s hazy. Blurry, if you will. There are some hard lines, but they have their soft moments too. And the washes are well-textured. And dull.
All paint colors back then were in mineral tones. At first, mineral pigments were all painters had available. Once we got brighter colors, it primarily remained a practice of tradition to keep using the usual ink colors.
Of course, you can have some bright colors if you want. Traditionally, red dyes have always been the strongest (though they fade quickly). Painting structures, usually bridges and shrines, in bright vermillion was pretty popular in Japan because they could get such striking hues, which contrasted nicely with white plaster and brown hardwoods. Cinnabar paste and vermillion ink also had special uses in the world of calligraphy. Okami implemented these nicely with Sei-an City, the bridge in Kamiki Village, and the highlighted text. But it took a while for anyone to figure out how to make that nice, rich Prussian Blue you see in the background here. Beyond that, it’s pretty subdued.
Okami on the PS2 was pretty subdued. It was also pretty blurry. The parchment filter masked and slightly muddied the cell shading, making the simple coloring look more complex. The inky outlines themselves also had a slight bleeding effect. The overall appearance of the game was neither bold nor flashy. This could easily be part of why Okami never sold very well. But what does that matter? All of these elements combined created some neat effects which Okami Wii had trouble capturing, and which I bet Okami HD will too.
Have you ever stopped moving in the game, and just sat and stared at the backgrounds? I’m guessing you have. So you’ve probably noticed the subtle shifting of the lines around you. You can only see it when you stop moving. Meanwhile the animals are moving, the plants are swaying, and it looks like the whole world is breathing. It is utterly magical.
You’ve also probably seen that when you jump, sometimes your whole body leaves behind a trail of inky shadow in the air, which then evaporates. I’m not sure what it’s for, but it sure as heck looks cool.
Only the appearance of ink bleeding into paper makes these effects work. When you sharpen the lines, then it’s just lines moving back and forth. But when they’re soft and blurry, the dark and the light can bleed into each other, and they fade and flow back and forth like the ocean on the sand. There is a quiet mystery to the look of sumi-e. It tends to lie in this.
This may look blurry, it may look messy, but it’s cohesive. It’s united and it’s fluid.
This just looks like some pretty objects stuck together.
And let’s not forget the Celestial Brush… brush painting is slow and fluid and practiced. That’s what the slow motion of the PS2 analog sticks is all about. Good art doesn’t happen quickly. It certainly won’t bring anything to life without a healthy dose of patience and care. That’s another fundamental teaching of ink painting. Patience. The Wiimote, and probably the PS3 Move, is definitely a neat way of interacting with the game, including the brush and especially with the weapons. It works well as a gimmick and a selling point. But it’s still a disservice to the original vision behind Okami’s look and feel. (Besides, we’re in an ancient fantasy Japan, for Ammy’s sake. We’re allowed to be low-tech.)
Okami HD looks great, it really does, and I’m always happy to see more people enjoying the game (and entering the fandom). If people enjoy it more this way, then fine. But it’s not Okami as it was meant to be experienced. It does not represent the art it’s supposed to emulate. And that makes me sad. Because that’s what makes it unique.
Tagged as: okami. okami hd. essay. sumi-e. why can't I write this well for school?.
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- cyclone5000 said: Well said. I thought of the same thing when I first heard of the HD remake.
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