The recent release of the music video, Shelter, a collaboration between music artists Porter Robinson and Madeon, has shaken the foundations of otaku culture — questioning the very definition of anime and its loyalty to Japanese creation as well as evoking long suppressed dreams of realizing personal animation concepts. But even more so, Shelter has provoked critical discussion, insight, and poignant themes that resound among most human beings despite taking place in a distant, futuristic world.
From the beginning, Shelter immediately questions and contrasts the validity of such a technologically advanced world with more fundamental human qualities such as family. Such a question is not new. Countless anime before have asked the same thing, albeit Shelter is perhaps more daring in its approach as it draws impeccable emphasis to the entity in question: Rin’s tablet.
As the music video establishes a theme of love that transcends even time, viewers are guided into a central question: is it a Surface Pro or an iPad? The question alone overlooks many of the other subtle concepts that Shelter brings up. To any common anime watcher, Rin’s tablet is clearly a Surface Pro, which is far more compatible with artistic creation and elaborate features such as the wireless surface dial that allows artists to select colors and flip through documents.
But a more sophisticated otaku would notice that Rin does not in fact use a color wheel, or for that matter, color at all. The application icons on Rin’s tablet have rounded corners, somewhat reminiscent of perhaps a long extinct iPad in her time. They are instead shaded in many different oranges that may or may not cause Steve Jobs to roll in his grave. The interface, nevertheless, screams Apple more than it does Microsoft due to Microsoft’s sharp edged tiles that are noticeably absent from Rin’s tool of creative destruction.
Of course, it would be rather presumptuous to write off any other brands of tablets. It would also be a shameful cop-out to label Rin’s tablet as a brain child of any pre-apocalypse tech companies. While most definitely important to consider, the branding of such a tablet is only useful for the corresponding company’s marketing and sales exploitation. The true focus–what defines love, dreams, hopes, and family–is the software. In particular, the drawing and animation software that Rin uses.
Such a software is a symbol of collaborative efforts, incredible support, and idealism. The A-1 Pictures staff’s dreams and futile hopes are distinctly palpable through viewing Rin’s literal realization of trees, Northern Lights and grey trees with cubicle, light-up ornaments. Perhaps if the CGI had not been so distinct in the beginning, when Rin creates a janga-like building pushing itself into place, the animation software might have simply been a representation of Rin’s reality and the extent to which her father would go to save her.
However, it is impossible to ignore the CGI. As such, the tablet becomes an anime-messiah that artists, character designers, key frame animators, and all of the other laborers aspire to become. Capable of both somewhat decent CGI and somewhat fluid two dimensional animation without the need to outsource in between frames to certain large countries next door, the software is a true miracle. It is a creation formed by the labor of many in order to ensure the success of the individual no longer dependent on so-called humans for their masterpieces and well-being. Family had its place, but no more.
Shelter creates that kind of dream-like state that animators long for one day. It is a masterful illusion that the staff live in, in hopes that one day they might not be alone with their callused fingers and growing tree death count. The tablet in Shelter is the magnum opus of their ambitions and aspirations. Even the glaring shades of orange, the noticeable lack of other apps (perhaps indicative of the limited amount of storage space), the overall questionable user interface, and the mutated hybrid reference to xyz company cannot hinder their spirits. And so they toil on with their well over 40 hour work week and pitifully underpaid salaries in hopes for a brighter future.