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Category: 1990s

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

05:15:00 am , 2489 words, 19803 views     Categories: post-Akira, Studio: Group Tac, Studio Curtain, 1990s

Yadamon and Studio Curtain

Many years on from Manga Kodomo Bunko and Manga Ijin Monogatari, Group Tac produced an unusual magical girls show called Yadamon (1992-1993). The show was produced for NHK, and was hence a somewhat high-profile gig with more personality and verve than your usual template majokko anime. It injected a bit of style and cool into the genre, which gave it broader appeal.

The show announces itself as different right from the opening (watch), with its appealing, somewhat international character designs and driving alt rock song by Lindberg. The show's name also drops the lengthy, cliche'd "Mahou no..." format for a more cool and succinct impact. Although different from the work produced by Group Tac in its early years, the show still had their patented cleverness and personality.

Set in the near future, the show has an optimistic vision of the future in which man uses science to establish a harmonic balance with nature. A boy named Jean lives in a man-made ecological preserve called only the "Land" with his parents Maria and Eddie, scientists and veterinarians who run the preserve. There are mild sci-fi elements that are not too outlandish to be unbelievable. The structure of the show starts off with standalone 5-episode-long arcs, later moves to standalone episodes, and in the latter half gradually becomes serial leading towards the cataclysmic climax. This apocalyptic and openly interpretable climax is also somewhat novel, perhaps reflecting the greater freedom of creators not tied to source material. Yadamon is a great example of a show not based on source material.

The concept for "a new kind of magical girl show" originated in 1991 with NHK production arm Sogovision producer Hiroshi Kubota and screenwriter Minami Oi. Kubota in particular devised the idea of inverting the standard setup of magical girls shows. Instead of a magical girl who lives among ordinary humans but has to keep her abilities secret, the mischievous Yadamon tells everyone she's a witch, but nobody believes her.

In early October 1991 NHK began seeking production companies by competitive bidding. They did this by providing production concept documentation and asking for each company to visualize the characters and their environment in a few illustrations. Group Tac submitted illustrations by Suezen and won the bidding in mid-October. Group Tac producer Kenjiro Kawando is the one who chose Suezen, having worked with him on The Tale of Genji (1987) and then met him in various places since.

I enjoyed the show back when it first aired for its nice style and western atmosphere. It was also one of the first anime I saw in the 10-minute format. (It was aired Monday through Friday in 10 minute chunks.) Revisiting it recently, I found that it's a pleasant show if far from perfect. The animation is a base tone of lackluster with occasional spikes of awesome. The characters and stories are endearing if simplistic and childish.

Although on the surface the show follows the template of a magical girl from a magical land who visits the earth and engages in adventures there, the show's underlying theme is notable for being more based on child psychology. Rather than taking the child's perspective and projecting a fantasy life onto reality, Yadamon seems to take an adult's perspective by placing the crux of the drama on Yadamon's emotional growth from pure self-interest to empathy.

Helping to maintain interest are Suezen's designs. Suezen is the pen name of Fumio Iida, who just prior had acted as animation director of Rojin Z (1991). He's a great animator, and he animated the opening. His designs go a long way to making the show watchable, if just because they're so refreshing. Unfortunately he didn't animate anything else in the show.

Luckily there were spurts of good animation in the show, most of it from subcontractors. To be able to produce so much animation, Group Tac outsourced much of the production work to around 30 different subcontractors. Roughly 20 in-house and outside directors handled the task of storyboarding and episode directing.

Although the subcontractors are not credited in the show, the Roman Album provides a rare glimpse into the specifics of how the contracts were doled out, so it's worth reproducing here. I've often managed to piece together the various subcontractors involved in a show, but I've never seen it laid out explicitly like this. This is a great artifact highlighting the subcontractor-heavy nature of anime.

Group Tac essentially doled the work out to 9 production coordinators, including an in-house team, and these 9 subcontractors either handled the directing/animation tasks themselves or in turn sub-subcontracted the work out to another studio. Inbetweening and finishing was then handled by an inbetweening studio chosen by the subcontractor, except in the case of studios like Anime Spot that handled their own inbetweens.

1. Group Tac (53 eps)In-house
Directors: Koichi Takada, Takuya Sato
Sakkans: Masahiko Murata, Yoshiko Imano
Fantasia
Sakkan: Morio Hitoshi, Akira Takeuchi
Anime Spot
Director: Shigeru Ueda
Sakkan: Masami Abe, Masatoshi Isshi
Key Animation & Inbetweens: In-house
Studio Takuranke
Sakkan:Hiroyuki Yamada
Key Animation & Inbetweens: In-house
Studio Koa
Sakkan: Toyami Sugiyama
Key Animation: In-house
Studio Curtain
Sakkan: Hiroko Kazui
Key animation: In-house
Individual
Sakkan: Kazuaki Mouri, Tadashi Abiru, Kahoru Hirata, Rie Nishino

2. Aubeck (43 eps)Group Zen
Director: Hiroshi Ishiodori
Sakkans: Masayuki Fujita, Yasuyuki Noda
Studio Mu
Directors: Johei Matsuura, Masashi Ikeda
Sakkans: Harumi Muranaka, Yasuhiro Ohshima
Studio Curtain
Director: Noriyuki Nakamura
Sakkan: Kenichi Shimizu
Individual
Sakkan: Shinichi Shoji

3. Tanasawa Office (12 eps)In-house team A
Director: Takashi Tanasawa
Sakkan: Daijiro Sakamoto
In-house team B
Director/Sakkan: Yoshiko Sasaki
In-house team C
Director/Sakkan: Toshiaki Kamihara

4. Jupiter Film (9 eps)Individual
Director: Takuo Suzuki, Kenichi Kuroki
Sakkan: Kanji Hara
Studio Curtain
Director: Hitoshi Namba
Sakkan: Keiko Hattori

5. Ajia-do (12 eps)In-house
Director: Kazuhiro Sasaki
Sakkan: Masayuki Sekine
Key Animation & Inbetweens: In-house

6. Sunshine (3 eps)In-house
Directors: Shigeru Ohmachi
Sakkan: Isao Kaneko
Key Animation, Inbetweens & Finishing: In-house

7. Project Team Sara (13 eps)Studio Liberty
Director: Akitaro Daichi
Sakkans: Chuji Nakajima, Ryoko Hata

8. Doga Kobo (8 eps)In-house
Director: Kiyoshi Fukumoto
Sakkans: Yuji Takahashi, Tadashi Tsubokawa
Key Animation & Inbetweens: In-house

9. Mu Film (14 eps)In-house + Animatronics
Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Sakkans: Akihiko Yamashita, Miho Shimogasa, Takashi Yamazaki, Hiroki Umeda, Chikayo Nakamura
Inbetweens & Finishing: In-house & Animatronics (Philippines subsidiary)

I wrote about Aubec in my posts on Garaga (1989) and Capricorn (1991). They outsourced everything except finishing (which I noted as being the weakest link in Aubec's productions), which they sent to their subsidiary Studio Bogie.

Yadamon pre-dates the concept of the chief animation director, so one of the things that makes the show nice to watch is seeing what different touch each subcontractor brings to the drawings. The drawings look pretty different from episode to episode.

Studio Curtain

One of the show's best subcontractors was Studio Curtain, the informal gathering of animators active 1990-1995 about which I talked in my posts on Sukeban Deka (1991) and Dragon Slayer (1992). Directors Noriyuki Nakamura, Hitoshi Namba and Kazuaki Mouri and animators Tadashi Hiramatsu and Kenichi Shimizu each did very nice work in the show. The fast-paced directing that made Noriyuki Nakamura's Dragon Slayer so memorable is on full display here. I'm not sure why Kazuaki Mouri is credited separately from Studio Curtain, as I'm pretty sure he was at Curtain during this time. Kazuaki Mouri and a few other Curtain people actually moved to Group Tac in the years after Yadamon. Many of the same people who worked on Yadamon went on to work on Group Tac's later Earth Defense Family (2001).

I was aware that Studio Curtain was involved in the show, but not that there were so many other sub-contractors. The two-stage subcontracting system also surprised me. I imagined Curtain had been contracted entirely by Tac, but according to this they were contracted by different groups.

As best I've been able to gather, here is a list of the projects Studio Curtain worked on and the staff who were definitely involved with the studio (there may have been more).

Studio Curtain projects
Dragon Quest (1989-1991) TV eps & op/ed for part 2 aired 1991
Gatapishi (1990) TV (Mon-Fri 10 min format)
Nadia of the Blue Water (1990) TV ep 11 & 15
Yusha Exkaiser (1990-1991) TV ed (Kazuaki Mouri, watch), eps 24, 30, 35, 40, 43
Pigmario (1990-1991) TV op 2 (watch)
The Two Lottes (1991) TV op/ed (watch)
Sukeban Deka (1991) OVA (production assistance credit)
Jarinko Chie Funsenki (1991-1992) TV op/ed (watch)
Tanoshii Moomin Ikka Bouken Nikki (1991-1992) Mouri chief sakkan, sakkan 1, 12, 18, 22, 26 / Hiramatsu genga 10, 16, 22
Dragon Slayer (1992) OVA
Calimero (1992-1993) TV op (Kazuaki Mouri, watch) & ed (Yuka Kudo)
Yadamon (1992-1993) TV (Mon-Fri 10 min format)
TwinBee: WinBee's 1/8 Panic (1993) game video (Kazuaki Mouri, watch)
Jungle no Oja Taa-chan (1993) TV
Moldiver (1993) OVA ep 1 (production assistance credit)
Metal Fighter Miku (1994) TV ep 2
Tobe! Isami (1995) TV
Alice Investigative Bureau (1995-1997) TV

Studio Curtain staff
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
灘波日登志 (三條なみみ) Hitoshi Namba (Namimi Sanjo)
中村憲由 Noriyuki Nakamura
毛利和昭 Kazuaki Mouri
平松禎史 Tadashi Hiramatsu
清水健一 Kenichi Shimizu
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
工藤裕加 Yuka Kudo
宮崎なぎさ Nagisa Miyazaki
数井浩子 Hiroko Kazui
山本直子 Naoko Yamamoto
小川瑞恵 Mizue Ogawa
田口広一 Koichi Taguchi
服部圭子 Keiko Hattori

Other animators who did good work on the show were Shoji Shinichi and Rie Nishino, contracted on an individual basis, and ex-Bebow animator Akihiko Yamashita, who around that time was working on Giant Robo. Masao Okubo did some of his patented Kanda-style effects in episode 52. Satoru Utsunomiya even makes a surprise appearance in episode 164. The climactic last three episodes are quite well animated, but seem to have been made by people from various studios in the final dash.

Below is a selection of some of the animation by the show's best animators. Rie Nishino and Kenichi Shimizu's personality comes through in their eccentric drawings, whereas Tadashi Hiramatsu and Akihiko Yamashita are more about the movement, although their exceptional drafting abilities come through in the drawings.

Tadashi Hiramatsu #27, 55, 90, 114, 135

One of Tadashi Hiramatsu's earliest pieces at Studio Curtain was the crazy animation of King eating a spicy fish in Nadia in 1990. He returns to work on another Tac-NHK production here, and this time turns in some very nice effects and action animation. He worked mostly under director Namba Hitoshi. His uncommon drafting skills come through in the delectable hand drawings in episode 135, which is a good episode overall featuring work by Kazuaki Mouri and Hitoshi Namba. His strong layout skills and detail-oriented sensibility comes through well in this episode. Hiramatsu has admitted to joining Nakamura Pro in the hope of getting to draw Lupin III, and in episode 55 here he draws some action with the canoe dirigible that seems clearly inspired by Kazuhide Tomonaga's work in red jacket Lupin.

Kenichi Shimizu #11, 26, 46, 68, 76, 90, 105

The first appearance of "data thief" brothers Eddie and Butch in episode 26 is one of the best eps in the show thanks to the combination of Noriyuki Nakamura's fast-paced directing and Kenichi Shimizu's eccentric and dynamic drawings that meet the demands of the fast storyboard with some extreme ghosting and deformation and fast actions. The directing was so fast, in fact, that it reportedly gave the voice actors trouble timing their dialogue during the dubbing session. Episode 68 features some of his most fun animation of the family as they're trapped in the grampa's spaceship and start going crazy. You can see some extreme stretching/ghosting above that reminds of the extreme stretch and squash in Dragon Slayer, so those parts of Dragon Slayer may have been of Shimizu's hand. The hands are a dead giveaway in anime when uncorrected, and Shimizu's way of drawing hands is as distinctive as Hiramatsu. Shimizu's hands are blocky and roughly drawn, and he draws the knuckles as a single line. He draws some of the funniest faces in the show.

Shimizu and Hiramatsu recently teamed up again after many years and produced some wonderful work in episode 1 of Parasyte.

The year after Yadamon Curtain director Hitoshi Namba directed Jungle no Oja Taa-chan at Group Tac with largely the same team as Yadamon, including a few episodes featuring the power combo of Noriyuki Nakamura + Tadashi Hiramatsu.

Kazuaki Mouri #68, 92, 135, 159

Episode 92 is a solo episode entirely storyboarded/directed/animated by Curtain's Kazuaki Mouri and is hence the best spot to get a sense of his style. His drawings aren't idiosyncratic like Kenichi Shimizu, but he can draw some extreme deformation/ghosting as in the sequence of Eddie on the table above, or the cartoonishly exaggerated drawings of Shinui. He can also draw very strong traditional straight-through movement with a great sense of body weight as in the sequence of Yadamon doing a triple lutz above. Mouri is one of those all-powerful animators who can do anything, as evidenced by his huge filmography. Mouri did a lot of openings/endings as well as other special projects like Time Gal (1985) and Pony Metal U-Gaim (1986). He settled at Group Tac for a few years after Yadamon.

Rie Nishino #67, 83, 131

Rie Nishino didn't do much in the show but her few episodes feature some tremendously fun drawings and over-acting. The shot of Yadamon at top from around the 8:30 mark in episode 131 is pretty innocuous, and you can't tell how good the movement is from the still drawings, but it's possibly my single favorite shot from the whole series. Yadamon is basically saying "That's not true!" and she does a full-body swing of the arms to emphasize the words. It's some of the best acting in the show, capturing her stubborn, willful personality and emotion perfectly through believable and realistic body movement. And it does so pretty efficiently, with just a few drawings. The episode where we're introduced to Jean's grandfather, #67, is packed to the brim with very fun exaggerated reaction shots.

I'd never heard of Rie Nishino before this, but her work here makes me want to see more. She was animator in Tatsuyuki Tanaka's Tojin Kit, which gives some indication of her skills - not to mention Arietty. It's not clear if she was at Studio Curtain, but she was involved in a lot of projects alongside Kazuaki Mouri over the 1990-1995 time period, designing Carimero with an opening animated by Kazuaki Mouri as well as Jungle no Oja Taa-chan. Many years later she even directed a few episodes of the cute show Zumomo & Nupepe directed by Curtain star director Noriyuki Nakamura.

Akihiko Yamashita #65, 80, 98

Ex-Bebow animator Akihiko Yamashita did some of the show's most virtuosic animation. He didn't do many episodes in the show, but each one features a certain amount of very impressive animation. Ep 65 features some skating animation that has Yadamon and Eddie dashing around the screen with great energy. Yamashita uses a lot of drawings and moves the characters through screen in a three-dimensional way. His action has the thrill of classic Telecom. Ep 80 meanwhile features almost Hakkenden-inspired molten animation of the sand monster Bagdo zooming around the screen with a transforming silhouette, and some of the most 'kakkoii' Yadamon action scenes in the show. Ep 98 is less impressive but features a few shots of effects work, notably a sand explosion and a splash of water that although short are impressively executed, with an almost Toshiyuki Inoue-esque realistic style.

Kumiko Takahashi? #133

Episode 133 featured some of the most boldly deformed drawings and extreme ghosting of any episode in the show. I can't identify the work based on the style, but if I'd have to guess based on the credits, I would guess maybe Kumiko Takahashi, if only because she's immensely talented and I wouldn't put it past her to have this kind of range. She's an animator whose other work at this period I'd like to explore. I've seen her Tetsuwan Birdy OVA series from this period and it's quite lovely.

Friday, October 25, 2013

06:55:00 pm , 4350 words, 27201 views     Categories: OVA, Animator: Shinya Ohira, Short, 1990s

Yumemakura Baku's Twilight Theatre

As I've noted in the past, the OVA format has long been the format of choice for experimentation with material and styles not suitable for the broad reach of theater or television. A few OVAs like Take the X Train experimented with unconventional design styles, but for the most part even OVAs remained within the confines of conventional anime design thinking. Twilight Theatre of 1991 is one of the most daring OVAs ever in this sense. An omnibus of four shorts by different directors, it features more adult storytelling, albeit within the context of traditional ghost/horror literature, and some truly daring design concepts reminiscent of indie animation without parallel in commercial anime. I wrote about Shinya Ohira's contribution The Antique Shop before. But I just had a chance to see the whole thing, and it was quite a nice package overall. The quality is uneven, and the content is lurid and sensational, but its bold experiments make Twilight Theatre a shining example of the OVA format. (Watch here)

Ranging in length between 10 and 17 minutes, the episodes are each based on a single short story by Yumemakura Baku. The films thus tend to be dialogue-heavy, with voice-overs or extended sequences of exposition. Ideally the films should rely more on the visuals, but for the most part this didn't bother me, partly because the stories were simply interesting, and also partly because of the variety of styles on display. Dialogue-heavy anime usually turns me off, but the writing was interesting because it has a talented writer behind it, and because it's concise and to the point, building to its climax efficiently within a short span. The episodes have a literary intelligence while yet being entertaining as horror/supernatural stories.

I've always been partial to omnibus animation like this, and still think it would be a good thing to have a long-running show like this offering different animators the chance to try more daring styles than your typical long-running show. The length of these episodes is just about right. Manga Nihon Mukashibanashi (1975-1995) was one of the pioneers of this kind of animation, and it produced some fantastically creative work. This was followed up by its even more creative if shorter-lived Madhouse imitator Manga Sekai Mukashibanashi (1976-1979), which as mentioned before featured some great episodes by Osamu Dezaki. Shin-Ei joined the fray in 1979 with The Red Bird, perhaps being the first omnibus anime based on literature, adapting different classics of children's literature. Nippon Animation made a literary omnibus in 1986 with Animated Classics of Japanese Literature.

The advent of the OVA market saw an explosion of low-quality children's lit omnibuses, but two of the better ones were Toei Animation's 6-episode Tokuma Anime Video Ehon Hanaichi Monme OVA series (1990), featuring directing by Junichi Sato and animation from Koichi Arai, among others, and Nippon Animation's Anime Art Video Collection (1993), featuring work by old masters such as Yasuji Mori and Shichiro Kobayashi. (The Jack and the Beanstalk short by Koji Morimoto and Atsuko Fukushima mentioned in the last post is part of this series.) It seems like most of the major studios of decades past have taken a stab at the animated omnibus. More recently, Studio 4C did so with Kimagure Robot (2004), based on the short shorts of Shinichi Hoshi.

Twilight Theatre is also an omnibus based on the work of one writer, and is notable perhaps for being one of the first literary omnibuses for adults. Two of the episodes include love scenes of a kind one would see in any typical Hollywood movie. Ero OVAs like Urotsuki Doji (1987-1996) quickly flourished in the new market, but the love scenes in Twilight Theatre are more matter-of-fact than explicit. Sex is treated in a mature, tactful way rather than with the giggly man-child fetishism of most other professedly mature anime. It's rare to see a truly mature treatment of sex in anime. The few anime with a truly realistic aesthetic like Jin-Roh or Omohide Poroporo aim for a general audience that precludes such frank depictions of sex. That's perhaps the most refreshing thing about this show. Beyond the sex, it's the sensibility that clearly sets the show apart. The storytelling is mature, the tone is restrained and without childish antics, and the material is sometimes downright unglamorous, as in the story of The Antique Shop, about a salaryman disappointed with his life.

The series was produced by Studio Pierrot, but two of the shorts were actually produced by Ichiro Itano's D.A.S.T. (Defence Animation Special Team). This studio was founded by Itano in December 1986 and went on to produce a number of high-quality and high-violence OVAs including Battle Royale High School (1987), Violence Jack (1988), Kujaku-oh 2 (1989) and Angel Cop (1989-1994). It's D.A.S.T.'s two episodes that make this OVA release truly noteworthy. Ichiro Itano had the generosity and vision as producer to give two young but talented realistic animators who had worked on these OVAs in the preceding years the chance to mount their directing debuts with these shorts - not to mention seemingly giving them carte blance, judging by the highly unconventional and challenging nature of their respective films.

Ephemeral Dream 夢蜉蝣

Character Design
Animation Director
Key Animation
梅津泰臣Yasuomi Umetsu
Line Director:青木佐恵子Saeko Aoki
Art Director:西川増水Masumizu Nishikawa
Key Animation:林千博Chihiro Hayashi
細山正樹Masaki Hosoyama
Animation Production:スタジオぴえろStudio Pierrot

The opening short tells the story of a college student named Mibu who one day while taking a test in class notices a strange aura around a girl named Ayabe. He tries to find out more, but is warned off by another student named Himuro. Mibu discovers several ancient poems that speak about the ephemerality of love using the phrase Yumekagero, which is also the name of a mononoke whose aura can only be seen by a special few. Himuro also has his eyes on the girl. It turns out Ayabe may have killed Himuro's brother 10 years ago, and now Himuro wants to be next...

Essentially a horror story about a mayfly-like mononoke that serves as a metaphor for the ephemerality of love, the title as well as the story of this short are built upon a double meaning that is complicated to translate but that makes for satisfyingly layered viewing when watching. The name Yumekagero comes from Kusakagero, a damselfly-like insect that lives for only a day. The aura that surrounds Ayabe is called Udumbara, which is both the name of the flower of the Indian Fig Tree, which grows secretively inside the fruit, and the name of the larva of the Kusakagero. Ayabe was impregnated by the Yumekagero, which hatches every 10 years when the Udumbara blooms, and must quickly devour the vitality of a male victim to lay its next brood. Ayabe and Mibu are about to consummate the ritual when Himuro barges in and jumps out the window to his death with Ayabe. It's too late for Mibu, though, who withers into an old man.

The story thus has a pleasingly literary density of allusion that elevates it slightly above typical examples of the genre in anime. Such material wouldn't seem suited to animated adaptation, but it works fairly well in the short running time without being too confusing.

A mid-period piece from Yasuomi Umetsu after his debut on Robot Carnival (1987) but before his breakthrough with A Kite (1998), I enjoyed this despite it being somewhat light in the animation department, both compared with Umetsu's other work and with the other pieces in the set. There's no blistering action, or any action whatsoever for that matter, only everyday acting scenes, but I actually like that its focus is on everyday acting. It allows you to appreciate the skills of this great animator without being distracted by either overactive animation or the typical Umetsu tackiness that I find tends to mar his own films.

Umetsu is a very technical animator, and he likes to grandstand. There is less of that here, but his seemingly effortless precision draughtsmanship comes through loud and clear. He poses characters in a variety of ways, changes their expressions dynamically, and can draw their bodies in motion three-dimensionally from any complicated angle and maintain their shapes as if they were rendered by a computer.

Umetsu also has a peculiar design sensibility that I usually find off-putting, but the characters here were more restrained in their designs, so I rather enjoyed them. I thought they were light in touch and subtly stylized in a pleasing and appealing way, for example the huge angular jaw of the protagonist's bespectacled friend, or the elegant oval of Ayabe's head. His character drawings are somewhat similar to Satoru Utsunomiya in the sense that their bodies feel stiff and rigid, and are drawn with sharp lines and angular forms, but where Utsunomiya's characters tend to be minimalistic and doll-like, Umetsu riddles his characters with peculiar distinguishing features, for example the three symmetrical hairs on the end of the protagonist's eyebrows in this short.

I find this piece shows how school drama should be done. The people in this short are actually believable as college students in the way they talk and behave. The body language and interpersonal dynamics are just realistic and understated enough to be believable. The acting is also nuanced without being lushly animated per se - it's more about skilfully timing the right expression or pose with a mere few drawings. And Umetsu has his own way of making the characters act that makes sense and isn't merely following a playbook of cliched stock expressions and poses, as is the case in most anime nowadays. Some animators nowadays seem to think that making characters flail about randomly is good acting, but Umetsu shows a good example here of how to make characters act in a way that makes sense in the context and is believable, without flamboyantly using a lot of drawings.

The short is actually not directed by Umetsu but by one Saeko Aoki of Pierrot. She is only credited with line directing, but she must also have drawn the storyboard. This is also the case in the Shinichi Suzuki short. The Yasuomi Umetsu and Shinichi Suzuki shorts were produced by Pierrot, and the Shinya Ohira and Shinji Hashimoto shorts were produced by Ichiro Itano's D.A.S.T. The Pierrot episodes also feature a very small number of animators compared with the long credit rolls of the two D.A.S.T. episodes, and the nature of the films reflects this; the two D.A.S.T. films are very much about the animation, whereas the animation seems almost perfunctory in the Pierrot films, whose focus is more on the narrative. Now largely associated with shonen fighting anime, Pierrot was at this time largely associated with magical girl fare, but occasionally produced the random highly artistic OVAs like Magical Emi: Semishigure and Gosenzosama Banbanzai and then this.

Tatami Voyage 四畳半漂流記

Director
Script
Storyboard
Character Design
Animation Director
橋本晋治Shinji Hashimoto
Supervisor:板野一郎Ichiro Itano
Art Director:石垣努Tsutomu Ishigaki
Key Animation:橋本浩一Koichi Hashimoto
柿田英樹Hideki Kakita
清水勝祐Katsuhiro Shimizu
二村秀樹Hideki Futamura
青木真理子Mariko Aoki
友田政晴Masaharu Tomoda
阿部美佐緒Misao Abe
馬場俊子Toshiko Baba
桜実勝志Masashi Oumi
橋本晋治Shinji Hashimoto
Animation Production:D.A.S.T

A guy named Shimada is on his way to meet his crush, Saori, when he has a run-in with a thug and gets beaten up. A mysterious passer-by rescues Shimada and asks for a favor in return. Saori happens by the scene, and together the two go back to Shimada's apartment to hear the stranger's request. The stranger informs them that he's looking for a certain something called "Pemu". Shimada hesitatingly accepts, and the stranger tells them their journey has already begun. Confused, they look out the window, and realize they got more than they bargained for, and the stranger is no mere mortal...

The directing debut of animator Shinji Hashimoto, this is by far the most striking of the four shorts. It's not often at my jaded age that I'm caught off guard by animation, but this thing shocked even me. This short is nothing less than a well-deserved bullet to the head of conventional anime character design. My jaw was literally dropped throughout much of the runtime. It has a style like nothing else that has ever been made in anime. The drawings at first sight appear to be deliberately ugly, but I find them quite appealing, in an extremely offbeat kind of way. Hashimoto attests to having been inspired by a 1990 manga called Bunpuku Chagama Daimaoh, the debut of Tokyo Tribe mangaka Santa Inoue, The drawings of this manga are by no means identical to the designs of this short, but you can see how they might have inspired Hashimoto to go in the direction he did.

What he got from the designs was the idea of freely, loosely drawn forms drawn with quick, firm, assured strokes. In anime, you usually have to draw a character exactly on model and get all the shapes and details just right. Otherwise it's off-model. The designs here represent an overturning of this fundamental rule of animation drawing, at least in anime. Rather than drawing outlines first, then filling in the details, and getting everything just so, these designs can still be properly drawn even if the details are not all the same in each shot. The forms are drawn as a series of bulges whose shapes can vary in relation to one another and still feel like the design is maintained. The characters have something of the character of blobs. This is somewhat reminiscent of the cartoon aesthetic of the west, with its stretch and squash, but it's not quite the same. There's no stretch and squash here. Hashimoto invented his own unique approach that was basically more suited to his own temperament and personality, and made the process of animating fun for himself, rather than the tedious chore it can become if you have to spend a lot of time on getting the details of a design just right. I'm not an animator because I'm too impatient. I think I would enjoy drawing Hashimoto's characters because they wouldn't be a pain in the butt.

The designs have almost a naif feeling, as if they were drawn by a child or an outsider artist. But clearly that is not the case, as the animation is at times extremely rich and nuanced, and of course Shinji Hashimoto is an ex-Telecom animator. Santa Inoue is related to Taiyo Matsumoto, as is his style, and the style here seems indebted to the whole indie manga aesthetic. This episode is a prime example of how the pair of Shinya Ohira and Shinji Hashimoto injected an indie and punk feeling into anime, subverting the industry from the inside out. I wish animators in the anime industry would come up with their own approaches like this. There is the whole heta-uma movement started by Shiriagari Kotobuki, with its anime analogues in a few shows like Manga Biyori, but Hashimoto's film is totally different from that; it's quite sincere rather than sarcastic.

The animation is very strong in certain spots, and at all times nothing short of mesmerizing due to the design choices. Every drawing fascinates, because you can see the animators actually having to think, to come up with an answer to the question of how to draw these characters. The animation where the guy transforms in front of the monster near the end is particularly impressive, and may have been the work of an uncredited Satoru Utsunomiya. For some reason many animators in this and Shinya Ohira's short went uncredited.

The animation at times has the feeling of Takashi Nakamura, particularly with the way the monster's face is drawn with these big, deeply sculpted nose and lips. Apparently this short was made by essentially the same team of animators as The Antique Shop, but The Antique Shop was done first, and by the time of this short, they were all really pooped and didn't have much energy left. It still looks pretty impressive, considering the very short schedule in which they made it. Just goes to show that it's not budget and schedule that make for compelling animation, it's the overwhelming desire to make something incredible, consequences be damned.

The remarkable thing is that this is nothing even remotely like the style with which Shinji Hashimoto is typically associated. It's a complete one-off. There must be so many other talented animators out there who, if given the chance like Hashimoto was here, would be able to produce novel visual schemes of a kind we would never have expected, but they just haven't been given the chance. OVAs like this were a precious opportunity to try new things. Hashimoto hasn't directed anything since, except for one opening. OVAs haven't gotten any more daring.

A Mountain Ghost Story 深山幻想譚

Character Design
Animation Director
Key Animation
鈴木信一Shinichi Suzuki
Line Director:青木佐恵子Saeko Aoki
Art Director:伊藤主計Kazue Ito
Key Animation:竹山稔Minoru Takeyama
Animation Production:スタジオぴえろStudio Pierrot

A mountaineer sits alone with his thoughts, warming himself to the fire and sipping coffee while reminiscing about what drove him to seek the mountain he enjoyed hiking as a youth, now, in his advanced age: The failure of his small business, and the avalanche of responsibility that followed... His wife, screaming in anger... The life insurance that would take care of his debts and his wife if something were to happen to him.... Yes, he has come to the mountain to die. His dark thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of an unexpected visitor, who begins talking about strange things like mountain spirits.

Featuring drawings by Shinichi Suzuki of The Life of Gusko Budori, this is the most static and minimalistic short in the set, but also the longest, clocking in at 17 minutes. (By contrast, Shinji Hashimoto's vividly animated episode is understandably the shortest, at 10 minutes.) Most of the episode consists of two people sitting around a fire talking. In terms of both directing and animation, it's very restrained. The directing and animation serve mainly to narrate the story about this man's past and the mysterious stranger. You could criticize this short, as well as Umetsu's, for being a little too reliant on the source material and not creating an emphatic visual analogue to the script, but honestly the story is interesting enough that I didn't mind this at all. It makes for a good balance in tone to have one more static short like this in the set, so the film should more rightfully be judged within its original context.

Despite having very little to it, the story kept me interested throughout. You can feel the pain of the protagonist, who has gone through hard times and has retreated to the solitude of the mountains to gather his thoughts and potentially even end his own life. I can certainly relate to this feeling of wanting to give up, one we've probably all felt at some time or another. I felt the long shots focused on the protagonist did a good job of establishing the atmosphere of this section. [SPOILER] Perhaps I'm just naive not to have seen it coming, but I was genuinely surprised by the ending, and it provided the poignant final touch to an already poignant setup. After the stillness of the entire episode, suddenly the interloper walks forward and stands into the fire, to the shock of the protagonist, and then violently grabs the protagonist's face and shoves him into the bottle. Dramatically and visually it makes for quite a sucker punch after all that calm and stillness. He was a ghost all along, having long since died on the mountain.

Although not up to the level of an animator like Yasuomi Umetsu, Shinichi Suzuki nevertheless does a decent job here as the near-solo animator of the whole episode. He's less technically accomplished than Umetsu, but has a cartoonish and exaggerated way of animating the characters using very few drawings that is appealing in its own way. I particularly like the detail lavished on depicting how he opens up the package of coffee. Little details like this conveys the reality of the situation well. The interloper appears to be designed in a way reminiscent of Buddha, with his long-lobed ears and paunch, which is an interesting choice. His animation is rather lively and fun. Once you've seen the episode, everything takes on a different meaning on a second watching, as you understand the subtext of the protagonist's words and body language.

I don't know much else about Suzuki other than that he was one of the founding members of Animaru-ya in 1982, having done sakkan work on Sasuga no Sarutobi that same year, and is still very much active, having founded his own subcontracting studio Anime Kobo Basara アニメ工房婆娑羅 in 1997. Incidentally, this Shinichi Suzuki is written 鈴木信一 and is unrelated to the Shinichi Suzuki who was an animator at Otogi Pro in the 1950s, whose name is written 鈴木伸一. His studio is one of the few subcontractors who do work for Kyoto Animation productions, presumably due to the fact that Kyoto Animation's Kigami Yoshiji is a fellow Animaru-ya expat.

The Antique Shop 骨董屋

Director
Script
Storyboard
Character Design
Animation Director
大平晋也Shinya Ohira
Supervisor:板野一郎Ichiro Itano
Art Director:長尾仁Jin Nagao
Key Animation:佐々木守Mamoru Sasaki
田中達之Tatsuyuki Tanaka
黒沢守Mamoru Kurosawa
二村秀樹Hideki Futamura
本猪木浩明Hiroaki Motoigi
工藤正明Masaaki Kudo
高橋信也Shinya Takahashi
吉田英俊Hidetoshi Yoshida
橋本晋治Shinji Hashimoto
青木真理子Mariko Aoki
Animation Production:D.A.S.T.

The lost protagonist of The Antique Shop is going through a bit of an early mid-life crisis. Once an aspiring painter with a beautiful girlfriend, he had a falling out with his girlfriend and now lives a boring life as a salaryman. A night out drinking with his old buddies turns sour as they regale him with stories of their success. He slips away into the night, pondering the point of his life, when his eyes fall on a strange antique shop. He slips in on a whim, and takes a metaphysical journey down memory lane, in the process discovering the suppressed memory of a tragic mistake that led to his downfall.

Shinya Ohira's directing debut is still beautiful to look at after all these years, and probably the best film in the set. It's the only of the four shorts that actually feels cinematic. Ohira tells this universal story of frustration, disappointment and dashed hopes through the lens of a harsh but loving realism that was unprecedented in its time. Even later realistic works don't quite adopt a tone as gritty and drably honest as this. And he did so in his directing debut, under extremely adverse production conditions that rendered the film technically somewhat of a mess, replete with photography mistakes and rushed animation.

There's an attention to detail here that's on a different level from the other shorts. Every shot is thoroughly creatively designed and conceived to create a dynamic flow as well as translate the psychology of the protagonist at each juncture. Early on, in the streets, the urban electrical wiring seems to entangle the man like a spiderweb as he falls to the ground and vomits on the sidewalk. Laughter echoes from somewhere, as if the city and life were laughing at his misery.

In the curio shop, as the protagonist walks through the doors, he passes by a mirrored dresser, and you can see his shadow passing in two directions at once as the image of his face briefly slides through the mirror, creating a disorienting effect mirroring the chaos of the interior of the shop and his mental state. The next shot is another disorienting shot in which we peer at the protagonist from above through the ticking and whirring guts of some kind of antique cuckoo clock. This cuts to a shot facing the protagonist as he looks around the interior, which in turn cuts to a POV shot of his eyes scanning the interior, which is depicted in intricate detail that makes you appreciate his wonder.

The objects in the shop actual feel very used and personal, which is essential to convey to the audience, as this sets up the reveal that they are in fact relics of his own childhood. He also uses a variety of directing techniques to achieve his ends, for example a panning shot with different parts of the shop moving at different speeds across the screen on different 'book' layers, followed by an animated 'mawarikomi' or rotating shot of the protagonist.

I like the story of this film for one because I can relate to the protagonist, but also because the supernatural element is there as the agency to help narrate a man's story, rather than being the main narrative thrust, as it usually is in this genre of story, and as it is in all of the other stories in the set.

I would love to see a full-length TV show done in this pared down realistic style, although I know it will never happen. There have been full-length features made in a completely realistic vein, but those are different. I want to see something that is more like 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother in the sense that entire episodes are just devoted to depicting everyday life in its minutiae, minus the dramatic pretenses. I don't even mind the roughness of The Antique Shop, as you can see past that to the realistic core of the episode, so considering how short a schedule such a realistic film was produced on, I don't think it's unreasonable to think it would be possible to produce a TV show in this style.

Many of the shots have a lovely simplicity and subtlety to them thanks either to Ohira, who corrected some of the shots (like the late close-ups in the shop), as well as the talented group of animators he managed to scrounge up. For some reason, several of the best animators went uncredited. Confirmed uncredited animators are Akihiro Yuki, Kazuyoshi Yaginuma and Mitsuo Iso. Akihiro Yuki of Oh Pro animated the first few shots of the reminiscence where Keiko is working at the cash register, drinking tea, and where the protagonist is painting with Keiko looking on. I'm quite fond of his work. He again worked with Ohira on the Junkers pilot and then the film itself. Iso meanwhile animated the two shots of the protagonist smoking, while Yaginuma animated the scene immediately following where Keiko rushes to the sink to throw up. I wonder if maybe Masatsugu Arakawa also didn't draw a few uncredited shots. Some early shots in the film look like his style.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

03:20:00 pm , 2022 words, 21263 views     Categories: OVA, post-Akira, 1990s

Ys

There seems to have been something of a boom in fantasy anime OVAs between the years 1988-1992. Just to name some of the better produced entries, there was Xanadu: Dragon Slayer Densetsu (1988), The Hakkenden (1990-1991), Record of Lodoss War (1990-1991), 3x3 Eyes (1991), and Dragon Slayer (1992).

One that slipped through the cracks in my case is Ys (pronounced like "east" without the "t"). It's a more pure D&D-style fantasy outings in the vein of Dragon Slayer, as it's closely based on a video game. I only caught a glimpse of one scene back in the day, and it left a vivid impression on me. I finally had the chance to watch it in full recently, and I was happy to discover that it's a pretty good show - at least in part. When it's bad, it's dreck, but when it's good, it's awesome.

Two series were released: Ys was released in 7 episodes between 1989 and 1991, and its continuation Ys: The Heavenly Shrine ~Adol Christin's Adventure~ was released in 4 episodes between 1992 and 1993.

The contrast between the two series is stark, both in terms of directing and visuals. Ys I is essentially a by-the-books video game adaptation. It feels stiff and uninspired, with nary a feeling of tension or peril even at climactic moments. The drawings are slack and clean and lacking dynamism. Even the script is weak, creating cyphers who go lifelessly through the motions of a video game and utter dialogue that is embarrassingly facile and lacking in personality.

To be fair, I actually enjoyed even the first series. I'm just judging it objectively. It hits just the right spot when you're in the mood for some mindless but serious (i.e. not postmodern or gag-filled) fantasy anime that pushes all the buttons you want pushed in that kind of material. One of the few animation highlights comes in the second half of episode 2, which was animated by the late Noriaki Tetsura.

Ys II is a continuation that picks up exactly where the first series left off, but suddenly it's like a completely different show. The characters look and move differently, and the directing is much more compelling. The drawings are sharp and stylized, with lots of dynamic compositions that work great as illustrations. The characters are written in a more believable way, not just uttering expository dialogue. They're hot-blooded and tempestuous, with distinct personalities. They're also animated more dynamically, with vivid expressions, and they move through the screen in a three-dimensional way during the action scenes. The effects work is very impressive. The directing creates an epic and tense atmosphere, with quick cutting in the action scenes and exciting choreography that relies heavily on the animation. Even the music feels appropriately hardcore.

Rather than merely reading a script, the characters act out an inner world of thought and emotion, doing things that don't necessarily advance plot but rather make them seem human. For example, when one of the characters' girlfriend is trapped and about to be sacrificed, after first trying to slash through the barrier imprisoning her, he finally gives up, only to start madly punching the barrier in frustration.

All in all, the second series is an impressively powerful and entertaining OVA. Blistering, brutal and angry, its animation feels slightly unhinged and explodes off the screen with raw energy. Even its occasionally sloppiness is endearing. It's everything I love about anime and immediately ranks as one of my favorite OVAs of the post-Akira period alongside all the other post-Akira OVAs I've talked about in the past. It's a kindred spirit to madcap, wildly animated OVAs like Dragon Slayer (1992) and Crimson Wolf (1993).

Ys II feels very similar to Dragon Slayer in its tense atmosphere and speedy directing, although the animation of Ys II doesn't contain nearly as much stretch and squash of the kind used profusely in Dragon Slayer. The characters are loosely drawn but for the most part solid. With only a few exceptions, the movement here is conveyed by arcs of movement, not deformation. That's something that unifies most of the work in the 'post-Akira' school - that it's decidedly not Kanada-school, without much ghosting or stretch and squash and more follow-through.

Adol by Hiroyuki Nishimura

The sudden shift in style between the two series is really bizarre, and it makes you wonder what happened: why the drastic change? Perhaps they rightly felt the first series was on the wrong path and called in some new people to shake things up. That seems to be what happened, because the staff is very different between the two shows. First Jun Kamiya was replaced as director midway through the first series by Takashi Watanabe. He went on to direct the second series. Then the character design changed from Tetsuya Ishikawa to Hiroyuki Nishimura. Finally, the writer changed from Tadashi Hayakawa to Katsuhiko Chiba. Then the animation staff is completely different. All of this adds up to a completely different show.

The most important change was bringing in the talented and versatile Asia-do animator Hiroyuki Nishimura, who redesigned the characters in a more appealing and interesting way. I don't know how the animators were found for the project, but obviously this is a much more talented team than the first show, as every moment of the second series for the most part is a pleasure to watch in terms of the drawings. Even the quieter scenes have careful character animation. The action scenes, meanwhile, are plentiful and thrilling.

The biggest name after Hiroyuki Nishimura is Kazuto Nakazawa, who animated and co-sakkan'd episodes 2 and 3. This was still early in his career, but his immense skill as a mover comes through loud and clear and I suspect plays a big role in making the show so enjoyable. Episodes 2 and 3 have a looser drawing style than episodes 1 and 4. It seems clear to me that Nakazawa was heavily influenced by Satoru Utsunomiya and maybe even other stuff like the work of Shinya Ohira and Shinji Hashimoto in Hakkenden episode 1 from 1990. After all, he has admitted to watching the later Hamaji's Resurrection episode literally 30 times a week after it came out, so he must have been following the previous outings from this school of animators. Nakazawa's characters have bulky forms and enormous hands, and swing their limbs around the screen violently in a way that seems clearly indebted to Hakkenden, particularly the scenes animated by Shinji Hashimoto and Tatsuyuki Tanaka. The Utsunomiya-influenced style of the character animation and the unusual amount of work put into the magic effects reminds me of Legend of Crystania (1995) from a few years after.

Whether it's Nishimura or Nakazawa or a combination of other team members who were responsible for pushing things in this direction, it seems clear that the overall production must have been influenced by the recent post-Akira OVAs in some form or another. Animators in Japan all know one another, far more than we realize, and are being influenced by one another all the time, so it doesn't take long for a certain style or approach to virally spread throughout the industry.

As it happens, Hiroyuki Nishimura actually was an animator on Shinya Ohira's epoch-making Hamaji's Resurrection episode of the second Hakkenden series released just a year after Ys II. There are lots of obvious connections behind this. Hiroyuki Nishimura was, at the time, together with Yoshihiko Takakura, part of Mitsuru Hongo's Megaten "studio", which was basically a workspace for the three animators. Hiroyuki Nishimura and Mitsuru Hongo both started out at Asia-do, as did Masaaki Yuasa, animation director of Hamaji's Resurrection, and had by that point been working together on the Shin-chan films under Hongo.

Hiroyuki Nishimura continued to have a close working relationship with Mitsuru Hongo, culminating with Deltora Quest (2007-2008). Hiroyuki Nishimura is a mutli-talented guy who has, at various points in his career, done just about everything - animating, storyboarding, directing a series, character design, animation director, even scriptwriting. Like ex-Asia-do compatriot Toshihisa Kaiya, he even did work for IG on IGPX, which with its CG robots reminds of his more recent effort Danboru Senki. I still remember him best for his excellent combat animation sequences in the Shin-chan movies. He and Yuasa have frequently helped each other out: Yuasa did layout under Nishimura for Ruin Explorers and Nishimura was an animator in Yuasa's Nanchatte Vampiyan pilot and Slime Adventures pilot, as well as animating the climactic part of Mind Game where Nishi et al. row out of the whale.

Another factor that might play a role is the fact that Haruki Kadokawa is involved as producer. This was apparently one of the very last things he produced before being sent to jail for 4 years for smuggling cocaine and embezzling. Whatever the faults of his productions, Kadokawa anime were a staple of my anime diet back in the day and represented a certain kind of quality. They were always lavishly produced, epic in scope and memorable, if in the end they were largely flawed as films. The first Arslan Wars movie from 1991 is one of my favorite anime from this period. Kadokawa followed this up with another fantasy epic: Weathering Continent (1992). Perhaps Kadokawa's involvement was a factor pushing the quality of the production in the right way.

Director Takashi Watanabe was at the start of his career when he took over Ys in 1990. I didn't know anything about him before watching this, and upon looking into his career, I can't say I'm a fan. He has been very prolific as a series director since then, directing TV shows such Slayers, Shakugan no Shana, Boogiepop Phantom, and Mito no Daiboken, among many other shows, his most recent being Senran Kagura and Freezing Vibration. He seems to specialize in shows featuring fighting bishojo. I enjoyed Mito, but that's about it apart from Ys. He was also the director of Lost Universe, episode 4 of which is the greatest anime TV episode of all time: Yashigani Hofuru. Following that debacle, he apparently felt bad, because he put up a web site explaining the challenges facing a director in the anime industry, presumably to explain the circumstances that led to the production of the infamous episode.

One mystery to me is why there are drawings in episode 1 of Ys II that seem like they came straight out of Nadia of the Blue Water. There is some slight staff overlap, but not enough to explain the overt stylistic similarity.


Other 'post-Akira' OVAs:

Explorer Woman Ray (1989)
The Hakkenden (1990-1991)
Sukeban Deka (1991)
3x3 Eyes (1991)
The Antique Shop (1991)
Dragon Slayer (1992)
Green Legend Ran (1992-1993)
Crimson Wolf (1993)


イース Ys (OVA, 7 eps, 1989-1991)

Script:早川正Tadashi Hayakawa
Director:神谷純Jun Kamiya (1-4)
渡部高志Takashi Watanabe (5-7)
Character Design:石川哲也Tetsuya Ishikawa
Episode 1
Animation Director:石川哲也Tetsuya Ishikawa
Key Animation:菊地晃Akira Kikuchi
松本勝次Katsuji Matsumoto
岡本稔Minoru Okamoto
藤田佳三Keizo Fujita
井上鋭Ei Inoue
唐沢紀江Norie Karasawa
藤井裕子Hiroko Fujii
石川哲也Tetsuya Ishikawa
Episode 2
Animation Director:石川哲也Tetsuya Ishikawa
Key Animation:氏家章雄Ujie Akio
鉄羅紀明Noriaki Tetsura
きのプロダクションKino Production
Episode 3
Animation Director:菅原浩喜Hiroki Sugawara
Key Animation:久保川美明Mia Kubokawa
矢木正之Masayuki Yaki
小丸敏之Toshiyuki Komaru
佐々木守Mamoru Sasaki
清水保之Yasuyuki Shimizu
山本正文Masafumi Yamamoto
井尻博之Hiroyuki Ijiri
山内真紀子Makiko Yamauchi
榊原文Fumi Sakakibara
Episode 4
Animation Director:松岡秀明Hideaki Matsuoka
Key Animation:篠田章Akira Shinoda
松山光治Koji Matsuyama
宮田奈保美Naomi Miyata
Episode 5
Animation Director:松岡秀明Hideaki Matsuoka
Assistant A.D.:松山光治Koji Matsuyama
Key Animation:篠田章Akira Shinoda
松山光治Koji Matsuyama
宮田奈保美Naomi Miyata
川崎浩充Hiromitsu Kawasaki
吉田仁Hitoshi Yoshida
佐藤英二Eiji Sato
松岡秀明Hideaki Matsuoka
Episode 6
Animation Director:松岡秀明Hideaki Matsuoka
Key Animation:じゃんぐるじむJungle Gym
久保博志Hiroshi Kubo
原勝徳Katsunori Hara
こばやしたかしTakashi Kobayashi
佐々木敏子Toshiko Sasaki
佐藤英一Eiichi Sato
熊沢英樹Hideki Kumazawa
吉田仁Hitoshi Yoshida
小山りょうRyo Koyama
永野由美Yumi Nagano
栗井重紀Shigenori Kurii
Episode 7
Animation Director:松岡秀明Hideaki Matsuoka
Key Animation:じゃんぐるじむJungle Gym
こばやしたかしTakashi Kobayashi
佐々木敏子Toshiko Sasaki
佐藤英一Eiichi Sato
熊沢英樹Hideki Kumazawa
吉田仁Hitoshi Yoshida
小山りょうRyo Koyama
中沢一登Kazuto Nakazawa

イース 天空の神殿 〜アドル・クリスティンの冒険〜
Ys: The Heavenly Shrine ~Adol Christin's Adventure~
(OVA, 4 eps, 1992-1993)

Script:千葉克彦Katsuhiko Chiba
Director:渡部高志Takashi Watanabe
Character Design:西村博之Hiroyuki Nishimura
Episode 1
Animation Director:西村博之Hiroyuki Nishimura
Key Animation:箕輪悟Satoru Minowa
久保博志Hiroshi Kubo
中沢一登Kazuto Nakazawa
水畑健二Kenji Mizuhata
熊沢英樹Hideki Kumazawa
森可渡士Watashi Morika
栗井重紀Shigenori Kurii
宮田奈保美Naomi Miyata
松岡秀明Hideaki Matsuoka
Episode 2
Animation Director:中沢一登Kazuto Nakazawa
水畑健二Kenji Mizuhata
西村博之Hiroyuki Nishimura
Monster A.D.:箕輪悟Satoru Minowa
Key Animation:松岡秀明Hideaki Matsuoka
久保博志Tadashi Kubo
熊沢英樹Hideki Kumazawa
箕輪悟Satoru Minowa
鈴木仁史Hitoshi Suzuki
水畑健二Kenji Mizuhata
宮田奈保美Naomi Miyata
森可渡士Watashi Morika
中沢一登Kazuto Nakazawa
Episode 3
Animation Director:中沢一登Kazuto Nakazawa
Assistant A.D.:秋山充治Mitsuharu Akiyama
水畑健二Kenji Mizuhata
Key Animation:熊澤英樹Hideki Kumazawa
岡野幸男Yukio Okano
小林多加志Takashi Kobayashi
井上みゆきMiyuki Inoue
佐々木敏子Toshiko Sasaki
久保博志Hiroshi Kubo
森可渡士Watashi Morika
鈴木仁史Hitoshi Suzuki
宮田奈保美Naomi Miyata
佐藤英一Eiichi Sato
春日井浩之Hiroyuki Kasugai
百瀬恵美子Emiko Momose
祝浩司Hiroshi Iwai
Episode 4
Animation Director:西村博之Hiroyuki Nishimura
Effect Animation:佐藤英一Eiichi Sato
Key Animation:西村博之Hiroyuki Nishimura
斉藤卓也Takuya Saito
岡本圭一郎Keiichiro Okamoto
武内宣之Noriyuki Takeuchi
祝浩司Hiroshi Iwai
加藤興治Koji Kato
熊沢英樹Hideki Kumazawa
久保博志Hiroshi Kubo
細山正樹Masaki Hosoyama
木場田実Minoru Kibata

Monday, September 9, 2013

10:59:00 pm , 573 words, 5848 views     Categories: OVA, Studio: Telecom, Animator: Yasuo Otsuka, Studio: Tokyo Movie, 1990s

Ziria

I've always wanted to see more from Yasuo Otsuka. I never feel like I can get enough. Having seen most of his major work, I'm left to dig up obscurities from his filmography.

Though flawed, the late-career Fuma from 1987 is one of his best works. His style comes through in it very clearly, as he drew or corrected all of the layouts and checked the animation of every shot in the movie. The long-delayed Nemo occupied Telecom for the next year, and presumably Otsuka was involved in that for its duration, although his personality doesn't come through much in the film.

After that comes an obscurity I'd long wondered about, an OVA with the long and unwieldy title FAR EAST OF EDEN 天外魔境 ZIRIA 自来也 おぼろ変, released in two 45-minute installments in July and August 1990. In it, Otsuka is credited as animation supervisor 作画監修. Otsuka was credited as simply supervisor in Fuma and the earlier Mamo movie, but presumably the two titles signify a similar role.

This was released to follow up a computer RPG of the same name released not long before. In fact, it had originally been planned as an anime, but the computer game wound up coming out first. It's set in medieval Japan re-imagined as if through the eyes of a westerner who had never set eyes on the place but only heard fantastic tales about the faraway land. It's a fairly fun, harmless fantasy adventure that would otherwise have been a good ride if the quality were only a little better.

In filmographies put together with Otsuka's assistance, Otsuka has asked that Ziria not be included, presumably because he is not proud of the work. This suggested there had been some problems with the production that led to him not wanting to be associated with the OVA.

I've finally seen the first episode, and I can understand why he feels that way. This is not a film that is up to his standards. It clearly could have been much better. It's sad because you can see that he was clearly involved throughout, yet factors beyond his control keep it from rising to his level.

Although it's not terrible, it's clear that the film is a washout on the animation front. The movement is flimsy and spare, like a crappy TV episode. You can feel Otsuka's hand throughout, as he seems to have drawn or corrected the layouts for every shot. The layouts feel nice, but you really have to squint to see it through the shoddy drawings. At almost no time does the animation have the speedy, fun, cleverly choreographed action sensibility of Fuma or other classic Telecom productions. It's as if the film was produced in a rush. The foundation is strong enough, but they botched the execution.

There are a few names I recognize in the animation credits, but most of them like Kei Hyodo and Masao Okubo were at the beginning of their careers and hadn't developed their styles yet. For some reason, Telecom clearly didn't put their best animators on this project.

Despite it turning out to be a sub-par production, this was Yasuo Otsuka's last major involvement in a film, so I'm happy to have finally been able to see it. He had retired long before, and even his involvement in Fuma seems to have been more out of necessity to save the production than because he was scheduled to. The same must be the case here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

02:21:00 pm , 1380 words, 6589 views     Categories: OVA, Studio: Anime R, 1990s

Capricorn

Capricorn (1991) was the next OVA produced by Aubeck after Garaga. This time it's a real OVA, only 47 minutes long. I just watched this for the first time, and can report that it is not worth revisiting. It has nothing of the quality or charm of Garaga. It's just a sloppy, quickly made adaptation of a manga that doesn't work as a story and has virtually no animation of interest to rescue it. The only reason I write about it here is because it involves Anime R, and the reason why it turned out so crappy is more interesting than the OVA itself.

Due to the relative success of Garaga, the production company Aubeck had intended to use the same staff to produce their next project, an adaptation of the mangaka Joji Manabe's Capricorn. Hidemi Kubo was scheduled to be the director and Anime R was to do the animation again. After Hidemi Kubo drew the storyboard, though, for some reason he had to duck out of the project. That was the first blow. Then, due to scheduling problems, Anime R was not able to devote their full energy to the project. In the end, aside from being headlined by animation director Moriyasu Taniguchi and mecha animation director Toru Yoshida, there are just a few second-tier R animators (none of the stars like Hiroshi Osaka or Hiroyuki Okiura) and the rest of the animator team was apparently thrown together in a rush.

After Hidemi Kubo left, Taniguchi took on the job of animation director on the condition of being able to choose who was to direct the project. The person he chose is Takashi Imanishi, whom Taniguchi had worked under recently on the Sunrise projects Votoms, City Hunter and Armor Hunter Mellowlink. Imanishi was still young but Taniguchi was impressed with his work on these projects. Taniguchi also apparently chose Shinichiro Watanabe, who had begun to make the transition to director, but the credits do not show any trace of his presence if he was indeed involved. Imanishi wound up re-drawing the storyboard based on Kubo's storyboard, so sadly there is probably only scant trace of Kubo's touch left. Perhaps another major reason the project feels rushed is that Takashi Imanishi, Toru Yoshida et al. were concurrently putting most of their effort into the big OVA project Gundam 0083. Rather than being a big effort on their part, it feels like they were just pinch hitters brought in to bring the project to completion.

The results really show that this project was made in a rush. The animation is TV quality for the most part. Even the few bits where the animation is somewhat lively, like the scene in the house at the beginning, where the animator draws the character going through some fun posing, and the scene where the dragon girl escapes her captors a little later, don't really feel that impressive. The very loose drawings reminiscent of Urusei Yatsura show that they were trying for a looser style of animation that would enable more playing around, but even in this department the animation does not feel particularly nice. Any random episode of Urusei Yatsura did that kind of animation better. The drawings don't look bad in the same way as Good Morning Althea. They don't feel like they look wrong because of bad inbetweening. They just feel like the animators didn't have time to draw the animation.

The animation doesn't even feel like it bears the very strong imprint of a sakkan, much less one with such an identifiable style as Moriyasu Taniguchi. Either by this time he wasn't drawing things in such an idiosyncratic way as he did on Votoms many years earlier, or he just didn't actually do that many corrections here. Similarly, I don't feel the very strong impression of Toru Yoshida in the mecha. The only times when I feel his imprint are in a few shots of the grub-looking ships flying by. They were clearly his design and probably drawn by him. So all in all, it's pretty disappointing from an Anime R anime. Not the best showcase of Anime R's style. But then again, they were involved in a ton of projects, and I'm sure that most of them are not that impressive.

I'd be inclined to give the show a pass despite the lackluster animation because I'm actually kind of partial to this style of lighthearted, gag-filled, playful anime. But it just doesn't work. The story is too compressed, first of all, so it doesn't work as a film. But more importantly, even the character animation and drawing aren't that great. The characters just aren't funny or fun to watch they way they are supposed to be. Normally I love this kind of fun and playful character designs, with its many wacky characters based on animals with chicken, frog, cat heads, etc. I love shows like Kaiketsu Zorori that have simple kiddie designs that allow the animators to have more fun moving them. But somehow that equation didn't work in favor of Capricorn. They seem to have set out to make it a simple carefree romp giving the animators room to fill it out with playful animation, but perhaps because of the short schedule, it just wound up feeling cheap, without the playfulness that would have been necessary to make the simple design aesthetic work. Incidentally, the show seems to have ripped off another with the same aesthetic, Spaceship Sagittarius, which is also a lighthearted science fiction romp populated by anthropomorphic animals featuring an anthropomorphic frog character who speaks in Osaka-ben.

Incidentally the mangaka Joji Manabe is NOT the same person as the Oh Pro animator Joji Manabe. They are two different people. For a long time I was confused about this and thought they were the same person, assuming the animator had eventually given up animating and switched to drawing manga or something. The name is actually spelled slightly differently: Joji Manabe spelled 真鍋譲治 is the mangaka who debuted in 1984, whereas Joji Manabe spelled 真鍋譲二 is the Oh Pro animator from the 1970s who worked on such things as Lupin series 1 (1971) and 2 (1977-80), Dokonjo Gaeru (1972-74), Heidi (1974) and Galaxy Express 999 (1978-1981).

When I saw the animation of Capricorn, it made me think of Urusei Yatsura, so the first person that came to mind was Yuji Morikawa, the guy whose name is synonymous with pioneering the wildly exaggerated reaction animation with huge mouth and eyes that defines Urusei Yatsura. There are several shots with huge-mouthed reactions in that style here. But no, surprisingly, he isn't involved. I think I've also long found myself mixing up Yuji Morikawa and Joji Manabe, too, for some reason.

A note about the credits: I've done something novel this time and placed a note by the key animators identifying which studio they belonged to. I thought it would be an interesting way of showing how the key animation credits (in Capricorn and generally) are a mix of animators from different studios. Whereas in Garaga the only studio credited with "Production Assistance" (which is a credit that is often used to credit the subcontracting studio that produced the actual animation), in Capricorn about a dozen studios are mentioned, so with a little research I was able to figure out who belonged to which one.

The first person listed, Ayaka Gun, is probably a pen name. The only other place the name appears is in Pop Chaser, which also featured one other Anime R animator, Kazuaki Mouri, so obviously it's one of the better Anime R animators. I understand why s/he used the name in Pop Chaser - everyone was doing it almost as a joke - but I don't know why they felt the need to use a pen name here. I wonder if it might not be Toru Yoshida himself, because he's from Kagawa prefecture, which contains a district called Ayaka-gun.


Capricorn カプリコン (OVA, 1991, 47mins, Aubeck)

Planning:谷田部雄次Yuji Yatabe
Director:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Created by & Structure:真鍋譲治Joji Manabe
Script & Storyboard:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
真鍋譲治Joji Manabe
Char. Design & Anim. Director:谷口守泰Moriyasu Taniguchi
Mecha Design & Mecha A.D.:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Key Animation:綾歌軍Ayaka Gun(Anime R)
吉本拓二Takuji Yoshimoto
井上哲Tetsu Inoue
能地清Kiyoshi Noji
河野利幸Toshiyuki Kono
 
村中博美Hiromi Muranaka(Studio Mu)
山本佐和子Sawako Yamamoto
大島康弘Yasuhiro Ojima
井藤誠Makoto Ifuji(Animation 501?)
飯飼一幸Kazuyuki Igai
福島豊明Toyoaki Fukushima
 
小倉康治Yasuharu Ogura(Atelier Fukuro)
川島達矢Tatsuya Kawajima
大城勉Tsutomu Oshiro(Studio Emu)
安藤義信Yoshinobu Ando
阿部正実Masami Abe
木村光雅Mitsumasa Kimura(D.A.S.T.)
中平晴也Haruya Nakahira

Thursday, June 7, 2012

01:49:00 am , 1886 words, 7487 views     Categories: Studio: Anime R, 1980s, 1990s

Anime games

I don't play games anymore, but I'm interested in the dynamic between animation and games. Games owe a lot to animation. Yoichi Kotabe brought Mario alive. Animated openings to games remain common, and many narrative-style games incorporate cut-scene animation (Popolocrois IMO being the crowning example), but most interesting to me are games where the actual game play consists of hand-drawn animation. LD games were the first of this kind.

After the release of Don Bluth's groundbreaking Dragon's Lair laserdisc arcade game in 1983, there was a brief fad for this new format up until about 1985, when it fizzled out due presumably to the limitations of the gameplay. Between 1983 and 1985, several Japanese games were made in the same mold as Dragon's Lair using LD technology. Although obviously none of them were anything near the level of the amazing animation in Bluth's game, some of them had impressive animation.

Initially, in 1983, the releases were hacked together from previously extisting movies: Cliffhanger from bits of Cagliostro (and also Yuzo Aoki's car chase scene from Mamo) and Bega's Battle from Harmageddon (Yamato and Galaxy Express 999 also later got this treatment), but in 1984 they started putting out original titles. Some of these like Ninja Hayate and Badlands had bad animation and generally sloppy production of the kind you'd expect from a cheap knockoff made as a quick cash-in, but Cobra Command, Road Blaster and Time Gal had impressive animation.

Time Gal (1985, Taito/Junio, Arcade LD Game)
Director:今沢哲男Tetsuo Imazawa
Character Designer:我妻宏Hiroshi Wagatsuma
Animation Director:毛利和昭Kazuaki Mouri
Animators:毛利和昭Kazuaki Mouri
井上俊之Toshiyuki Inoue
うつのみやさとるSatoru Utsunomiya
...?...

Full Game Play: Past - Present - Future

Time Gal is my favorite of the Japanese LD games. It features a girl travelling around different eras of history, riding on the wings of Zero fighters, fighting pirates, dodging asteroids and aliens and dinosaurs and giant robots. Stylistically it's closest of the Japanese laserdisc games to the Don Bluth originals. It's a lighthearted romp starring a spunky heroine running around evading various colorful enemies, whereas the other games tend to be dry affairs without humor or personality, with you just driving or flying around shooting things. The creators admit to deliberately modeling Time Gal after Space Ace.

Time Gal also has some of the best animation of any of the Japanese LD games. The animation comes courtesy of none other than the selfsame Kazuaki Mouri I just talked about, who was the animation director. In addition, the animators include no less than Toshiyuki Inoue and Satoru Utsunomiya. The animation appears to have been produced by Studio Junio (The Fox of Chironup, Hermes, Wings of Love), although they are not credited, because the director and animation director are Junio people, and of course Toshiyuki Inoue was at Junio at the time. As it happens, so was Utsunomiya. He had apparently just joined Junio because he admired Inoue's animation on Gu-Gu Ganmo and wanted to work near Inoue. These two had an interesting rivalry going at the time. Inoue had similarly become aware of Utsunomiya at the same time. He had wondered who the amazing animator was behind the good genga he'd seen turned in on Around the World in 80 Days, whose chief animation director was Junio founder Takao Kosai, and later discovered it to be Utsunomiya.

The game has 16 stages, five each of which take place in the past, the present and the future. Satoru Utsunomiya's section is Stage 4 with the mammoth, while Toshiyuki Inoue animated Stage 7 with the god of death, as well as possibly Stage 13 with the giant robot in the tunnel and Stage 16 with the last boss.

I particularly like Inoue's stage with the giant zombie skeleton swinging a scythe. The forms are beautiful and the timing feels incredible, and the whole thing takes place in the middle of this slow animated panning effect, as if it wasn't challenging enough to just draw the action by itself and he wanted to pose himself the further challenge of maintaining proper proportion and perspective in motion. It's a great snapshot of just how amazing an animator Toshiyuki Inoue already was at this early stage in his career. (he had just debuted a year before)

Satoru Utsunomiya's brief but intense segment with the mammoth is quite an eye-opener and reveals a side of him that we're not used to seeing anymore. This was before he developed the distinctive solid style for which he's become known. At this stage he was still drawing very wild and free animation full of comically exaggerated effects and timing.

I suspect Kazuaki Mouri may have animated some of the other sections, but I don't know for sure. The very first stage with the dinosaurs, for example, has some very nice movement that was perhaps of Mouri's hand.

Cobra Command (1984, Data East/Toei, Arcade LD Game)
Director:高山秀樹Hideki Takayama
松浦錠平Johei Matsuura
Animation Director:亀垣一Hajime Kamegaki
Assistant Animation Director:今隅眞一Shinichi Imakuma
Animators:亀垣一Hajime Kamegaki
白土武Takeshi Shirato
白浦烈Baik Nam Yeul
佐々木正光Masamitsu Sasaki
大島城次Joji Ohshima
八島義孝Yoshitaka Yajima
本橋秀之Hideyuki Motohashi
青鉢芳信Yoshinobu Aohachi
Road Blaster (1985, Data East/Toei, Arcade LD Game)
Director:高山秀樹Hideki Takayama
Chief Key Animator:稲野義信Yoshinobu Inano
Background Design:Yoshiyuki Yamamoto
Animators:白浦烈Baik Nam Yeul
今隅眞一Shinichi Imakuma
的場茂夫Shigeo Matoba
金大中Kim Dae Jung
Kaoru Shinbo

Full Game Play: Cobra Command - Road Blaster

These two titles were produced by Data East, who farmed the animation out to Toei. Toei had actually prior to this been put in charge of the animation of Ninja Hayate, but they had really botched that one. These two are in a different league. Both are challenging and fast-paced games packed with nonstop action. The animation also doesn't stop in either one. There isn't a still moment - every moment is animated, because the motion of the vehicles is all depicted by hand-drawn animation.

It would have been inconceivable to animate a conventional anime production the way these are. Storyboarding long shots that go on for upwards of a minute and consist entirely of nonstop animated backgrounds would have been a sure ticket to being fired. These games were in a unique position of being able to be lavished with an unprecedented density of animation for a Japanese production. There were occasional moments in TV productions where a wild animator like Masahito Yamashita would create a crazy sequence of background animation, but these games pushed background animation to a whole new level.

The person behind the quality of Cobra Command was Hajime Kamegaki, the Kanada-school animator who together with Hideyuki Motohashi (here also present as an animator) did so much good work on TV shows in the 1980s from their legendary Studio Z5.

The person behind the quality of Road Blaster was Yoshinobu Inano, one of the greatest animators nobody has ever heard of. He was one of the most talented animators at Toei in the late 1970s/early 1980. He pioneered a unique kind of quasi-realistic animation that went on to influence many later great animators including Mitsuo Iso. You can see his style most clearly in the opening of the game where the punks wreak havoc in the city, sending bystanders running.

Captain Power: Battle Training (1988, 3 VHS tapes, AIC)
Animation Directors:大平晋也Shinya Ohira
矢野淳Atsushi Yano
Key Animators:Vol. 1
西井正典Masanori Nishii
伊藤浩二Koji Ito
田野雅祥Masayoshi Tano
生亀信幸Nobuyuki Namakame
山中英治Eiji Yamanaka
Vol. 2 & 3
逢坂浩司Hiroshi Osaka
毛利和昭Kazuaki Mouri
糸島雅彦Masahiko Itojima
濱川修二郎Shujiro Hamakawa
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
沖浦啓之Hiroyuki Okiura
貴志芙美子Fumiko Kishi
太田雅三Yuzo Ohta
伊良原正也Masaya Irahara
山中英治Eiji Yamanaka

By 1988 when the three VHS tapes of this game were released, LD anime games were dead. This game is basically just straight animation without any branching or death scenes. You were supposed to aim your toy gun at the screen and a sensor in the gun would detect when you had properly targeted the flashing missiles on the screen and eject the pilot from your toy if you had not.

Captain Power: Battle Training picks up where the latter two titles left off: it's one long, extended, nonstop torrent of background animation and explosions. I'd go so far as to say it's the crowning achievement in background/effects animation in anime. Where the previous two titles were actually pretty iffy in a lot of the background animation, almost all of the BG animation here is impressive, and much of it is downright stunning. I already wrote about this a long time ago, so I won't re-hash my gushing, but I really love this thing. It's my bible of anime FX animation.

Shinya Ohira is of course the big name behind the incredible beauty and power of the animation here, but the fact is that he was backed up by some of the best mecha and effects animators of the day. Most significantly, Anime R was behind the animation of parts 2 and 3. Hiroshi Osaka, Fumiko Kishi, Masahiko Itojima, Hiroyuki Okiura, Toru Yoshida, Kazuaki Mouri - all the best Anime R animators worked on parts two and three. That makes this another great introduction to the style of Anime R at their peak after U-GAIM (and SPT Layzner if you have a little more time to spare), although in this one it can be a little difficult to distinguish between the Anime R bits and the Ohira bits.

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, the entirety of Captain Power: Battle Training can be viewed online.

Yarudora series (1998-2000, 6 volumes, Production I.G, PS & PS2)

Vol. 1: Double Cast (1998, PS)
Vol. 2: Kisetsu wo Dakishimete (1998, PS)
Vol. 3: Sampaguita (1998, PS)
Vol. 4: Yukiwari no Hana (1998, PS)
Vol. 5: Scandal (2000, PS2)
Vol. 6: Blood: The Last Vampire (2000, PS2)

Many years after the LD game boom, Production I.G. picked up the torch of animated games with their Yarudora series from 1998-2000, plugging animation into the popular formula of anime-styled but illustration-based sim games. Rather than a reflex-based adventure game where you were dodging foes like in the early days, this time you were guiding your character through a complicated story. You made choices at key junctures, which led to different possible outcomes: anime via Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. The stories were alternately psychological and violent. The last two volumes Scandal and Blood were action outings as opposed to the more psychological preceding quartet.

The highlight of the series is Yukiwari no Hana, which looked very different from all of the other volumes due to the beautiful Jin-Roh-esque pared-down realistic character designs and dark-hued visual concept of Masatsugu Arakawa. I'd still like to see more anime that look like this.

The last outing in the Yarudora series was a game tie-in with Hiroyuki Kitakubo's Blood: The Last Vampire movie. In a curious coincidence, it happened to be Shinya Ohira's comeback to animation after several years of absence. He animated the scene here and his style is unmistakable. The animation is reminiscent of Hamaji, which was the last thing he had done before leaving the industry a few years earlier. Anime games have marked two significant points in Ohira's career - the peak of his FX period and the start of his current character-as-FX period.

Bringing things full-circle, Ohira was even behind the next step in the evolution of animated gaming: He directed a playable animated stage of the recent Asura's Wrath game that is not only a monumental new piece of animation in its own right (a worthy companion piece to Wanwa), but that also pushes the neglected genre of traditional animated gaming forward into the new millennium, with its more involved gameplay and the fact that it is an online download. The short seems to hark back to the LD games of yore, since it involves an extended sequence of fast action requiring quick reflexes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

12:51:00 am , 6777 words, 12345 views     Categories: OVA, TV, Studio: Anime R, Studio: Dove, Director: Toshifumi Takizawa, 1980s, 1990s

Votoms

In the shadow of Gundam, one of the most successful and long-lived of Sunrise's real robot shows has been Armored Trooper Votoms. I finally had the opportunity to watch Votoms for the first time just recently, and find it still holds up very well after all these years, especially as a contrast with the overwrought style of Yoshiyuki Tomino. Where Yoshiyuki Tomino's Gundam is filled with flamboyant intergalatic drama and angst and robotic heroics, Ryosuke Takahashi's Votoms is earthy and dark and anti-heroic.

Watching Votoms made me realize what I found tiresome about Sunrise's shows: they're always full of kids, and the drama is hence full of puerile antics and melodrama. Votoms is refreshing because all of its characters are adults, and the drama is for the most part cool and restrained and intimate rather than grandiose and theatrical. It's one of the great classics of hard-boiled realistic sci-fi in anime.

The protagonist of Votoms is a cold-hearted soldier by trade, not a kid forced against his will into battle. Where the kid protagonists of the various Gundam outings are against war initially but eventually seem to succumb to the temptation of glory and become heroes, the protagonist of Votoms, Chirico Cuvie, is an anti-hero from the outset: a stone-faced soldier with blood on his hands who finds himself most alive in the heat of battle. Rather than the violence-glorifying heroic action of a Star Wars, the world of Votoms seems closer to the inglorious mud and blood of a Vietnam war film like Apocalypse Now. Flag is one of the best anime of recent memory, with its realistic style and believable geopolitical drama, and the roots of the war documentary style of Flag go back to Votoms.

What I like about the show is that it's one of the most original amid the huge crowd of 1980s robot shows. The characters are all adults, and are for the most part relatable without behaving in an unduly exaggerated way. The story is a refreshing change from the cliched Sunrise formula. Rather than being a grandiose space opera filled with philosophical banter, the essence of the show is a small-scale story about the dirty everyday life of soldiers. The eternally defiant protagonist embodies a kind of anarchic heroism out to destroy all hegemony. There is a lot of good animation throughout the show's various outings. It's a pleasure to finally be able to discover this gem of a saga.

The story of Votoms is simple in outline: The mercenary Chirico seeks the truth behind why he was betrayed by his comrades, and eventually this transforms into a quest to discover the truth of his own identity. Many people have written about Votoms in more insightful detail about the show's political overtones and story intricacies than I possibly could, so I'll skip over the details of the story focus on what really interests me, and that's the technique.

Initially broadcast as a one-off TV show from 1983 to 1984, Votoms spawned a nearly overwhelming number of sequels, prequels and offshoots of various lengths and styles, making it a daunting show to dig into, since unlike Gundam most of these actually take place on the same continuum and feature the same characters. I didn't know where to start initially, since a number of the followup OVAs take place before the TV series, but I found it best to go in production order to appreciate how the staff's technique and approach to the material evolved over the years.

The style changes dramatically over the years, since the show has been in production almost continually since 1983 right on down to last year with the most recent outing, Alone Again. Initially it was all hand-drawn, but starting with Pailsen Files in 2007 they switched to using CGI for the robots. This post will focus on everything that was done in the hand-drawn period:

- The TV series (1983-1984)
- The three ensuing one-shot OVAs:
      The Last Red Shoulder (1985)
      Big Battle (1986)
      The Roots of Ambition (1988)
- The 5-episode OVA series The Radiant Heresy (1994-1995)

The only thing I haven't watched from this period is Mellowlink, produced 1988-1989, as it's a side-story not involving Chirico. The CG outings starting with Pailsen Files appear to have been produced by the same team that did Flag.

The animation subcontractors behind Votoms

There are two basic stars of the animation of Votoms: Anime R and Studio Dove. Although other subcontractors worked on the show, these were the two studios whose animators provided the most impressive animation in the series.

In the TV series, Anime R is the real star. Studio Dove is present, but they don't start shining until the later OVAs. The Last Red Shoulder featured good animation from Anime R, Studio Dove, Bebow and Magic Bus. Big Battle and The Roots of Ambition were mostly animated by Studio Dove. Mellowlink was animated by Anime R and Studio Dove. The Radiant Heresy from several years later features a completely different animation staff, so its animation looks and feels distinct within the Votoms saga. The next outing came more than a decade later with Pailsen Files, which had CG mecha.

The escalating quality of the mecha animation in Votoms is a beautiful thing to behold. You can see with each passing year the animators becoming stronger at their craft. Anime R shines in the TV series, Studio Dove shines in the last two one-shot OVAs, and Mellowlink was evenly divided between Anime R and Studio Dove. I have yet to see Mellowlink, but I assume it is the culmination of these respective studios' work on the show.

I've written about Anime R many times in the past (Black Magic M-66, Dragon Slayer, Sukeban Deka), and their work on Votoms is one of their defining moments. It was their work on robot shows like Votoms and then Bismark and SPT Layzner that propelled Osaka-based Anime R to fame as one of the best mecha animation subcontractors in Japan, and THE best animation subcontractor outside of the Tokyo region.

Anime R was one of big supports of Ryosuke Takahashi's Sunrise robot shows. They were involved right from the start with his first 'real robot' show Dougram (1981-1983). They worked on his Votoms (1983-1984), Galient (1984-1985) and SPT Layzner (1985-1986). Incidentally, it was after having proven their mettle on all these Ryosuke Takahashi robot shows that Anime R was called in to work on Black Magic M-66 in 1987.

Founded near the end of the 1970s by Moriyasu Taniguchi 谷口守泰 and Harumi Muranaka 村中博美, the studio initially featured talented animators like Kazuaki Mouri 毛利和昭 and Fumiko Kishi 貴志夫美子 on shows like Ideon and Dougram. It was right around the time of Votoms that many of the names that went on to propel Anime R to fame joined the studio: Hiroyuki Okiura 沖浦啓之, Kazuchika Kise 黄瀬和哉, Hiroshi Osaka 逢坂浩司, Toru Yoshida 吉田徹 and Masahiko Itojima 糸島雅彦. Their work was so impressive that many of these animators left Osaka for Tokyo because they were in such demand. Although Anime R is in the distant past for them, without Anime R we might not have gotten some of our best animators.

The Votoms TV series (1983-1984)

The defining characteristic of the show is of course the unusual mecha. Rather than one-shots like a Gundam, the scope dog in Votoms is a mass-production model. So although some might be customized with different weapons, they're all essentially just mass-production bipedal armed military vehicles. Hence they don't have the heroic nuance of a Gundam. The unique scope design is also quite interesting and refreshing, as I always found robots with faces ludicrous.

This doesn't change the fundamental fact that this show was a commercial to sell robot toys, but at least the robots were a refreshing change from the typical humanoid robots. The various details of the mecha such as the pivoting action and camera lens-inspired eyepiece were clever and made the mecha feel like a military weapon where each part had a practical use, rather than a hero robot whose parts were just there to look cool. The scary-looking infrared goggles the pilots have to wear also added to the impression of utilitarian accuracy in the paraphernalia, not to mention creating a sort of emotional distance appropriate to the more emotionally stark atmosphere.

The irony is that the toys saved the show. Ratings were low, but strong toy sales saved the show from being canceled. I would have thought they wouldn't have sold because they're not the kind of cool toys I wanted as a kid - I loved transforming toys like the Autobots and Transformers.

The TV series is roughly divided into three arcs: episodes 1-13, 14-26, and 28-52. Each arc has a different tone and setting. The first is a Blade Runner-esque story set in a future overrun by motorcycle punks, the second is a Vietnam war movie-style story, and the third is in more of a conventional Sunrise space opera style reminiscent of Ideon.

My favorite by far is the second arc, the Vietnam arc, and that's where I feel the show shows its true potential and intent. I feel like this is what Ryosuke Takahashi really wanted to do with this material. I wish the entire series had been like this arc. The other arcs we've seen done to death in other shows, but there's nothing quite like the Vietnam arc of Votoms in any other anime. Rather than a space opera or post-apocalyptic action movie, it's a realistic and gritty war movie.

Episode 16 I think is the exemplary episode in the Vietnam arc. It tells a story similar to what we've seen in Vietnam war movies like Apocalypse Now, and focuses on the whole guerrilla war aspect in a way that none of the other episodes do sufficiently. The team is going upriver when they run across a small village and decide to investigate. The complexity and pathos of the situation comes through well in this episode, with the locals being brutally threatened with execution by the military outsiders because they're suspected of hiding guerrillas. Episode 21 touches on this again with an incident where they investigate a temple and find it to be an arms stockade. It's in the moments inspired by reality like this that the conflict at issue in this arc comes alive the best.

When I feel the show works its best is when the side-characters are absent and we're focused on Chirico and his army platoon. There are three side-characters who show up on and off throughout the show. I never got used to them and continued to find them immensely distracting and annoying. It's the moments in the show that they were absent, particularly during the Vietnam arc, that I liked the show the best. These characters felt like a mindless concession to the convention of comic relief, when this show didn't need any such thing.

The first arc is my least favorite because the post-apocalyptic situation is cliched and the side-characters are particularly annoying. The last arc building towards the climax starts out somewhat boring, but gets interesting eventually despite feeling like it cops out on being a hard-boiled military series in favor of becoming a grand space opera with supernatural overtones.

The sub-plot involving romantic interest Fiana didn't wreck the atmosphere as I thought it would. I thought their relationship worked rather well, especially in episode 29 where it's just Chirico and Fiana. They made an odd but interesting couple, drawn to one another for a reason that is never entirely made clear, and both equally emotionally distant.

The mecha star of Votoms TV: Toru Yoshida

Toru Yoshida was a mecha/fx animator in episodes 14, 22, 29, 33, 39, 46, and 52

With remarkable consistency, he was responsible for the most exciting mecha animation scenes in the show. Almost every episode that I had singled out as having particularly impressive animation I later discovered to have been of the hand of Toru Yoshida. The reason it wasn't immediately obvious to me was that he is not credited in many of the episodes he worked on.

Toru Yoshida had just begun as an inbetweener at Anime R in 1983 working under Kazuaki Mouri on the gag show Sasuga no Sarutobi. Anime R at the time was divided into two sections: one working on Sarutobi and another working on Votoms. Yoshida wound up being called over to work on the Votoms section because Yoshida had drawn some mecha in Sarutobi and Moriyasu Taniguchi suspected Yoshida might be of more use on Votoms.

Although he is credited as an inbetweener for a few episodes, and receives his first genga credit in episodes 33, 39, 46 and 52, Yoshida in fact drew key animation in several episodes prior to this. He drew uncredited key animation in episodes 14, 22 and 29. I had noted the effects animation in these episodes but couldn't for the life of me figure out who was responsible for it. Later on, I discovered that Yoshida confessed on his personal web site to having drawn key animation uncredited on these episodes, and it dawned on me that it was Yoshida who had drawn virtually all of the parts in the show that struck me as being particularly well animated.

Yoshida started out distinctly a Kanada-school animator in terms of his style of FX, presumably influenced by his mentor Kazuaki Mouri, but quickly developed his own very unique take on FX animation that would go on to influence the likes of Shinya Ohira. He is one of the great FX animators of anime history, one of the pioneers of a quasi-realistic approach to FX leavened by thrilling Kanada-style timing and forms.

Episode 14 features some of the earliest good mecha action work on the show, with an exciting scene in the forest at the end full of zippy movement and lively FX. This was Toru Yoshida's uncredited genga debut. Episode 22 features a great battle scene in the river at the climax. Episode 29 has some nicely drawn mecha in space at the end of the episode, though there isn't much action. The first half of episode 33 features the beautiful smoke FX that Yoshida was so good at. Episode 39 features a good battle in the second half with lots of angular effects and lush smoke. Episode 46 is the climax of the show's animation: it's the biggest bash of good animation in the show. If you only check out one episode for the animation, it's this one. It's packed head to toe with great mecha and fx shots.

Just about the only episode with good animation that I can't attribute to Toru Yoshida is episode 27, the climax of the Vietnam arc. It has a number of very cool shots of flowing smoke as well as nice mecha action. Although Bebow is not credited, this was clearly a Bebow episode going by the staff involved, none of whom was involved in any other episode.

In an interesting side-note, Toru Yoshida was apparently one of the inbetweeners of Daicon IV. Yoshida isn't part of the proto-Gainax group, so I didn't see how he could have gotten involved, but it makes a bit more sense knowing that Daicon IV was made as the opening film of the Japan Science Fiction Convention, which was held in Osaka that year.

The character animation star of Votoms TV: Moriyasu Taniguchi



Taniguchi's Chirico versus the standard Shioyama Chirico

Anime R founder Moriyasu Taniguchi acted as the sakkan on all of the Anime R episodes: 2, 9, 14, 22, 29, 33, 39, 46, and 52.

The remarkable thing is how much Taniguchi's drawings stand out. His episodes are one of the classic examples of how a good sakkan can elevate the quality of an episode. His drawings look very different from the original designs by series designer Norio Shioyama, but the funny thing is, they look better. Taniguchi actually upstaged the character designer. His drawings have a much more sharp and refined look in terms of the facial features, and he even invests his character animation with more subtelty and nuance than the other episodes. The characters look and behave in a more convincing way in Taniguchi's episodes than in any of the others. In many of the other episodes, the characters are quite badly drawn, and their acting and expressions don't match what is happening in the script. It's only under Taniguchi's hand that the characters come alive and become more expressive in a way appropriate to the given situation.

Episode 29 is one of the best episodes in the show, with some of the best Taniguchi drawings in the show. It's a superb episode all-over, probably my favorite in the show due to fantastically moody directing by Masashi Ikeda 池田成 that gives the episode real atmosphere and tension. I wish more of the episodes in the show had felt like this episode. I like that the episode features only the two protagonists. There are no other characters to ruin the atmosphere with hijinx or other distractions. On top of that, there are some Toru Yoshida mecha drawings at the end. Masashi Ikeda went on to become the director of the smash hit Samurai Troopers (again with character designer Norio Shioyama) as well as the latest entry in the Votoms saga from last year, Alone Again.

I sense the influence of Tomonori Kogawa in Taniguchi's drawings in such things as the way the eyes are drawn, and in the way he draws the face when looking up at an angle, something Tomonori Kogawa pioneered in Ideon. His drawings just feel better stylized than Norio Shioyama's. Evidence to how highly Ryosuke Takahashi thought of Taniguchi's work is the fact that Taniguchi sakkan'd the last episode, rather than the character designer, as is normal. The series closes with Taniguchi's radical interpretation of the characters, rather than the original character designer's own drawings. Ryosuke Takahashi wound up coming back to Taniguchi and appointing him character designer a few years later for one of his other triumphs, SPT Layzner, in which Anime R provided a tremendous amount of good animation (alongside Dove). Perhaps in honor of Norio Shioyama's generosity with Taniguchi's liberties on Votoms, Taniguchi apparently refused to act as chief animation director on the show to respect the individuality of the individual sakkans.

The directing star of Votoms TV: Toshifumi Takizawa

In addition to being the "chief episode director", Toshifumi Takizawa 滝沢敏文 drew the storyboard for no less than 13 episodes: 4, 6, 9, 13, 18, 27, 30, 33, 35, 38, 45, 51, and 52.

I wrote about Takizawa extensively before in my posts on Dirty Pair and Crusher Joe. I love his directing style, and Votoms is one of his biggest projects from his Sunrise period.

His work on the TV series comes between his early work on Ideon and his work on Dirty Pair. I'm not sure exactly what the nature of his work consisted in this show, but I presume it to have been something along the line of 'director of the episode directors'; maintaining a consistent tone to the episodes by guiding the episode directors. In the episodes he storyboarded you can clearly see his distinct approach to directing at work even though he did not do the actual processing of any of his episodes. The episodes are full of the focus on visual storytelling and forward momentum that made the last Ideon movie so powerful, not to mention the Dirty Pair and Crusher Joe OVAs.

Takizawa drew the storyboards for the climax of the three arcs of the TV series: 13, 27 and 51. Each of these is a great example of his directing style at its finest. He brings each arc to a conclusion in magnificent form with extended action sequences that unfold largely through visual storytelling without relying excessively on dialogue. Episodes 27 and 51 are particularly impressive in this regard.

Votoms OVA 1: The Last Red Shoulder (1985)

The first of the many OVAs to be released came out just a year after the TV series ended. Chronologically, it takes place between the end of the first arc (the Blade Runner-style Udo arc) and the beginning of the second arc (the Vietnam-style Kumen arc).

Story-wise, this is one of my favorite Votoms outings because it doesn't feature any of the annoying side-characters, and it's exclusively about Chirico and his soldier comrades on a mission. This is the episode where they introduce the character of Pailsen, who played a big role in Chirico's past. He just recently got an extensive prequel OVA series with 12 episodes in Pailsen Files, which chronologically is the earliest outing in the saga. It's all quite confusing to try to organize. Here in The Last Red Shoulder, Chirico and his former war buddies go after Pailsen to kill him for using and then discarding them when they were no longer needed.

This episode features some good action animation in the climax, which is presumably of the hand of Toru Yoshida, who here receives his sole Mecha Animation Director credit in the series. (if you don't count Mellowlink) The animation only credits Anime R as a studio without crediting any of the specific animators. Similarly, the credits list Studio Dove, Bebow and Magic Bus without listing who from these studios was involved. Studio Dove was involved in the TV series and went on to do the animation for the next two OVAs, and its star mecha animators were Hiroshi Koizumi 古泉浩司 and Hitoshi Waratani 藁谷均, so perhaps they were the ones involved here. Perhaps the Bebow animators were those in episode 27.

Unfortunately, the episode was not directed by Toshifumi Takizawa because he was busy directing Dirty Pair, but he would come back with the next OVA. It's not as exciting as the Takizawa-directed episodes, but still quite enjoyable.

The assistant technical director here was Takashi Imanishi 今西隆志, who started out as runner on Votoms. He switched career to directing with this episode, going on to become the technical director of Roots of Ambition, episode storyboarder/director of Mellowlink and finally full-fledged director of Radiant Heresy.

Votoms OVA 2: Big Battle (1986)

In the next OVA outing, Chirico and his sidekicks fight a maniac driving a gigantic tank. Chronologically, this episode depicts the events that transpired between the climax of the third arc of the TV series (the space opera-ish Quent arc) and the cold sleep depicted in the last episode as having taken place a year after the events of the TV series climax.

Takizawa comes back as the storyboarder and director of this episode, so this is probably the most thoroughly Takizawa outing in the whole Votoms saga. The directing is indeed fantastic. The scene where a minute goes by wordlessly as water floods in and the characters hold on for dear life is full of amazing tension, and I love the attention to little details such as where Chirico has to crawl backwards on his back with his shoulder when he's pinned to the floor, or Fiana's aghast reaction when her hand quickly jerks under the control of the machine. Takizawa also meticulously depicts how the time bomb is armed: twist two knobs, press them down, then press a button on the side. The climactic episode of the TV series was also a meticulously detailed depiction of Chirico going around pushing in rods to shut down a massive computer. I also like how when the bad guy gets shot in the head, his cyborg implant deflects the bullet and you can see the metal peeking through his skull.

The animation is really strong throughout, and this time it's not Anime R who's to thank, it's Studio Dove. This perhaps makes sense because Takizawa had since formed a close relationship with Studio Dove during the course of his work on Dirty Pair. Indeed, they provide excellent work here in no way inferior to Anime R. Norio Shioyama's drawings here are also far better than they ever were, and the characters look fantastic as a result, almost reminiscent of the style of Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, with great feature definition and more nuanced character acting. It feels like we're finally seeing Norio Shioyama's characters brought alive in a way that does them justice, as opposed to being re-invented through the lens of Moriyasu Taniguchi.

The scene where the protagonists drive up to the big tank are particularly impressive for the amount of detail packed into the shots and the precision with which effects are layered on top of one another. The scene feels very dense visually, with every little element being controlled carefully. It makes for an exciting scene that vividly conveys the speed at which things are happening.

The only problem with this otherwise excellent and supremely entertaining OVA is that it doesn't really feel like what I want to see from Votoms. It's too fun for that. I expect dark, bleak soldier action from Votoms, not the madcap action we're regaled with in this episode. The episode essentially feels more like a Crusher Joe episode than anything. That's not a bad thing per se; it's just different. This is essentially an entertainment side-story rather than a beefy story contributing to chronicling Chirico's past like the previous and next OVAs.

Votoms OVA 3: Roots of Ambition (1988)

The third of the one-shot OVAs following the TV series is chronologically the earliest in the saga. This is the starting point of the whole story. Here we find out how Chirico came to have a vendetta for Pailsen.

This is by far my favorite single outing in the Votoms saga. This OVA pins you to your seat, as well as digging into the nitty gritty of Chirico's sordid past. None of the previous Votoms are quite this bleak and intense. It delivers exactly the kind of story I want to see from Votoms: a hard-boiled story about Chirico and other soldiers told through tight dramaturgy and fierce mecha battles, without silly antics. Hard-boiled indeed, this is by far the bloodiest Votoms outing. Blood and death are depicted here more bluntly than ever before.

The quality is also the best of any of the Votoms OVAs. The animation this time is entirely done by Studio Dove, and this OVA singlehandedly proves that they are one of the criminally underappreciated subcontracting studios of the 1980s. With a mere five animators, they manage to provide a level of quality that is nothing short of stunning. The mecha and effects animation is far more intricate and nuanced than anything before. This is clearly the culmination of Dove's work on Sunrise mecha shows. The mecha animation here would have been the work of Hiroshi Waratani and Koji Takahashi, while in the previous OVA it would have been the work of Hiroshi Waratani and Koizumi Hiroshi. The other Dove animators listed would have done the characters.

By 1988, mecha animation was becoming more and more realistic. It was only a year later in 1989 that Mitsuo Iso drew his groundbreaking realistic animation for the opening scene of War in the Pocket. The speed of the evolution of mecha animation in the 1980s was remarkable. Just a few years earlier this level of detail would have been inconceivable.

Helping to give this amazing animation its impact is the fact that the episode was storyboarded by Toshifumi Takizawa. His storyboard creates a perfect balance between the drama and the episode's thrillingly choreographed action sequences. Takizawa didn't direct the episode; that was done by Takashi Imanishi, whom I mentioned before. This was one of his first steps towards the director's chair. Together they make this episode into a magnificently crafted piece of entertainment.

Votoms OVA series: The Radiant Heresy (1994-1995)

After The Roots of Ambition, the last Votoms outing the Dove and R team worked on would be Mellowlink, but I haven't seen that, so I'll leave that for another time. Several years later, this new 5-episode OVA series came out. This time the staff was pretty much completely different except for the leads of director Ryosuke Takahashi and character designer Norio Shioyama, so this outing feels quite different from everything that came before. There is a lot more connection with the present in terms of the staff. People like Jiro Kanai, Norio Matsumoto, Yutaka Nakamura, Yasushi Muraki, Akitoshi Yokoyama, Masami Goto, Isamu Imakake, Toshihiro Kawamoto and Akihiko Yamashita are all still very active in this or that production today.

Toru Yoshida is another element of continuity. He is the mecha animation director again. A few other Anime R names are scattered throughout the credits, including Takahiro Komori and Fumiko Kishi, while one or two Dove names are also to be seen, but for the most part it's new faces.

As the preceding list indicates, the genga staff is pretty impressive, although the animation isn't the extravaganza this would seem to suggest. The animation is rather strong at some fundamental level even when the animation isn't particularly impressive. I think that's due to one of the most surprising names in the credits: Hisashi Nakayama. None other than Hisashi Mori. He was involved in each episode doing key animation and/or layout assistance. I suspect it's his hand in maintaining the quality of the layouts that gives much of the animation its vague feeling of fundamental strength.

I'm not able to identify his animation with complete certainty this early on, but the scenes with Loccina in episode 3, for example, jumped out at me the first time I saw them, and feel like they might be of his hand. They're my favorite scenes in this series. There's a strange dynamism and roughness to the animation that doesn't look like any other scene in this OVA series. It was great seeing this character brought back from the TV series, as he's one of my favorite characters, and interesting to see him come back in the form of a half-crazed monastic scholar of all things Chirico. The gritty drawings in the scene combine with the gravelly, possessed voice-acting of Banjo Ginga to great effect. Of course, this doesn't jibe with the fact that Mori started out as a mecha animator, so maybe he just handled the mecha scenes. Some of the effects in the first half of episode 2, for example, feel like Mori, as do the gorgeous explosion and flame effects near the end of episode 1.

The character drawings of Chirico and Fiana here are a little disappointing. It feels like after the peak of Big Battle Norio Shioyama never quite managed to draw the characters as impressively again. They feel somewhat bland and expressionless. Some of the side-characters like Loccina are a notable exception.

The battle at the beginning of episode 5 has a really nice timing to it, though I can't pinpoint who it might be. Masami Goto maybe? It's the same with the other episodes. There are nice bits here and there, though it's hard to say which animator in the above list did them as this is still pretty early in most of their careers.

The mecha animation overall doesn't feel like it tops what was achieved by Studio Dove in The Roots of Ambition, even though there are moments were the mecha animation clearly shows a new and more modern take on FX and movement compared to the animation in that 1988 OVA. The animation of the Dove animators and Toru Yoshida just felt good to watch in a way that most of the mecha animation here doesn't, and it was done by way fewer animators.

The story of the episode is fairly interesting. Taking place many years after the events of the TV series, it places Chirico in a world in which he has come to be viewed with something approaching religious fear. The story makes some smart commentary on the political use of religion, a subject Ryosuke Takahashi came back to in Flag, but the directing is somewhat lacking in dynamism and it makes me long for the days of Toshifumi Takizawa's directing. Takashi Imanishi's directing isn't bad per se, it's just a little plodding. Even in the action scenes there's never a feeling of real tension.

The episode does benefit from impressive attention to detail in the spirit of the Sunrise productions of this era, with highly detailed backgrounds and stills of the mecha being packed with far more detail than pre-1990 mecha were.

The story ends on a real downer, I must say, and I wish they hadn't done what they do at the end.

In memoriam Hiroshi Koizumi

I'd like to take a moment to remember Hiroshi Koizumi. He will not be familiar to anyone over here because he died suddenly in 1988 not long after working on Big Battle. He was killed in a freak car accident when a truck rear-ended him while he was stopped at a red light on his motorbike on his way home from work.

Hiroshi Koizumi was one of Studio Dove's great animators, and certainly one of the best mecha animators of the 1980s in Japan. However, due to the fact that he worked at a small subcontractor and died so early into a short career (he only debuted in 1983), even in Japan among animation aficionados he is not very well known, to say nothing of over here.

Koizumi was responsible for drawing no less than 10% of the animation of that classic of mecha space operas, Char's Counterattack. That is an astounding amount of animation by any standard, especially by the standards of such a high-quality film. Apparently much of the climax of the film in this video is his work, including the magnificent hand-to-hand mecha combat at the beginning. He drew many shots in the first half of Five Star Stories, another movie from this era with impressive mecha animation. As the best animator in the studio, he was the only Studio Dove animator working on these two prestigious feature films. His last job was as mecha animation director of episodes 2 and 4 of Mellowlink, although he is not credited as such and only Studio Dove is credited as the mecha animation director for some reason. He was scheduled to be the mecha animation director for each Dove episode.

Here are some links to a few genga drawings by Koizumi that never got used. They were uploaded by Nobuyoshi Nishimura of Studio Dove.
Anna from Layzner
Kei from the Dirty Pair TV series
Doodles on a genga for Ninja Senshi Tobikage

Hiroshi Koizumi works:
Dougram (1981-1983)
Votoms (1983-1984) 8, 12, 18, 20, 23, 28, 31, 35, 41, 45, 49, 51
Dorvack (1983) 31
Vifam (1983) 30
Bismark (1984) 4, 26, 33, 37, 43, 47
El Gaim (1984) 22
Galvion (1984) 14, 21
Galient (1984) 5, 10, 14, 18, 21, 24
Tobikage (1985) 2
Z Gundam (1985) 8, 13, 17
SPT Layzner (1985) 2, 5, 10, 13, 18, 22, 27, 31, 35
Votoms: The Last Red Shoulder (1985)
Dirty Pair TV (1985) 8, 9, 25, 26
ZZ Gundam (1986)
Galient OVA (1986)
Votoms: Big Battle (1986)
El Gaim OVA (1986)
Dead Heat (1986)
Dragnar (1987)
Dirty Pair movie (1987)
City Hunter (1987) 7, 8, 16, 12, 19, 22
Kimagure Orange Road (1987) 5
Mister Ajikko (1988) 33
Gundam: Char's Counterattack (1988)
Mellowlink (1988) Mecha Sakkan 2, 4
Five Star Stories (1988)

I hope this can help in small part to get him some recognition, even if it's a little late after all this time.


Armored Trooper Votoms 装甲騎兵ボトムズ (TV series, 52 eps, 1983-1984)

StoryboardDirectorSakkanKey Animators
1終戦 War's end清水恵蔵 Keizo Shimizu
川筋 豊 Yutaka Kawasuji
牟田清司 Seiji Muta
京 春香
Kyo Haruka
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
清水恵蔵、塩山紀生
Keizo Shimizu, Norio Shioyama
2ウド Udo上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
松野達也
Tatsuya Matsuno
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
3出会い Encounter森 安夫 Yasuo Mori
山中英治 Eiji Yamanaka
奥田万里 Mari Okuda
松野達也
Tatsuya Matsuno
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
4バトリング Battling布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
神宮 慧
Hajime Jingu
5罠 Trap加藤 茂 Shigeru Kato
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
木のプロダクション Kino Production
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
上村栄司
Eiji Kamimura
6素体 Protid中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
西城 明
Akira Saijo
7襲撃 Raid谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
新田敏夫 Toshio Arata
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
谷沢 豊、新田敏夫
Yutaka Tanisawa, Toshio Arata
8取引 Transaction青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
9救出 Rescue上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
10レッド・ショルダー Red Shoulder多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
金子紀男 Norio Kaneko
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
鈴木英二、塩山紀生
Eiji Suzuki, Norio Shioyama
11逆襲 Counterattack中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
吉田 浩
Hiroshi Yoshida
桐野克己
Katsumi Kirino
西城 明
Akira Saijo
12絆 Bonds布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
吉田 浩
Hiroshi Yoshida
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
神宮 慧
Hajime Jingu
13脱出 Escape青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
二宮常雄 Tsuneo Futamiya
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二、塩山紀生
Eiji Suzuki, Norio Shioyama
14アッセンブルEX-10 Assemble EX-10上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
松野達也
Tatsuya Matsuno
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
15疑惑 Doubt中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
吉田 浩
Hiroshi Yoshida
桐野克己
Katsumi Kirino
西城 明
Akira Saijo
16掃討 Search and destroy谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
新田敏夫 Toshio Arata
金子紀男 Norio Kaneko
笹木寿子 Masako Sasaki
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
17再会 Reunion多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
高橋資祐
Motosuke Takahashi
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
神宮 慧
Hajime Jingu
18急変 Turn of events八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
上村栄司、塩山紀生
Eiji Kamimura, Norio Shioyama
19思惑 Anticipation中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
康村正一
Seiichi Yasumura
西城 明
Akira Saijo
20フィアナ Fiana中村プロ Nakamura Pro
アニメ・アール Anime R
マジックバス Magic Bus
加藤 茂 Shigeru Kato
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
-高橋良輔
Ryosuke Takahashi
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
21遡行 Upstream青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
加藤 茂 Shigeru Kato
笹木寿子 Masako Sasaki
山崎享子 Ryoko Yamazaki
清島孝一郎 Koichiro Kiyoshima
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二、塩山紀生
Eiji Suzuki, Norio Shioyama
22触発 Contact上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
桐野克己
Katsumi Kirino
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
23錯綜 Complication八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
神宮 慧
Hajime Jingu
24横断 Crossing中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
富沢雄三
Tomizawa Yuzo
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
西城 明
Akira Saijo
25潜入 Infiltration谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
金子紀男 Norio Kaneko
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
上村栄司
Eiji Kamimura
26肉迫 Closing in八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
福井享子 Ryoko Fukui
清島孝一郎 Koichiro Kiyoshima
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
27暗転 Turn for the worse寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
所 智一 Tomokazu Tokoro
矢木正之 Masayuki Yaki
遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
坂本英明 Hideaki Sakamoto
詫 祐二 Yuji Tsuge
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
28運命 Destiny青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
二宮常雄 Tsuneo Futamiya
マジックバス Magic Bus
アニメ・アール Anime R
中村プロ Nakamura Pro
-高橋良輔
Ryosuke Takahashi
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
29二人 Two上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
30幻影 Illusion中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
西城 明
Akira Saijo
31不可侵宙域 Forbidden zone布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
スタジオダブ Studio Dove
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
32イプシロン Ipsilon青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
清島孝一郎 Koichiro Kiyoshima
福井享子 Ryoko Fukui
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
上村栄司、塩山紀生
Eiji Kamimura, Norio Shioyama
33対決 Showdown上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
吉田 徹 Toru Yoshida
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
34惑星サンサ Planet Sansa中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
西城 明
Akira Saijo
35死線 Near death藁谷 均 Hitoshi Waratani
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
36恩讐 Love and hate神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
高橋資祐
Motosuke Takahashi
康村正一
Seiichi Yasumura
上村栄司、塩山紀生
Eiji Kamimura, Norio Shioyama
37虜 Captive多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
38暗闇 Darkness中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
西城 明
Akira Saijo
39パーフェクト・ソルジャー Perfect Soldier上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
吉田 徹 Toru Yoshida
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
40仲間 Friendアニメ・アール Anime R
中村プロ Nakamura Pro
オールプロダクション All Production
-高橋良輔
Ryosuke Takahashi
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
41クエント Quentスタジオダブ Studio Dove
藁谷 均 Hitoshi Waratani
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
八幡 正、塩山紀生
Tadashi Yahata, Norio Shioyama
42砂漠 Desert布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
福井享子 Ryoko Fukui
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
43遺産 Legacy青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
木下ゆうき Yuuki Kishita
清島孝一郎 Koichiro Kiyoshima
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
44禁断 Forbidden中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
松下佳弘 Yoshihiro Matsushita
和泉絹子 Masako Izumi
時矢義則 Yoshinori Tokiya
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
西城 明
Akira Saijo
45遭遇 Encounterスタジオダブ Studio Dove
藁谷 均 Hitoshi Waratani
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
きのプロ Kino Pro
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
46予感 Intuition加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
吉田 徹 Toru Yoshida
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
糸島雅彦 Masahiko Itojima
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
47異変 Fortuity布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
48後継者 Successor奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
柳沢哲也 Tetsuya Yanagisawa
石田 誠 Makoto Ishida
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
西城 明
Akira Saijo
49異能者 They of special powersスタジオダブ Studio Dove
藁谷 均 Hitoshi Waratani
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
溝井裕二 Yuji Mizoi
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
康村正一
Seiichi Yasumura
八幡 正
Tadashi Yahata
50乱雲 Thunderhead波戸根良昭 Yoshiaki Hatone
松原徳弘 Norihiro Matsuhara
塚本 篤 Atsushi Tsukamoto
佐々木喜子 Yoshiko Sasaki
貴島優子 Yuko Takashima
河口俊夫 Toshio Kawaguchi
香川 浩 Hiroshi Kagawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二、塩山紀生
Eiji Suzuki, Norio Shioyama
51修羅 Battle青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
スタジオダブ Studio Dove
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
52流星 Shooting star加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
吉田 徹 Toru Yoshida
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
糸島雅彦 Masahiko Itojima
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi

The Last Red Shoulder ザ・ラストレッドショルダー (OVA, 54 mins, 1985)

Created by & Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Character Design & Anim. Dir.:塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
Mechanical Animation Director:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Script:はままさのりMasanori Hama
Storyboard:加瀬充子
谷田部勝義
Nobuko Kase
Masayoshi Yatabe
Technical Director:加瀬充子Nobuko Kase
Assistant Technical Director:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Key Animation:アニメアールAnime R
スタジオダブStudio Dove
スタジオビーボオ―Studio Bebow
マジックバスMagic Bus
福井享子Ryoko Fukui
清島孝一郎Koichiro Kiyoshima

Big Battle ビッグバトル (OVA, 56 mins, 1986)

Created by & Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Character Design & Anim. Dir.:塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
Script:はままさのりMasanori Hama
Storyboard & Technical Director:滝沢敏文Toshifumi Takizawa
Key Animation:スタジオ・ダブStudio Dove
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura
藁谷均Hitoshi Waratani
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
 
服部真奈美Manami Hattori
福井享子 Ryoko Fukui
加藤義貴Yoshitaka Kato

Red Soldier Document: The Roots of Ambition レッドショルダードキュメント 野望のルーツ (OVA, 57 mins, 1988)

Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Character Design & Anim. Dir.:塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
Script:吉川惣司Soji Yoshikawa
Storyboard:滝沢敏文Toshifumi Takizawa
Technical Director:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Key Animation:スタジオダブStudio Dove
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
高橋幸治Koji Takahashi
藁谷均Hitoshi Waratani
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura

The Radiant Heresy 赫奕たる異端 (OVA, 5 eps, 25 mins each, 1994-1995)

Created by & Chief Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Director & Storyboard:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Episode Directors:原田奈奈
中野頼道
大熊朝秀
Nana Harada
Yorimichi Nakano
Nobuhide Ookuma (Takashi Imanishi)
Character Design & Anim. Dir.:塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
Assistant A.D.:横山彰利
(+小林利充
Akitoshi Yokoyama
Toshimitsu Kobayashi in ep 2)
Script:吉川惣司Soji Yoshikawa
Mechanical Animation Director:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Music:乾裕樹Hiroki Inui
 
Key animation:(Episode 1)
阿部邦博Kunihiro Abe
村木靖Yasushi Muraki
小森高博Takahiro Komori
舛館俊秀Toshihide Masudate
松本憲生Norio Matsumoto
松本文雄Fumio Matsumoto
加藤茂Shigeru Kato
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
中山久司Hisashi Nakayama
馬場俊子Toshiko Baba
貴志夫美子Fumiko Kishi
スタジオダブStudio Dove
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
 
A.D. help:小林利充 Toshimitsu Kobayashi
 
Layout Assistant: 中山久司 Hisashi Nakayama
 
(Episode 2)
アニメロマンAnime Roman
スタジオダブStudio Dove
安藤美行Miyuki Ando
金井次郎Jiro Kanai
尾形雄二Yuji Ogata
加藤茂Shigeru Kato
[Chinese names]
横山彰利Akitoshi Yokoyama
中山久司Hisashi Nakayama
 
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
 
Layout Assistant: 中山久司 Hisashi Nakayama
 
(Episode 3)
飯野泰造Taizo Iino
服部真奈美Manami Hattori
加藤茂Shigeru Kato
金井次郎Jiro Kanai
佐藤修Osamu Sato
永田正美Masami Nagata
[Chinese names]
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
小林利充Toshimitsu Kobayashi
中山久司Hisashi Nakayama
中村豊Yutaka Nakamura
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
京都アニ
メーション
Kyoto Animation
 
(Episode 4)
服部真奈美Manami Hattori
門上洋子Yoko Kadogami
馬場俊子Toshiko Baba
鵜飼美樹Miki Ukai
岡田和久Kazuhisa Okada
江原仁Jin Ehara
川元利浩Toshihiro Kawamoto
入江泰浩Yasuhiro Irie
中田雅夫Masao Nakata
加藤義貴Yoshitaka Kato
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
横山彰利Akitoshi Yokoyama
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
小林利充Toshimitsu Kobayashi
 
Layout Assistant: 中山久司 Hisashi Nakayama
 
(Episode 5)
門上洋子Yoko Kadogami
馬場俊子Toshiko Baba
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
久行宏和Hirokazu Hisayuki
金田正彦Masahiko Kanada
服部真奈美Manami Hattori
加藤義貴Yoshitaka Kato
後藤雅己Masami Goto
山下明彦Akihiko Yamashita
牧野行洋Yukihiro Makino
小森高博Takahiro Komori
西村貴世Takase Nishimura
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
横山彰利Akitoshi Yokoyama
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
中山久司Hisashi Nakayama
鈴木勉Tsutomu Suzuki
今掛勇Isamu Imakake
[Chinese names]
アニメアールAnime R
スタジオダブStudio Dove

Friday, May 11, 2012

08:50:00 pm , 1808 words, 12907 views     Categories: Movie, 1990s

Hermes, Wings of Love

"Let's create a new history of the Gods."

So ends this re-imagineering of the myths of ancient Greece through the all-seeing eyes of Ryuho Okawa, the "founder and spiritual leader" of Happy Science, a "new global spiritual movement" with "over 12 million followers in 70 plus countries" (according to Happy Science Atlanta).

And so this lavish, two-hour animated feature does. Based on a book by the great leader, it remixes the ancient Greek gods into a wildly imaginative, largely incoherent, entirely anachronistic mish-mash of Christian, Muslim, Confucian and Buddhist spiritual teachings.

This is by far the most beautifully animated piece of religious propaganda I've seen. The good animation comes courtesy of Ajia-Do animator Yoshiaki Yanagida and his team of animators. The ancient trappings are re-created in surprisingly authentic detail. The film feels only a step down from Run Melos as a realistic animated re-creation of ancient Greece.

Unless you knew otherwise, the film actually doesn't come across as blatantly pushing a religious agenda. Watching the film without any knowledge of the subtext, it would probably just come across as a pleasing historical epic interrupted occasionally by some baffling spiritual interludes.

Even during these sequences when the film switches to outlining the belief system of the Happies, it's all so incoherent and outlandish that it's hard to make sense of it. I actually came away from the film wishing the belief system had been laid out more clearly. It probably can't be expressed convincingly because it's inherently loony.

The scenes of the spiritual world are beautifully rendered and pleasing to watch, with vivid coloring, atmospheric lighting, and highly worked animation. The scene where El Cantare appears in the clouds has some impressively animated clouds, and when Hermes visits heaven later in the film, he flies through canyons in laboriously animated background animation. The animators clearly reveled in the opportunity of this big-budget production to draw a more 'cinematic' style of animation than they are usually able.

It's fairly easy to watch the film with the aim of appreciating the nice animation while ignoring the religious subtext. It's basically set up as a piece of grand entertainment, with a hidden message, rather than flat-out preaching. The film suffers less from the lunacy of later films in the Happy Science saga. It has no demon Hitler or re-incarnation of Edison, and no anime Shoko Asahara raining terror on Tokyo. Just ancient Greeks, over which some fairly transparent Christian and Buddhist themes are overlaid.

That's the clever and insidious thing about the movie: it's eminently watchable. Like L. Ron Hubbard's pulpy Battlefield Earth books, this film brings people into a religious mythology through entertainment. The film was released in the theater like any normal film. Happy Science is known for using the big marketing company Dentsu, so these films are obviously the product of a highly sophisticated marketing strategy.

Repugnant but beautiful, Hermes entrances you with its high production quality and leaves you shaking your head at its lunacy. It's essentially two films mashed into one. One film is a nice animated swords and sandals epic, and the other is a ludicrous new age freak-out. One moment we're watching a fairly engaging story about a hero fighting against a mad tyrant in ancient Greece, and the next minute we're flying in the spiritual realm being regaled matter-of-factly with snippets of spiritual wisdom such as: Fish in heaven glow a golden color because they're happy to return to heaven. The color and shape of each flower is determined by its governing spirit fairy.

The story

The Hermes in this film is not the herald of the gods in ancient Greek mythology; he's a regular human. He's a Christ-like messianic figure who grows up to lead the people of the Aegean to freedom from under the tyrannical rule of Cretan King Minos and to pass on his divine revelations. Along the way, Minos's daughter Ariadne helps him defeat the Minotaur in the labyrinth using the legendary Ariadne's thread, so some aspects of the story are more faithful to the Greek myths.

Similarly, Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty, is re-imagined as a princess locked in a tower on the isolated island of Delos whom Hermes rescues and marries, as foretold by prophecy. With a little help from Okawa's Supreme Being El Cantare, who appears in a cloud to bestow a magic scepter, the godly King and Queen lead their people to prosperity.

The whole point of this story is that, in Okawa's world, Okawa and his wife are the re-incarnation of Hermes and Aphrodite. The tactic is as old as the Kojiki of ancient Japan: establish a heavenly mandate by crafting a godly lineage and disseminating it as dogma. It's astounding that it's still possible to use the same centuries-old tactics in the 21st century.

It's not clear to me exactly how much of the outlandish story in this film is meant to be taken at face value, but it's known that Ryuho Okawa professes that he is literally the re-incarnation of Buddha, and he has heard the voice of Kim Jong-Il and Jesus, among other feats, so presumably we are meant to believe that he and his wife are the re-incarnation of Hermes and Aphrodite.

According to this film, it's thanks to El Cantare's intervention that the people of the Aegean learned commerce. All the basic social and technological advances were god-given. Basically every aspect of human progress can be traced back to the good will of El Cantare, who wants us to be happy. It must require special effort to ignore several millenia of human scientific and social progress.

The film is presented as fiction ("It's time to create a new mythology"), but in the implicit understanding that you're supposed to believe it as factual truth. There is a deliberate ambiguity as to how much of this one is expected to accept as truth. Happy Science obviously thrives in this ambiguous zone between fantasy and reality.

The film has an extended sequence that depicts heaven, and much of it looks suspiciously like earth. The retort offered is: that's because earth is just a reflection of heaven. The irony is apparently lost on them that heaven is being represented by animated drawings, each of which was invented and drawn according to the whim of a human being.

The Happy Science saga

Okawa is aptly named. He is the Disney not of the East but of religious propaganda cartoons. Since releasing Hermes, Wings of Love in 1997, he has released a new lavish full-length adaptation of one of his many books every three years, and each one is as impressively produced as this film.

Hermes, Wings of Love ヘルメス 愛は風の如く (1997) (watch from part 1)
The Laws of the Sun 太陽の法 エル・カンターレへの道 (2000) (watch from part 1)
The Golden Laws 黄金の法 エル・カンターレの歴史観 (2003) (watch from part 1)
The Laws of Eternity 永遠の法 エル・カンターレの世界観 (2006) (watch from part 1)
The Rebirth of Buddha 仏陀再誕 (2009) (watch from part 1)

Hermes was produced by Studio Junio, while the rest of the films were produced by Group Tac. They were actually the last films the studio produced apart from A Stormy Night. From what little I've seen skimming through the films, they're each visually quite impressive, with beautiful compositions and coloring that makes sense coming from Group Tac, but the style doesn't have the sort of realistic-school feeling of Hermes, and the stories are far more crazy.

The animators

Like The Fox of Chironup, Hermes was produced by Studio Junio, directed by Tetsuo Imazawa, and features a sequence of sea animation from Toshiyuki Inoue (misspelled in the credits) that is worth looking at as a nice piece of Toshiyuki Inoue animation even if you don't watch the film. The overhead shot of the waves in particular is amazing. The acting on the ship in this scene stands out starkly from the animation in the rest of the show, clearly because it was so good as handed in that it didn't need correction and hence you can see Inoue's touch quite clearly in things like the acting and the folds of the clothing.

Yoshiaki Yanagida's characters are beefy and three-dimensional in a way that reminds of Okiura's characters in Run Melos, if slightly less expressive in terms of facial expression and stiffer in terms of physical dexterity. The layouts are realistic if stolid and somewhat monotone, and the animation often seems to be struggling with the realistic angles. It gives you a newfound appreciation for how much Satoshi Kon's meticulous layouts contributed to the realism of Run Melos. Yanagida is a lifelong Ajia-Do animator who has been behind some richly animated shows in the past including Spirit of Wonder (1992), Ruin Explorers (1995) and The House of Acorns (1997). More recently, he was behind the OVAs Kujibiki Unbalance (2004) and Genshiken (2006).

There are numerous other good animators besides Inoue, which accounts for the high quality: Yoshiyuki Hane, Shinya Takahashi, Masami Suda (all Toei), Shigeo Akabori (Studio Junio), Takayuki Goto (I.G. co-founder), Yumi Chiba (4C), Tetsuro Kaku (Shin-Ei), Michiyo Suzuki (Madhouse), Atsuo Tobe (Sunrise). Masami Suda was one of the great Toei animators of the 1980s, and he went on to be one of the main figures behind the animation of the rest of the Happy Science films. Yoshiyuki Hane is a great veteran animator who is still very active. He did a lot of work on the classic Takahata TV shows. He single-handedly animated the beautiful opening of Nils Holgerson.

I suspect that the animators chose to work on this film in an attempt to try their hand at the sort of realistic-school animation that had been created prior in films like Run Melos and Junkers Come Here. The style of the film seems to fall deliberately into that tradition. The later films in the series have nothing whatsoever of this character.

All of the subsequent films were directed by Takaaki Ishiyama and produced by Group Tac, with Yoshiyuki Hane and Masami Suda as character designers/sakkans. Isamu Imakake and Koichi Ohata also contribute designs in each film. Shoichi Masuo is even one of the animators.

The director at the very least is a professed Happy, involved in the films as a believer (just look how happy he looks in this interview), but I'm inclined to believe (hope) that most of the people worked on this film not as believers but because work is work, and there aren't many opportunities to revel in big-budget-style animation.

I assume that Group Tac took on these projects in desperation, in a doomed last effort to stave off insolvency. It's a sad thing when great studios are so starved for work that they are forced to turn to producing this kind of material - AND it still doesn't save them from going bankrupt.

Here is a good post on The Rebirth of Buddha that gives you more of a sense of the lunacy of the rest of the Happy Science saga after Hermes and the cultural context.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

11:34:00 pm , 987 words, 4303 views     Categories: Director: Masaaki Yuasa, 1990s

Masaaki Yuasa's Buriburizaemon

Crayon Shin-chan has a strong fantasy/parody aspect, with frequent appearances by parody characters like Kantamu Robo and Action Kamen. They carve out a place for fantasy and adventure in Shin-chan's prosaic reality. My favorite of these is Buriburizaemon, the hero pig.

Buriburizaemon is a unique kind of hero who'll come running when someone calls for his help, but immediately defect to the other side if he's outnumbered, and then ask you for a $10 million "rescue fee" (he takes loans).

Born from a scribble in an episode from 1992, Buriburizaemon made a few cameo appearances in the first few years, and soon became a regular on the show. In 1994 he got the first in a series of his own special episodes called "The Adventures of Buriburizaemon", which feature him not-quite-rescuing damsels in distress in samurai movie scenarios. He was even the star of that year's yearly Shin-chan movie.

Part of the character's appeal was that he was voiced by Kaneto Shiozawa, whose distinct sultry loverboy voice made for a hilarious contrast with this tiny craven pig character. When Shiozawa passed away in 2000, such was the respect in which he was held, and the attachment to the character, that rather than replace him with another voice actor, or bury Buriburizaemon forever, they chose to make Buriburizaemon a silent character from that point forward.

Testament to the character's enduring power, a DVD was just released collecting the various episodes featuring Buriburizaemon between 1992 and 2000. None of the other cameo characters got their own DVD. Buriburizaemon has always been one of my favorite Shin-chan characters, so it's nice to finally be able to see all of his episodes.

But really, there's one reason to get this DVD: Masaaki Yuasa's four Adventures of Buriburizaemon episodes from 1994-1995. They are classic Yuasa. I first saw them many years ago before I had even heard of Masaaki Yuasa, and thought they were absolutely amazing. They're a big part of the reason I sensed there to be something different about the Shin-chan TV series. Years later when I tried to track them down again, I had to buy two random Japanese Shin-chan VHS releases to get them all, so it's nice to have them all gathered together like this in one place. I watched those Yuasa episodes over and over and couldn't get enough of them back then. Re-watching them again on this DVD for the first time in many years, I laughed just as hard at every single scene, even knowing what was coming.

They're just four tiny 7-minute episodes, but they're jam-packed with Yuasa goodness. Yuasa was animation director of all four episodes, and he wrote and storyboarded the last three. This was actually Yuasa's scriptwriting and storyboarding debut. He was offered the chance to do the episodes by Mitsuru Hongo, who was the series director at the time. The rest is history.

Everything about the episodes is great. The jokes come fast and furious. The animation is incredibly lively and unpredictable. There are tons of great character designs and playful design ideas, all drawn in that patented Yuasa style where the body is reduced to a few angular lines and shapes. The story is a hilarious jidaigeki parody with wacky incongruous ideas like a trained ostrich instead of a trained falcon, ninjas with Mickey Mouse ears, and a building with a giant face on it. Surprisingly, the chambara action sequences are really well done, with detailed and surprisingly realistically timed choreography that is all the more hilarious for being so out of place. It's like a joke version of Hamaji's Resurrection, which was released the same year. And at the very end, Buriburizaemon delivers probably the single most hilarious pun I've ever heard. Yuasa was heavily influenced by cartoons, and that's what his Buriburizaemon specials feel like: Yuasa cartoons.

The first arc climaxes with a segment involving a zany building full of trap doors that seems like a study for the exhilarating chase through the castle ramparts that he drew for the climax of the 1996 Shin-chan movie, one of his best segments. Yuasa even drew the hilarious Buriburizaemon instructional video segment in the 1998 movie, which features an army of Buriburizaemons wreaking all sorts of mayhem, including farting in the face of a shocked Bill Clinton lookalike after sneaking into the oval office and giving the command to launch the country's nuclear arsenal.

The problem is that after watching Yuasa's episodes, the other episodes pale in comparison. It becomes glaringly obvious that the reason the Buriburizaemon specials were so funny was Yuasa and Yuasa alone. Yuasa did a bunch of other Shin-chan episodes. I've seen a number of them, and they're just as good as you'd expect. Two of his earliest are included on this DVD (since they happen to involve Buriburizaemon).

I kind of wish that instead of releasing a DVD of Buriburizaemon episodes, they had just released a DVD of Yuasa episodes. Or even better, a collection of the best-animated episodes by the good Shin-chan animators - Masaaki Yuasa, Yuichiro Sueyoshi, Masami Otsuka, Shizuka Hayashi, etc. I'm sure there are episodes by people not on my radar that are well animated. It would be nice to get a 'best of Shin-chan animation' disc. There was one episode on the disc from 1999 with drawings by this guy called Masahiko Matsuyama who I'd never heard of, but the drawings were incredible - angular and really wild. I wish the vast body of TV Shin-chan was more easily accessible. The movies are easy to explore, but there's lots of goodness hidden in the TV show.

The good news is that, after many years' absence, Yuasa is back working on the Shin-chan TV show. He directed a few episodes in a new sub-segment called SHIN MEN, about a bunch of superheroes with various superpowers. I've seen a bit and it's incredible stuff. Later episodes appear to have a different director, so I'm not sure if he's still working on it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

06:19:00 pm , 1663 words, 5310 views     Categories: OVA, Studio: Anime R, post-Akira, Studio Curtain, 1990s

Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes

I wrote about Toei's fantasy adventure OVA Xanadu: Dragon Slayer Densetsu (1988) before. It was a slight outing redeemed by early work from Koichi Arai and ex-Bebow animators.

Well, a few years later, a two-episode OVA with a confusingly similar title was released: Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes (1992). It never seems to have made it over to the west like other good OVAs of the period, and you'd be forgiven for assuming that to have been because it was a crummy video game tie-in. But despite its obscurity, it's an impressively well-made action piece with a unique style. It might be the best fantasy/action OVA of the period that nobody has ever heard of.

A Wizardry OVA was released one year earlier in 1991 as a tie-in with the popular dungeoner video games, but it was boring and uninspired. Despite the talent at TMS's disposal, and despite TMS staple Kenji Kodama's storyboard, it was nothing more than a walk through a dungeon straight out of the game, with disappointingly staid animation.

Dragon Slayer bears little resemblance to the latter. It doesn't even feel like conventional fantasy anime. The fantasy plot seem like merely an excuse for the director to string together a series of action scenes of hair-raising intensity. With its frenetic pacing and expressionistic drawings, its post-Akira pedigree is obvious. The animation is lively and intense and highly worked. If anything, it feels closer in spirit to the manic Crimson Wolf (1993), with its speedy and dynamic animation and breakneck momentum. Another reference point is Sukeban Deka (1991), which featured thrilling, wildly deformed action animation by Masayuki Kobayashi. The action in Dragon Slayer is similar in style to Kobayashi's animation in Sukeban Deka - the timing ultra-fast and the drawings laden with deformed insertions to heighten the impact of the movement.

The film actually has had something of a cult reputation among Japanese fans due to its unusually fast pacing and animation. The animation at times seems excessively fast, as if the timing on the animation sheet had actually been kicked up a notch at the processing stage to give it more punch. Even the overall directing is unexpectedly fast. Scenes proceed at such a breakneck pace that dramatic moments like the boy's separation from his mother at the beginning border on the comical. That said, it's not badly done. It actually works. Sure, the budget is obviously not extremely high, and the drawings have a rough edge, but this isn't one of those shows that you would watch to laugh at it. The action sequences are creatively and excitingly choreographed, and the lightning-fast pacing of the narrative makes the otherwise generic fantasy plot far more entertaining than it rightfully should be.

The OVA was apparently not well received by fans of the game because the story was extensively overhauled for the anime. But who outside of a handful of Japanese fans from 1992 remembers (much less still plays) the game? They did the right thing to make the anime stand on its own two legs rather than make a faithful but impotent anime adaptation like Wizardry. As a result, twenty years on, Dragon Slayer still holds up pretty well.

Adding to the film's atmosphere are the character designs, which have a nice 'angry' feeling to them courtesy of onetime Nagai Go associate Ken Ishikawa, who also gave us the delightfully fierce and bloody Majuu Sensen AKA Beast Fighter. Yes indeed, this is anime as the lord intended it: fast, dynamic, and brutal.

Stretch and squash indeed

The Curtain-R-Nakamura connection

So, what studio produced this OVA? You'd be hard-pressed to say going by the credits. A variety of big corporate entities like King Records and Amuse Video are cited in production roles, but none of them are actual animation production studios. It takes some knowledge of the staff to extrapolate that informal artist gathering Studio Curtain was probably the 'brain' behind the show, and animation subcontractor Nakamura Production was probably the main production floor of the show's animation. One other subcontractor was also involved: Anime R. (The earlier comparison with Sukeban Deka is even more apt because Anime R was behind Sukeban Deka.)

What ties all of these together seems to be the old Sunrise cooking anime Mister Ajikko, which aired from 1987 to 1989. Most of the main staff of Dragon Slayer worked on (and presumably met one another working on) Mister Ajikko. The style of Dragon Slayer may even be indebted to the directing style of Mister Ajikko.

Dragon Slayer director Noriyuki Nakamura (no relation to Nakamura Production) may not be very well known, but he's a veteran who has been directing since at least 1980 and who continues to be very active on the front line storyboarding TV episodes.

Noriyuki Nakamura was the chief episode director of Mister Ajikko. By the time of Dragon Slayer in 1992, Noriyuki Nakamura was part of an informal animation studio called Studio Curtain, run by Masahiro Kase. Studio Curtain receives a "Special Thanks" credit in Dragon Slayer. Masahiro Kase, an animator in Dragon Slayer, was the chief animation director of the first 3/4 of Mister Ajikko. Masahiro Kase was at Osaka subcontractor Anime R at the time. Kazuaki Mouri, one of Anime R's hotshot animators, was the chief animation director of the last 1/4. Mouri is co-storyboarder and combat sequence supervisor of Dragon Slayer.

Perhaps the most recognizable name in Dragon Slayer is Tadashi Hiramatsu. He co-storyboarded and animated. I already wrote a bit about his early years in my post on Sukeban Deka: He started out at Nakamura Pro and eventually moved to Studio Curtain. Hiramatsu met Kase while working on Mister Ajikko. It's during Hiramatsu's period at Kase's Curtain that Dragon Slayer was produced. Hiramatsu relates that he learned a lot about directing from Noriyuki Nakamura.

The Nakamura Pro team of Tadashi Hiramatsu, Hiroyuki Okuno, Hisashi Hirai and Tetsuya Yanagisawa is credited together in Mister Ajikko episodes 38, 43, 48, 53. These four animators are present in Dragon Slayer. Hiroyuki Okuno is an animator, Tetsuya Yanagisawa is the monster character designer, and Hisashi Hirai is the character designer and animation director.

There's even a tangential Nippon Animation connection. Noriyuki Nakamura and Masahiro Kase both started out at Nippon Animation in the early 1980s, so it's possible they met there or at least recognized one another from that period. Meanwhile, Tadashi Hiramatsu wound up working on several Nippon Animation productions in the early 1990s after he joined Noriyuki Nakamura and Masahiro Kase at Studio Curtain.

Nakamura Pro

As I wrote in my post on Dirty Pair (1985), Sunrise has always made heavy use of subcontractors for their animation, ever since their founding in the early 1970s. Several other subcontractors helped with the animation side of Mister Ajikko, including Studio Live and Animaru-ya. But Nakamura Pro has always had a particularly close relationship with Sunrise, due to their shared origins.

Nakamura Pro was founded in 1974 by Kazuo Nakamura, who had started out at Mushi Pro. His studio was one of many, like Sunrise, founded in the aftermath of Mushi Pro's failure in what I've referred to as the Mushi Pro diaspora. It's ironic to think that Mushi Pro inadvertently influenced the course of anime history in probably exactly the opposite way they intended: Sunrise learned from Mushi Pro's mistake and did not let the artists run the studio. They instead turned to toy tie-ups as a way to ensure the studio's continued prosperity. This resulted in their becoming a robot anime studio. Nakamura Pro did most of its work for the robot shows of Sunrise and Toei in the early days, resulting in a whole generation of animators trained there and elsewhere becoming specialists in a sub-genre of animation that is unique to Japan. Some of the more famous animators turned out by Nakamura Pro include Ken Otsuka, Eiji Nakata, Shuko Murase and Hiroyuki Kitakubo.

Nakamura Pro has its own official web site, where they say they are hiring. Both Nakamura and Anime R are still alive and well doing subcontract animation work on today's TV shows.

It's all very complicated, but here is a basic breakdown of the studios and their animators in Dragon Slayer:
Curtain: Noriyuki Nakamura, Masahiro Kase, Tadashi Hiramatsu
Nakamura Pro: Hisashi Hirai, Michinori Chiba, Ken Otsuka, Hiroyuki Okuno, Shuko Murase, Yasuhiro Irie, Akira Nakamura, Tetsuya Yanagisawa, Kazuhiro Itakura
Anime R: Kazuaki Mouri, Masahide Yanagisawa, Takahiro Kimura, Takahiro Komori

Aside: Although Noriyuki Nakamura bears no relation to Nakamura Pro, the other Nakamura credited in the show - Akira Nakamura, who is credited as enemy character designer - is the younger brother of Nakamura Pro founder Kazuo Nakamura.

Just to further confuse you, I'll close by briefly evoking another of the artist collectives that were so popular in the early 1990s - Gabo Miyabi (画房雅). It was founded by Masahide Yanagisawa after he left Anime R and moved to Tokyo. I don't know whether or not the group existed at the time of Dragon Slayer, but four animators credited in Dragon Slayer were part of the group: Masahide Yanagisawa, Shinya Takahashi, Takahiro Komori, and Yasuhiro Irie. The Sukeban Deka animator I mentioned before, Masayuki Kobayashi, was also part of the group. Other animators involved in the group include Kenichiro Katsura and Tatsuya Tomaru.

Other notable names in the credits include Masami Obari and Masashi Ishihama.


Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes ドラゴンスレイヤー英雄伝説 (1992, OVA, 2x25 mins, dir. Noriyuki Nakamura)

Director & Story Framework:中村憲由 Noriyuki Nakamura
Script:松崎健一 Kenichi Matsuzaki
Art Director:脇威志 Takeshi Waki
Original Character Design:石川賢 Ken Ishikawa
Animation C.D. & Animation Director:平井久司 Hisashi Hirai
Storyboards:中村憲由 Noriyuki Nakamura
難波日登志 Hitoshi Namba
毛利和明 Kazuaki Mouri
平松禎史 Tadashi Hiramatsu
Combat Supervisor:毛利和明 Kazuaki Mouri
Enemy Character Design:中村明 Akira Nakamura
Monster Character Design:柳沢哲也 Tetsuya Yanagisawa

Key Animation:中村プロ Nakamura Pro:
柳沢哲也 Tetsuya Yanagisawa
板倉和弘 Kazuhiro Itakura
2nd Key Animation:千葉道徳 Michinori Chiba
大塚健 Ken Otsuka
石塚貴之 Takayuki Ishizuka
Key Animation:加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
平松禎史 Tadashi Hiramatsu
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
竹内昭 Akira Takeuchi
柳沢まさひで Masahide Yanagisawa
高橋しんや Shinya Takahashi
大張正己 Masami Obari
村瀬修功 Shuko Murase
毛利和明 Kazuaki Mouri
山川瑞恵 Mizue Yamakawa
入江泰浩 Yasuhiro Irie
工藤裕加 Yuka Kudo
数井浩子 Hiroko Kazui
青木哲郎 Tetsuro Aoki
灘波日登志 Hitoshi Namba
清水健一 Kenichi Shimizu
木村貴宏 Takahiro Kimura
重田智 Satoshi Shigeta
石浜真史 Masashi Ishihama
小森高博 Takahiro Komori
亀井隆 Takashi Kamei

Cover of LD Vol. 1