Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Archives for: June 2004, 19

Saturday, June 19, 2004

06:56:59 pm , 546 words, 5646 views     Categories: Animation

Manga Sekai Mukashibanashi

Yesterday I paid a visit to this Japanese site put up by some anonymous samaritan offering a whole bunch of episodes of the old TV series まんが世界昔ばなし (Manga Sekai Mukashibanashi, Classic Tales from Around the World, 1976-79) for download, and discovered that the site has been much filled out since I last visited a year ago. The files now have sound, and there are about 50 episodes available in total. A great find. This is a very rare series. Nobody has heard of it, but here we have a long series with episode after episode done by famous figures like Osamu Dezaki, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Masami Hata, and Manabu Ohashi. Many of the names are Mushi Pro figures, so it seems likely that Madhouse was the animation studio actually behind the production of the episodes, although the umbrella company Dax International is the only name that usually gets mentioned in the credits. This series was obviously patterned on Group Tac's まんが日本昔ばなし (Manga Nihon Mukashibanashi, Classic Tales from Old Japan), the more famous of the two and the one that originated the idea for an animated omnibus of literary classics & folktales with a rotating crew every episode. The latter's unique production style left behind innumerable absolutely wonderful little gems, including a number of episodes animated by Gisaburo Sugii.

The capstone in the Madhouse version is the Shipwreck episode created by Madhouse's ambassadors, the unbeatable triumvirate of Osamu Dezaki, Akio Sugino and Shichiro Kobayashi. Despite its brevity - actually, because of its brevity - this is probably my favorite film by the team. Forced by this brevity to do away with any extraneous detail, every shot and every image feels dramatically convincing and essential, without any of the interminable melodramatic languors that usually so turn me off from Dezaki, resulting in what is for me the most succinct and convincing embodiment of their time-tested approach. The episode can be downloaded from this page. (it's the first one at the top; the Red Shoes episode, sixth from the top, also by the same team, is also very much worth a look)

Among the episodes added since my last visit was one by Masami Hata, for which the webmaster has my eternal gratitude! Specifically, it was animated and directed by Masami Hata. Takeshi Shudo wrote it and Shichiro Kobayashi did the art. It's a Norwegian fairy tale about a poor boy who extorts a bunch of magical objects from the north wind for having spilled his wheat. It's a great episode - serene, warm, unostentatious, perfectly honed, with nothing unnecessary, peppered with the sort of refined, understated, irresistible humor that makes Hata the one and only true Zen master of gags in the wide world of anime. Hata's animation is very simple, and the designs are round and fluffy, yet for some reason it feels like nothing else out there. There's real magic in there, in the timing, something honest and heartfelt and without anime fakery or posing or showing off, which makes it a pure joy to watch. It's a mystery to me where this disctinctive approach comes from - it's something fundamentally alien to anime. It's Masami Hata's unique contribution to anime. And it's a real treasure. The episode can be downloaded from this page. (it's the second from the top)