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.
August 2004
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Archives for: August 2004, 14

Saturday, August 14, 2004

08:44:07 pm , 193 words, 2095 views     Categories: Animation

Otsuka's got a new book!

It's all about his experiences on the gigantic but infamously doomed Little Nemo project spearheaded by Tokyo Movie founder Yutaka Fujioka. This project is so fascinating: a modern-day cautionary tale of anime hubris! I wrote a bit about it on the page for the film in my Masami Hata filmography. I really look forward to reading this. Yutaka's past successes and obvious love for animation are undeniable, and his idealistic ambition to create a film that would be a hit in the west and in Japan, although unsuccessful in this case, was in fact fulfilled by Ghibli over the period during which this film was in fitful production, so it's interesting to study why this project failed. I have no doubt that it will be extremely insightful about many things besides the actual details of the project, including the nature of the role of the anime producer. Otsuka himself has played such an important role behind the scenes over the years that some people in the recent documentary went so far as to say he may have been equally important as a producer-type-figure. The book was published on the 22nd of last month.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

05:20:48 pm , 714 words, 4190 views     Categories: Animation, Animator

Tomonori Kogawa

Been feeling blah and hot, so I sat around reading a book by Kazushige Abe. The gears have been resting.

Not that this matters, but I've always wondered who did the animation in Yanagawa Horiwari Monogatari. Personally I suspect Kondo, but I've got no proof. Have people seen this movie? Takahata's documentary. It's probably my own favorite documentary, not that I'm a documentary expert. Made on the funds earned from Nausicaa, generously donated by Miyazaki, it's an incredible achievement on Takahata's part that articulates and further develops the ideas in Nausicaa in the context of the real world, and definitely deserves to be seen. It's also available from the "Ghibli ga Ippai" DVD series with English subs.

Today I thought I'd mix things up and translate an interview with Tomonori Kogawa (湖川友謙), the animation director of my favorie robot anime, Ideon. But it's late and it's long and I changed my mind, so just a few thoughts. I was struck by this anime -- well, mostly by the last movie, Be Invoked (発動篇) (1982) -- first of all because of the pitiless story and relentless forward drive of the directing, which is fundamentally unlike anything I've seen elsewhere (I still find it rather enjoyable to submerge myself in now and then), but also in terms of the unusual designs and animation style of the characters. I liked the very original use of colors -- tracing with colors rather than black, basing characters on a white background -- the uncute character designs with a realistic flavor (the original designs were photorealistic, apparently, and subsequently simplified), and especially the novel ideas he brought to animating the characters, such as having their whole jaw move when they're talking rather than just having them "do the goldfish".

I usually have an allergy to Tatsunoko school animators, but I find his stuff surprisingly watchable and full of interesting ideas. There's real passion for his work in there, a desire to try new things. In the interview he makes a comment about Yoshiyuki Tomino (director of Gundam in 1979, whom he worked with for the next five years on this and a few other series) to the effect that while other people complained that they didn't like his storyboards because they challenged the animators, he said he loved his storyboards because they challenged the animators. I loved that attitude.

This guy was originally an art person, a painter, and not an anime person, and I think that shows up in his work. Often in anime the freshest ideas have come from people who bring in new blood from different places like this. Oh, and I remembered correctly. Whenever Kogawa was displeased the key animation an animator sent him, and whenever possible, he would redraw all the key animation himself from scratch because it was faster to do that than to correct the key animator's drawings. (This applies only to the characters. The mecha action was animated by people like Yoshinobu Inano and Ichiro Itano.) You can see clearly that almost all of the close-ups and important dramatic scenes (Sheryl's breakdown, the climax) were drawn entirely by Kogawa. And a famous spot near the end where a small child has her head incinerated was apparently something of an ad-lib on his part. The storyboard was not so ... specific. The film benefits immensely from his devotion to filling out tiny details like this. And this despite the fact that he admits to not completely agreeing with or understanding many of Tomino's decisions as the director, especially his bizarre mystical ideas about karma.

Kogawa's credit on this film is in fact a first in anime, I think. He is credited as "Animation Director" in katakana. This gives his role a broader connotation than that usually associated with the post of "Sakuga Kantoku"; almost the co-director. From this can be extrapolated the degree of influence he had on the final product. The quality of the animation in this film was something of a new watermark for anime films at the time, and it's still an eminently watchable film, albeit deranged and incomprehensible in typical Tomino fashion. But that's kind of what I like about it. This despite the fact that this series is at the root of a lot of what I most dislike about all subsequent anime.