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.
October 2004
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Archives for: October 2004, 11

Monday, October 11, 2004

07:12:49 am , 930 words, 2023 views     Categories: Animation, Misc

New shows

The fall lineup has hit the air, and the hilight for me turns out to be Beck ep 1, in which Osamu Kobayashi puts on an amazing one-man show: writer/director/storyboarder of ep 1, in addition to series director, character designer, animator, opening storyboarder/director/animation director, and ending illustrator. Not surprisingly a number of good animators are involved. The first three listed are Ken'ichi Konishi, Norio Matsumoto and Yasunori Miyazawa. The op is nice, with lip-syncing, which is unusual in anime, and it features Takeshi Honda, Tadashi Hiramatsu, Yusuke Yoshigaki. I hope this trend continues throughout the rest of the series. This is a nice followup to Paranoia Agent for Madhouse. It's good to see them continuing to use good home-grown animators rather than just outsourcing everything.

As far as I know this is Osamu Kobayashi's directing debut, and it has that unpolished feeling of youth and inexperience. But that's not a bad thing. By no means. It feels great to see someone actually spreading his wings and trying to find himself in anime rather than just following the crowd and pumping out cookie-cutter characters and situations. This is an auspicious debut. I can't think of another series in recent memory that had one man behind the visuals and the directing like this, and that gives it a real sense of unity. Also it's very rare for an anime director to also go to the trouble of writing an episode like Kobayashi has done here. That reveals the depth of his devotion to the task of making this thing good. Apparently he event did the "location hunting" himself, basing a lot of the scenes on actual places around Tokyo (like the ramen booth) that he went around and photographed himself. He probably felt this was his chance to prove himself to the world, and I'm impressed with the result. It's this sort of love that's missing most from anime these days.

The rest of the shows I had the misfortune to sample are depressing proof of the poverty of imagination in anime these days, with most virtually indistinguishable from one another. I'm eager for this moe fad to pass. Akiyuki Shinbo even did one, strangely enough: Nanoha. It's worth mentioning only becuase Ko Yoshinari did animation in the first episode. I think I remember hearing that in his section in the opening of FMA he handled the CG effects for his shots, and it looks like he did the same thing here. It's an impressive few shots, in what appears to be hitokoma or 1 cel/frame, clashing nicely with the rest of the episode. Yet another series by Shinbo started at the same time, Moon Phase, this time another vampire type thing more in line with his past work, but he didn't do anything in either first eps, so they're rather forgettable.

One of the series I was looking forward to somewhat but that has left me a little dissatisfied so far (if not disappointed, because I was half expecting it, and there's still room for improvement) is Takashi Nakamura's Fantastic Children. Again it's hard to understand why he feels he has to go through all those contortions, especially right at the beginning. If it's an attempt to pull the viewers in, it doesn't work, because it just leaves one in the lurch, dangling carrots the whole way without providing any satisfaction. Learn from Miyazaki. He didn't have to do that in Conan. Also, he jumps right into the deep end with the drama, which is a bad gamble, because without knowing what's going on it's impossible to empathise with what any of the characters are experiencing, so it's just kind of uncomfortable. One interesting thing I noticed was the use of hitokoma in certain transitional shots. I wonder whose idea this was? It creates a nice feeling of luxury, when in fact the animation is otherwise rather bland. It might be a Nippon Animation thing. I noticed that in a few of the late WMT series.

If anything, the best TV episode in recent weeks was episode 20 of Tweeny Witches, another one-man-orchestra episode by Yasuhiro Aoki. I'd say it's his best episode yet. He tries out all sorts of interesting ideas in the directing. I can't think of another figure striving to do more new and interesting things with directing on TV right now than him. Aside from that, Sunrise's Mai Hime was a dreadful concession to moe, and Haruka naru toki no naka de was an utterly pedestrian shojo anime, but done with amazing zeal and energy by the women at Yumeta Co. Not TV but new is the first ep of Gainax's revival of Aim for the Top, by Kazuya Tsurumaki. I was a little wary after seeing the trailer, hoping the actual episode wouldn't be like that, but it was, and frankly it left me puzzled. It seemed like a mess. There was no dramatic drive whatsoever. The animation was certainly spectacular and on par with FLCL in certain spots (which only makes sense because it's largely the same production staff) but I wasn't convinced by the directing or the writing. I don't know what they were trying to do, but it just felt clunky and meandering. Still, there's no way to know what's going to happen from here on out, so it's not a lost cause.

I don't know if it's record-breaking or not, but more than 20 different TV series starting within about the same week (to say nothing of those still running) seems indicative of the anime industry being spread out way too thin.