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: October 2004, 20

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

07:00:14 pm , 417 words, 2075 views     Categories: Animation, Misc

Mankatsu & Minna no Uta

They finally fixed that damn R in Beck. The final ep of Re: Cutey Honey is coming soon, after a month's delay in the production schedule, so they're obviously putting in the effort.

Apparently Osamu Kobayashi drew storyboard for a new series based on Monkey Punch stories. But I think this is the Asia-Do Kobayashi, not the one doing Beck right now. He's joined by another figure from the A Pro era, Tsutomu Shibayama, who is most famous for being the layout man on the 1975 Gamba's Adventures.

The series has an unusual format, consisting of a "grand stage" and then a "mini stage" and then a "short part" with 8 shorts. Shibayama and Kobayashi participated in the latter. There haven't been many shows that seemed suited to their talents over the last two decades, which is perhaps why we haven't seen as much of them (Shibayama has been busy with Doraemon). The animators of the shorts are apparently given a high degree of freedom with the designs and so on, so this offers a rare opportunity to see these veterans making animation the way they want. Incidentally, Shinji Arakawa, the designer of IG's recent Windy Tales, animated one of the shorts storyboarded by Shibayama (the one pictured here) and was AD of the one by Kobayashi in the same episode.

Yoshinori Kanemori drew a short in the first episode. I talked about Kanemori in the Toshio Hirata post. He's done a lot of great animation, like the Kenji Miyazawa OVA Kaze no Matasaburo, directed by Rintaro. He just recently did the animation for a new Minna no Uta episode called The Moon Waltz, directed by Atsuko Ishizuka, a Madhouse person, which I've heard is incredible. Possibly a major new female animator on the scene. It's nice to finally find an anime person who doesn't draw the same old hackneyed anime characters. I really like her line. Prior to entering Madhouse last year Ishizuka appears to have done a number of other shorts that look nice.

It's unfortunate that it's hard to get to see Minna no Uta over here, because there's been quite a bit of animation by interesting figures in it over the years. Seiichi Hayashi made a new short just last year. There's actually a DVD box available, released in April of this year, but the price (?40,320) is a little prohibitive, though the set does contain 12 DVDs. One good thing is that there's an online list of exactly what's included, so one knows what to expect.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

08:30:03 am , 697 words, 2691 views     Categories: Animation, Misc, Indie

Animator memo & Super Indies

The animation director/character designer/mecha designer of Overman King Gainer, Ken'ichi Yoshida, whom I mentioned a few months ago as having done nice work on the ending of Planetes, has put up his key animation for the catchy dance in the opening of King Gainer on his home page, complete with time sheets. A nice study item. You can also see tons of the image boards he drew for the series. He was an animator in most of the 90s Ghibli films before going freelance in 1999.

The latest opening of Naruto features a bit of heavily worked full-frame action at the beginning. Tetsuya Nishio did the enemies sliding across the screen. The bit in the forest is especially nice. Takashi Hashimoto was the FX AD on Steam Boy, so not surprisingly here he did the explosion, which is extremely detailed, almost excessively so since it passes by rather quickly. Toshiyuki Inoue did a bit in Gankutsuoh #2.

The first annual Super Indies Film Festival is taking place in Ikebukuro from October 23 to 29. It will feature two animation programs dubbed "Next Anime", purporting to focus on today's up-and-coming young independents, who generally now work from home on their PC, in addition to individuals working in the anime industry who have a strong independent streak, like Masaaki Yuasa and Hiroyuki Imaishi. The thing of note is that Yuichiro Oguro is organizing the program, so that means not only that the anime lineup is interesting -- several exceptional recent features sharing the spotlight with independent creators -- but that he has the pull to get every single person who is represented by a film there at the festival as a speaker. And that includes Masaaki Yuasa, Hiroyuki Imaishi, Akitaroh Daichi and Mamoru Hosoda, in addition to all the independents.

Next Anime 1

[ Industry ]
Akitaroh Daichi - Makasete Iruka!, Dangogonta overseas edition
Masaaki Yuasa - Nekojiru-So, Mind Game trailer
[ Indie ]
Ushio Tazawa - Life No Color, 3 Men
Taruto Fuyama - Frank, SF-no-suke, Trigger Device Animation Workshop

Next Anime 2

[ Industry ]
Mamoru Hosoda - Superflat Monogram
Hiroyuki Imaishi - Dead Leaves
[ Indie ]
Hiroshi Murakami - Ganso Magic Circus
Akanemaru - Akanegumo, practice films

It's obviously interesting enough to get a festival screening Cat Soup and Dead Leaves together, but particularly nice is the rare opportunity to see Superflat Monogram (for the Louis Vuitton-deprived), and of course the indie films. Excerpts of some of these films are available on the net: Taruto Fuyama's Frank on Media Plaza; Daichi's Dangogonta on his home page; and Superflat Monogram on Catsuka. Makasete Iruka is an interesting case because it was made by industry people outside of the industry in a fashion more akin to independent filmmaking. And of course Cat Soup has been seen at lots of festivals, and feels like an independent art film, even though it was made by an anime studio within the industry system.

Ushio Tazawa and Hiroshi Murakami both worked for a period at Studio 4°C. Tazawa was a key animator on Princess Arete and is currently working as the animation director of Shinkai Makoto's latest film, The place promised in our early days. Murakami worked as the CG director on Kid's Story as well as a Studio 4°C short for the Grasshoppa! omnibus, and since going freelance in 2003 he has worked on Tokyo Godfathers and Paranoia Agent, and recently completed his own 11-minute toon shading film Magic Circus. Akanemaru is a two-person team made up of Tazuko Aso and Tetsuya Kawaguchi. Their light-hearted CG films focus on creating expressive facial animation. Fuyama Taruto throws characters from the flat expressive world of manga into a 3D environment. He has the most theoretical approach, but accessibility is an overriding priority, as it is with the other creators featured here, for good or ill. Not featured here are young independents creating more experimental animation, if there are any today in Japan, as I'm sure there are, even if they're such a minority-within-a-minority as to not even find a place at a festival called "Super Indies".

Incidentally, Mamoru Hosoda is currently at work on a film version of One Piece, and Masaaki Yuasa's next project is rumored to be a TV series nothing like Mind Game.