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: December 2004, 07

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

01:34:46 pm , 786 words, 2213 views     Categories: Animation

Crayon Shin-chan

The universe in a drop of water - a wonderful new way of capturing the beauty of H2O, and turning that beauty outwards, in homage to Hokusai's waves, by Norihisa Hashimoto, on the Media Arts site.

I don't know if it's classifiable as a comeback, but Gisaburo Sugii is indeed making a new film - an adaptation of a popular children's book series called On a Stormy Night, which tells the story of a wolf and a sheep who become friends. At least it's something, even if it's not quite as daring a next project as I would have hoped. Remains to be seen what Gisaburo will make of it.

Not many people seem to be talking about it, but I noticed Gankutsuoh 9 was a solo animator ep, by Yasuhiro Seo 瀬尾康博, who's been involved in Gundam in the past. There was interesting stuff going on with the hands.

You can see a bit from Keiichi Hara's storyboard for the Crayon Shin-chan film that was probably the biggest hit in the history of the series, 2001's The Adult Empire Strikes Back, on the Media Arts site. Interesting thing I learned from the feature on him that they've just put up in their Animeister section is that there was no script per se for the Shin-chan films - the storyboard drawn by the director was the script. And the storyboards were drawn Miyazaki-style, up-to-the-minute, ending not known until you draw it, with animation being started before the storyboard was even finished. Somehow that makes sense and goes a way to accounting for the unique atmosphere of these films.

Hara is an interesting person to have directing them, with his predilection for slow pacing and thematically dense storytelling and tendency to shy away from the childish gags typical of the TV series. His films seem to breathe the air of another era, that of the early Toei Doga films. All of this is best captured in the Empire film, though all of the other films are deviant in their own interesting way, each with its own underpinning referential - Godzilla movies in 1999's Showdown at the Onsen and retro samurai movies in his last, 2002's Warring States movie, which by all accounts pushed his style to the limits of the children's movie format.

Hara directed the films from 1997-2002, and his very personal approach to the films broadened the audience range to adults, but he was replaced by Tsutomu Mizushima in 2003, who has veered the films in the opposite direction, back towards the fast-paced humor that is his forté. Mitsuru Hongo, director of the TV series, directed the first 4, from 1993-6, and he is the one who came up with the unique production style that has been used in all of the films, whereby the director doesn't draw the whole storyboard, but assigns parts to others based on what they're good at to make the film richer (Hara drew part of the storyboard in the first film). Hongo is also the one who came up with the three-part format of the TV episodes, where a different team handles each part.

This format is one of the most appealing aspects of the TV series, because it has allowed the people working on it the freedom to pursue their personal styles in a way that most other anime series have not. Masaaki Yuasa was one of the creators who flourished under Hongo in the Shin-chan TV series. Yuasa was already highly valued team member during Hongo's reign, and Hara, who has vocally supported Mind Game, is no different. After Yuasa moved on to other pastures, Hara's main animation support was Yuasa's successor of sorts, Yuichiro Sueyoshi, who for the two years immediately after his animation for the climax of Hara's Empire movie was busy with Mind Game.

Masami Otsuka's Shin-chanIn interviews, Yuasa is quick to emphasize how generous and encouraging the people at Shin'ei were with him, even at times when he himself had far less faith in his own abilities. As a result of this experience, Yuasa has managed to pursue his art to the point he has today. He is widely regarded as the person with the most individual approach on the series. Another figure who is less well known but equally idiosyncratic is Masami Otsuka, whom Yuasa openly cites as an inspiration and influence. His bold, angular, almost geometric take on the characters is certainly the most idiosyncratic graphically, to which Yuasa's can be posited as the most original in terms of the movement. Because of this, Otsuka's work has acquired its own following among fans of the series - a good example of the popularity the more special animators tend to acheive among more diehard fans in Japan.