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: February 2005, 18

Friday, February 18, 2005

12:25:43 pm , 1004 words, 6171 views     Categories: Animation

Gosenzosama Banbanzai

Here is a list of the key animators for the said 1989 OVA series, which is the only anime that has ever brought together all four of the animators mentioned by Ichiro Itano in that interview I mentioned.

This series was the first and last time Satoru Utsunomiya had the chance to put all of his unique ideas about animation undiluted into one film with a long time format. It should be sought out entirely on its own merits as one of the most original contributions to the evolution of anime in the last two decades. The ambition with which Utsunomiya approached the task still comes through after all these years. Even if it's hard to pin down exactly what it is that makes the animation unique, one senses that the animation is like nothing else one has seen elsewhere, not just in terms of the unique, puppet-like designs but also in terms of the movement. He had a completely free hand in this series, so that what we see here is more purely him than other films like Peek and Hakkenden, where a number of factors wound up cramping his style.

Utsunomiya has a holistic approach to the characters. He gets into their mind, gets to know their history, and the designs and movement spring forth from that. When this process is hindered for whatever reason, that thought process wounds up stalled. That is reportedly what happened with Peek: he was saddled with an unsatisfactory version of his original designs, and was thus less inspired with ideas about character movements.

Of course, Utsunomiya was the animation director in all of these films, and not an animator, so it's normal to be wondering why his films are talked about as if he was creating all the movements. The reason is, in Gosenzosama at least - where he was able to get into the characters, and had a director who allowed him to do as he knew was best for the quality of the production (including improvising a lot of movement that wasn't in the storyboard) - what he did was something of a reversal of what animation directors normally do. In the last episode, for example, where his correction schedule was comparatively tight (1 month), rather than correcting drawings of faces in close-ups, he did nothing but correct the movement. That's a reversal of normal procedure. That shows the degree to which he feels movement is the face of the character. Which is why, even in a film like Peek, every movement we see feels like it springs from the hand of Utsunomiya.

Lately Utsunomiya has been focusing on the capturing a feeling of natural movement by focusing on the unintended movements that make a movement feel real, and in Gosenzosama he was already consciously using a number of strategies to try to bring animation back closer to reality, such as placing shadows exactly where they should be according to the light source. Not surprising, then, how important a part shadows play in his latest film. Utsunomiya also brought a more three-dimensional approach to form to his animation than anyone had before, and that is probably one of the things that makes the animation in Gosenzosama feel so different. Without resorting to rotoscoping or increasing detail, Utsunomiya managed to breathe a new feeling of reality and life into his characters by discarding stylistic conventions and coming up with his own unique method using limited animation and simplified designs.

Besides the animation, this series has much else going for it. In fact, it's my own favorite item by the director, because, of all his works, it seems to come together the best as a whole, featuring him at his most eccentric and engaging. The script is a tour-de-force of outlandish theatricality that would not be out of place in a 1960s avant-garde theatre troupe's repertoire. It is matched by static directing that places the focus squarely on the figures walking around the stage, who are animated via a never-before-seen kind of theatrically expressive body movement that fully meets the severe demands placed by the gymnastics of the script. The visuals that result from this combination are quite unforgettable. Even the soundtrack is unique. Newspapers tear to the sound of shattering glass, and cows moo when chopsticks enter rice. The audio director was Chiba Shigeru, voice of the director's alter-egos Mendo and Shiba, who is the only voice-actor missing to complete the core Urusei troupe in this dystopian remake/pomo deconstruction.

As an added bonus, the opening is by Koji Nanke, the famous independent responsible for the Urusei openings, but the style here is closer to Fischinger than his earlier work. It would be nice to see a collection or retrospective of his work one day.

The obvious feature of the animator list is perhaps that there are 5 times as many animators in the last episode as in the first. Which perhaps makes sense, since the schedule was reportedly six months for the first episode, and two and a half or so for the rest. What impresses, then, is how much it's possible to acheive with a small number of talented animators.

Kusumoto Yuko, Tanaka Tatsuyuki, Yaginuma Kazuyoshi, Ohira Shinya, Tokiya Yoshinori, Futamiya Tsuneo

Kusumoto Yuko, Aoki Mariko, Oseki Noriko, Ohira Shinya, Tada Masashi, Tanaka Tatsuyuki, Hashimoto Shinji, Tokura Norimoto, Aoshima Katsumi

Yamashita Masahito, Aoki Mariko, Emura Toyoaki, Ohira Shinya, Kusumoto Yuko, Saga Satoshi, Tada Masashi, Tokura Norimoto, Murata Mitsunori, Yamauchi Eiko, Yamazaki Utako

Hashimoto Shinji, Aoki Mariko, Iso Mitsuo, Emura Toyoaki, Kusumoto Yuko, Hisataka Shiro, Tanabe Osamu, Tada Masashi, Yamauchi Eiko

Ohara Hidekazu, Emura Toyoaki, Okawa Hiroyoshi, Kusumoto Yuko, Saga Satoshi, Matsumoto Norio, Murata Mitsunori, Yamauchi Eiko, Yoshida Hidetoshi

Aoki Mariko, Aoshima Katsumi, Iso Mitsuo, Emura Toyoaki, Okawa Hiroyoshi, Oseki Noriko, Ohira Shinya, Ohara Hidekazu, Kise Kazuchika, Kusumoto Yuko, Hisataka Shiro, Saga Satoshi, Takeda Kazuya, Tanaka Tatsuyuki, Tanabe Osamu, Tada Masashi, Tokiya Yoshinori, Tokura Norimoto, Futamiya Tsuneo, Hashimoto Shinji, Futaki Makiko, Matsumoto Norio, Murata Mitsunori, Yamauchi Eiko, Yamazaki Utako, Yamashita Masahito, Yaginuma Kazuyoshi, Yoshida Hidetoshi, Washida Toshiya