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: April 2005, 02

Saturday, April 2, 2005

09:40:11 pm , 501 words, 894 views     Categories: Animation, Animator

Masami Otsuka's animation

One of the animators I've been into lately is Masami Otsuka, whom I mentioned before. Unfortunately it's hard to find his stuff over here because he's mostly worked in Shin-chan (and I'd suspect his episodes would have been left out of foreign releases due to the nature of his work anyway) and Doraemon. He was an inbetweener in the first Dora movie in 1980 and key animator in a TV special shown last month. He was in most of the Shin-chan movies. His work that caught my eye recently was the ending of Hare-Nochi Guu Deluxe. At least, what I think is his work. Not having been able to see his work in Shin-chan, I've never been able to really pin it down, but I'm thinking he did the last shot of the old man. Besides Yuichiro Sueyoshi's bit of Shin-chan running up the stairs in Keiichi Hara's 2000 Adult Empire Strikes Back film, the part in the old town a third of the way through always caught my eye, particularly the short but wonderfully nuanced movement of the old man and woman, which has a flavor unlike any other movement in the film, and I suspected Otsuka, though frustratingly I'm still not sure. Sueyoshi was also in the ed in question, and his part (?) of the singing at the beginning is great too. Then there's also Shizuka Hayashi, who I've long heard much good things about but never been able to really pinpoint. The superfast dancing in the op? I've heard she's great at timing, and I remember seeing lots of that sort of movement in Shin-chan. Shinei Doga is a unique studio for the way it has produced lots of very interesting animators who each have their own unique approach to movement.

There was a show from around 2000 called Weekly Storyland, and one of the eps, "The Genius Cockroach", was apparently interesting enough animation-wise to get mentioned in the print Anime Style 1. It was done by one Fumio Tadao, which is probably a pen name. The studio credit is Shinei Doga, so the possibility exists that it might be Otsuka. Masuji Kogami is also a suspect. Otsuka collaborated with Masaaki Yuasa on the Shin-chan endings Barijona Daisakusen and Do-Shite, which well indicates his predilections. As I mentioned before, Yuasa himself holds Otsuka in high esteem and was probably influenced by him.

After Mind Game Yuasa actually did a bit of animation in the most recent Doraemon movie. Another animator Yuasa has singled out as one of the best animators he saw at Shinei is Masaya Fujimori, whose action in that film is reportedly rather nice.

Other things I've enjoyed recently were Tetsuya Nishio's opening of the just-finished Otogizoushi and Norio Matsumoto's bit in Beck 25, particularly the hand-waving. I also give a big pat on the back to Osamu Kobayashi for all the work he put into the latter, writing every episode and storyboarding and directing quite a few. The last two eps showed the level he could reach at his best.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

08:00:04 pm , 370 words, 1799 views     Categories: Animation, Director: Yasuhiro Aoki, Director

Yasuhiro Aoki's directing

On rewatching Soultaker 1 today it popped into my head that Yasuhiro Aoki's recent artistic coming out in Arusu reminds me of the appearance of Akiyuki Shinbo on the scene 13 years ago in Yu Yu Hakusho. I hope Aoki has the chance to go as far as Shinbo has in Le Portrait de Petite Cossette, which, as unlikely as it may seem, was probably my favorite item from last year after a certain film. The subject matter isn't really the point. It's all about the style. I don't think I've seen anything in a long, long time, much less in anime, that was such a virtuosic and unrelenting onslaught of unpredictable shots and gorgeously baroque composition, and I applaud the producer who gave him the chance to finally do something 100% his own way. Shinbo is one of the most talented directors that nobody's ever heard of in anime, though there are plenty of those.

One obvious quality Aoki shares with Shinbo is the predilection for stringing together unpredictable compositions in a way that some might say distracts from the story but to me enhances it. A story can be told entirely via dialogue, but as Tadashi Hiramatsu mentioned in this interview, the locus of excitment in directing is the space between the shots, and the compositions. Aoki knows that, and that's what sets him apart. It nagged me for a while what it was that made his work feel different, why the work of the other people in the show felt boring in comparison and worse animated, and finally I hit on the simple fact that he always avoids having a character doing the goldfish on the screen. He plays around with the angles while they're talking in order to avert one of the most common and unsuspected mistakes in anime. Nobody thinks it's a mistake, but he noticed that it was, and figured out a way around it, which shows that he's thinking about his art and not just churning it out on automatic. That small invention immediately hides the quantitative limits of the animation, as he saves his resources for one of those quintissentially anime bursts of full animation that give his episodes a truly powerful feeling of buildup.