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: August 2005

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

08:33:44 pm , 402 words, 3055 views     Categories: Animation, Misc

Moving Picture

Just watched Devouring Buddha on the Canadian Documentary channel, among the many great and obscure films this station has shown me. A narrator speaks a short prelude in Cambodian, after which plays out a poetic and beautifully shot walk through the streets of Cambodia around the imfamous prison where the girl was among the many killed. I've seen my share of self-indulgent artsy DV shorts, but this one worked very well. The ambient soundtrack melds with the various hues the footage is tinted to create a ghostly atmosphere. I've seen numerous films on the same material over the last few years, but beyond a point you almost don't want to know any more of the facts. This film makes you feel. A model example of the sort of guerilla filmmaking I like to see.

A while ago they showed a film called Moving Picture, which was made in Canada almost two decades ago. It's incredibly dated and embarrassing to watch, but of interest to animation fans, so I was rather happy to see it. It tells the story of a guy who becomes interested in animation to try to win the attention of a woman he likes. It's mostly wordless, depicting his metaphoric journey of discovery through the history of animation by way of lots of incredibly sappy pantomime that's rescued by being peppered with interesting clips from many of the major animation figures - from Cohl to McKay to McLaren. It's a sort of paean to the form. A cheesefest, but kinda heartwarming, though only to an animation buff. It's great to see that a film like that got made in the first place, and twenty years ago at that.

There was a scene I liked in Hosoda's One Piece film done by a female animator I'd never heard of named Ayumi Shiraishi, the one with Usop and Kappa. The timing of the movements was great, meshing well with the dialogue. I noticed she did work on one of the two IG ventures that just came out, including animation and prop design, so I'm curious to see those. There aren't enough interesting female animators these days. No surprise, the films seem well endowed animator-wise, featuring all of the usual suspects, including Ohira and Hashimoto. It's interesting that they got Tsutomu Mizushima to direct one of the films. I don't know how he went from doing Shin-chan films at Shin'ei to IG.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

03:43:26 pm , 1792 words, 2789 views     Categories: Animation, Studio

Rambling about Toei animation

I've finally started reading Yasuo Otsuka's book on Nemo, and so far I've gotten up to the founding of Telecom, about which he goes into more detail than I've seen anywhere yet. It's probably the most interesting part of the book. For a long time I've had this conflict in me. Japan has developed a unique style of animation that, at its best, is interesting in a way no animation anywhere else is, allowing animator individuality to shine through in studio productions. On the other hand, I often find myself wishing they had the system of the west that would allow them to achieve greater density of movement, simply because the good stuff goes by so fast, since it's always left up to a single individual. That's simultaneously its strength and its weak point. Watching Hosoda's film I felt this particularly strongly. The scenes that move move, but the vast majority felt more still than I would have liked. It was a little concerning to see the single-drawing crowd scenes. I guess it's what you'd call meri-hari in Japanese. Variety, pacing, spacing the still versus the active to create an interesting flow and texture. Not having the entire film moving constantly makes the good scenes more satisfying. But at the same time I realize that the reason for this style is not really a question of taste, it's a question of systemic limitations, of the history of the evolution of the studio system. They simply can't create more movement than that on that limited a schedule with the system of animation that has developed in Japan. Otsuka touches on this in his explanation of the founding of Telecom.

TMS head Yutaka Fujioka approached Otsuka about helping to head training of animators at the new studio he was founding for the purpose of eventually animating Little Nemo. Otsuka gave it a lot of thought and layed out what would have to be done in close detail. Fujioka wanted the film to be a hit in the US, so he had a vague notion that things had to be done in the American style, but no idea what achieving that would entail. One night Otsuka sat down and explained all that would be required, but it seemed to go in one ear and out the other, and when Otsuka finally heard back from Fujioka in the fall of 1978 after finishing Conan, he found out that Fujioka had completely ignored every suggestion he had made, and had already had all the hiring and training done by Sadao Tsukioka. Tsukioka was probably hired because he started out at Toei Doga alongside Otsuka, but if Fujioka had bothered to look at Tsukioka's resume he would have realized that after starting out at Toei, Tsukioka went independent and focused on a completely different style of animation. The training the animators had received turned out to be completely useless for the purpose for which they had been hired. Nemo eventually got made after a decade and tons of wasted money and effort, but it was far from the hit Fujioka had hoped. Maybe it would have been a different story if he had listened to Otsuka. It's hard to understand what Fujioka was thinking.

On rewatching Hosoda's film recently, I felt it provided a good snapshot of the animation system that's come to dominate Japan. Toei Doga was supposedly founded on the Disney mold, but their style was completely different. They didn't have a streamlined methodology, where anybody could learn to animate in the Toei Doga style if they just learned the system. Animators were simply thrown in as inbetweeners and expected to watch how the key animators worked to eventually move up to key animation, which is basically the system we have today. Animators are left to develop how they might, influenced by seniors or favorite animators. The result is that a small number who are driven enough develop individual styles. Those who are interested in creating movement are forced to draw most of the key animation themselves, since there's no system of assistant animators and the like in Japan. This winds up limiting the amount any one animator can do for films like Hosoda's that have a short schedule (I think there was about 5 months for the animation), so you get very short sequences by a lot of animators, which accounts for the large number of key animators and the variety of styles.

If the animation director system pioneered by Yasuji Mori was created because there was no system in place to allow animators to all draw the same way, then in a sense we seem to have realized it wasn't necessary to go that far, and have gone back and integrated a little of the Akira Daikubara way of doing things, which was all about allowing animator individuality. Otsuka, who trained under Daikubara and not Mori, carried on that way of doing things in Horus, where he didn't correct Horus throughout the film, so that it contrasts sharply with Hilda's unified look throughout. But who's bothered by that? It fits the character, and makes him seem all the more full of vitality. I've always liked that feeling of barbarism you get from Horus, which is all thanks to the way he was animated. Kazuo Komatsubara seemed to have carried on that tradition in his Toei movies with the way he handled the work of Yoshinori Kanada and Tomonaga Kazuhide. This is probably what Shinji Hashimoto is talking about in that Animatrix interview when he says how he thinks you don't need an animation director if all of the animators are good. He also says he thinks of his work not as something new but as fitting within the continuity of the traditional 'rough' way of drawing things, which presumably refers to the rough style that can be seen in first Daikubara's and then Otsuka's work, though of course there's also the whole tradition of gekiga and so on.

What seems obvious is that forcing one animator to draw everything has had the effect of reducing the amount of acting, even in film animation. That's why people who actually do draw detailed acting, like Shinji Otsuka or Hideki Hamasu, wind up seeming so exceptional. When moving at all, there's a tendency to draw flashy eye-catching motions that have an impressive effect. It's rarer to see a character subtly reacting in a detailed way from moment to moment. This is probably also linked to the typical style of directing. In Hosoda's film Hideki Hamasu was given the scenes involving the captains making dramatically pivotal decisions. His scenes were full of subtle acting, but again they pass by very fast. There were other good scenes, but none of them had this feeling of watching a character on the screen being animated in such a detailed way from moment to moment, which is sad considering the history of the studio. I'm reminded of an anecdote made by Otsuka in his book. Around 1980 three pilot films made by three different studios were ranked to see which would get the job of animating Disney's Wuzzles. Toei's pilot got a 5, Telecom's got a 9, and the Korean studio got a 1. As I've mentioned before, by this time the real animator talent had long gone from Toei and moved elsewhere like A Pro and Telecom. As soon as they lost their great animators, they lost that force, because the quality of the classic Toei Doga films came from individuals, not from any system in place. I know it started right from the moment Atom hit the air, but I've never been exactly clear on why Toei shifted from focusing on creating quality films to just pumping out adaptations of the popular manga of the day.

Only one other scene in the film seems to stand apart from the rest of the animation as focusing on creating nuance rather than flash, that pictured above. Hosoda has gone into detail about all of the animators in the film, but he said he couldn't name this one. The animator is probably not credited. The only animator who would fit the bill stylistically, who's gone uncredited fairly often, and who's been involved with Hosoda in the past is Mitsuo Iso, though my first thought was Shinji Hashimoto. It's a sequence that passes by without leaving much of an impression at first, but on rewatching it grows on you and you begin to see just how nuanced the movement is. It gave me goosebumps, and just about the only other time I've gotten goosebumps watching a bit of animation was watching another Iso sequence. Explaining what's good about it is difficult - it just feels good as animation in a way none of the other parts do. It's this style of movement that feels like Japan's great achievement of the last decade or so. Other than that I learned that the sequence I was wondering about earlier, where Zoro repeatedly cuts a character, was done by Takaaki Wada. Yo Yoshinari did the flower transformation and Hiroyuki Imaishi did the bit with Rufy flying about. Takashi Hashimoto, of course, did the absolutely wonderful explosion effects from the arrows. It was also confirmed that Hisashi Mori = Hisashi Nakayama, although I was already fairly certain that this was the case based on the available evidence.

I suppose without a long schedule this would be impossible, but I'd love to see a film that brings together together two dozen or so really good animators doing three minutes or so of animation, rather than having those same two dozen do only thirty seconds interspersed over long spaces like here. Since most of the people are freelance and highly in-demand, and as the saying goes there are probably only about 50 animators in Japan up to the level of feature animation, the most difficult thing about doing that would probably be arranging the schedules in such a way as to make it possible, or I suppose it would already have been done. Tokyo Godfathers is probably the film that's come closest to this style in recent years, though Birth is probably the best example, with only about eight key animators for the whole film, if I remember correctly, which is quite something considering how much it was moving.

From Otsuka's book I learned that Otsuka animated most of the water and the goblins, so I'd like to have another look at the film with that in mind, since this was Otsuka's last work as a key animator, almost exactly thirty years after he did his first inbetween under Yasuji Mori on Kitty's Graffiti. It's fitting that he would animate monsters and water for his last job, since that's what he was so famous for at Toei Doga.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

03:01:26 pm , 809 words, 1455 views     Categories: Animation, Movie

Mamoru Hosoda and the Secret Island

This year's Naruto movie features a few surprising faces. Hiroyuki Okiura is there. Norio Matsumoto finally participates in the film, and he's listed third. Koichi Arai, regular at 4°C and famous for his effects, is there, as is the big name in FX and regular in Naruto (ops), Takashi Hashimoto. Disappointingly, Takeshi Honda, who gave us the most idiosyncratic scene in the first film, is not. Perhaps by way of compensation, however, we have this surprising face: Shinji Hashimoto. His scene near the end is reportedly what one would hope it would be. I look forward to seeing it. And Tetsuya Nishio is actually the main animation director this time, though he's helped out by a few other people. So oddly enough, I'm looking forward to seeing this film. I'm very curious to know how Shinji Hashimoto got invited to the film. The big fighting anime of the moment would obviously provide him with a great chance to create some vivid movement, but I haven't heard of him doing fighting anime before, so in that sense it's kind of an event. I love his nichijo shibai or everyday acting animation, like his incredible scene in Tokyo Godfathers, but I've also always wanted to see more vivid movement like that he provided for Animatrix and Spriggan, and it sounds like I'll get to see it here.

I've been reading a recent interview with Mamoru Hosoda, and it's the most interesting stuff I've read in a long time. Many fans noticed that it didn't feel like that big a stretch to infer in the titular Island a pretty overt metaphor - Ghibli. It was fun to think about the film in that sense, and I figured there probably was some of that there, in the background, but reading the interview, I realized it was far more important an element than I suspected - it's practically the point of the film. That experience truly and literally molded the film into its present form. I'd read some off-color comments by the writer on his home page about how his script had been changed, but I'd never known in what way and to what degree. Well, it appears all the basic elements in the final film were there in the original - the trials, the various groups - but Hosoda completely changed their organization, created more complex character relations, and emphasized the dramatic element of being torn away from your companions to find yourself alone in a way that wasn't remotely present in the original. What was a mere light-headed adventure Hosoda transformed into viable drama with real human resonance.

What does that have to do with Howl? Hosoda goes to Ghibli at their invitation. He finds everybody busy on Spirited Away. Nobody's available to start working on the film. He's the director, not the producer, but he has to scrounge up all the staff himself. So he goes around talking up people, trying to get them onboard. Not just animators, even the art section he had to find for himself. He's got no clout, he's putting his rep on the line with these people, but he wants to create the best film he can, and he knows the most important element in doing that is the staff. I'd noticed the incredible effort he put into finding great staff for Omatsuri, and apparently he had done the same for Howl. But then, poof, the project goes up in smoke, and all these people are hung out to dry. Unfortunately Hosoda doesn't talk about why the project imploded, but the end result is Hosoda finds himself isolated and alone. His ship was sunk. That's how he felt. All hope lost, he goes back to Toei, resigned to just get by. Like the count, he's lost his crew. Without them, he can't do anything. But stretching their hand out to save him from the island come new friends, Sushio and Chikashi Kubota, animators in Doremi 40, the first light to shine into the long dark tunnel of that experience. They said they'd be in if Hosoda did a movie. The rest is history. It's not necessary to know about this to appreciate the film, but it certainly adds a layer of depth to it.

What I like about the treatment of the theme of interpersonal relations in the film is that it doesn't end in a simplistic surface treatment, the 'friends always stick together' cliché, which is what it was in the original script. It shows the way people - even when connected, as we have to be - are all individuals who will always follow their own priorities in the end. Relationships are pragmatic contingencies. Films are webs of individual situations, like any group endeavor. This film plays off that underlying drama to make a statement on an aspect of life that affects everyone.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

02:48:09 pm , 914 words, 1877 views     Categories: Animation

Aquarion 19

Satoru Utsunomiya's highly anticipated episode of Aquarion had already generated a lot of talk, and barely a day after its initial broadcast it's already generated even more, with more than 100 comments on the offical blog (far more than ever before), so I had a good sense of what people thought about it going into the episode. One thing I knew right away was that I was in for something special, like Hisashi Mori's episode of Samurai 7 and Norio Matsumoto's last episode of Naruto. All three are prime examples of the rare phenomenon of a great animator being given the chance to create one episode totally the way he wants to, so that it winds up completely contrasting with the streamlined look of the rest of the series.

Each case, of course, is unique. This episode is special because Utsunomiya didn't just focus on the animation, like the others did, but had a major role in building up the setting and the art for the episode. As a result, there's less of a mismatch in the visuals. Besides having handled the animation directing, he created the unique character designs for the episode, and apparently created a large number of sketches detailing the setting, for which he earned the never-before-seen credits of "bijutsu board" (art board) and "isekai settei" (parallel world design). Clearly this is an episode that is different from the foundation up. The final product is like nothing I've ever seen in anime, closer to Moebius than to anything anyone would expect from Japan. The coloring, animation and backgrounds are perfectly in sync in a way that reminded me of Tatsuyuki Tanaka, who is the only other animator in Japan I know of who could create visuals with such a unique flavor and in such perfect balance. The backgrounds and coloring in particular are stunning. It's almost taken for granted that backgrounds have to be a certain way in anime, which made the backgrounds and whole visual concept here that much more refreshing.

Utsunomiya himself mentioned that he was worried that people turning on the show in the middle of the episode might think they had tuned in to the wrong show. I chalked it up to self-deprecating modesty, but he was right. The visuals of the episode are completely unique in every sense - color, character designs, animation, everything. Some of the comments I've read are negative reactions to this, and I actually came in willing to accept that Utsunomiya's style just wasn't for everyone. However, after seeing the episode, I changed my mind, and realized they were completely missing the point. This wasn't Utsunomiya imposing his style onto the series out of laziness; this was the staff working together to come up with a clever situation that exploited the particular talents of a certain animator, so that he could create something that would be visually stimulating and make sense in the story. Inevitably, some people, even knowing that, will still not be willing to accept visuals that stray from the norm, but it would be terrible if that had a curbing effect on this spirit of adventure, which is what animation is all about. That they had the courage to create the episode in the first place suggests they had conviction about what they were doing. Most of the people who saw the episode understood what the staff was doing, and liked Utsunomiya's unique style. Director Shoji Kawamori himself commented on the blog that he didn't mind at all if the characters looked different in every episode, and had had the designs created with that in mind. In retrospect, that may have been leading up to this. In any case, whatever people thought about the episode, it has generated a lot of discussion about animation, which can only be a good thing.

As a fan, I came in ready to be impressed, but I was impressed for a completely different reason. I would have been happy with the usual Utsunomiya, but what I saw there was him trying to go in a new direction, not just doing a card trick, and that made me happy. Most of the people who liked the episode had never even heard of Utsunomiya, and will probably soon be given to the pleasure of discovering Gosenzosama Banbanzai. While perhaps not as honed a piece as his Paranoia Agent episode, where he had complete control over every shot and hence was able to create an episode with the atmosphere of a miniature film, here he's worked within the confines to create something that is truly refreshing and I know affected a lot of the people who saw the episode - including animators. I can't think of anybody working in anime right now who's doing anything comparable. More than ever I came away feeling that the ideal would be for him to do a movie, so that he could work freely without having to worry about catching flak for inconsequential things.

Although I haven't seen the rest of the series to be able to say for sure, I believe this was the first time a mecha fight was traditionally animated in the series (though the usual CG came in later), and quite nicely at that. Doing so was a great way of increasing the stylistic unity in the episode, which was all about the unique animation, so it felt like a gift to the animation lovers - a phrase that nicely sums up this whole episode. In short, delightful.

Sunday, August 7, 2005

02:40:46 pm , 777 words, 1298 views     Categories: Animation

Leading up to Aquarion 19

Very much looking forward to seeing Satoru Utsunomiya's episode of Aquarion in a few days. From his comments in various places, it would seem that it's probably going to be pretty much what I was expecting - high proof Utsunomiya, but not as high as Happy Family Planning. In this case, in addition to animation and storyboarding, he was also responsible for the "artistic plan"; in other words, coming up with the setting of the episode. Another person did the storyboard and basic structure, and he was assigned various parts to animate, of which he modified the details as necessary, eventually even modifying the storyboard for parts not assigned to him at the request of the staff. So the macro - the structure - isn't Utsunomiya, but the micro is. It will be interesting to see the results.

Eventually it would be great if we could see something not imbedded in another series like his last two efforts, so that for one he would get the credit he deserves, and also so that he could do something without having to adapt his style to the series in question. His style is what's so interesting, so it's a shame to have to dilute it. Toshiyuki Inoue is a great animator, but he strives for invisibility. I think his approach is valid, but I think Utsunomiya's is equally valid. And to be perfectly honest, I've rewatched and derived more pleasure from Utsunomiya's work than any of the stylistically neutral super animators. He's one of the few people in anime today who has an original vision combined with the conviction and knowhow to back it up and produce results that convince. So it's a curious contradiction how the industry can produce so many shows that seem so shockingly similar in most respects, yet a person who has a novel approach doesn't get the opportunity to make films

In this episode a big part of his contribution would appear to be the artistic setting, so it sounds like he's approaching the style of the major directors who mold all aspects of the production. In the last few years it feels like we've finally started to see Utsunomiya finally getting the chance to handle the other aspects of a production beyond the animation, including directing and art. So the next step seems obvious: directing. He's mentioned in interviews that he got into animation mainly as a way of approaching filmmaking, which is his real interest (animation being merely a means rather than the end), so it's obvious that he's been thinking about the issues involved in directing for decades now, but it's only now that he's finally getting the chance to do it. I hope this trend continues.

This reminds me that when I saw his shots in the opening and ep 2, I immediately identified them as his work, yet something felt different. There was an evolution there. I'd never seen a movement quite like that before in his work. I'm not sure what it was, but it was like the feeling of body weight, of the character being pulled towards the earth by gravity with each leap, was being expressed more vividly than before. He's clearly continuing to evolve as an animator, building on the same basic approach.

I'm also reminded of another thing. Utsunomiya mentioned in an interview that the job that really woke him up to his calling as as animator interested in creating the sort of vivid action that eventually culminated in the rooftop action of Phantom Quest Corp 4 was the mid-80s Italian co-production Around the World in 80 Days. I'd long thought the action on a moving carriage in ep 2 or 3 seemed unusually good for that series, but it turns out apparently he didn't do it, at least based on the episodes he says he did. I can't imagine who could have done it but him, but then again I've never run across a credit list for that series, so I have no idea who it might be.

It's good to hear that Ghibli will be putting out all of their shorts on a DVD later in the year, as I was hoping they would. It'll be great to have all of Osamu Tanabe's TV ads in one place. I assume the museum films will be on there as well. The one I've been wanting to see is Whale Catchers, which features Masaaki Yuasa, Shinji Hashimoto and Ken'ichi Konishi. And with Yoshiyuki Momose's soon-to-be-complete trilogy as the presumed main attraction, it should be an incredible set showcasing the more innovative side of Ghibli that's been developing over the last few years in the shade of the films.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

07:06:07 am , 1171 words, 2045 views     Categories: Animation, Animator

Hideki Hamasu

I've been busy battling jet lag and sleep deprivation since my arrival in Quebec, and remembering the not-too-subtle irony of how the old fortress city had been given all new barricades during the summit a few years ago.

One of those many animators about whom I've always wanted to know more but never been able to find any real info about is Hideki Hamasu, who I was reminded of after watching Mamoru Hosoda's latest film. Although once employed at Toei, he went freelance around 1997, when Satoshi Kon jumped on the chance to snatch him up for the job of animation director on his feature debut Perfect Blue after having been greatly impressed by the animator's work on the climax of Kon's directing debut, ep 5 of Jo Jo's Bizarre Adventure. Since then Hamasu was sought out by Toei for their 1998 film Eternal Fantasy and then the first four yearly Digimon films starting in 1999, all the while continuing to be a pillar of Kon's next two films, first as one of the animation directors of Millennium Actress and then one of the star animators who made Tokyo Godfathers into the great animator's film it is. The production notes for the latter reveal how giddy Kon and the rest of the staff were after seeing the rushes for the early part of the film, including the trash heap scene by Hamasu, which was coming together in an incredible way nobody had even envisioned due to the freedom with which the great animators were attacking their work. Even Kon said he had never seen anything like it before, and nobody knew those scenes better than him, since he had created them.

Presumably one of the reasons Takeshi Honda was chosen as the main designer/animation director for Kon's second film, besides the fact that the different story required a different look and Honda was a brilliant animator himself, was the fact that Hideki Hamasu had come down with a severe case of tendon inflammation during production of Perfect Blue due to overwork, and it had nearly caused him to stop being able to work on the film. He had long suffered from the problem, but managed to work around it, and the heavy load of the film had instantly aggravated the symptoms. He had to take injections to reduce the pain in order to continue to work. Kon remembers seeing him at his desk with a cloth wrapped around his hand to keep his pencil in his hand.

Hamasu started out at Toei many years earlier, staying on for more than a decade after he had moved on to key animation. One of his earliest credits is as an inbetweener in the 1982 Harlock film Arcadia of My Youth. To indicate what I meant about the unusual proportion of key to inbetween animators in Hosoda's latest Toei film, Hamasu was one of 183 inbetweeners to 37 key animators in the 1983 Yamato film Final Chapter. He had moved up to inbetween checker by 1985 for Odin. In the late 80s he began working as a key animator under animation director Jun'ichi Hayama on the OVA series Be-Bop High School, and then later on the aforementioned episode of Jo Jo. Already he had attained such a level with his animation that his scenes went mostly uncorrected into the final product for the Be-Bop series - specifically the scene in the cafe in ep 4 and the scene at the beginning of ep 6 on the train station platform. One of the earliest jobs for which Hamasu became known to fans is the 1990 OVA Vampire Wars, where he was animation director and character designer. After that, as one of the small handful of animators considered up to the task of working on the major feature films, throughout the 90s he was hired in various films including Studio 4°C's Memories and Ghibli's My Neighbors the Yamadas. In Ghost in the Shell he did one of his more reknowned jobs, the part where Motoko rips her arm off, coming directly after Mitsuo Iso's famous sequence with the spider tank.

His work that first came to my attention, however, was his work in Mamoru Hosoda's first Digimon film - specifically, two shots near the end of the film. The first is where Hikari attempts to blow a whistle, but is too weak and breaks down in a fit of coughing. The second is where Hikari breaks out crying. Despite the fact that these are lone shots, they both immediately grab the viewer with the incredible power and nuanced detail of the animation. It's a perfect instance of a director casting the right animator to bring exactly the dramatic weight needed to achieve the dramatic needs of a particular shot or scene. The rest of the film is very nicely animated, but these two shots are head and shoulders above the rest and remain seared in the memory. They're a classic instance of a through-conceived action, where the animator gets into the mind of the character on screen and maps out every single tiny movement in a short burst of magic where the character suddenly comes alive in perfectly timed, realistic and convincing acting. These shots exemplify what it is I most enjoy about animation. They're what I continue watching animation to see. Few animators come close to creating acting with this kind of nuance in Japan - Shinji Hashimoto and Shinji Otsuka are among the few others who spring to mind. It's work that deserves the praise of being called maniacal, and it's a rare and precious thing.

After that came his work on the other Digimon films and then finally Tokyo Godfathers, which undoubtedly is the best place to begin to appreciate his work. Hamasu also appears closely allied with the new realistic school represented by Shinji Hashimoto and Shinya Ohira. He helped Hashimoto animate the Kachi O~ji op, worked as an animator under him on Kid's Story alongside Ohira, and worked on the animator extravaganza that is Ghiblies 2, which featured most of the interesting animators working today, including Hashimoto doing the people eating the curry, Ohira the dance, Utsunomiya the subway scene. Before his work on Hosoda's latest film, in the aftermath of Tokyo Godfathers he had done good work animating the boxing section of the TKO episode of Paranoia Agent together with Toshiyuki Inoue, Michiyo Suzuki and none other than Jun`ichi Hayama himself, in the meantime also having done work on Howl. That he's appeared in nearly all of the most widely talked-about anime films of the last few years goes some way to suggesting just how respected and in-demand he is.

Hamasu is one of the few animators today whom I feel deserves the honor of being called a Toei animator, for the way he creates animation that is the work of a master craftsman, richly inventive and nuanced, developed out of a combination of innate talent and long years of training at Toei, connecting him across a long gap to the great animators of the classic Toei Doga era.