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.
August 2005
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Archives for: August 2005, 07

Sunday, August 7, 2005

02:40:46 pm , 777 words, 1303 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.