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: January 2006

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

11:20:15 pm , 486 words, 4539 views     Categories: Animation

Iso Fun Pack

As a thank-you to readers I wanted to upload a little something I threw together for my own edification some time ago - the key animation for one shot from episode 19 of Evangelion, drawn by Mitsuo Iso, an animator about whom I'm kind of passionate, as most people probably already know. I meant to do this for New Years, but it's a little late, so I'll do it for the Chinese New Year instead.

Kung hei fat choi!

Inside is an image of each of the 24 keys in the shot; an swf allowing you to play or step through it; and the shot from the final product. A caveat: The swf doesn't play at the correct speed because I wasn't able to figure out the right timing from the copy of the episode I had, which was confusingly interlaced, making decyphering difficult. The Groundwork book didn't contain the time sheet for Iso's shots, which would have told me how long to hold each frame. The movie from the final product is there to help you see the correct timing, and of course to compare with the keys.

Well, enjoy. This is one of my favorite shots of animation. Of course, I could say that about many shots drawn by Iso, but this is one of the few for which I've found the keys, so I thought this would be ideal as a study item to see how one of the true greats active today works. (or worked - remember this is from ten years ago, and his style has changed considerably since)

As with the shots surrounding this one, I feel the shot shows how Iso differs from other animators. He seems to come up with the movement using the whole screen rather than simply plunking a character down in one spot, and draws most of the movements himself with very few inbetweens, leaving the movement less fluid but giving him more control and allowing him to fill the movements with lots of lifelike nuance. (the little hash marks you occasionally see on the keys are indications of where to draw the inbetween(s) vis-a-vis the surrounding keys)

Iso can obviously draw, but the forms are always supple and loose, and you never get the impression of Iso trying to 'fake' a realistic image, so to speak, by simply drawing it as perfectly and meticulously as possible. Just the opposite, Iso's drawings are always full of vitality and the unexpected. Though it's not as obvious in this shot, much of Iso's animation is full of deformations that help to give a feeling of weight to the motion. And yet he remains one of the most quintissentially realistic animators out there. It's a wonderful contradiction.

As a final bonus, here are the early designs drawn by Shinya Ohira for Junkers Come Here. Apologies for the low quality of the second tier. The source images were very small.

Monday, January 30, 2006

11:34:16 pm , 1026 words, 8152 views     Categories: Animation

Manga Nihon Mukashibanashi

By chance I noticed that a new book involving Yasuo Otsuka comes out tomorrow: Otsuka Yasuo Interview: Animation Juo Mujin 大塚康生インタビュー アニメーション縦横無尽. It appears to be a book-length interview. Otsuka's interviews never fail to be fascinating, so I'll have to check this out.

Apparently the classic Manga Nihon Mukashibanashi AKA Once Upon a Time in Japan has begun re-airing from the beginning on NHK. I'm not sure of the total episode count, but since the show aired for twenty years I suppose they must be showing an episode a day if they want to get through it within a reasonable amount of time. I'd very much like a chance to revisit the show, as I remember being so impressed by the handful of episodes I managed to find at a Japanese grocery store long ago that I recorded every one. Other fans seemed to look at me cockeyed at the time for recording the show, but the show's spirit of experimentation is unrivalled in anime as far as I'm concerned. Even then I already knew: To me this is what was animation is all about. As an avid reader of folktales I was already predisposed to liking the stories, and the stories are indeed wonderful in their simplicity and directness - and the delivery by the two voice-actors who narrate/voice-act every character in every episode is magnificent - but it's the variety of graphic/storytelling styles that makes the show so irresistible. Only later did I learn about the big names involved, headlined by Group Tac co-founder Gisaburo Sugii, but each episode is interesting without even knowing who made it.

The basic concept of the series - and this is what makes it unique - is that a completely different design and look is adopted for each story. Each broadcast episode consists of two ten-minute stories, and in each story, a single person handles the animation, the directing and the art - sometimes the same person, sometimes a different person for each task, but always a single person. The animation is necessarily spare, but the visuals are always inventive and refreshing as a result, and the show never becomes monotonous. That perpetual renewal is surely the secret of the show's longevity, running as it did to nearly 1000 episodes from 1975-1995.

As happens every time I do so, going through the list of credits makes me begin watering at the mouth. There are many names I know very well - Gisaburo Sugii, Rintaro, Tsuneo Maeda, Norio Hikone. Hidekazu Ohara was involved later in the series. There are a lot more names I remember seeing in the past and wondering where they'd gotten to. Teruto Kamiguchi was involved heavily throughout the series right from the beginning. Just before beginning production on this series, Group Tac produced their first full-length feature, Jack and the Beanstalk, in which Maeda animated Margaret and Kamiguchi animated the giant. Like many of the main staff, Kamiguchi came from Mushi Pro. I remember his name primarily from his exhuberant animation of Lupa in Cleopatra, several years before Jack. Hiroshi Kanezawa I don't know much about but remember being impressed by an episode of Gamba (1975) that he animated singlehandedly. I've long suspected that Oh Production animator Kin'ichiro Suzuki, who's involved heavily here, is the person who did the wonderful FX in the Little Twins movie. Yusaku Sakamoto was one of the leading animators at Mushi Pro, co-directing Tale of a Streetcorner with Eiichi Yamamoto. Like Sakamoto, the late Chikao Katsui started out at Toei and moved to Mushi Pro when it opened. At the time he was famous for animating the birds at the beginning of the Jungle Taitei opening. He was also chief director of Ribon no Kishi. I particularly remember his work on Gisaburo Sugii's typically ill-fated Dororo. As in Goku, Sugii only managed to do things his way for the first season, and the rest is unwatchable. Another person I recognize is Hideo Nishimaki, who did a number of episodes in Goku. I've always kind of felt sorry for him, because clearly a lot of effort went into the episodes, but having your episodes shown side by side with those of Hata and Dezaki acts as a kind of cruel litmus test of whether you've got it or you don't, and Nishimaki don't. But he's really the only other person in the show who actually understood what Gisaburo was doing besides Hata and Dezaki. Curiously enough, Yoshiyuki Tomino even did an episode in the fallow period right before Gundam.

Particularly interesting is that a number of episodes are credited to Asia-do. This is interesing first of all because the studio was founded in 1978, yet they're credited right from the beginning, in February 1975. Tsutomu Shibayama and Osamu Kobayashi are also credited alone on some episodes, so presumably they must have used the title as a collective pen name of sorts for a while before formally establishing the studio of the same name. Second of all it's interesting because Shibayama and Kobayashi came from A Productions, the studio formed by Toei expats that sort of carried on the Toei spirit of creating interesting movement in the TV era. So here we have the best representatives of the latter-day incarnation of rivals of old Toei Doga and Mushi Pro working side by side on the same show - the best of both worlds. A Productions was renamed to Shinei Doga right around the time the show started, and was also involved here and there.

One of Sugii's episodes is entitled Hyaku Monogatari. Hyaku Monogatari was a sort of pasttime in Edo Japan where people would get together, light 100 candles and tell ghost stories throughout the night, blowing out a candle for each story. A ghost was expected to appear after the last candle was blown out. My favorite book by Sugiura Hinako is a Hyaku Monogatari of her own. The animation in the episode was done by Marisuke Eguchi and the art by Mihoko Magohri, and the episode was aired in September 1983, so it would seem to have been a sort of warm-up for Night on the Galactic Railroad for the team.

Related: Manga Sekai Mukashibanashi

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

07:55:20 am , 2222 words, 2273 views     Categories: Animation, Translation, Interview

Marisuke Eguchi interview

It's been a while since I've run across an interesting interview, and I've been eager to see Gisaburo Sugii's On A Stormy Night for a while now, so I thought I would translate the interview from the official web site with the animation director of the film, Marisuke Eguchi, who was also the animation director of Gisaburo's masterpiece, Night on the Galactic Railroad. His enthusiasm for his job was vicariously invigorating as well as refreshing to me personally, tending as I do only to focus on the animators. He has genuine enthusiasm for his art, knows how to transmit that to his animators, and clearly put the commensurate effort and thought into coming up with these characters, which are among the most interesting I've seen in a Japanese animated film in a while (at least judging by the stills I've seen) so I am looking forward to seeing how they look in motion.

I'm especially eager because of Gisaburo's concept for the film. At the opposite end of the streamlined simplicity and minimalism of line of much of the great animation being made now in the country, here Gisaburo the iconoclast comes up with his own original approach to the animation, as usual. Here his goal was to create a dense texture for the characters. This was achieved by stacking several layers of independently moving fur over the basic outline of each character, or as he explains:

"To animate these characters the first thing that occurred to me was that they couldn't be drawn with an ordinary, flat-toned drawing of a wolf and a lamb. They had to be drawn in a way that would emphasize their predator/prey relationship so that the audience would feel the unnaturalness of their friendship. This being the much-touted digital age, I put the challenge to animation supervisor Tsuneo Maeda of coming up with a way of digitally creating a feeling of texture for the fur rather than having usual flat coloring.

What Maeda came up with was to cut up the body into different parts. First there's the outline of the body and the fur. Those are separate. Under those we add a bit of "noise" and then some pieces to add shadows. The result is that unlike in normal anime here the body and fur are different colors.

So for example, most of the time Mei is made up of at least 3, usually 4 or 5 layered drawings, which is more than twice the usual 2. And since Mei and Gabu are different colors, that works out to about 8 drawings when they're on the screen together. So the total count for this film is probably something on the order of 130,000 or 140,000 drawings, though we haven't actually bothered to count. That's about twice as many drawings as your average anime film, which might have on the order of 70,000 drawings."


Let's start from the beginning. When were you first approached to adapt the story into film?

Last year... Actually, at the end of the year before that.

What was your first thought for the characters after reading the book?

Well, what usually interests me the most is first to hear what Sugii is thinking.

Sugii's interpretation?


So he suggests a general direction and asks you to see what you can come up with?

That's right. My first question was whether we were going to go with a realistic animal form or not. My debut was Night on the Galactic Railroad, where the cats stand like humans. Coming up with characters standing like humans would require a completely different strategy than coming up with characters with a realistic animal form. So that was my first question. His answer was a realistic animal form, and that's when I started thinking about the characters.

Did it take you long to come up with the characters?

It took less time than I expected. As a director, Sugii tends to want to come up with a new way of doing things for each project. Something people have never seen before. His approach this time was to use "matiere" - individual pieces of textured material. So I tried to find a method that would be most conducive to creating a feeling of texture in the final product. Naturally coming up with the actual characters presents its own problems, but the bulk of my time was spent testing different ways of creating a texture that would be unique to each of the characters.

Did the director have any specific requests?

Not this time.

He left it up to you?

Pretty much, yes. The first design idea I drew was actually fairly realistic. Gisaburo's comment on it was, "We could go with that." So it was back to the drawing board.

I don't understand.

Well, when I'm conceptualizing the character, I go through reams of drawings as a way of asking myself the question: "Am I OK with that?" Literally boxfulls of drawings, testing all the different possibilities. Those first designs I showed him were the first ones I drew in the first few days, just testing the waters. His comment was his way of saying: Would you really be satisfied if we had to make the movie with those designs? Maybe you should give it some more thought.

As the director I don't mind, but you might not be satisfied with that, so you might want to give it a bit more thought...

I think that's what he meant. That was really the first design I'd come up with in the first few days, so I had no intention of going with that design. When you're desigining a character, it could go any number of ways - from the super-realistic to the hyper-cartoonish - so that first idea was just my way of testing the waters. Seeing his reaction at the beginning of that designing process.

So the final design was completely different?

Completely different. For my second idea, I thought about the concept of the film - "matiere" - and modified the design appropriately in that direction. At that point my mentor, Tsuneo Maeda, said that he might be able to figure out a way of creating the movement of the hair using digital technology, and I started to get a sense of the direction we were headed.

So that technique was an important factor in deciding on the final design?

Yes. I naturally gave a lot of thought to coming up with a design that would hover midway between the realistic and the cartoonish, but I spent a lot more time thinking about the problem of how to create a feeling of texture in the final product.

From that point on, what gave you the most trouble?

When I started out on Night on the Galactic Railroad I was still a kid, so it felt like I'd given birth to a child when the film was done. Many of the people working on this film were also kids with very little experience, so they were very lucky in a way to be able to work on a film at so early a stage. I wanted those young people to experience that same feeling. I wanted each and every one of them to feel that the film was their child. In the end many of them made tremendous progress, to the point that they could look after their drawings completely on their own, which made me very happy.

So they really got into it?

That's right. Normally in an anime movie you don't have just one animation director. That's not enough in this day and age. Normally you have a chief animation director and three or four veterans working under him - sometimes even another person to check the layout. But here there was only me. I couldn't do it on my own, so the only answer was to raise my "children" to the point that they would be self-sufficient. And luckily it worked. Everybody set to work and really fell in love with the characters, so I was sure that things would work out.

And so a 107-minute film was born. What were your impressions watching the finished film?

All we can do is do our best while working on the film. Afterwards we can wish we'd done things differently, but the important thing is to get as much into the film while we're making it and do our best not to have any regrets.

What's your advice to young people who want to do the kind of work you do?

It's a wonderful job. Just draw as much as you can. Everyone draws when they're a kid, but most people stop after a certain age. Those who don's stop are the odd ones... (laughs)

Did you draw a lot as a kid?

Yeah. I think you've got to if you want to survive in this line of work.

Often when a film is completed, it takes on a life of its own. What do you hope will happen to that child in the future?

I hope people take good care of her. It may be presumptuous of me to say so, but the labor pains were considerable. Gabu the wolf I understood. I could see why he behaves the way he does. But I just couldn't get into the mind of Mei the goat. What do you think attracted Gabu to Mei? (laughs) I couldn't figure it out. If I can't get into the mind of a character, I can't draw him, so that was a big struggle for me.

Gabu is a predator, so he should be Mei's enemy, but he decides to be his friend. I'd say it's almost kind of stoic...

Exactly. Early on we had a lot of discussion about this topic. In the end what provided the key was Marilyn Monroe. Tsuneo Maeda and I would go out drinking and we'd exchange ideas. So once I confessed, "I just don't get Mei." I could draw him, no problem. I'm talking psychologically. I didn't understand his motivation. Well, there's a point in the original book where Mei walks a certain way waving his fanny. Maeda asked me who it reminded me of. Being a Marilyn Monroe fan, I responded: Marilyn Monroe. (laughs) "Then think of her when you draw Mei," he told me. From that point on I felt I could draw Mei with confidence. I felt I wanted to draw him as cute as possible. But I must say, goats aren't the cutest animals...

I know what you mean. Sheep are cuter.


Did you study goats?

Till I had it up to here with goats. But I really wanted the children watching the film to find the characters cute.

Aren't goat eyes...

Horizontal. Yeah. I tried drawing the eyes that way, but it just didn't feel right. For me, if I can visualize a single scene, the rest tends to follow in a torrent. So Mei walking in front of Gabu is actually Marilyn Monroe swaying her hips in Niagara.

Marilyn Monroe swaying her hips.

Absolutely. It was the goat version of the Monroe walk. Of course, most of the young animators were like, "Marilyn Monroe? Never heard of her." So we borrowed some videos, did some studying, and Marilyn Monroe it was.

Were they as convinced as you?

It probably took a little time to sink in because they had to practice it a few times before they got it right. But once they got it, it was downhill from there. So don't forget: Goat version of the Monroe walk.

So once you'd gotten the hips down, did the ears and eyes and the rest sort of follow naturally?

No, the design itself was already complete by that point. It's just that I wouldn't have enjoyed drawing it if I hadn't found that mental key. Once I discover the key to the character in a single scene, everything else follows, and it changes the character's whole range of expression. Once each of the staff finds their key, they get excited about drawing Mei, or get motivated to draw Mei as cute as possible, and they get that much more into the character. By that time I can tell just by looking at a single drawing that someone has "got it". So what my job as the animation director consists of, really, is motivating the staff to get excited about their work, then adding a dash of my own excitement to get the right balance so that it melds perfectly with what the background and the photography people want to do. It's figuring out how to combine all that energy.

So if someone were to ask you: What is the job of the animation director? You would say...

The director of the drawings. Simple as that. In other words, establish the direction for the drawings among the animation staff - draw Mei as cute as possible, draw Gabu kind of scary but likeable - while at the same time listening to what the staff want to do. That's the job of the animation director. That's why I love this job. (laughs)

Now that this is over, what's next? Any plans yet?

Yes. I have several ideas in the planning stage.

I look forward to it. Thank you.

Related: Gisaburo Sugii vs. Hiroshi Masumura

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

07:12:38 am , 595 words, 1236 views     Categories: Animation

Izumi Kyoka × Yasuhiro Nakura

When I was studying Japanese literature as an undergraduate, one of the authors I remember being particularly taken by was IZUMI Kyoka. He seemed to embody all the gothic wonder of the supernatural Japanese imagination that exterted such a fascination to me at the time. I have a particularly clear memory of writing a windy but earnest paper interpreting his story Osen and Soichi, based on the translation by Charles Shiro Inouye available in the book Japanese Gothic Tales. I don't even remember much about the story now, apart from something having to do with a frog and a bathing woman. I tend to be that way with my reading, remembering one small bit that had an impact on me for the prose or for the oddness of the situation, and blurring over the outline of the overall story. Having liked Kyoka so much, I thought it would be great to be able to read him in the original. Same goes for many of the other great authors I read at the time, among them Toshio Shimao, who retains the top spot in my canon. I had a wonderfully naive fantasy when I was younger that each language was merely a repository of literary classics just waiting for me to come acquire them, and that's one of the things that led me to learn this language. I still find the language beautiful and think that it exercises the brain to read regularly in a language other than your native tongue, but that early wonder definitely wears off. But for Shimao it's never worn off. He's one of those authors who's made it worth it; one of those people who writes with a prose that embodies everything that attracted you to the language. Well, what about Kyoka? I've heard many great things about Kyoka's prose, and enjoyed his stories, so I was very curious to have a stab at his writing. So I did. Then came the surprise of finding out how much the Japanese language changed in the first few decades of the 20th century. For some reason I've never been able to read his work, or that of any other pre-Showa Japanese, even though I've made efforts. I don't blame the education system that never taught me classical Japanese, because his work was written in the Taisho period when the patois was infiltrating literature, and I'm sure I could sludge through it if I made the effort, but I find I've become rather lazy in my old age. All of this reminiscence was brought on by hearing that one of his stories, Tenshu Monogatari, was recently adapted into an episode of animation in the Noitamina series. I was taken by the urge to try again to read him in the original, and even found an online text, but upon perusing a bit I'm afraid that I might not get very far and may wait for the cliff notes of the adaptation.

Sweetening the pot is the news that Yasuhiro Nakura of Tenshi no Tamago fame returns to animation with the piece as designer and animation director. By this point I never actually expected to see him come back to animation. There will be two other episodes, and I'm equally eager to see the adaptation of Bakeneko (by ?), which features FX animator Takashi Hashimoto as CD/AD. The excellent and underrated Satoru Utsunomiya/Shinji Hashimoto episode of the Hakkenden OVA series (#9 in total count) told the story of a bakeneko or demon cat, so it will be interesting to see if/how the two compare.

Friday, January 20, 2006

07:35:37 am , 358 words, 939 views     Categories: Animation


I haven't had time to do much here lately, but I'm thinking I'll get back to posting regularly again starting sometime next week. In the meantime I thought I'd mention that I've put up a BBS so that people can discuss whatever they might want to discuss without having to worry about whether it fits within the scope of my latest post.

Haven't had time to watch much lately either, but I hear Satoru Utsunomiya is going to be doing a bit more Noein... great news. I think the DVD containing episode 19 of Aquarion is coming out soon, so it will be interesting to see if/how/what parts of the episode he corrected, as he has stated that he was working on correcting the episode for the DVD release. At the same time I've heard contradictory claims that Kawamori has refused to make any corrections. We'll see. I think people can sometimes take for granted that their voices aren't being heard when they post on the internet, but you'd be surprised who reads what. Never take anything for granted. I get the impression that industry people tend to listen to all comments. Higuchi Masakazu, who currently works as a mangaka and recently completed a strict manga adaptation of the Bible, at one time worked on the long-running Nihon Mukashibanashi (Classic Tales of Old Japan). As he recently related on his blog, the show was originally only aired for three months and would have disappeared completely had it not been for voices calling for its continuation, which is what led to its incredible life span, running as it did for more than twenty years. The production side of Aquarion may not have even wanted to correct the episode, I don't know, but Utsunomiya has never been one to ignore fans, and he wanted to because it bothered him personally. I think it's going a little far for him to feel he has to even correct his recent work on Noein for the DVD release, which apparently he says he wants to do, but it certainly shows his dedication to perfecting every single little piece of work he does.

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Saturday, January 7, 2006

10:44:30 am , 84 words, 1572 views     Categories: Animation

Akagi ending

Norimitsu Suzuki has been establishing a name for himself of late animating and directing TV series ending sequences entirely by himself. I don't know how many he's done so far - I know of at least 4 or 5 - but his latest comes with the second ending for Madhouse's Akagi, which is rather interesting, with a stylized look and unique feeling to the moment. It kind of reminded me of a sequence in Millennium Actress done with a similar look, with simple, thick lines and moving panels.

Saturday, January 7, 2006

10:35:42 am , 992 words, 963 views     Categories: Animation

Mononoke hime breakdown

Here's a list of who did what in Mononoke Hime, from what I could gather from the Ghibli diary. It looks like the first 600 or so shots aren't covered, but I've heard Miyazaki extensively corrected most of the early part of the film anyway. The storyboard has been released, so that could be used as a reference to locate shots.

95.7.10 - 134 shots of storyboard done. First animator meeting held. 14 key animators onboard.
95.7.15 - Mimi wo Sumaseba opens
95.9.18 - Shinji Otsuka goes to the Todai farm to study cows
95.10.2 - Kondo Yoshifumi joins team as animator after finishing his film
96.2.17 - Kondo finishes his part
96.3.1 - Futaki joins team, meeting for shots 730-745, 748, 754-771 (35)
96.3.2 - Moritomo finishes his part, meeting for shots 702-729
96.3.8 - Meeting for Kuwana - shots 778, 780-781, 783-784, 786-787, 789-791 (10) and Yamamori - shots 772-777, 779, 782, 785, 788, 792-793 (12)
96.3.9 - Meeting for Shimizu - 680A-791 (22), Konishi - 608-630 (30)
96.3.19 - Shinohara - 794-826 (33)
96.4.16 - Michio Mihara - 827-854, 857, 864, 866 (32)
96.4.23 - Takeshi Inamura - 858-863, 865, 867-872 (14)
96.4.30 - Atsuko Tanaka - 877-934 (58) (supposed to be at Ghibli from May 1 to October 1996 - 10 shots a month - but stayed longer)
96.5.13 - Shinji Otsuka - 589-607 (19)
96.5.25 - Minowa - 951-970 (20), Shimizu - 977-998 (22)
96.6.3 - Yamamori - 901-911, Yamada - 1013, 1024-1033
96.6.4 - Endo - 999-1023 (24), Sasaki - 942-950, 971-976 (15), Moritomo - 912-941 (29)
96.6.19 - Yoshida - 1034-1062 (30)
96.6.24 - Kurita - 1086-1119 (35), Ohtani - 1120-1140 (21)
96.6.27 - Shinohara - 1063-1085 (23)
96.7.19 - Kagawa - 1182-1225 (44)
96.8.29 - Tanaka - 1151-1181B (33)
96.9.5 - Otsuka - 1233-1268 (35)
96.9.10 - Minowa - 1224-1232 (9)
96.9.11 - Sasaki - 1269-1284 (16)
96.9.21 - Shimizu - 1318-1338 (21)
96.10.4 - Mihara - 1285-1301 (17)
96.10.8 - Inamura - 755-758, 760, 754 (6) - taken from Futaki because she was not going to be able to finish them
96.10.17 - Kuwana - 1421-1436 (16)
96.10.21 - Yoshio - 1302-1317, 1362-1363 (18)
96.10.22 - Yamamori - 1365-1379 (15), Konishi - 1380-1403 (23)
96.10.24 - Inamura - 1336-1351 (15)
96.11.07 - Shinohara finishes her part
96.11.8 - Shinohara - 1352-1361, 1364 (11) - meeting recorded on video by Uratani of TV Man Union
96.11.13 - Endo - 1404-1418 (15)
96.11.22 - Kondo Katsuya joins the team - 1466-1500 (34)
92.12.2 - Kondo Katsuya arrives at Ghibli for his animator meeting
96.12.10 - Tanaka finishes her part, gets more - 1501-1520A (20)
96.12.12 - Kenichi Yoshida's motorcycle accident - Kondo Yoshifumi takes up the 14 shots Yoshida had left
96.12.13 - Minowa - 1542-1555 (14)
96.12.16 - meeting for Kondo Yoshifumi's Yoshida part - 1041-1043, 1052-1062 (14)
96.12.21 - Otsuka - 1520A-1541 (23)
97.1.10 - 15 extra shots, they call around to "I", Kanada and "T"
97.1.15 - rush decision to bring in pinch hitter "A" for 1611-1619 (9)
97.1.16 - Inamura - 1651-1660 (10)
97.1.18 - Kanada comes to Ghibli - 1590-1601 (12)
97.1.27 - Ohtani - 1628-1638 (11)
97.2.11 - Tanaka goes back to Telecom
97.2.20 - Mihara takes 1630, 1632, 1637, E7, 8, 9 from Ohtani and "I"
97.2.20 - Inamura takes 1425, 1427, 1430-1432 from Kuwana
92.2.21 - Endo finishes his part, takes more - 1601-1610 (10)
97.2.24 - Otsuka finishes, decide to have him help correct completed genga
97.3.15 - Mihara finishes his part, leaves to ride his bicycle around Kyushu
97.3.16 - Kagawa and Ohtani finish their part, move to help inbetweening
97.3.18 - Yoshio finishes, Miya gives him 2 of K's part because he's too slow
97.3.20 - T finishes his part, was helping from outside
97.3.21 - Kurita finishes
97.3.24 - Futaki finishes

E7, 8, 9 - Michio Mihara
589-607 - Shinji Otsuka
608-630 - Kenichi Konishi
680A-691 - Hiroshi Shimizu
702-729 - Moritomo Noriko
730-745, 748 - Futaki Makiko
754-758 - Takeshi Inamura
759 - Makiko Futaki
760 - Takeshi Inamura
761-771 - Makiko Futaki
778, 780-781, 783-784, 786-787, 789-791 - Ikuo Kuwana
794-826 - Masako Shinohara
827-854, 857 - Michio Mihara
858-863 - Takeshi Inamura
864 - Michio Mihara
865 - Takeshi Inamura
866 - Michio Mihara
867-872 - Takeshi Inamura
877-934 - Atsuko Tanaka
912-941 - Noriko Moritomo
951-970 - Hiroko Minowa
977-998 - Hiroshi Shimizu
999-1023 - Masaaki Endo
1034-1040, 1044-1051 - Kenichi Yoshida
1063-1085 - Masako Shinohara
1120-1140 - Atsuko Ohtani
1151-1181B - Atsuko Tanaka
1182-1225 - Megumi Kagawa
1224-1232 - Hiroko Minowa
1233-1268 - Shinji Otsuka
1285-1301 - Michio Mihara
1302-1317 - Hideaki Yoshio
1318-1338 - Hiroshi Shimizu
1336-1351 - Takeshi Inamura
1362-1363 - Hideaki Yoshio
1380-1403 - Kenichi Konishi
1404-1418 - Masaaki Endo
1421-1424 - Ikuo Kuwana
1425 - Takeshi Inamura
1426 - Ikuo Kuwana
1427 - Takeshi Inamura
1428-1429 - Ikuo Kuwana
1430-1432 - Takeshi Inamura
1433-1436 - Ikuo Kuwana
1501-1520A - Atsuko Tanaka
1520A-1541 - Shinji Otuska
1542-1555 - Hiroko Minowa
1590-1601 - Yoshinori Kanada
1601-1610 - Masaaki Endo
1628-1629 - Atsuko Ohtani
1630 - Michio Mihara
1631 - Atsuko Ohtani
1632 - Michio Mihara
1633-1636 - Atsuko Ohtani
1637 - Michio Mihara
1638 - Atsuko Ohtani
1651-1660 - Takeshi Inamura

Shinji Otsuka - 589-607 (19), 1233-1268 (35), 1520A-1541 (23) [77]
Masako Shinohara - 794-826 (33), 1063-1085 (23) [56]
Noriko Moritomo - 702-729 (28), 912-941 (29) [57]
Megumi Kagawa - 1182-1225 [44]
Kenichi Konishi - 608-630 (30), 1380-1403 (23) [53]
Masaaki Endo - 999-1023 (24), 1404-1418 (15), 1601-1610 (10) [49]
Hiroshi Shimizu - 680A-791 (22), 977-998 (22), 1318-1338 (21) [65]
Hiroko Minowa - 951-970 (20), 1224-1232 (9), 1542-1555 (14) [43]
Michio Mihara - 827-854 (29), 857, 864, 866, 1285-1301 (17), 1630, 1632, 1637, E7, 8, 9 [55]
Atsuko Ohtani - 1120-1140 (21), 1628-1629, 1631, 1633-1636, 1638 (29)
Takeshi Inamura - 858-863 (6), 865, 867-872 (6), 755-758, 760, 754 (6), 1336-1351 (15), 1651-1660 (10), 1425, 1427, 1430-1432 [50]
Hideaki Yoshio - 1302-1317, 1362-1363 (18) [20]
Makiko Futaki - 730-745 (16), 748, 759, 761-771 (11) [29]
Ikuo Kuwana - 778, 780-781, 783-784, 786-787, 789-791, 1421-1424, 1426, 1428-1429, 1433-1436 [21]
(Kenichi Yoshida - 1034-1040, 1044-1051 [15])
Yoshinori Kanada - 1590-1601 [12]
Atsuko Tanaka - 877-934 (58), 1151-1181B (33), 1501-1520A (20) [111]

Here are also a few bits of interest from the Yamada-kun period.

98.11.14 - Hashimoto - Scene 14-4, 26 shots
98.12.5 - Ohira arrives from Nagoya on the Shinkansen. Meeting for Scene 9-2. Goes to eat dinner with Tanabe and never comes back. Apparently they were out drinking all night in Asagaya.
99.2.3 - Otsuka - Scene 3-2, shots 79-83

It will be particularly nice to be able to pinpoint Yoshinori Kanada's work in the film to see what kind of work he did in his last Ghibli film. While he never stopped beefing up his individualistic style full of crazy perspective, patented deformation and geometric animated effects over the years right up until the present day in other work, I gather he must have provided work of a more orthodox vein for this film, as he has in the past for the studio, ever since Nausicaa. It will also be nice to locate Shinji Otsuka's work, as his work is alway worth studying.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

09:03:51 pm , 1058 words, 1905 views     Categories: Animation

Noein 12 thoughts

I'm back after a breather in the great white north. Happy new year to all. Hard to believe another year has passed.

One reason I've been eager to get back was to see ep 12 of Noein, which I did today. It was even better than I'd anticipated from the credits, in many ways, not least of all in terms of the animation. But from the foundation up it was in a league of its own. Not even the first episode quite mustered the incredible tension created here by Kazuhiro Furuhashi's storyboard. Add to that Norio Matsumoto and it's something of the return of Rurouni Kenshin 30, which was also a big climactic showdown like here, also involving Matsumoto.

Very few moments weren't of interest in terms of the animation. Norio Matsumoto was credited with animation director on an episode of Beck, but really that was only because he drew an entire half episode - he wasn't correcting anyone's drawings. The last I recall him being credited as AD was in his famous ep of Arjuna quite some years ago. If I remember correctly, there he really was correcting, though he seems to have drawn a lot himself. Here it felt like that rather than the situation in Naruto 133 where Matsumoto was just animating, so the parts not by him really stood out as completely different. Here most of the entire first half of the episode felt like his work, so I assume he must have drawn some scenes and corrected the others. It's true that as you're watching most of it (with some exceptions) feels like Matsumoto.

The exceptions are the fight scenes, for the most part. A long time ago I'd seen Ryochimo's home page while surfing the gif animator community, so it's interesting to see him making a big splash here. Another gif animator, Kenichi Kusuna, did a lot of gif animating for fun while studying, and recently went pro, doing a lot of work together with Satoru Utsunomiya, who's here as well. Osamu Kobayashi reportedly personally invited Ryochimo to work on Beck. There seems to be a trend recently of self-trained amateurs becoming so infatuated with the medium thanks to the work of great animators like Utsunomiya that they begin making gif animation, which brings them to the attention of those animators, and they wind up pro. Oftentimes they're doing work more intersting than most other people I've seen. Just when you thought people like that were extinct, it's kind of a heartening thing to see.

I'm not enough familiar with Ryochimo's work to pick out what he did, but if you were to hold a gun to my head I'd have to say that the absolutely incredible sketchy fight in the first half of the episode looks like it might have been of his hand. It's to Satelight's eternal credit that they could switch from one style of drawing to one so obviously and completely different from one shot to the next as they did there. That bit packed a punch like little I've ever seen, and that probably would have been very reduced if they'd cleaned up those drawings.

The rest of the first half of the episode was full of the brilliantly nuanced acting and flawlessly light and balanced drawing that I associate with Norio Matsumoto. A bit of the tail end of the fight in the first half felt a little Matsumoto, particularly the timing of the animation where the crane was shattered by a blast at the very end of the fight. Norio Matsumoto is as prolific as ever, and the quality has never dropped in anything I've seen from him, though the quantity understandably does when he draws a whole half ep himself. He knows how to spend his allowance to get the best results. I don't know of anyone else who can balance those two extremes the way he does.

A bash like this just wouldn't have been complete without Satoru Utsunomiya, and I could see his hand near the end of the fight in the second half. It's a relief that people in the industry see his genius and there's been a steady stream of his work lately, even though there's a trend lately of general fans being very touchy about idiosyncratic animation. It's like we're finally feeling the blowback from the heady days of the 80s when individual animators like Yoshinori Kanada were lionized for their personal vision. This episode, and really this entire series, seems to be this studio's and this director's challenge to that mindset.

Overall, an overwhelming episode. It feels like they put all of their eggs into one basket, and it paid off. This really represents what the series was all about. Throwing together a bunch of good animators with their own unique styles - some with a lot less experience than others but enthusiasm and talent to make up for it - and letting things fall where they might without smoothing over the edges. It's the episode that vindicated their approach. Hopefully they'll have at least one more episode like this, though it's already amazing that they managed this one.

I also got to see the previous episode, which had a great sequence in the second half with the elder brother. I don't know who did it, but I'd guess Kishida. A while back I rewatched Macross Zero and the last bit of ep 3 really stood out as wonderful. I realized it had to be Kishida's work. It's the first time I was able to pinpoint his animation with a fair level of assurance. Kishida and Matsumoto have been working together for a long time, and you get a feeling that there's been some mutual influencing going on. They seem to share a somewhat similar approach to timing and form.

Norio Matsumoto did some work in the animated sequences of the recent game Tales of the Abyss, specifically near the end of the opening. One shot in Matsumoto's section looks like it might have been done by Utsunomiya, but he's not credited. Interestingly this was also directed/storyboarded by Kazuhiro Furuhashi. Perhaps that's how Matsumoto got involved. Shinya Ohira also apparently did some of the "event" animation. Other people involved include Yasunori Miyazawa and Takashi Hashimoto.

Some Norstein links for inspiration.

The Moon Ain't Nothin But a Broken Dish
Washington Post article