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 2006, 25

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

04:55:45 pm , 1473 words, 5152 views     Categories: Animation, Animator

Yasunori Miyazawa

From the game Popolo Crois 2宮沢康紀

Miyazawa I first became aware of from his awesome animation of the finale of Dead Leaves. Besides the sheer volume of it, it was animation that had a certain indescribable magic to it, very different from everything that had come before, and it made me sit up and pay attention. The volumes and shapes of the FX were fascinating, constantly changing, really occupying the whole space, making effective use of the screen to create a feeling of depth and convey the massive scale of what was going on. The animation was more limited, but it was obviously because he was controlling every single moment of the movement, and it was always going somewhere or doing something interesting. He used an absolute minimum of drawings, sometimes seemingly far too many, in a deliberate way to achieve a curious overall effect. In that sense it reminded me of Mitsuo Iso's earlier work. But here it had an aura of mystical strangeness to it that is entirely Miyazawa's. Everything about it screamed someone with a ground-up approach to his animation, someone dedicated to creating a new kind of movement all his own, and in the end that's what I most want to see in animation.

Fortunately he hasn't been idle since then. Most recently his animation of the opening, this time, of the XXXHolic movie had just as much of an impact on me when I first saw it. It's the kind of animation would have made me snort milk through my nose if I had been drinking milk. Usually only Ohira or Yuasa bits are good enough to do that to me. Again there was that thrilling constant but limited movement, watching which you could tell he'd drawn it all himself. That feeling of watching an unpredictable continuum of motion unfolding before your eyes is perhaps one of the things that defines Miyazawa. And then there were the inexplicable moments, like where Watanuki has several arms, as if in some kind of a broken homage to an old animation cliche. Then he makes the character's head balloon to an improbable size, as if the ghostly miasma had magnified it. Combine all that madness with Mizushima's great planning for the scene and it's a great example of directing-animation symbiosis. Since the days of Guu Mizushima's been making good use of interesting animators like Yuichiro Sueyoshi and now Miyazawa and others, which is one of the things I like about him. I was hoping Miyazawa would be effectively cast in the TV series, and it seems he's already in ep 3 with more Miyazawa madness.

When it comes to animating amorphous masses, Miyazawa may be the king. I recently got the chance to see his work in the Popolo Crois 2 game. I was familiar with 1, headed by Satoru Utsunomiya with Miyazawa and Iso involved, and always wanted to see 2, headed by Nishio, though the only animator that really caught my eye in the sequel was Miyazawa. And watching it, in the end it was only Miyazawa's part that really packed a punch. It's all extremely carefully made, but somehow lifeless in a way the first wasn't - except for Miyazawa's part. He animated a giant monster emerging from a globe in the first game. He seems to be a specialist at animating large organic objects like that. Here he did the same again, but this time it seems that only his part was also storyboarded by himself, and what he does is to maneuver the camera around this giant thing dripping goop like the God Soldier in Nausicaa to give himself the opportunity to get up close and personal with the object so that he can animate it from all these difficult angles that any other animator would have surely avoided like the plague. Instead, he relishes in the complexity of the angles as an opportunity to convey just how large the object is, and draws layer upon layer of the undulading and pulsating fluid mass. That knack for knowing how to create a sense of space by layout and by taking control of every element on the screen with his animation is a trait he shares with Iso.

The latest piece by Miyazawa has come in the much talked about new Doraemon film. Miyazawa is also in the great new Ohira-influenced third Blood+ op by the young animator whose work I'd been impressed with in the Tsubasa Chronicle film, Naoyoshi Shiotani. Miyazawa had just come from doing prop design on the latter film. He's also done a few other openings. In 2001 he did the second op of Parappa the Rapper, which showcases his imaginative side rather than his skill as a mover (though the part with the stems coming up is very Miyazawa), but before that in 1999 he singlehandedly animated the Gakuen Senki Muryo opening, which presumably moves a bit more. His animation for the second Prince of Tennis op (presumably everything but the stills) certainly moves quite a bit and quite nicely, in a way that is identifiably Miyazawa, which is nice to see in such a context.

There were very few scenes in Millennium Actress that stood out stylistically, quite unlike Kon's latest film, but one of the few that I'd always wondered about was the scene in the snow near the end. I always loved the way she trudges through the snow there, the way the lapel of her coat flaps in the wind. It was all clearly drawn and moving in a way very different from the rest, and there was an incredible realism there despite the lower detail of drawing and fluidity. I didn't know Miyazawa back then, so I didn't immediately identify it to him, but I think it must have clicked in me around the time of Dead Leaves. I don't know when his stylistic 'awakening' occurred, but I'm guessing it must have been sometime in the years immediately preceding Millennium Actress.

Another of Miyazawa's bits I remember being able to spot in Kon's work was in Paranoia Agent. Ep 4 was drawn almost entirely by Michio Mihara, but that's a lot of work for one person, and not surprisingly there were a few shots that he just couldn't get around to in time, and those were left to... Miyazawa. I'll leave it up to your collective imagination to figure out what part he did. It's fairly quirky and unmistakable in terms of the movement, so it should not be too difficult to spot.

Other than that, I also recall liking the animation of the tennis court scene in ep 1 of Beck, and in retrospect it seems likely that it was his bit. Maruyama Tomo did the dog and Matsumoto the flashback, so process of elimination leaves him. And in the natsukashii department, I see now that Miyazawa was involved in another one of my early faves alongside Sazan Eyes, the early NG Knight OVAs. I've completely forgotten almost everything about them by now, so I'd like to see them again, especially to pick out Miyazawa's part, but they're impossible to find. Wish I hadn't thrown out those tapes. I'm not sure I could identify his work at this early stage, though. Even earlier he did quite a lot of work on the famous third version of Gegege no Kitaro involving folks like Iso, which seems to make it clear how it came about that the two worked together animating the same section of the original Popolo Crois game. An interesting thing is that Iso is always listed last and Miyazawa always first in Gegege no Kitaro. Iso likes to think out his work, while Miyazawa seems to try to find a stride and kick out the drawings. Perhaps this early experience together helped to create that curious feeling of kinship I get from the work of the two.

He seems to have started out inbetweening in the mid-80s, so he's now entering his third decade as an animator. I look forward to seeing where Yasunori Miyazawa will go in the future.

This list is clearly seriously incomplete. I'll keep adding to it as I find stuff.

1988
   Gegege no Kitaro #33, 47, 71, 95, 100, 107 (AD/KA)
   Gegege no Kitaro: Jigoku Hen #3 (AD/KA)

1993
   NG Knight Lamune & 40 DX #1

1995
   Tanoshii Moomin Ikka 12, 19, 27, 32, 38, 44, 49, 57, 63 (KA) 72 (KA+D)

1996
   Legend of Crystania (AD)

1998
   Slime Adventures

1999
   Wild Arms TV (visual design)
   Gakuen Senki Muryo (op animation)

2000
   Jin-Roh
   Popolo Crois II game

2002
   Millennium Actress
   Prince of Tennis op 1 & 2, #30, 39, 44, 46, 50

2004
   Dead Leaves

2005
   Beck #1
   Windy Tales op, #1
   XXXHolic movie
   Tsubasa Chronicle (prop design)

2006
   Doraemon: Nobita's Dinosaur 2006
   XXXHolic TV #1, 3