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, 30

Sunday, April 30, 2006

10:40:14 pm , 777 words, 15625 views     Categories: Animation

Stylistic evolution in Crayon Shin-chan

Ogawa Hiroshi, 1992Shizuka Hayashi, 1996

Crayon Shin-chan acts as a kind of handy petri dish for examining the stylistic evolution of a handful of animators over a number of years. Whereas most animators, freelance or studio-tied, work on a variety of shows over time, making it harder to pin down sylistic changes throughout the years, the Shin-chan TV series was drawn largely by the same group of twenty or so people throughout the fifteen years it's been broadcast since 1992, with a few figures dropping in and out along the way, so it's easy to follow the evolution of each figure as they draw the same characters over this unusually long time frame.

Generally speaking, there appears to be a basic trend of moving away from the rounded look of the early episodes, presumably based closely on the original comic, to a more angular and individualistic approach where individual style is more prone to being expressed. Not all of the animators develop a strikingly individual style, but some do, and even those who don't can nevertheless be differentiated, showing that individuality will out even in commercial animation; it's just harder to tell elsewhere.

From the little I've sampled of the early episodes, it looks like a regular show from the period, with somewhat flat, timid lines, without the traits that came to make the show look rather different from everything out there - the frilly lines, bold angular shapes, tapered limbs, personal approach to movement.

But even at this early stage you can differentiate between the animators, even though they're basically adhering to the model. In this early stage you can see people like Shizuka Hayashi and Masami Otsuka, the two regulars who later developed perhaps the most personal approach to drawing and movement in the show (alongside less frequent participants like Sueyoshi and Yuasa), still drawing somewhat like everyone else, though you can maybe catch an embryonic whiff of their later style.

Compare the early work by Yuichiro Sueyoshi in this ep with his later work in the short feature Made in Saitama (he did the Himawari A-Go-Go section), where he does his moving perspective animation thing for which he had become known by that time. At what time he began to be interested in background animation I don't know, but it was obviously under the influence of Yuasa's background animation for the Chibi Maruko-chan TV series opening and movie sequences and later Shin-chan openings. Shizuka Hayashi developed her own unique style relatively early on in the show, as can be seen in the extreme angularity and great sense for movement in this ep from 1996, and seems to have kept that style fairly evenly since then. (Compare with the most recent work of the two from last year's movie - Sueyoshi / Shizuka.) Masami Otsuka's individualism is said to have varied over the years, but I haven't seen enough of it to be able to comment.

All that said, individuality appears to be to some extent inversely proportional to output, as figures like Hiroshi Ogawa and Zenpo Higuchi, who at first sight have a more anodyne style (Ogawa is the main character designer, so that is only natural), are extremely prolific compared to the other animators. At the beginning it appears Ogawa was bearing much of the brunt of the work because there weren't enough people in rotation, though later the rotation is much more smooth. Hayashi, Otsuka, Yuasa et al. were also the people doing a lot of the animation work on the movies each year, which is probably the main reason why we don't see them as often in the TV series. Shinei knew to siphon their good movers into the films to load them with as much interesting movement as possible. There also appear to be a number of animators not even involved in the TV series but especially kept for the films because of their skill with action scenes, like Masahiro Ando and Hiroyuki Nishimura.

I would be curious to see Masaaki Yuasa's early work, as he was in fact involved right from the beginning, and nobody can be said to have developed in a more extremely personal direction than he has. He did ep 32 part b and c, broadcast 21 December 1992. By that time he had already done the Chibi Maruko-chan shorts and op/ed, which are still among his best work, so I would suspect that his work in the show might be fairly identifiable. Those of you starving for some new Masaaki Yuasa can see the TV series opening he did in 1997, "Nenju Muchi I Want You".

Modulus of Misae Angularity:

Hiroshi Ogawa, 1992 (29c)
Noriyuki Tsutsumi, 1992 (23c)
Masami Otsuka, 1992 (23a)
Shizuka Hayashi, 1996 (193a)