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: May 2006, 09

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

05:02:25 pm , 604 words, 2880 views     Categories: Animation, OVA

SFA Generations

A little curiosity that many people may have overlooked over here is the Street Fighter Alpha: Generations OVA released here not long ago. Normally I would hardly have been curious about it, but the preview caught me off-guard. It was easily some of the best fighting action I've ever seen. My first reaction on seeing it was surprise that Shinji Hashimoto was involved and I hadn't heard about it. In fact, he's not, and most of the animators were unknown to me, but anyone interested in that school of animation will want to have a look at this, because this is obviously of that lineage.

The direcor is Ikuo Kuwana, who started out at Ghibli but quickly escaped and went freelance. I'd seen his name before, but didn't know anything about him. It feels like with this film he's officially announced his presence. It's his directing debut, but he shows that he can create some potent and convincing drama. I came away from the film feeling he had studied Hamaji's Resurrection very closely. It feels like his attempt to make the new Hamaji's Resurrection, both in terms of the realistic movement and the drawings that change dramatically from one animator to the next, and in terms of the subdued realistic directing.

The drawings are wonderfully stylized in certain cases, like the old man pictured here, with lines well used to create realistic features. In close-ups in particular they put great effort into little details that differentiate each face. It's curious, though, because at other times the drawings are sub-par and clearly went uncorrected, and it becomes obvious that they must simply not have had time to get around to it because they spent such an inordinate amount of time on the rest of the drawings. The unevenness actually feels good. It makes for a nice variety of touch.

Naturally the action is the main attraction, but what makes me happy with the piece as a whole is that the directing and drama are fairly well handled, which wasn't a given with this material. Early on, the narrative jumps without warning between different times the way the first ep of Hakkenden did, which can make it difficult to follow, but it's still effectively done, and actually reinforces the parallels. According to the interview on the disc, the voice-actors didn't understand the character interrelations until they talked about it in the interview. (I'm very disappointed that they interviewed the voice actors but failed to interview the director.)

I can't identify who did which scene because I've never heard of most of the animators except for Hiroyuki Imaishi, whose simple drawings make his scene stand out from the rest. He actually sticks out, because the emphasis otherwise is on drawing lots of lines to create realistic-seeming detail, at least in a Fist of the North Star kind of way. What's interesting about the drawings here is that they're a step beyond that sort of stereotyped drawing in a more realistic direction.

Perhaps one of the reasons I didn't hear about it was that it hasn't even been released in Japan yet. I don't think I've ever heard of such a thing. Ikuo Kuwana has shown that he could do some interesting work with this piece, so I look forward to seeing what he does after this.

Street Fighter Alpha Generations
Director & Character Design:
Ikuo Kuwana 桑名郁朗

Mitsuhiro Yamada 山田光洋

Animation Directors:
Masahiro Kurio 栗尾昌宏
Toshimitsu Kobayashi 小林利光
Daisuke Takemoto 武本大介

Key Animation:
Hajime Shimomura 下村一
Takeo Oda 小田剛生
Hiroyuki Imaishi 今石洋之
Takehiko Matsumoto
Kazuhiro Sato
Daizen Komatsuda 小松田大全
Kazuhiro Ota 大田和寛
Akinori Hosaka
Tsutomu Kikuchi 菊池勉
Shinji Shimizu
Yukikazu Yamagishi 山岸徹一
Keiichi Sasaba 笹場啓一
Takahiro Nakayama 中山岳洋
Masahiro Higashio