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.
July 2006
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Archives for: July 2006, 24

Monday, July 24, 2006

11:12:52 pm , 819 words, 2735 views     Categories: Animation, TV

Flag

I had a look at the reviews for Mamoru Hosoda's new film, just to see how they compared to the reviews for Goro's, and the contrast was very revealing. Page upon page one one-star reviews for the latter, and page upon page of five-star reviews for Tokikake. The reviews are usually well thought out for both films, outlining convincingly why each film deserved its extreme rating. One anecdote sticks in the mind for Hosoda's film. Several reviewers state that not a single person stood up until the end of the credits for Tokikake. Not just most people, but nobody. I think that says a lot. Reading the reviews has made me even more excited about the film. It's that kind of film again - the kind that gets you excited just reading people's enthusiastic reviews. I was hoping Hosoda had made his best film yet, and it sounds like he has. The irony is that it's going to be seen by very few people, while the other will be seen by many.

I watched the first episode of Ryosuke Takahashi's Flag. I was tremendously impressed by the visuals and the tone of the piece. It was just what I wanted from Takahashi. A piece of animation completely grounded in today's specific realities, namely the realities of conflict zones, without naive melodrama, and not adhering to dramatic formula, but flowing somewhat randomly, like a documentary. The gimmick of every shot being seen through a camera is used effectively and does not get annoying, as we regularly switch perspectives between different lenses and characters, and the story is interspersed with 'photographs' throughout. The piece acts as a sort of homage to the art and the power of photography, and as an amateur photographer I really appreciated that aspect. The story is centered around the myth of the holy grail of photographs - the photograph that is able to change the world for the better. I would have liked them to dig deeper into this concept, and really give a meditation on the utility of photography in this day and age, focusing on the feelings of the photographer protagonist as she makes the transition to the conflict zone, and also for them to use the basic situation as an opportunity to do some geopolitical commentary, but I think that may be asking a bit too much, as the story appears likely to go in a more adventure-based direction. It's probably the closest we're going to get, so I'm going to follow it. My major disappointment was why the hell they had to have a damn bipedal robot to wreck the whole atmosphere. Come on, we're not in the 80s anymore Ryo.

I was also intrigued by the animation. The way they went out of their way to use frames to express stretch and squash, and the whole atmosphere of the movement screamed non-Japanese animation, but it didn't make sense, because there was no way they would have outsourced to America or something. Seeing the credits made it all fall into place. Kazuyoshi Takeuchi. He's probably the only animator I'm a fan of even though I've only seen one scene of his work. He animated that great German Shepherd scene in Akira, in the traffic jam. It's an interesting sequence, because it's full of incredible exaggerated but fluid and dynamic poses and movement of a kind that you don't see in the other sequences of the film. I remember reading that the other animators thought it was going to look ridiculous when they saw his drawings as he was in the process of animating the scene, but they were completely surprised and impressed by how it looked in motion. It's an interesting example of that wondrous aspect of animation - that you can't tell how a sequence is going to work in motion just looking at a single drawing. Put it all together, and suddenly it comes alive. Well, the reason for him having this completely different approach from the rest of the animators is that he was trained working on co-productions like Wuzzles and Duck Tales of all things. I'd long wanted to see more of his work, because I'm interested in animators like this who straddle these two worlds, as Tomonaga does with Telecom's co-productions, but he's quite elusive and this is the first time I've seen his name since Akira. The acting is very western in style, but kind of toned down a bit, so I think it strikes a nice balance. It's fascinating to compare how much his entire philosophy towards movement differs from that of his compatriots. I'd be curious to know how he came to go in such a direction. This would have been in the mid-80s, in the heydey of Telecom, and immediately after the closing of Sanrio Films, the two Japanese studios of the day that sort of straddled the Pacific, so to speak.