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: August 2006, 17

Thursday, August 17, 2006

10:56:00 am , 1412 words, 3077 views     Categories: Animation, Animator

Shizuka Hayashi

It's kind of nice that Crayon Shin-chan is finally going to hit North America, although it seems like they're pushing the envelope a litte with the humor. I was curious which episodes they would pick - i.e. if they would pick at least one of the interesting ones - and, as if in answer to that question, the very first clip I see when I open the home page ( is by none other than... guess who?

After being impressed by the good sense of the folks who got Koji Nanke to animate the second opening of Kyoro-chan, I was curious to see the others, and I was equally impressed, though in a different way, by the first opening, which had some absolutely thrilling and incredible movement in it. Curious to know who did it, I looked at the credits only to see a name that seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn't quite put my finger on who it was: Shizuka Takakura. Beside her was listed one of the Crayon Shin-chan mainstays, Yoshihiko Takakura. This suggested that they must be married. I then thought about the only animator Shizuka I know, and finally put two and two together. Takakura is the married name of Shizuka Hayashi, easily my favorite currently active female animator. Bingo. Explained perfectly why the movement in the opening was so incredible.

It appears that Shizuka Hayashi reverts to her husband's name on the rare occasion that she is working on a project in which her husband is not involved. (although he did help a little on the op) For Kyoro-chan, she is also credited as the main character designer, and what little I've seen of the characters from the op looks very interesting. She also appears to have worked as an animator on the show, meaning that she moved her own characters. I'm used to seeing her moving Shin-chan & gang, so I would love to be able to see her finally moving characters of her own creation. The new characters gave her the freedom to try her hand at moving a different kind of character than what she was used to with Shin-chan, which she had been working on for 8 years by that time and no doubt started becoming a little tired of (Kyoro-chan dates from 2000). Judging by her work on the opening, it seems like she revelled in the opportunity, pushing her unique style of movement to new heights that weren't possible within the vehicle of Shin-chan, so I would indeed be very curious to see the show itself.

The show was directed by Mitsuru Hongo, director of the early Shin-chan films. There is an even more specific connection. First of all, Shizuka and Yoshihiko started out working at the subcontracting studio Jungle Gym, founded in 1976. Jungle Gym is currently home to Takatoshi Omori and Hideo Hariganeya, two of the main Shin-chan animators. Shizuka and her husband left Jungle Gym to go freelance, and joined the so-called "Studio" Megaten, founded in 1992. Like Studio Hercules, Studio Megaten is not an actual studio, but simply a casual nexus for the gathering of a handful of friends/like-minded creators. Mitsuru Hongo was one of the founding members of the collective, which also counts among its members animator Hiroyuki Nishimura, currently writer of IGPX. I know Nishimura more as an animator who provided a number of memorable action scenes for the Shin-chan films, including the fight in the early Unkokusai movie where adult Shin-chan battles the robot.

Hongo and Shizuka actually go back to the days before Shin-chan. Hongo had been impressed with Shizuka's animation of one of the episodes of the Fujiko F Fujio series Chinpui, and in the years immediately afterwards both set to work on the Shin-chan films and TV series, Hongo as director and Shizuka as one of the main rotating animators. Shizuka also provided animation for Casmin, the TV series Hongo directed the year after Kyoro-chan, on which another Shin-chan pillar from the early days, Masaaki Yuasa, could also be seen acting in the novel role of set designer. Yuasa himself has stated that he prefers Shizuka's Buriburizaemon to his own. Shizuka presumably must have animated the original Buriburizaemon episode, when he comes to life from one of Shin-chan's scribbles.

Shizuka not only worked on the Shin-chan films and TV episodes; she also animated several of the openings, namely the third and fourth. The first two were animated by the main character designer, Hiroshi Ogawa. The contrast is interesting. In the first two we have the staid look of the early episodes, with the movement somewhat sparse and lacking in character. In come the third and fourth openings, and we have an explosion of wild movement from Shizuka Hayashi coming up with her own approach to animating these characters, and in the process laying down the basic approach that would go on to define aspects of the animation in the show. For example, she is the one who came up with the idea for that undulating movement in 1s when Shin-chan does his butt dance.

Shizuka remained one of the pillars of both the films and TV series throughout the years, and unlike some of the other animators, she seemed to have a strong sense for her own personal style of movement right from the very beginning. If Masami Otsuka influenced Masaaki Yuasa, and Masaaki Yuasa in turn influenced Yuichiro Sueyoshi, then Shizuka was probably in there right from the beginning as a root inspiration and influence on this sequence of idiosyncratic animators who discovered their styles through working on Shin-chan. Speaking personally, I've always been partial to Shizuka's Ora wa Ninkimono. It's actually the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Shin-chan. Everything in it from the movement to the lyrics to Shin-chan's singing seems to capture the essence of the show.

Kyoro-chan feels like the show in which, after this long history of seeing Shizuka's impressive work as an animator, Hongo finally put her at the head of the team where she deserved to be. The second ending is interesting in this respect. Hongo directed and Shizuka animated the ending. Most interestingly, Hongo also wrote the lyrics. The song begins, "Nice weather today... I'm bored... Maybe I'll draw something..." We then go through the process of drawing a series of dissociated circles, bubbles and zig-zags, after having done which we flip the paper over to see all of these pencil lines come alive into the living character we've just created - Kyoro-chan. The ending closes with the line, "Drawing that made me feel a little happier." It's a moving way of expressing that mysterious attraction of drawing and animating - how just putting down some lines on paper can somehow make us feel better in a cold world. At the same time it seems to be Hongo's way of expressing his admiration for Shizuka's art, and saluting the animators who had provided the raw material behind his work as director for so many years.

In an aside, to complement my earlier post, you can also see stylistic evolution in Shin-chan in microcosm by looking at the sequence of openings, animated by the major animators of the show. We start with main character designer Hiroshi Ogawa for the first two openings, and see none of the manic movement or extreme drawings that we see in the later work. Apparently even Ogawa himself evolves into a more accentuated style over the years, as if to match the evolution going on around him. Then comes Shizuka's work in opening 3 and 4, still somewhat close to Ogawa's style of drawing than to her own later style full of extreme deformations, but already at this early stage showing her own highly developed personal style of movement. Then we get Yuasa, who himself also had his own personal approach right from the very beginning, but seemed to take in a bit from Shizuka and Otsuka from working on the show. Sueyoshi had a very subdued style in his early work, but after a few years he begins to show Yuasa's clear influence. In his later work he finally managed to go beyond this influence to come to his own valid personal style.

OP 1: Doubutusen wa Taihen Da (Hiroshi Ogawa)
OP 2: Yume no End (Hiroshi Ogawa)
OP 3: Ora wa Ninkimono (Shizuka Hayashi)
OP 4: Pakappa de Go (Shizuka Hayashi)
ED 3: Do-shite (Masaaki Yuasa & Masami Otsuka?)
ED 5: Parijona Daisakusen (Masaaki Yuasa)
OP 7: Damedame no Uta (Yuichiro Sueyoshi)