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, 21

Monday, August 21, 2006

10:15:19 pm , 754 words, 1461 views     Categories: Animation, Kemonozume, TV, Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Kemonozume #3

The question of whether they were going to be able to maintain the look and feel of the early episodes over the span of the entire series was answered by this ep in a satisfactory way. It seems that we are instead to see a handful of interesting individuals called in who have their own style that is a 'fit' within the framework of Yuasa's and Ito's stylistic base.

This episode was again tremendously satisfying, but completely different from what has come before in both directing and animation. Yet it remains Kemonozume. It works on its own and is a different interpretation of how to approach telling this story.

Director Atsushi Takahashi (who is also the assistant to the director here, and was heavily involved on PA) has a style here that is much slower, more lyrical and about savoring moments rather than creating the sort of strong drive that I would have expected for the urgent situation in which the protagonists find themselves. I found that the scene with the umbrellas best captured his talent for the creation of wondrous moments when you are carried along by a feeling rather than a naturalistically presented dramatic situation. A mood that says more than words could. The malevolent voice of the furious Kazuma overlaid over the moody rain-soaked nightscape made the scene literally hair-raising. It's a very different approach but one that is welcome. It fills out the world in a different direction, giving it more breadth. That is exactly what I wanted to see. Interesting takes on Yuasa's world by talented remixers.

It was a wonderful surprise to see that Nobutoshi Ogura was the animation director. And indeed, it was as if an episode of Windy Tales had wandered into the series. Ogura flexed his muscle throughout the ep, which was filled with his unique, tasty drawings. He hasn't so much adapted himself to what Ito was doing in the first ep as simply done what comes naturally to him, and what do you know, he winds up fitting in just fine. It's a very different look, but I recall loving precisely the "sketchy", loose-limbed feeling of what he did in Windy Tales, and so he was clearly a natural candidate to join the team here. His characters are not about the gritty drawing and powerfully observed gestures of Ito. They're much more cartoonish and warm, little doll-like figures with clean, plump forms with tapered limbs. It's not a style I would actually have associated with Yuasa, but he's certainly not far in degrees of separation considering how obviously influenced by Ohira he has to have been. It's an intricate web that all comes together beautifully. It's a no-brainer. He had to join the party.

And look who else dropped in. Satoru Utsunomiya. Fantastic seeing the opening drawn by him. I wonder who decided on that particular casting? Yuasa or someone from this ep? Again a perfect opening jab. No burying him in the middle of an episode or correcting his drawings so that maybe, just hopefully, they won't notice it looks a little different. Wham. Utsunomiya. Also just the length to allow him to get the scene down perfectly to his taste so that hopefully he won't go back and correct it afterwards... This series strikes me as having the vigor of a rough sketch, so I wouldn't want to see that vigor erased by cleaning it up. Utsunomiya's style is again entirely his own, but the variety of styles somehow doesn't jar at all in this series. They've created the perfect ether in which to allow the best animators to cohabit uncompromised. I was holding out hope that maybe he'd do a whole ep later on, but that seems a little less likely now.

Another great surprise was to see Koichi Arai in there. I have to wonder if he's not the one who did that video game. Who else might come in, I'm starting to wonder now. I don't want to start naming names, so I'll just savor the suspense and the possibilities. Never has there been a series in which each episode seemed so filled with the promise of an awesome surprise.

The story progressed lingeringly, dropping bewildering clues. A giant wandering the streets?! Expect the unexpected. Was that a dream? It was amusing to see Yuka's grandfather's house lined with sadoerotic paraphernalia, reminding of both jii-chan from Mind Game and that Mickey cosplayer from Cat Soup. And that guy in the train sure as heck reminded me of someone.