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, 29

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

09:14:44 pm , 847 words, 1182 views     Categories: Animation, TV

Welcome to the NHK #8

While I've been patiently waiting for the new Doraemon movie to come out on DVD, I'd been starving for some new Hisashi Mori, so I was happy to see him in the latest ep of Welcome to the NHK. I actually didn't think he'd work on the show, even though longtime bud Hiroyuki Okuno was involved, so it was a good surprise to see him there.

It was an interesting ep for various reasons. First of all, I've been really enjoying the show so far. The story is going in a more interesting direction than it seemed to be going early on, and it's one of the few series where I find myself genuinely looking forward to each episode. The whole situation with the mother here was pretty well handled. It felt like they got down the dynamic pretty well, though it's all done in passing and they never really dig into things to create depth. It's rare these days that I can actually watch a series with as low an average as this in terms of the animation. It's not that I don't notice it. Watching the animation is like having a stick poked in your eye every few seconds, so it's hard not to notice. But you can turn that around and say it's a good way of getting a nice, lengthy look at just what happens when you have more than a hundred shows being produced at the same time...

I think watching this ep I finally 'got' Hiroyuki Okuno's drawings, after having seen a few of his Speed Grapher eps. Seeing him work on different characters made it possible to bridge the gap, to connect the stylistic dots. I can't say I'm terribly impressed by his drawings, but he did a one-man orchestra job here, so you can't blame him too much. And he's clearly being killed by the animators. He also seems to be moving away from pure animation towards directing. I guess I'm more disappointed that his directing didn't do much for me either. The whole situation was kind of a flashback to that old Mori/Okuno classic Virgin Night, with the protagonists just shown walking around silently together for a while. He does a good job of capturing the awkward, tense, exciting silence of that situation. I guess what Okuno is interested in doing is creating this sort of realistic situation where you can get into the skin of two people through the toned-down atmosphere and pacing. He brings out the slowness and dullness and awkwardness of reality. I remember being struck by how slow Virgin Night was. I thought it was actually a fascinating approach. Life IS slow. Animation compresses so much into such a short span. It was like he was trying to bring that slowness to animation. I can't say it worked perfectly, but it's something I'd like to see well done more often, so it would be nice to see him get better at it. The atmosphere in the second half of the episode was quite nice.

The parts that weren't corrected by Okuno were as bad as ever, but it almost gets to the point where it's kind of endearing, like you can see beginner animators making efforts to get ahead... or not, probably. I wondered what Mori would give us, and watching the episode the shot that most impressed me was the one where the two characters are walking by the port with the seagulls flying by. It's a fantastic shot. I could watch it for hours. I assumed it was Mori. But I'm now less convinced. The guy who's been doing probably the best work on the show is Shingo Natsume, who did ep 4, and he was here. I thought I could spot a few of his shots. And the more I look at that seagull shot, the more I think it's him who did it, if you compare with his drawings elsewhere. I pray to God he keeps going in this direction, because if he does he's on my short-list of new faves. It actually is really reminiscent of Ohira, so I have to wonder if there isn't some kind of conscious influencing going on, or if Mori's prescence influence him in some way. As for Mori, I remember perking up at something or other in the airplane landing that caught my eye... a certain timing that screamed Mori, the manipulation of different frame speeds, so perhaps Mori did that shot. When I give it some thought, timing-wise the airplane shot does seem more Mori than the seagull shot. Curious development to see Shingo steal the show in a Mori ep. Hopefully Mori will be better used next time. The best thing is that this gives hope that maybe there will be a next time in this show. I figure a show with lax oversight like this would actually be a good chance for some ambitious animator to turn the situation on its head and have some fun with it, try out some interesting moves you wouldn't be able to try elsewhere.