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: September 2006, 21

Thursday, September 21, 2006

12:32:30 am , 658 words, 1816 views     Categories: Animation, Kemonozume, TV, Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Kemonozume #5

I'm a little late with the next ep, which I've by now had the chance to watch a few times. I usually try to write out my comments after the second watching. Impressions are most vivid after the first, but more balanced after the second. The fifth episode provided a number of happy surprises. First of all, it was nice to see things back at a high level in terms of the animation and directing. This was an entirely satisfying episode. Animation was solid and interesting throughout, with several great little bits. The story in particular was interesting, veering away from what I had assumed would be the main narrative to focus on the changes undertaking the Kifuken dojo. Instead of a linear story of love on the run, we see the story developing from various perspectives, shedding light from different angles. It's almost as if, rather than characters being the protagonists, the era the characters inhabit is the main subject. With this episode we can begin to see the historical allegory aspect of the series a little more clearly. Since the beginning of the series it was clear that they were setting out to make a series that felt very ... Showa. I don't know how else to put it. Literally Showa is the period from 1925-1989, but really Showa is more about the feeling of the times during the middle of the last century - it's the atmosphere the hippies in the Adult Empire Shin-chan film were out to recapture. The soft texture of the screen, the old placards, the street-oriented feeling of life - it feels like something you'd see in an old movie starring Tora-san or something. The transformation of the traditional institution of the Kifuken into a private company is a great parallel for all of the deep-rooted changes that overtook the country during that period. The grungy, handmade background art also helps bring out the whole Showa atmosphere quite nicely.

In terms of the animation, the big surprise was to find none other than Hisashi Mori in the ep, providing a stupefying shot that was everything I've wanted to see from the man and more - just not quite in the show I expected to see it in. I should have seen it coming. With Mori's indomitably personal approach to line and timing, I can't think of anyone else doing regular TV work who seems a better candidate stylistically for working on this show. Looking at his shot here, it's clear that Mori is going the way of Ohira. Mori's growth over the last few years has been amazing. Yuasa obviously did not miss this new face doing work right up his alley. Seeing some of my favorite animators whom I've never seen work on the same show before working here side by side is thrilling and moving. A face I wasn't familiar with did the pre-opening animation - Hiroyuki Aoyama. It was completely different from everything else I've seen in the show, but truly excellent, with just the nuance and delicacy and craftsmanly skill I would have expected from one of the animation directors of Mamoru Hosoda's latest film. I don't think I would have been able to pick out his work had I seen it elsewhere - and I probably have - so it was great to be able to see him given the chance to a discrete scene completely in his own style like this. The "avants" are turning out to pack great little surprises in each episode. Watching Crystania got me to fantasizing about Yasunori Miyazawa participating in the series. He would be a perfect fit. And I was surprised to hear that apparently the ep by Osamu Kobayashi (#7) might be a solo ep like Mihara's. On his site Kobayashi mentioned something I'd been wondering about for a while - who animated the awesome bit of prestidigitation with the coin in #1. It was by none other than Yuasa himself.