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.
May 2007
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Archives for: May 2007, 13

Sunday, May 13, 2007

04:19:36 pm , 999 words, 2945 views     Categories: Animation, Denno Coil, TV

Denno Coil #1

Back from my trip, and I just watched Denno Coil 1. Expectations are usually there to be betrayed, and Denno was no exception. It was much more low key than I'd expected, though I'd already read it was very accessible. It treads very carefully ahead while slowly revealing intriguing little elements of the world that are each genuinely interesting when they come up, rather than plunging you headlong into a pool of strange setups that you're forced to accept at face value. Here they slowly lure you in, which works quite well and is a refreshing change from most anime out there. From what I can tell from the first ep, the pacing feels like feature pacing, like a film broken up into small segments, rather than a bunch of small films.

The quality, on the other hand, was just as high as I'd expected. The animation of ep 1 is headed by Katsuya Kondo and Toshiyuki Inoue, two of the major feature animators of the last two decades, with Takeshi Honda as AD. The rest of the animators are good, but not names that might tend to get a lot of notice. It's kind of the polar opposite of Kemonozume. Instead of being all about individualistic and flamboyant animation, it's all about nuance and subtlety. The layout in particular is excellent and helps to bring alive the feeling of presence, the feeling that the characters really inhabit the world on the screen. The pacing combines with the layout and the subtle animation to make the world feel very real. When little electronic glitches appear in a wall, it makes for a rare feeling of genuine surprise and wonder. They reveal just enough and do so in just the right way for you to be left unexpectedly and pleasantly curious to find out how the various details mesh. I came away really wondering what is real and what is virtual, and how the system works. For some odd reason the series reminds me of Doraemon, perhaps because of the setup with kids engaging in adventures with curious gadgets in the streets of the Japanese 'burbs.

Iso was writer and storyboarder, and he was also credited with digital effects. He's credited as creator/writer at the beginning, so either that means he's the main writer or he'll be writing every ep. I'd heard he was going to be doing a lot of digital tinkering throughout the series long ago, and it doesn't surprise me anyway. He's obviously striving for a very specific feeling in the texture of the effects, the mood and everything, and he's going to get his hands dirty to achieve it. He's an animator first and foremost. The first ep had a very nice quiet warm tone with subtle humor that felt very welcoming, kind of a throwback to a quieter and more simple age. The show seems to be a curious combination of the futuristic with the nostalgic. The parts with the laser blast at the beginning and later where the formatting wall is advancing had the same feeling as his work in Rahxephon, so perhaps those were the sections he did. The way digital is used to create patently digital effects on the screen is interesting too. At first I thought it was an encoding glitch. It clashes nicely with the styling scheme of the rest of the screen. The digital effects are very pleasing visually.

The digital effects and animation and everything around the section where Densuke is running towards the exit combined to quite nice effect. And everywhere throughout the episode the character movement was invested with inventive movement and posing that made everything moment interesting. Honda is really amazing. His drawings are always full of surprises, with free and imaginative posing and expressions, loose, with a great feeling in the line. Overall this is definitely quality rarely seen on TV. If the pacing feels cinematic, so does the animation. The animators are feature animators, so it's no surprise. I was so happy to finally see cats well drawn. Another small thing is that I liked the way the clothes felt real and not just pasted onto the characters. When Isako bends down, you can see a gap in the skin where the fabric doesn't reach. And I love the way the hands and fingers were drawn.

I knew I'd have to blog the series when I first heard about it, but this confirms it. It won't be like Kemonozume, where every episode stood out so starkly from the rest that it was pretty easy to blog the series, but I'm sure it will still be rewarding, though I think what will be the real pull of this series is the character interaction, the story, and the minutiae and surprises of the world setup, with the animation at a steady high level. In the end my main feeling coming from this episode is that they've established a unique tone while keeping things at a very accessible level, aimed squarely at general audiences rather than anime fans. I can see where the Ghibli comparisons come in. This is one of the few TV anime I've ever seen that has that sort of broad, neutral audience appeal, at least at this level of quality. I think it's a good thing for this show to have appeared now, since it shows another possible path for the industry, which seems stuck in a rut of fan pandering.

One thing confuses me. It looked like Yasako had a little doll of Oyaji (wearing briefs) hooked onto the zipper of her backpack at the beginning, but she'd obviously never seen Oyaji before Fumie whipped him out... Some kind of meta gag by the staff? And I'm impressed by how Akiko Yajima changed her voice. I would never have known that the voice actor for Shin-chan was playing Kyoko if I hadn't known it beforehand. I guess it's more accurate to say that here we're hearing something closer to her natural voice.