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 2007, 06

Thursday, September 6, 2007

10:01:15 pm , 808 words, 2527 views     Categories: Animation, Animator

Masahiro Ando

An animator I've mentioned a few times in the past in passing is going to be making his debut as a feature director pretty soon - Masahiro Ando 安藤真裕. (I include the kanji here to avoid confusion, as there is another well-known animator named Masahiro Ando, spelled 安藤正浩.) Ando is directing a film called Sword of the Stranger for Bones.

I became a fan of Masahiro Ando the animator mainly through his work on the Shin-chan films. Along with Masaaki Yuasa and Hiroyuki Nishimura, he provided some of the most exciting animation in the first handful of films, including the swordfight in the field in Mitsuru Hongo's 1995 Unkokusai movie and the hand-to-hand combat with the woman at the end of Keiichi Hara's 1998 Buta no Hizume movie. He was also involved in all of the other films (apart from the first) up until 2000's Jungle film, though I can't recall what he did in the others as it's been years since I've seen them.

Occasionally since then I've run across his name in other things and found the work to be equally enjoyable, such as the first episode of the IG OVA Bakuen Campus Guardres, or Osamu Dezaki's Hemingway Lupin TV special, and I've noticed that he was involved in a number of other projects where I had seen his great work without realizing it, such as Jin-Roh, where he animated some of the gunfights in the film, and the Cowboy Bebop film, where he animated the latter half of the climactic fight in the tower, which scene I had previously thought to be entirely the work of Yutaka Nakamura. Apparently he animated the basketball sequence in episode 1 of Oniisama he, and the scene with the Spear of Longinus in the Eva movie. He was in Memories and Metropolis. He even worked on Masaaki Yuasa's Slime Adventure pilot film, which was perhaps a legacy of their work together on the movies. He's been pretty active.

Masahiro Ando was clearly one of the great animators of the period, but didn't seem to get that much recognition until recently. He seemed born to create action animation, with great instinct for thrilling choreography, and the patience to fill his scenes with lots of dense, hairpin precise, nuanced movement. The action felt realistic, with a great sense for weight making the punches and lunges feel convincing, but at the same time the sheer variety of the moves outdid a Jackie Chan film and did things you could only have done in animation.

I kind of lost track of Masahiro Ando the animator in recent years, and the reason apparently was that he had been making the transition to directing. He hasn't animated much in the last few years, instead mainly working as an episode director and storyboarder on a lot of things, primarily for Bones, such as the Full Metal Alchemist movie and TV series, Eureka Seven, Rahxephon and Wolf's Rain, even as far back as King Gainer. Not having watched much of these shows, Masahiro Ando the director was unknown to me, but I'm guessing there is probably some stuff worth discovering in there. I've mentioned in the past how often it seems like the best animators turn into the best directors somewhere down the line, creating films that work first and foremost on the visual level and on the animated level, and Ando is yet another animator who seems likely to head down that road, in his own particular way.

I wasn't aware of this until recently, but Ando also has a few openings to his credit that show off a more polished side to Ando that I wasn't aware of. He animated and directed the Orphen and Hariken Polymer openings, and co-animated the Monster Rancher and Medarot openings. I was particularly happy to find out that he was an animator on the opening of Telecom's Monster Rancher, because it has long been a favorite of mine and I wanted to know who had done it. I thought it showcased Telecom at its best, with that fluid and tricky through-conceived motion. I don't know to what extent he was involved in Telecom, but perhaps he trained there. He apparently started out at Osamu Dezaki's Annapuru Studio.

I'm looking forward to the film because I'm sure it will be an explosion of great action animation up to the level of everything Ando himself has done as an animator up until now. It would be shocking if Yutaka Nakamura weren't involved, and indeed it seems he's in for a large chunk. It will be interesting to see the results of this meeting of two of the best action animators of the last decade. And more simply, it will be interesting to see what kind of a film this great animator makes. These decisive turning points in an animator's career are filled with suspense and anticipation.