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: January 2008, 22

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

10:29:07 am , 627 words, 3409 views     Categories: Animation

Hakaba Kitaro op

Haven't seen much interesting anime lately, but I was looking forward to the new late-night show Hakaba Kitaro in the same Noitamina time-slot as Mononoke to see if they might be able to finally do Shigeru Mizuki justice. I've seen a few of the previous anime adaptations of his work, and perhaps I'm just too much of a fan of Mizuki's brilliant manga, but it's uncanny how not a single one of them seems to be willing to try to come close to his drawing style. Clearly people love the stories he's telling, but people seem unwilling, almost afraid, to try to reproduce his drawings. Even apart from the surface look of the adaptations, I find that people have almost uniformly ignored the bitter, biting irony that underlies much of his work in favor of catering to children. It's dumbed down, in other words.

I haven't read the original story on which this anime is based, as this anime is purportedly based on the very earliest serialization of the Kitaro character's adventures from 1959, but the storytelling doesn't strike me as feeling particularly like the Mizuki that I know. Certainly that would not detract from enjoying the show on its own, as it has an amusing retro look and feel to it that is something of a novelty and can be enjoyed on its own. The director obviously put a lot of work into the first episode that I sampled, creating a tense but fun and camp atmosphere of retro horror. But it just didn't strike me as feeling particularly Mizuki. And on the visual plane I found that the new adaptation completely missed the mark. The drawings have little to do with Mizuki, which to me was a real disappointment, as that's one of the things I've been hoping to see done right one of these days.

Except for the op. When I saw the op, I felt like they'd finally fulfilled my wishes and might be going with a look and directing style that was closer to Mizuki's original. I thought the op might be a sign they might be doing something closer to his drawings in the actual show - because here, after all, they were using his own drawings in the opening. Regardless of the content of the show itself, I loved the opening and thought it was a great piece on its own. The images were wonderfully matched to the catchy music, and finally we can see Mizuki's drawings brought alive in animation - at least in a sense. I scoured the credits to find out who did the op, but no luck. No credits for the op. So I've been wondering all this time.

Well, I was surprised to discover today (from a post by the color designer of the op) that the opening drawings were not in fact Mizuki's original drawings from the manga. They were all drawn by another person in a style so closely mimicking Mizuki's drawings that they'd fooled me. The person who did it? None other than Takashi Hashimoto. To add to the joy, the opening itself was directed by Kenji Nakamura. So we have the Mononoke team handling the op. Suddenly it made sense why I loved the opening so much. Although it's disappointing that they didn't use exactly the same team to make the show, in which case it probably would have been exactly what I had always been hoping for, it was gratifying to know that, at least in principle, yes, it is possible for someone to draw in Mizuki's style and bring his images alive in animation. It just takes an immense talent like Hashimoto. What a tremendous shame that at the very least Hashimoto wasn't kept on for the next Noitamina show.