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: October 2008, 07

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

10:21:19 pm , 737 words, 2842 views     Categories: Animation, Misc, TV

Recent stuff

Speaking of Patrick Bokanowski in my last post, by sheer coincidence I just noticed that the great Aurora festival in Norwich, UK, which will be running a mere month from now from November 12 to 16, has a retrospective of the work of Bokanowski lined up on its program. I sure wish I could go. It would be great to see L'Ange on a big screen, and get to see his other shorts as well.

Just a few desultory comments about recent viewing. Episode 11 of Bones' Xam'd struck me as being among the more convincing so far in terms of the animation of the characters, the quality of directing, and simply the overall feel of the show, though it's a subtle difference. The credits revealed the reason: It was a Denno Coil episode. The director was one of the main rotation directors, Kazuya Nomura, and the animation directors were two of the main rotation animators, Yoshimi Itatsu and Kiyotaka Oshiyama. The episode also featured other Coil regulars like Ayako Hata and Akira Honma.

Of the new season of shows, Casshern Sins stands out for the moment for the work of veteran Toei director Shigeyasu Yamauchi and veteran Toei animation director Yoshihiko Umakoshi. I remember this team from the Digimon Hurricane Touchdown movie they worked on together in 2000, right after Mamoru Hosoda's two films. It wasn't quite up to the level of Hosoda's films, but it had an unexpectedly artsy style. Mamoru Hosoda's style was artsy to begin with, but this was artsy in a different way, more gritty and moody, and more personal feeling, all within the context of kids' fare like Digimon - a quintessentially Toei phenomenon. He struck me as someone who had worked long and hard to establish his style of directing, not just some newcomer trying unusual things, which is apparently the case, as he's been known for his artsy work for many years. The two (Yamauchi & Umakoshi) have actually worked together on a number of projects for Toei like Hana Yori Dango and Ojamajo Doremi, so they're a time-tested team. Umakoshi is a strong baseline animator with a huge range, having handled lots of greatly contrasting material ranging from Jubei-chan to Marmalade Boy to Mushishi to Gag Manga Biyori. He continues to pop up as a lone animator in various places every year, and his animation is always great. This series features the sort of slow, moody directing that Yamauchi is known for, combined with Umakoshi's typically rich, dynamic, exciting animation, which here is tinted with a sort of old-school Toei rough style that is very nice to watch. Yamauchi likes to process the screen heavily to create a hazy texture, and uses these odd angles and slow camera movement, which together with Umakoshi's animation makes for nice visuals that keep you engaged. It's a great combination that works well. The odd thing is that Casshern was a Tatsunoko show, Yamauchi and Umakoshi were Toei people, and this show is produced by Madhouse. And what do you know, the combination is gold. Madhouse continues to bring together people from all over the industry to create interesting projects.

Case in point, one of the Madhouse projects I've been curious about is their upcoming Stitch, as it represents an unprecedented situation, with a Disney movie being re-versioned into a Japanese TV series. Masao Maruyama seemed quite enthusiastic about the project, having even gone so far as to say that the Stitch movie was his favorite animated movie of all time. It was nice to discover that the person he turned to to direct the show based on his favorite movie is Masami Hata. I'm just happy to see Hata, who's approaching 70, finally back in the driver's seat with a big project, as it's been ages since he did any major projects, and I was starting to lose hope that I'd ever see another from him. (I still need to see his Mouse film from a few years back to see what kind of work he can turn in now.) So yet again, I have to be grateful to Maruyama for giving one of my favorite creators a chance to do a project. The choice makes obvious sense, as the latter half of Hata's career was almost entirely devoted to working on material of a Western bent in some form or another, or at least quite aloof in tone and look from the dominant industry style.