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: November 2008, 25

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

01:37:35 am , 1143 words, 3854 views     Categories: Animation, Misc, TV

Recent viewing

Just a quick post to mention a few things I've seen recently.

Soul Eater 34 was great, peppered with lots of exciting animation and overall simply feeling very tight in every aspect, even more than usual. This was an unusual episode. It was storyboarded by Tensai Okamura, and directed by a kind of loose-cannon figure in the industry right now, Hiroshi Ikehata, who was behind Hayate no Gotoku ep 39 among other episodes that stand out for their craziness the way Imaishi's did before he went big. It was a Telecom-outsourced episode, with Koichi Suenaga and Taichi Furumata acting as animation directors and my favorite Telecom animator, Yoshinobu Michihata, heading the animators. I was happy to even see Christophe Ferreira, aka lebuta on the forums, in the episode. More than three years ago I wrote a post about a series he was trying to get produced called Buta. I don't know what came of it, but it's nice to see that Christophe is still involved with Telecom. Can't help but wonder what he might have done here... Anyway, congrats on the nice ep, Christophe. Fellow Frenchman David Encinas was even there. I think he started out at Ghibli, at least judging by this video, so it's interesting to see that he's at Telecom now. Great to see more westerners infiltrating the ranks.

From the look of it, about half of the animators were Telecom and the other half were brought on by Ikehata, for example Masakazu Sunagawa, Ron Kamiya and Hokuto Sakiyama, who are regulars on the episodes he does. The trait that unifies the latter three, besides the wildness of their animation, is that they're all extremely new faces who have only been working as key animators for a few years now, yet already exhibit a flamboyantly individual style. They're among a deluge of new faces that have appeared on the scene in the last few years creating idiosyncratic animation right off the bat, without going through the usual process of development. It almost feels like we're seeing a paradigm shift happening right now, with the way some new animator seems to freakishly appear out of the blue with a fully formed style every other week. It's a new phenomenon that obviously has a lot to do with technology. The abundance of information available today on the internet and the deluge of media allow people with similar tastes to study their influences in more depth than ever before, as well as copy them and get their fan work out there where it can be seen and communicate with like-minded fans. A lot of these people started out as gif animators, including Hiroshi Ikehata himself, and I think that accounts a lot for the style of animation they produce, both its good and negative aspects. Sakiyama, for example, is a total Ohira epigone, (heck, proudly so), as you can see from what he did in Macademy Wasshoi 11 - and for good or ill, that can be said about a lot of these people. But then again, Ohira himself started out as a Yamashita epigone, so hopefully some of these people will eventually go beyond merely being imitators. (the animation at the beginning of Wasshoi 11 is by another Ikehata regular, Toshiyuki Sato, who adopts a Kanada-inspired splattery style that seems maddeningly pervasive among this young generation)

Interestingly enough, just before this there were two interesting episodes of Naruto. The team of storyboarder/director Toshiyuki Tsuru and animation director Hirobumi Suzuki, who were responsible for the only non-Wakabayashi Matsumoto episode, 48, did a one-two punch of eps 82 and 85 of Shippuuden. 82 is a quiet episode featuring long static shots that showcase the drama side of Tsuru, while 85 is more what one would expect from the show - a nice action episode with lots of nice fighting animation. Norio Matsumoto is there, but unlike the Wakabayashi episodes, he didn't do as big a chunk, and there are a lot of other animators, so it's a very different beast. His part doesn't even feel very polished. And overall, it does not have the impact of Wakabayashi's episodes. But it's still nice enough. Main character designer and super animator Tetsuya Nishio is there as an animator, apparently for the first time in the actual show. I catch a mild whiff of Sky Crawlers in his drawings here, so I guess this is one of the first things he did afterwards. Connecting to what I was saying above, gif-animator-turned-pro Shingo Yamashita is there after his stint on Birdy, as is Naruto regular Hiroyuki Yamashita and veteran Tokuyuki Matsutake.

Speaking of Atsushi Wakabayashi, it's too bad that we probably won't be seeing any more Naruto episodes from him, since he'll be busy for a good while directing his new show, but it'll be interesting to see what he does with his show. I'm looking forward to it. But I'm also kind of afraid. I've seen people who do great work as solo storyboarders/episode directors turn to series directors, and it doesn't work. What's great is when he is the one working to cram quality into a single episode, not when he's supervising other people doing that. The job is fundamentally different. But it will still be worth looking forward to.

Michiko & Hacchin 4 had what I presume to be some animation by Takaaki Wada that was an interesting parody of his work on Kaleido Star - an adult version of the vivid and rich dance animation he was so well known for. Otherwise I'm surprised to find myself alienated by the show.

Ep 6 of Casshern had some surprise fight animation by Norio Matsumoto. I particularly enjoyed ep 7. It had a really nostalgic feel to it, like the kind of show they used to make but don't make anymore - something that is obviously quite a conscious thing, as they went out of their way to get Mami Koyama to play the part of the tragic female character. It's wonderful to be able to hear more Mami Koyama after all these years. It's clear that this role simply needed her voice. She embodies a certain state of mind and personality that no other voice actor does. In Minky Momo and Goshogun it feels as if the roles were written for her, and writer Takeshi Shudo confirmed in interviews that she was a big inspiration. The characters would be unthinkable without her. She helped create those characters, with her husky, sensual, very womanly voice speaking of a new kind of strong female character - a complex blend of philosophical, witty and tragic. Anyway, I quite like the old-school feel Shigeyasu Yamauchi has achieved with the show.

Ep 13 of Xam'd had some rather odd animation where Akiyuki's friend transforms, and I wonder if it wasn't by Kaichiro Terada, another one of these relatively young animators with a perhaps slightly too idiosyncratic style for his experience level.