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.
February 2009
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
 << < Current> >>
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28  

Who's Online?

  • Guest Users: 6

  XML Feeds

open source blog tool

Archives for: February 2009, 24

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

10:35:00 pm , 3062 words, 13497 views     Categories: Animation, OVA, Movie, TV, Studio: Dove, Director: Toshifumi Takizawa

Dirty Pair

TV Series (1985)
Movie (1987)
OVA (1990)

Dirty Pair was one of the big titles for me back when I was first getting into anime. It probably doesn't get much attention anymore, as the last 'real' installment was made more than 18 years ago, but for people like me who got into anime through fansubs in the early 90s, the Dirty Pair one-offs were fresh and new and among the various titles from the 80s that embodied the mysterious attraction of the form. The movie in particular pushed all the right buttons in terms of what I was wanting to see in my anime at the time, and was stylishly directed and well animated.

Well, I had myself a little Dirty Pair marathon over the last few weeks, and I've now seen every Dirty Pair item ever made. It's a pleasant show to revisit - among the few I've lately been able to watch in its entirety - and its evolution over the five years in which the various installments were in production from 1985 to 1990 offer some insights into the industry during that period.

The director of the TV series from 1985 and the last OVA from 1990 was Toshifumi Takizawa, who more recently will be remembered for having directed Samurai 7, so he serves as a good starting point for examining the series. His directing work seems to act as the guiding spirit for the show, setting the tone at the beginning and making the last statement in the very nice final OVA.

I personally remember Toshifumi Takizawa as having been the line director of my favorite robot anime, the terminal Ideon: Be Invoked movie. Tomino Yoshiyuki is the one who is generally remembered as the director of Ideon overall, and rightfully so. But when it comes to the last movie, reading has led me to realize that, besides animation director Tomonori Kogawa, it's line director Toshifumi Takizawa who was in large part responsible for giving the movie its legendary power and tension. He's the one who did the work of what we usually term director, or 'enshutsu', namely checking the genga, putting together all the material, etc - basically everything after the storyboard.

Takizawa wasn't long after having debuted when he directed the film, having been heavily involved in the TV series drawing storyboards and directing episodes. He relates that episode 39 of the TV series, which he storyboarded and directed, is the one on which he feels he finally achieved what he wanted as a director. He clearly learned much from the speedy, cinematic flow of Tomino's storyboards, and in the film he builds on that to create one of the most terrifyingly tense and perfectly built dramatic flows of any anime movie. This is clearly when Takizawa established the tight and speedy directing style that has come to define his later work. At his best, he is unbeatable at creating a seamless flow that threads breathlessly between drama and exciting action. Notable is that he himself volunteered to direct the film. It was his first great achievement, and remains one of his most impressive.

His next major job would be on that other classic Sunrise 'real robot' anime of the 1980s, Votoms, on which he served under chief director Ryosuke Takahashi as the 'enshutsu chief', in which capacity he drew storyboards and focused on polishing the final quality of the episodes in terms of achieving the right dramatic flow - having just proven his talent for just that on the Ideon film. It's not long after this that he directed the Dirty Pair TV series.

Takizawa only storyboarded the first episode of the Dirty Pair TV series, and directed none of the episodes. He appears to have focused his skills on directing the directors and maintaining the overall tone for the show rather than been in there doing things himself. The first episode is definitely identifiable as his work in terms of the nimble pacing and variety of the scenery and action, and the rest of the series shares something of this feeling, although it's overall not as tight as his own work.

The Dirty Pair series is unique among Sunrise's shows from the 80s, for the obvious reason that it's not a robot show, and for its more lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek tone that sets it decidedly apart from the more serious and 'realistic' tone of the usual robot shows. There are transient moments of seriousness, of course, and people die, but the tone is something akin to that of the Roger Moore James Bond movies, in that the seriousness is subsumed within an encompassing atmosphere of nonchalant whimsy. It would just be ludicrous if they took themselves seriously with stories about cartoon madmen armed with laser satellites out to take over the world. It feels the same with Dirty Pair, and Toshifumi Takizawa is probably the one who guided the show in this direction as the director. He has stated explicitly his his dislike for dark, serious stories, and Dirty Pair provides a unique and grandly entertaining side-show on the menu of 80s Sunrise productions. And of course, this was a seminal show for its unusual protagonists and 'buddy movie' format. It had female protagonists, but was aimed at boys rather than girls, and they were strong female protagonists in commanding roles, rather than the docile girls of love comedies.

After directing the series, Takizawa was away from Dirty Pair until 1990, when he came back to direct the last OVA in the series. In between, he worked on various Sunrise shows, including drawing storyboard for ZZ Gundam and directing the Dunbine and Crusher Joe OVAs. Crusher Joe was originally a movie released in 1983, and it's in this movie that the first anime adaptation of Dirty Pair appeared briefly, showing up as a program on TV. Going back further, Dirty Pair was originally published as a novel in 1980.

While Takizawa was away, quite a bit of Dirty Pair got made by other directors. Right when the TV series was about to end in December 1985, an OVA entitled The Nolandia Affair was released. Revisited today, it's the blandest entry in the series, and not interesting in terms of the animation. The protagonists have a more adult design that comes across as a departure from everything else. The TV series had ended prematurely on episode 24, even though the script for the last two episodes had been written, so the last two episodes got produced and released as an OVA just prior to the release of a movie in March 1987, as a lead-in. Episode 25 in particular features some of the better animation of the entire series.

As much as I like Takizawa's work on the show, if you only watch one item of Dirty Pair, it'll probably be the movie, which is itself quite well directed by Koichi Mashimo, but just in a very different style. His distinct style with garish color schemes and loud musical interludes is on full display here and has actually never worked so well. The film also has the richest animation of the series, featuring plenty of great animators like Hitoshi Ueda, Sachiko Kamimura, Koji Ito, Koichi Hashimoto and even Satoru Utsunomiya.

A few months after the movie came a 10-episode OVA series released over the first few months of 1988. The OVA series is also directed by a different director, but holds up quite well nonetheless, and comes across as a higher quality version of the more light-hearted, variety-style TV series. Surprising names like Shinji Hashimoto and Norimoto Tokura even turn up.

Finally, after completing his work on the Crusher Joe OVAs, Takizawa returned to direct what turned out to be the final installment of the series in an OVA entitled Conspiracy on Flight 005. There was technically an OVA series entitled Dirty Pair Flash made a few years later, but it looks and feels nothing like the rest of the series, and comes across as a failed experiment to take the series in a new direction. The 005 OVA comes across as the true final word, the ultimate expression of how the Dirty Pair universe should be handled.

The final OVA is quite a nice OVA, and is one of the most satisfying installments in the series. It benefits from five years of added experience for the entire staff that was involved, including the director, the animators and the animation director, and so things have the assured feeling of the work of people who have learned how best to handle material they've been handling for years. Takizawa's directing is tighter than ever, with a dramatic finale that recalls the action of the Ideon movie, and most of all, the designs and animation are perhaps the most refined in the series. Character designer Tsukasa Dokite had by then continuously honed the character designs, and he brings to the drawings as animation director a more controlled line that gives the drawings new strength. The line and form of his work by this time kind of reminds me of Tomonori Kogawa's best work a few years earlier.

Which brings us to the other, more obvious, star of the Dirty Pair series - character designer Tsukasa Dokite, the man who created the sexy, daringly costumed designs that made the characters iconic and undoubtedly played a big part in making the series the hit it was. Dokite had worked extensively on Urusei Yatsura and then Maison Ikkoku, and this clearly influenced the development of his style, as the drawings in the TV series still have a whiff of Maison Ikkoku about them in terms of the arrangement of the features and the jawline. Dokite's drawings continued to evolve over the course of the series. The characters took a sharp turn towards the older and more realistic in the Nolandia Affair OVA, while for the movie he returned towards the younger TV series design, changed the costume a bit, and honed the design in a more cartoony direction. He continued to soften the edges over the course of the OVAs, and the 005 OVA represents his final word on the designs. You can see this evolution clearly in his character design drawings from each installment above. This evolution is obviously not something that's limited to this series, and probably to some extent is simply a reflection of evolving stylitic tendencies in the industry.

The opening for the TV series and OVA series, incidentally, are nice little films that showcase Dokite and Takizawa at their best at each particular period - Takizawa creating richly conceived, dense flows of entertaining imagery, and character designer Tsukasa Dokite providing some of his best rendered drawings of his own characters.

One of the things that most interested me in watching the TV series and examining the contrasting styles of each animation director is that so many different studios were involved in the animation of the show. Everybody knows it's common practice for the various parts of anime episodes to be outsourced, and I know it happened on other Sunrise shows of the same period (Anime R in Osaka and Nakamura Pro were major collaborators throughout Sunrise's history), but I was surprised at the extent to which this show seems to have been produced largely by outside staff, in looking up the names. It's obvious that this was not the Sunrise of today, with its ten studios allowing it to run any number of productions simultaneously.

I've been able to associate animators with no less than 10 different studios, partly because many times the studios are actually credited, and partly because I've been able to identify certain animators who were affiliated with certain studios at this time. I'm sure there are other animators who I haven't listed here who may have been affiliated with some studio at this time, but at the very least, from what I've been able to gather, the following studios were involved in the animation of the TV series. I list it here because it's an interesting list. It's testament to the intricacy of the web of interconnections that underpin anime production in Japan that they were able to produce a TV series using a small handful of animators scattered around at a dozen different studios.

  5, 8, 9, 12, 25, 26
  10, 15, 17, 19, 24
  SATO Yuzo, TSUJI Hatsuki, ICHISHITA Satoshi, KOBAYASHI Kazumi,
  6, 7, 11
  MORIKAWA Sadami, OZAWA Naoko, YOSHIMOTO Kinji, YUKI Nobuteru,
  13, 16, 25
  MURANAKA Hiromi, NAKASHIMA Miko, YAMAMOTO Sawako, KISE Kazuchika,
  OSHIMA Yasuhiro
Minamimachi Bugyosho
  2, 3, 7
  1, 5, 8, 12, 21, 25, 26
  ISONO Satoshi
  2, 4, 7
Doga Kobo
Last House
Anime Roman

The proliferation of studios is enough to make you wonder if any of the show was actually produced at Sunrise, but there are plenty of staff I can't account for, and I'm sure that many of them must have been in-house animators. The first four studios listed were obviously the big ones in this series. The rest were more piecemeal. Some episodes appear to have been wholesaled out to certain studios, but mostly it's more of a mix of different animators from different studios. For example, episodes 10, 15, 17, 19 and 24 appear to have been entirely wholesaled to Gallop, whereas Dove animators handled only a portion of the episodes they're involved in. The same applies to the other studios listed above.

Studio Dove perhaps deserves special mention, as its members are credited by studio in every installment of the series from the TV series to the movie to the OVAs. The reason for this is pretty obvious - Dove was founded by an ex-Sunriser who had to move back to his hometown due to illness, where he continued to work for the company, and eventually started his own subcontractor. His company was the training ground for two of my favorite animators - Nobutake Ito and Susumu Yamaguchi. They've got numerous other Asian branches, including Seoul Dove, Shanghai Dove and Vietnam Dove.

Although some studios like Dove are credited, in other cases it took research to figure out that a particular animator was involved at a particular studio at this point in time. Dove is credited, but Gallop is not. I was able to figure out that those animators are probably Gallop animators because just the year before, most of them are listed under Gallop in the credits of Sherlock Hound, which was itself a Gallop production.

Studio Mu, the sister studio of Anime R in Osaka, is credited, and under the Mu credit you find the names of the animators involved from the studio - most famously perhaps Kazuchika Kise. Artland is credited in episodes 6 and 7, but not in episode 11, but episode 11 involves Nobuteru Yuki and Hideki Futamura, who were either credited under Artland in the previous episodes or I know to have started out at Artland. This is of course early in the career of these two animators who since this went on to make a name for themselves elsewhere with two very different approaches.

Osamu Tsuruyama and Kenichi Onuki, two of the main animation directors on the TV series, were among the founding members of subcontracting studio Minamimachi Bugyosho, whose ranks also include an animator named Osamu Yamasaki, who was involved in episode 2, 3 and 7 alongside one or the other of the former. Kugatsusha I don't know much about other than that it was Yoshikazu Yasuhiko's studio and it's where Kumiko Takahashi started out a few years earlier and was presumably still involved at this point in time.

Hibari isn't credited, but animation director Satoshi Isono of Hibari is present. He debuted as an inbetweener on the TV show and was one of the staff most ubiquitous throughout the various productions, working as an animator on the movie, as an animation director and animator in the OVA series, and as an animator in the final OVA. Anime Roman, Last House and Doga Kobo are credited, but at the bottom, so I don't know which animators credited, if any, were involved in those studios.

I wrote about Shoichi Masuo recently, and he was involved in the TV series. He was at Studio Graviton at the time. There are a few great mecha/missile action shots in episode 7 of the TV series that I suspect might be the work of Masuo. Other members of Studio Graviton were involved later in the series - Koji Ito and Tomohiro Hirata in the movie, Tomohiro Hirata and Toshiyuki Kubooka in the episodes 3, 6 (Hirata AD) and 8 of the OVA series, and Tomohiro Hirata in the final OVA.

The OVA series was similarly the product of a number of different studios. Studio Mu animators Harumi Muranaka, Sawako Yamamoto and Kazuchika Kise were involved in episodes 1, 5 and 9, credited as Studio Mu. DAST is credited in episode 4, Tatsu Production in 7, and Kino Production in 8. Katsuhiko Nishijima of Studio Live was in the movie and in episode 5 of the OVA series.

An animator named Tatsuyuki Tanaka is credited in the final OVA alongside Akira animator Hitoshi Ueda. The thing is, the last kanji in his name is different from 'the' Tatsuyuki Tanaka, so I can't be sure it's really him. But Hitoshi Ueda was involved in the TV series and movie, so it would certainly jive if he had discovered Tanaka while working on Akira between the movie and the final OVA and brought him onboard.

As far as the animation goes, there are numerous nice bits throughout the show. In the TV series, I quite liked the work of Atsushi Tsukamoto of Gallop, whom I presume to have drawn the handful of peculiarly timed but tasty mecha action shots that grace episodes 10, 15, 17 and 19. Masuo's work I mentioned before. Episode 25 of the TV series and 9 of the OVA series are two of the eps with the most interesting overall animation.

Dokite created his own home page over ten years ago, and put up a page featuring the cover sheet for the design sheets for each episode. Normally this isn't done for a TV series, but they had fun with it and got a different person to draw the cover for each episode's sheets. You can see drawings by a lot of the names mentioned above here - 1 is Dokite, 2 is probably Kenichi Onuki, 3 is probably Hiroaki Goda, 5 is Hiroyuki Kitakubo, 6 is Yuji Moriyama (who Dokite says drew one shot uncredited), 7 is Shoichi Masuo, 12 is Yuki Nobuteru, 13 is Hideku Futamura, etc... Surprising to see what kind of drawing certain figures were doing at this time.