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: August 2009, 08

Saturday, August 8, 2009

09:16:15 pm , 894 words, 2161 views     Categories: Animation


I talked about Shin-chan animator Shizuka Hayashi before. I've long wanted to see more of her Kyoro-chan anime, to see what she did with characters of her own creation, and I finally got the chance to do that - episode 1 is up on Youtube (part 1, part 2). It's as good as I would have hoped. This is easily among my favorite work by Shizuka Hayashi. I've always loved the funny undulating dance Shizuka Hayashi made Shin-chan do, and you can see Kyoro-chan do a similar dance in the first episode.

Comparing with episode 2, which she didn't handle, is particularly helpful in showing the unique approach to drawing and movement that Shizuka Hayashi brings to these delightfully cute characters she created. The second episode is largely lacking in what made episode 1 so fun, although the storyboard and directing probably also played a part in making episode 1 work. There are so many scenes in episode 1 that are action-driven, the excitement created through the animation and storyboarding, such as the scene where the characters are chased by the boulder, rather than dialogue-driven. That's something Mitsuru Hongo was good at - constructing situations that would rely for their impact on characters going through interesting and exciting actions that tap the full potential of the talented animators he always made sure to use, rather than simply mouthing dialogue at one another. The nature of the material also undoubtedly let Mitsuru Hongo and Shizuka Hayashi go a little more crazy with things than they could in the real-world-based Shin-chan, letting them go for far more cartoonishly wild actions than ever before. And the animation of the characters is also consistently amusing, with lots of inventive expressions and zippy, snazzy movements, while yet remaining quite limited and restrained in the style at which the Shin-chan animators became so expert. Hongo is a director who knows the importance of good animation. I find myself much more attracted to anime featuring simply-drawn characters like this because it allows the animators more freedom to do what animators (are supposed to) do best. Nobody in the world can create more compelling realistic animation than the Japanese, but I also find that they bring a uniquely appealing approach to the more cartoonish end of the spectrum, of which Kyoro-chan seems a good representative.

Surprisingly, the show's web site is still up after all these years, and they've got a neat little page that gives a simplified breakdown of the production process for the show (and for most shows), which in their flowchart proceeds thus: planning -> scenario -> character -> art design -> storyboard -> layout/key animation -> inbetweens -> coloring -> CG production -> audio. Quite obviously very simplified. A different staff member is interviewed briefly in each section. The section on the storyboard has a brief interview with Mitsuru Hongo. One of the questions is about his view of the purpose of the storyboard, which I found rather interesting, so I thought I'd translate it, since it's relevant to the subject, although it's frustratingly brief. I'd like to read more about his views on storyboarding and directing and their relation to animation one of these days.

Interviewer: What's the hardest part about drawing a storyboard based on the script?

Mitsuru Hongo: In the case of animation, I think the storyboard is the key determinant of whether a show will be interesting or not. The script describes the flow of the story, whereas the storyboard describes the flow of time and space, so when drawing the storyboard, you have to think ahead in dealing with these things to avoid creating problems at a later stage in the production. Directing an episode can be tremendously fun because it offers so much creative freedom, but it can also have you tearing your hear out in frustration when things take too long.

Chief director Mitsuru Hongo didn't do many episodes apart from the first, unfortunately. The main one of interest would be episode 46, in which he did storyboard and directing and was again teamed with Shizuka Hayashi. I'd love to see that one. He also storyboarded episode 13 and co-storyboarded episode 63. (the staff listing on the official site only lists up to episode 74, but there are 91 episodes in total) Shizuka Hayashi was involved a little more often. She was animation director of episodes 7, 13, 20, 26, 39, 46 and 60. A few other good animators were involved as animation directors - Futoshi Higashide (6) and Yuichiro Sueyoshi (37). I assume Shizuka Hayashi may have been involved in others episodes as an animator, and maybe there were some other good animators, although I don't have a listing so I don't know. This is a series I'd like to have the chance to see in full some time. I doubt many of the non-Hayashi episodes live up to the full potential of the animation, but it would still be worth it to check. The story also bodes fairly well from what I've been able to gather from episode 2, with an unexpected tinge of political satire. I had kind of assumed the series was produced by Shin-Ei, since it was directed by Mitsuru Hongo and involves Shizuka Hayashi, but it's actually a Group Tac production. Tac produced a lot of interesting shows over the years, and I'm always discovering an interesting new one I'd never seen before.

Edit: Found a bunch of other eps. Looking forward to checking them out.