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 2009, 17

Saturday, October 17, 2009

07:21:05 pm , 591 words, 2161 views     Categories: Animation, TV

Naruto #351

Yasuhiro Aoki, Kenji Nakamura and Akitoshi Yokoyama are my three favorite directors to emerge in the last few years. Yokoyama had done any number of great episodes before Kaiba in 2008, but it was his work on Kaiba that made me really sit up and take notice. He storyboard and directed episode 3, episode 7 and episode 9. Ever since the great work he did on these episodes I've been looking forward to whatever he might do next. That next thing has come in a surprising place - he did episode #351 of Naruto (#131 of Shippuuden). It's the next deluxe action episode. I enjoyed the directing of this one much more than I did the previous one directed by Toshiyuki Tsuru, #123 of Shippuuden.

In his Kaiba episodes I felt that Yokoyama showed himself to be good at effectively utilizing space to choreograph action, and this Naruto shows off that side of his directing skills really well, especially during the fight at the beginning, where the characters are jumping around and running through the maze-like city. He's also very detail oriented in the processing of the screen, and every shot has a feeling of perfect timing and pacing. Even the visual texture has a great feeling, with the particular colors in each shot and the timing and drawings of the animation always feeling exciting and serving the action without being flashy the way a lot of action animation is these days to distract from the fact that it's not that well choreographed. He just has the instincts of a seasoned director. I frankly hope that in the future his talent will be put to use on more ambitious and worthwhile projects that allow his true talent as a storyteller to shine, but I really like that he's a director who is able to jump between dramatically different content and do the content justice on its own terms, rather than being a director who's tied to a particular style and who bends the arm of whatever he's doing into that particular style. Such directors to me often come across as somewhat mannered and inflexible. I won't say it was a mind-blowing episode. It's limited by the material (it drags in the second half). But the action was nicely choreographed in the first half, with a nice tightness to the pacing that you want of action sequences.

Animators probably responsible for the action were that young firebrand Hiroki Tanaka, who seems to turn up with some crazy action in a new episode every week, and who was here also the sakkan; Nozomu Abe, an animator I know nothing about but whom I've heard is good; Hiroyuki Yamashita, one of the main Naruto regulars (he's listed first in the credits for the opening sequence of this episode); Taiki Harada; and Takayuki Hamada, the awesome animator from Kaiba etc. who was obviously brought on-board by Yokoyama. Kenichi Yoshida and Tatsuo Yamada are co-sakkans. The latter probably was brought on by Hiroki Tanaka, as they were two of the main crazy action guys on Precure in the old days (i.e. a few months back), but how the heck Kenichi Yoshida (Eureka 7) got involved I don't know.

Speaking of the opening, it also featured animation by Matsumoto (as usual) and the new regular op animators Shingo Yamashita and Kenichi Kutsuna, the gif animators from Birdy. I think for once I could identify their work. Matsumoto followed by Kutsuna at the beginning? Yamashita (if it's him doing those two shots where some unidentified character transforms into a beast) is sure doing crazy stuff.