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 2011, 13

Thursday, October 13, 2011

05:18:00 pm , 1323 words, 4724 views     Categories: Animation

Misc recent viewing

Bleach 341

The last few days I've been doing some catch-up on what's new lately. I haven't watched much anime the last few months, so I missed out on a quite a bit of the little bits of good animation that have been done here and there, of which apparently there's been quite a bit. It's a shame that so much good work is done in shows that otherwise are of otherwise little interest to me, much less to a non-anime watching audience. The talented animators deserve a bigger audience. I'm beyond tired of seeing good work buried in crap shows that I wince having to watch just to see some good animation. I pretty much can't bring myself to write about it anymore. Luckily there are a lot of you guys out there tweeting or blogging about this kind of news, so it's easier than ever to catch wind of a good bit of animation in some crap show or other.

A-1 Pictures' iDolm@aster is a case in point. Tadashi Hiramatsu did animation in the opening of this show that I had to mute to be able to endure watching for two minutes and it still made me vomit in my mouth a little. Such a great animator relegated to doing this crap. So much for A-1 Pictures being the new ambitious studio on the block. A lot of Gainax people staffing this one. With that and the news of Trigger's formation, it seems there's a big exodus from Gainax going on right now. I'm not terribly crushed. I've been wanting some of the talented people working at Gainax to go elsewhere to have opportunity to do work that is not dictated by the bizarre whims of this studio, which admittedly did get a lot of fine work produced. But I obviously was not the only one feeling it was time for them to move on.

Hiroyuki Imaishi directed a five-minute sequence in the latest episode, episode 15, which is worth checking out if you're not tired of his style yet.

In other disappointing news, a great animator whose work I used to really like, Susumu Yamaguchi, is directing Sunrise's new Gundam show, Gundam AGE, and it looks really stupid. Normally it should be considered a pretty big prop to be appointed to direct the latest sally in one of anime's biggest franchises, but personally I think his talent is completely wasted here. Without his personal stamp on the work, what's the point? There are other people who can competently helm yet another humdrum Gundam. Susumu Yamaguchi is about more than that. It must be a cushy position, so I can't blame him. How much of a living could he have made just sticking it out as a lowly animator doing awesome but unrewarding animation?

The answer to that seems to be hinted at by Kiyoshi Tateishi, who occasionally goes by the name Takashi Shiwasu (see his home page): not much. Tateishi is an animator who's been active since about 2000. Recently he was animator in the opening of Bones' No. 6 and just-started Un-Go. He blogged at some length five days ago about "escaping" the anime industry, stating that he decided to take a break from the "mire" of working in the anime industry, complaining about bad working conditions (though his wording was pretty vague, so I'm not sure exactly what he was talking about).

The sad thing is that when I hear about all these talented people working in the industry, the only thing I can ask them is: Why bother? You could make a way better living, and probably live a happier life, doing something else. Which is the last thing I want to have to say to them, since I enjoy their work. But it's the hard truth. The answer will probably be because they love animation, and that's the right answer, but there's clearly something wrong when people that are pretty talented like Kiyoshi Tateishi (he's got some solid drawing skills that make him a good layout man) can't take it anymore and up and quit.

There was some good work in the otherwise bland and generic new IG outing Guilty Crown. Notably the fight looked like Yutaka Nakamura, but he's not credited, so I don't know who it was. Could it be Toru Okubo? Has he gotten that good since his already pretty good action scene in Tsubasa Chronicle in 2006? Admittedly that's a long time to improve, but I haven't really followed his work closely, so I don't know.

Bones' No. 6 episode 10 had some animation from one of the more appealing of the younger hot-shot animators working today, Yoshimichi Kameda, who did a lot of similar work on Bones' second Fullmetal Alchemist TV show. I find his style a little forced and striving for effect, but I still like his work better than a lot of today's young animators. At least it feels like he's devised his own approach rather than just mimicking Yoshinori Kanada or something. I'll have to check out this show to see if there was any other good work. Bones has been so prolific since I took a break.

Naruto Shippuden's new opening starting with episode 231 is a typically wacky piece by Akitaro Daichi. What an odd idea to get this guy to do a Naruto opening. Either they forgot to look at his CV or they wanted to inject some absurdity into the absurdly long-running show. It's got some enjoyably crazy animation in it. Animators include Hiromi Ishigami, Tokuyuki Matsutake, Hiroyuki Yamashita and Yu Yamashita.

Bones' Un-go is the latest Noitamina show. I suppose the fact that it's distantly inspired by Ango Sakaguchi is supposed to make it edgy, but so far it just looks like anime. It's the Fullmetal Alchemist team, so perhaps that's why they've got Yun Koga doing designs. FMA was huge with the HS girls apparently. Seiji Shimizu seems like the one they turn to to make them a long, talky, story-based pan-gender hit. The one thing I liked about the show was the two shots of the guy flipping around the in the opening, and the ending, which is uncredited for some reason but fairly screams Norimitsu Suzuki. I've no idea who did that flipping part - Yasuyuki Noda? Yuki Komatsu?

Speaking of openings, Gundam AGE's had Yasushi Muraki, but there was nothing in the opening that was really good. I suppose he did the part where the two giant robots fight each other with light sabers, but it wasn't particularly enjoyable to watch if it was him, which is unusual. Ken Otsuka, Akira Amemiya, Shingo Abe and Iwao Teraoka presumably drew the other mecha parts of the op.

Whatever happened to Yasuhiro Aoki? He seemed poised to take off as a director. Now he's animating fights in Madhouse's latest Marvel superhero anime Blade? Way to go, anime. That's how to use talent. He animated some part of the fight in episode 9 together with Satoru Utsunomiya. Extraordinarily considering the talent involved, the animation is totally uninteresting.

The most satisfying episode animation-wise that I've seen during my catch-up has been Bleach episode 341. It's the closest thing to a Naruto 133 that I've seen in the show. Animators involved include Hironori Tanaka, Fumiaki Kota, Hiroshi Kamogawa, Yuki Hayashi, Takaaki Wada, Shinichi Kurita and Yoshimichi Kameda. There are two big explosions in the episode at around the 1/3 mark (image 1 above) and 2/3 mark (image 2 above). Both are really beautiful and in a totally different style. The second one is obviously Hideki Kakita. The first one I'm not so sure. The whole action scene around the first explosion is really amazing. I suppose it must have been the work of Hironori Tanaka and/or Shinichi Kurita. The fight at the beginning was also nice, though it pales in comparison to the insanity of the animation around the first explosion. The explosion fan in me was satiated after watching this. Some of the best explosion work in recent memory.