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: June 2012, 05

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

10:20:00 pm , 1140 words, 6072 views     Categories: Pilot, Studio: Anime R, 1980s

Pony Metal U-GAIM

Pilots are among my favorite form in anime. From the Lupin pilot to Tomonaga's Nemo pilot, many pilots are amazing creations that have become classic shorts in their own right. They capture the full energy of the staff in the early stages of enthusiasm for a production before they hit the brick wall of deadline and production-floor reality that often makes the actual production pale in comparison.

Pilots for productions that eventually got made usually see the light of day, like Masaaki Yuasa's Nanchatte Vampiyan pilot, which is a classic instance of the pilot being better than the actual production turned out to be.

Pilots for productions that fizzled, though, often never do, or are taking eternally long to do so - as is the case for Mahiro Maeda's R20 Galactic Airport pilot and Umanosuke Iida's Spirit pilot. There's every possibility the reason they remain unreleased is because they're not impressive, but the inability to see them makes you curious. Many items that remained hidden for years turned out to be amazing when re-discovered.

I just discovered another pilot for a production that never got the green light that is a shining example of the pilot form: Pony Metal U-GAIM. Watch it here.

The 3-minute pilot was produced in 1986. It's not difficult to see why this pilot didn't get produced. It's actually difficult to believe that a show with this premise was seriously being pitched. It almost seems like they just did it as a parody for fun.

The story is apparently a crossover between Heavy Metal L-Gaim and Creamy Mami. The heroine of magical girl show Creamy Mami, Yuu Morisawa, was killed in a car accident, and like Tetsuwan Atom, she is brought back to life by her genius scientist father in the form of a super-powerful crime-fighting robot.

What makes this pilot great is that it's 100% Anime R, and was produced by Anime R at the height of its powers, so it's packed full of Anime R goodness. Anime R's work is mostly buried in Sunrise robot shows from the 80s that don't get much play from fans anymore, so they've never received their due respect over here (though the same could be said for many great subcontractors of yore). This pilot offers a dense summation of what made Anime R great, so it's the perfect introduction to this studio.

The actual animation only lasts for 1 1/2 minutes, but it's all very densely packed and lovingly produced. All of the big names at Anime R at the time were involved, including Kazuaki Mouri, Hiroyuki Okiura, Toru Yoshida and Hiroshi Osaka. Oddly enough, Hiroyuki Kitakubo even helped a bit with the animation. This was just a year before Kitakubo turned to Okiura and Anime R to do the heavy animation lifting on his Black Magic M-66. Mouri had previously helped on Kitakubo's Pop Chaser under a pseudonym.

Everything that made R great is packed in here: quasi-realistic and lovingly animated mecha, missiles and explosions, insanely detailed shrapnel, and crazy-ass idiosyncratic character animation, all of which is unified by its consummate craftsmanship.

The most obvious section is Hiroyuki Okiura's section. This was only his second year as a key animator, but it didn't take long for his animation to stand out. Right from the beginning in SPT Layzner in 1985 his animation stood out for its more realistic style and the incredible density of his drawings and animation. You can see that clearly in the scene here where the robot erupts up from the pavement, with the fluid movement, very detailed depiction of the cement cracking into little bits, and the more realistic style of the animation as opposed to the more playful and deformed style of other parts of the pilot. Compare it with the two shots Okiura animated for the opening of the Zillion TV series the next year in 1987. He drew those shots smack when he was super-busy working on Black Magic M-66. One of Okiura's identifying traits at this period was that he drew crazy-detailed fragments, and the fragments had this way of just disappearing in mid-air. He presumably learned this from Takashi Nakamura, one of his great influences at the time.

The episode is also filled with nice explosions and other effects work, presumably much of it of the hand of Toru Yoshida, although the effects work does not look like what I've seen of his very early work in Votoms. His effects work appears to have evolved very quickly over the ensuing years.

What I most like about this pilot, though, is that it provides the key to Kazuaki Mouri's style. He was the character designer, animation director and lead animator, so it's really Mouri's baby. Mouri's section is also extremely obvious, but you have to know what you're looking for. I suspect Mouri drew the opening scene with the bystanders, the shot of the father operating his crazy machine, and the shot of the two dudes running. If you look at the bystanders, they are drawn in a very distinctive way that is without any doubt of the same hand as the animator who drew the arcade brawl scene in episode 1 of Sukeban Deka that I wondered about in my post on this 1991 OVA, where Mouri was credited. The style of movement of the father operating the machine also reminds of the style of movement in the Sukeban Deka scene. I'd like to find at least another piece Mouri worked on where this style is evident to feel totally convinced it's him, but it seems fairly likely. The action here also has the speedy feeling of the action in Dragon Slayer, where Mouri was the combat supervisor.

Mouri is something of an opening specialist, having animated quite a few near-single-handedly, including SPT Layzner (1985, with Toru Yoshida), Mister Ajikko (1987, with Masahiro Kase), Samurai Troopers (1988, with Moriyasu Taniguchi) and Carimero (1992), as well as directing the opening of Taa-chan (1993). Mouri left Anime R and joined Group Tac in 1989, which is where he did the latter two items. He is another great Anime R animator deserving of more recognition.

Kazuaki Mouri select works
Ideon (1982)
Tetsujin 28 (1981)
Dougram (1981)
Game Center Arashi (1982)
Sasuga no Sarutobi (1982)
Votoms (1983)
Ranpo (1984)
Bismark (1985)
Pop Chaser OVA (1985)
Karuizawa Syndrome OVA (1985)
Genmu Senki Leda OVA (1985)
Dream Hunger Rem OVAs (1985-1992) CD
Dancougar (1985)
SPT Layzner (1985)
Gu-Gu Ganmo movie (1985)
Pastel Yumi (1986)
Windaria movie (1986)
Zillion (1987)
Black Magic M-66 OVA (1987)
Mister Ajikko (1987) Char des/sakkan chief
Watt Poe OVA (1988)
Cleopatra DC OVA (1988)
Five Star Stories movie (1989)
Moomin Adventure Diary (1991)
Dragon Slayer OVA (1991)
Yadamon (1992)
Moldiver (1992)
Nintama Rantaro (1993)
Biograpy of Gusko Budori movie (1993)
Fatal Fury movie (1994)
Irresponsible Captain Tylor (1994)
Tobe! Isami (1995) Character designer
Voogie's Angel OVA (1997)

Pony Metal U-GAIM (Pilot, 3 mins, 1986, Anime R)

Producer:大町光徳Mitsunori Ohmachi
Created by:Project-U
Char Design & Sakkan:毛利和昭Kazuaki Mouri
Mechanic Design Assist:山下育人Ikuto Yamashita
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
明貴美加Mika Akitaka
今南二Nanji Kon
Art:横瀬直士Naoshi Yokose
Key Animation:毛利和昭Kazuaki Mouri
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
沖浦啓之Hiroyuki Okiura
柳沢まさひでMasahide Yanagisawa
逢坂浩司Hiroshi Osaka
北久保弘之 (ゲスト)Hiroyuki Kitakubo (Guest)