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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Sunday, April 24, 2005

04:57:46 pm , 538 words, 3563 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, Animator

Atsuko Ishizuka

By Buntzen LakePutting aside the various vexations that have thus far blessed this new year and the neverending scramble for work that is the lot of the freelance translator, yesterday I took advantage of the weather to inaugurate my hiking year by vanquishing the small mountain (AKA large hill) that is Eagle Peak by Buntzen Lake, Vancouver's oldest reservoir. Picked up the latest issue of Kyoto Journal along the way at the neighborhood grocery store that somehow miraculously stocks the magazine, though it's been months since I saw an issue there and thought they had dropped it. In the meantime it looks like I've missed an issue. I was amazed by their Street issue, #55, my favorite so far. Just found an interesting page about the Japanese art scene, though it would appear to be a thing of the past.

Madhouse put up an interview with Atsuko Ishizuka on their newly revamped Flash site. I had to revamp my computer's settings just to be able to read it because of an apparent font incompatability in the Flash design or something - it requires a Japanese system setting. The interview answers the question that had long been on my mind about how she got into animation in view of her unusual style that is largely untainted by anime conventions. Simply put, she didn't come from the usual background watching anime and so on - she grew up interested in music and in graphic arts, and after considering which to specialize in, decided on design and entered an arts school where as a project she was offered the choice of creating video, which she chose simply because it offered her the chance to combine her two areas of interest. Thus she arrived at animation by an unusual route - from the fundamentals, as it should be, rather than the pervasive end product, which is undoubtedly what makes her work feel so different.

The sequence of events that led to the making of the Minna no Uta music video Tsuki no Warutsu (The Moon Waltz) late last year is also rather unusual. While in college she had created a number of short animated films entirely on her own, outside of classes, for the pleasure of it, and one of these, Gravitation, was featured on Digital Station, which along with another of her shorts brought her to the attention of that other NHK mainstay of independent animators, Minna no Uta, who were appreciative enough of the films that they decided they wanted her to animate one of their songs. However, by that time she had become a Madhouse employee, for which reason she felt it wouldn't have been right to accept a job on an individual basis, so she turned them down. But they were persistent and managed to convince Madhouse, an animation company, after all, to take on the project with her at the head - unusual considering her current position in the company, a production assistant. Though personally I'd think she has what it takes to make it on her own as an independent, Madhouse is an accomodating company, so hopefully we'll be able to see more work like this from them in the future that allows her unique aesthetic to come through.

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22 comments

Otaprince
Otaprince [Visitor]

not related to Atsuko Ishizuka, but i just found some profiles on Gainax’s latest young artists, and it’s interesting to compare their styles in Gunbuster 2 artwork.

the profiles:
http://www.ntv.co.jp/ghibli/web-as/01_talk/gaina01.html
http://www.ntv.co.jp/ghibli/web-as/01_talk/gaina02.html

their works:
http://www.gainax.co.jp/anime/top2/gallery.html

04/26/05 @ 11:35
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Read them when they first came out. I’m partial to Sushio myself.

You might be interested to know that all the Anata to Watashi no Gainax interviews are coming out in a book soon.

04/27/05 @ 17:04
Jericho
Jericho [Visitor]

Japan huh? That place is starting to sound better everytime you mention it. But it is true that ‘art’ in the contemporary art scene sense is kind of the pits in Japan. Most contemporary Japanese artists are more well known outside their country. But they do have unique artists in their art colleges and departments, they are kinda hidden valuables.
But i’m wondring why this low dynamic when it comes to ‘gallery’ or museum art in Japan. I guess the lack of a major institution like ‘JPMOMA’ coulde be part of this. But most japanese I’ve talked too have no feelings toward this kind of ‘art’. Maybe Roland Barthes is right, that Japan is a manifestation of post modern society. Just got me babbling.

04/28/05 @ 12:02
Josh
Josh [Visitor]

I don’t think it’s just Japan, most times I visit galleries nowadays I end up disappointed, it’s all incestuous and pretentious with nothing aestheticly redeeming. Superflat is one of the few bright lights of the art world these days, so even if their artists aren’t recognized at home they’re still better off than most…still trying to forget the horrors of the Modern Art of the Northwest exhibit that I saw when I was in Vancouver last year…

04/28/05 @ 23:25
Otaprince
Otaprince [Visitor]

>You might be interested to know that all the Anata to Watashi > no Gainax interviews are coming out in a book soon.

interesting- is it listed on Amazon or anywhere yet?

>Sushio

seems very influenced by Imaishi– didn’t Imaishi start the use of (very un-anime looking) jagged yellow flashes (as seen in Sushio’s Gunbuster 2 pic linked above)?

04/29/05 @ 15:26
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

I’m going to totally change topics and thank you for recommending the documentary on Otsuka that studio ghibli released. I just got done watching it and am very impressed by the amount of information it provided about one of Japan’s most influential animators.

Also I’m curious if you know anything about the Nekojiro TV series, I’m curious about the production staff etc…

05/02/05 @ 17:18
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

> horrors of the Modern Art of the Northwest exhibit
In that case you should probably pass on the silly Rodney Graham exhibit going on now at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I’ll be generous and say that I found some of it amusing, like the video installation loop featuring artist as shipwrecked buccaneer on a desert island lying around in the sand under a palm tree after waking up and getting knocked on the head by a coconut over and over again. The endless non-sequitur Hollywood-style dramatic pans building up expectation for dramatic development only to lead into more pans was rather fun IMO.

> interesting- is it listed on Amazon or anywhere yet?
Nowhere yet.

> Sushio
He started out working under Imaishi, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if there was some influence there. But if you look at his more recent work, he’s gone in his own direction and is definitely no stale imitator. He’s become a really great animator with his own refreshing style. The new Hosoda film will be a good place to see where he’s at now.

> Otsuka
Glad you enjoyed it.

> Nekojiro TV series
Didn’t notice it was out. Thanks. I’d been curious to see this, though I knew not to expect the level of the OVA.
Staff are unknown to me: director Hiroshi Fukutomi, AD Eiko Kishimi, studio Kent House. Made a few months after Nekojiru hung herself in her bathroom. I wish they’d stuck to the manga more closely (though maybe they’re eps I never read - I haven’t read many). It feels a little lacking in the stomach-churning coldness of her stories. Nekojiru didn’t give a fuck about anything, herself included, and that shows up in her manga, but this anime version doesn’t really give you that feeling, which is understandable.

05/03/05 @ 17:44
Josh
Josh [Visitor]

That actually sounds pretty fun…not worth the train trip up, but probabably enjoyable. I can dig that kind of stuff if the artist has a sense of humor, it’s just the joyless pretention that really kills it for me.

I was REALLY disappointed in the Nekojirou TV series, personally. It’s the exact same format as shows like Super Milk-chan and Cromartie High, and one of the poorer examples of that type. None of us would care about it at all if it didn’t have the connection to the OVA and the manga.

05/03/05 @ 18:13
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

The only reason I wasn’t disappointed was because I had low expectations to begin with. Otherwise you’re exactly right, of course.

05/03/05 @ 18:42
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

I’d have to agree on that one. The first moment I saw the show I was kind of disappointed, yuasa’s work on the OVA though is really hard to live up to. Its a quick project though, easy to translate and good practice for this wonderful new fansubbing group who have tastes in projects that are comparable to much of our own.

I think that if they can practice on short things like this, eventually we’ll be met with larger projects that they’ll do better in the future. (They’ve also subbed Kimigure Robot, I’d recommend checking that out to everyone here who hasn’t already checked it out).

Its kind of funny though with the OVA, I saw the interview with Tetsuo Sato the so-called director of it, and from it, its obvious who was really calling all the shots in that work :P. (Yuasa was)

I almost think that Sato was there just to keep Yuasa from going “too far” into crazyness…

05/04/05 @ 05:32
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

That’s neat. I’d like to see that interview just to hear what he says about Yuasa. Bought the Japanese DVD when it came out, which didn’t have the interview. I always found it absurd that they interviewed Sato and not Yuasa…

05/04/05 @ 14:16
Josh
Josh [Visitor]

I’m guessing the Japanese DVD doesn’t have the director’s commentary track, either…Sato spends pretty much the entire time coming up with a whole bunch of different variations of “Yuasa came up with the idea for this part.” Afterwards, I had no idea what Sato actually did.

05/04/05 @ 17:36
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

I haven’t seen the commantary yet, but from the interview it seemed to me that all sato did was A) Keep the film at a short runtime, he said that if the imagery was longer it would be too much for audiences to take in (boy was he wrong, look at mindgame :P) and to B) move the camera around over Yuasa’s imagery.

Thats it… :P

05/05/05 @ 05:41
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Good to know, thanks. Confirms what I knew had to be the case just from watching the film.

05/05/05 @ 20:33
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

The bad thing is sato gets all the credit for Yuasa’s work, last year I was going to try to go to a panel by Sato at Otakon where he was a guest, I’m not so sure It’d be that interesting…

I’m also hitting myself for missing out on Itano at a local convention (where I got in for free because I ran a couple panels), I didn’t even really know the guy when he was there…

Also speaking of panels a couple years ago at ACEN there was a panel about sanrio animation, was that run by you by any chance?

05/06/05 @ 07:53
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Even apart from his brilliance as an animator, Itano’s an interesting guy… used to be a bosozoku or something, and a trucker… he’s got a very colorful personality and is an interesting speaker. I’d like to see him at a panel. But I don’t think I’ll ever be going to a convention ever again. I did too many of those when I was younger. Just not my thang.

So obviously, nope, the ACEN one wasn’t by me. I’ve never done anything like that. Too chicken. Interesting to hear about it, though. I didn’t think ANYBODY knew about those old Sanrio films (presuming that’s what the panel was about, and not the crap being made now). I probably do know more about those things than most people… for good or ill. Any details about that panel?

It’s definitely unfair that Sato gets all the credit for Nekojiru-So. DEFINITELY. But he’s done other work on his own, so presumably the panel was about that. I sure wouldn’t have gone. Just not a fan. Hopefully Yuasa will have more chances from now on to make up for the credit he didn’t get for Cat Soup. I’d rather see another movie from him than a TV series, though it sounds like he wants to do a TV series…

05/06/05 @ 10:36
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

Yeah about all I do at conventions is give panels (I run ones on Alternative manga, Studio 4C, and Studio Ghibli) and hope I find something interesting in the exhibition room (which is free to access because I’m giving panels). Generally cons are really scary places and don’t have anything worthwhile, I can understand why you don’t go to them.

I really do like giving panels though, because I think anime fans for being as obsessive as they are, are increadibly ignorant people when it comes to knowledge about the area. They seem more interested in pop-culture and less in the artform of it, so I try to help people gain an appreciation of the other side of it through my work, which I consider very fulfilling even if I have to deal with some rather creepy and annoying people.

I actually didn’t go to that panel, I had something else to do at the time (this was the first really large convention I went to) but I was interested, because the topic was so unusual. I remember from the description though that it focused on Sanrio’s older work, I’m heading up to ACEN in just a week, maybe I’ll figure out (provided that its still there) who runs it…

I thought it was you, since noone is interested in sanrio’s work.. guess I was wrong :P

05/06/05 @ 12:11
Josh
Josh [Visitor]

Keep the film at a short runtime, he said that if the imagery was longer it would be too much for audiences to take in

I actually agree with Sato here…Cat Soup was just a string of loosely connected vignettes with next to no narrative drive, and if it was feature-length it might have overstayed its welcome. It has a perfect length now, whenever I watch Cat Soup I’m always left wanting more (in a good way) which I guess is why it’s one of the few movies that I can genuinely never get tired of.

05/07/05 @ 01:24
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

Cat Soup was just a string of loosely connected vignettes with next to no narrative drive,

Have you seen Yamadas before, same deal, but Takahata was able to keep a 2 hour film that was just vinegrettes with little plot consistantly entertaining and enjoyable. If Takahata can pull I’m sure that Yuasa is capable of the same.

05/07/05 @ 12:13
Josh
Josh [Visitor]

Yeah, I’ve seen My Neighbors the Yamadas, but I think the difference there is that Yamadas was also driven by primarily by the characters, while Nyako and Nyatta were little more than ciphers who were really just there so that the movie could happen to someone. Yuasa could probably do it, but what I was trying to say was that Cat Soup is that the pacing is perfect, and I don’t see any need to make it longer, since it’s perfectly fine as-is.

05/07/05 @ 12:25
Ben [Member]  
05/19/06 @ 16:16
Muffin
Muffin [Visitor]

Impressive. I think Rintaro’s “Labyrinth Labyrinthos” just got some serious competition as my favourite anime short.

05/20/06 @ 06:19