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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« Darger + Studio 4°C's latestMidori »

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

03:08:58 pm , 443 words, 2436 views     Categories: Animation

B sides

Anyone who doesn't believe a storyboard can have that great an effect on the final product need only look to episode 5 of Jacky the Bearcub. This series is quite a nice series. In Europe people have seen it on TV, but here it's unknown. It's like WMT lite, basically. This series is probably one of the two or three best early TV series by Nippon Animation beside the WMT. A large proportion of their series in this early period are hits, while most of their TV series from the 80s on are misses, to make a sloppy generalization.

Well, this series features character designs by Mori that are excellent and among the best he did for a TV series. This is not just because they're pretty to look at but also because they are well animated by the animators. And that's the other thing that's good about the series: the animation. Toshiyasu Okada I mentioned before, and the episodes he single-handedly animated turn out to be the ones that have long impressed me for the incredible degree of detail and accuracy achieved in the animation of the body movement of the animals, considering the limits of the medium. In fact, this is probably among the best animation of any of the early NA series, WMT included.

The first few episodes really get you into the feeling of the series. It's eminently watchable. But then we get episode five, and it's like we're plunged into Heidi or Marco. Suddenly we're in the realm of brilliant human drama after the rather simplistic but pleasant children's fare that came before. What caused the change? The storyboard by Isao Takahata. There's really no better example of the incredible difference that a storyboarder can make.

Seeing this really makes one want to catch all the other little odds and ends he did on the side of his major projects - and there are quite a few. There's an old 2-LD set of his Wolf Boy Ken episodes. I've seen one of his Gegege no Kitaro episodes. Also, I've always wondered why Hustle Punch hasn't been released on DVD. Is it no good? Maybe it's because it's in b&w. The staff involvement makes it an obvious candidate for release. Besides Mori's designs, and Takahata's op, all the major animators worked on it - Miyazaki, Otsuka, Kotabe. I've seen a few sequences from the series, and one of them was obviously animated by Miyazaki because it was very reminiscent of the scene in the stairwell of the Sovereign Gold Coins episode of Sherlock Hound. The all-animal Hustle Punch was an obvious early incarnation of/inspiration for Sherlock Hound.

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