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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« Young animationCats »

Saturday, March 19, 2005

12:05:17 pm , 375 words, 2164 views     Categories: Animation


Shinji Hashimoto talks about how he's been going in a different direction from Shinya Ohira since Hakkenden, and you can sense this in the breadth of his work over the last decade, but seeing his latest creation only confirms the deep-rooted spiritual kinship that sets both of these animators apart from the pack. One of the things that makes Shinya Ohira's work so cathartic is precisely its shock value. It wakes us up. Just as we're dozing along to the same flatline of sleek visuals, along comes this spike of a heartbeat that shows us everything we haven't been seeing all this time - everything that is possible in animation but that isn't being done in what we've been sitting through, sound asleep to the possibilities. It's as eye-opening as a bucket of cold water. Hashimoto's section in S. Champ. 26 had that effect on me today, and it was a sheer delight to see that he was given free reign to do what he does best in a way that was dramatically well integrated. It was the return of Kid's Story. If for nothing else, I compliment the director on his choice of animators. There were two energizing jolts in this series: the first one from Yuasa a few months back, and the second from Hashimoto just now. Both were effectively integrated and 100% unsullied. I salute the good sense that could see the dramatic potential and visual appeal of throwing in this sort of animation in such an unusual context. What would be even better than the occasional shot in the arm such as this would be some major projects headed by these animators who are obviously among the most interesting creators working in Japanese animation today.

One thing I noticed in Kid's Story was that the method was still not perfected, in that the key animation by Ohira could not be integrated as is. An outline had to be traced. This becomes clear when you look at his original keys. Thus what we saw was still not 100% pure. Here it looks like we're seeing Hashimoto's drawings in the raw, and that wonderful texture that's so different from what we've just been looking at is part of what gives it its unique impact and beauty.



Jericho [Visitor]

Kid’s Story utilized rotoscoping, albeit not completley direct, the lines drawn are still inventive in a rough approach to tracing figures. Not like a certain confounded Bakshi animation style rotoscoping, if you have ever seen his putrified animation, it will make your stomach turn, in disgust. Ohira certainly refreshes. I was questioning however the opening sequences of Kid’s Story, because the look of not the rotoscoping, but the shooting of 24 drawings per second in for example, the chatting on the computer scene, seemed too redundant. Because compared to other scenes which had the economy not to fill every frame with drawings, some cut scenes seem like they could appropriatley cut down on the movement and still have the same effect or quite possibly heighten it. But I need to see more animation, full time college life is a pain

03/19/05 @ 14:34
Ben [Visitor]

Point taken about that computer scene at the beginning. For all the frames that went into it, it was hardly the most interesting animation in the film. But I just try to look at it as one of the various styles that make up the film. Each scene has a unique flavor to the animation based on the animator, which is what gives the film its richness.

Certain sections were obviously based on live-action footage of this actor appearing in the next film because that was a requirement of the production side, but otherwise I think most of the movement was not. The most interesting parts of the film - like Hashimoto’s animation of Kid jumping over the desks, Ohira’s skateboard chase and Matsumoto’s bathroom scene - were obviously not. Even the select parts that look like they were based on footage don’t feel like pure rotoscoping. Hashimoto’s method has always been to use footage only as a springboard.

03/19/05 @ 17:49
Balak [Visitor]

nice last samcham episode, but hashimoto’s shot was really really great… too bad it didn’t lasted more than a few seconds..
it’s really great, as you said, that directors used yuasa and hashimoto style in the most “pure” way, but it’s too bad we can’t see it in a more extended time…
i mean i’d love to see someone tells to hashimoto “okay, let’s do some tv show with only your style".
i know it’s not realistic but damn…

anyway i loved that rough pencil sequence. i wish i could see that more often.

03/20/05 @ 09:23
jay smith
jay smith [Visitor]

fantastic ending to a great seires!

the bird animation was amazing!

03/22/05 @ 16:47
Vahid [Visitor]

a fitting end…

but didn’t anyone feel champloo was a slightly wasted opportunity?

i mean, it was inspired and hugely hip, but story-wise it never really rose above ‘riffing’. the series ended up as a set of very entertaining vignettes when it could have been elevated to something more. especially since there was so much fertile artistic ground for historical comment, which they did do on occasion.

you could tell the main ‘plot’ was an afterthought to the fun the writers were having just playing along with great new concepts as they went along.

03/22/05 @ 20:33
jfrog [Visitor]

To me the biggest waste in Champloo was that they weren’t content with just doing a set of very entertaining vignettes - I’m in love with all of the really silly episodes, which I’m guessing were all written by Dai Sato, but I can’t find a list of exactly which ones he worked on. But all the attempts at seriousness that cluttered up the series were virtually unwatchable aside from the well-animated fight scenes…and even then it was barely worth it.

I was rather comfortable with the lack of historical comment, my complete lack of knowledge of Japanese history kept me from enjoying the jokes about the famous dead people anywhere near as much as when they were riffing on grafitti and baseball. But that’s more of a personal preference thing than anything else… *shrugs*

03/22/05 @ 21:06
Vahid [Visitor]

I see what you mean. Yeah, they should have picked one or the other. Wouldn’t have been bad if they stuck just to the vignettes! Funny thing is, some people’s favorite episodes were the most serious. Can’t please everyone, I guess. *Sigh*

03/23/05 @ 07:57
Ben [Visitor]

The faux jidaigeki silliness is what kept me coming back to this series. To me it was kind of obvious that that was the whole point of this series - they were thumbing their nose at the usual pretensions of historical accuracy in this sort of hackneyed samurai kataki situation. So in that sense the serious parts felt like kind of a cop-out. And I found them boring, though that’s a personal opinion. But the technical quality of the series is impressive. The animation was quite nice throughout.

Dai Sato seemed to be the one who pushed the envelope the furthest, with his Nokogiri Manzo, marijuana revolutionaries and graffiti samurai. I don’t know how well it comes through in translation, but he’s just got a good ear for comedy. His eps were hilarious, and they feel like what this series was really about. He did 5 8 9 18 22.

03/23/05 @ 10:43
Vahid [Visitor]

Yeah, those were pretty much the best eps. I’m not saying historical accuracy was needed, just that they clearly didnt have the same inspiration/fun with the serious parts as they did with the comedy. Still, a very memorable series.

Random question: any clues as to what Koji Morimoto’s upcoming Satchiko feature will be about?

03/23/05 @ 18:52
Ben [Visitor]

None whatsoever, unfortunately. At least, I don’t have any. I don’t think much information besides the title and projected date has been made available as of yet.

03/23/05 @ 21:59
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

I read through some of your old comments (glad to see you’re not a Turn A Gundam hater like… just about everybody else out there), and one of yoru posts on King Gainer and Kenichi Yoshida reminded me that there’s a new anime coming out next month called Eureka Seven, by studio Bones.

All the Japanese fans have kept going “King Gainer!!1″ at it because Kenichi Yoshida is the character designer. The designs do look somewhat interesting… I believe it’s a show with a very high budget as it’s airing in 30+ stations at a primetime slot, and the director has worked on some eps of RahXephon where there was a strong staff, so let’s hope Eureka Seven doesn’t disappoint…

And I really should ge around to watching Samurai Champloo :(

03/24/05 @ 09:18
Ben [Visitor]

I think there are almost 40 new series starting in the two weeks after April fools (no joke), but Eureka is definitely the biggest hope for next season. I saw the trailer and the quality was really something. Speed Grapher also looks kind of interesting, and I’ll probably check out the first ep of Kawamori’s new thing too, just for the heck of it.

By the way, I’ve since found that Takashi Tomioka was credited as the “main animator” in FMA, which is something I’d never seen before… He was previously credited as “key animator” in Generator Gawl, probably also in the sense of “main animator". The only other time I’ve seen this sort of special credit being given to a single animator (he’s listed beside the CD) is Kazuto Nakazawa just recently for Samcham. So you’re probably on to something about him…

03/24/05 @ 10:35
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

I’ve always wondered what on earth “Main Animator” meant. The same credit pops up in Eureka Seven (for Kenichi Yoshida and Eiji Nakata)… Maybe it’s the person who does the large bulk of key animation or something…

Kawamori’s new thing is really cliche and silly and while it has neat 3D animation… well, Arjuna did have some neat 2D animation in areas, so let’s hope this does too…

03/24/05 @ 19:12
Ben [Visitor]

Must be. I wonder what made them decide to add that post… It’s great because it emphasizes the animator element and how important a part a good animator can play in a series. Often the best thing about a series can be its animators, so it’s only natural that they should bring them to the fore like this…

In the case of FMA, I’m still curious how they decided on him as the main animator… He’s in a lot of eps, but it’s not like he’s in every episode. At first it was another person, and that one was in even less eps. There have been plenty of shows where you get a good animator doing good work throughout the series here and there like he did in FMA. Nakazawa really deserved the credit for all the work he did in SChamp.

I was a big fan of Haibane Renmei, so it’s kind of disappointing that Tomokazu Tokoro is working under Kawamori all the time lately…

03/26/05 @ 10:15
beka [Visitor]

i think the “main animator” or “chief animator” is somewhat similar to western animation’s “supervising animator".
anyway, im new to this site and im glad to have discovered it thru a link from another animation site. i am also an animator here in the philippines and i presently work for a local branch of one of the bigger studios from japan. i wasnt an anime fan before since i started as an independent film animator, (you know, those artsy filmmaker types)but when i saw the works of the likes of ohira and hashimoto, i knew that somehow, there could be a synthesis between ones personal unique style and the rigidity of assembly-line studio animation.

03/27/05 @ 06:34
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Same here, while I can’t say I enjoyed Haibane Renmei as much as Kino no Tabi (one of my all time favourite anime), it certainly is very different from most anime and it was really a very nice piece. Sousei no Aquarion is like the complete polar opposite…

Reading some of the staff comments from the main site, I think I can safely say at least half of them were utterly won over by Kawamori’s attractive nature. Heh… Isn’t he in some future Studio 4C project? It’s highly unusual.

03/28/05 @ 00:40
Ben [Visitor]

Kawamori sounds like he’d be an interesting guy to talk to, just judging from the content of Arjuna… The staff comments seem to confirm that. I’d be curious to hear some of those health secrets myself… XX(

I also found it a bit surprising that Kawamori was directing one of the segments of Genius Party, but thinking about it, you could say he sort of fits in with the alternative-thinking atmosphere of 4°C. That’s probably at least part of the reason he found his way in there.

Kino no Tabi and Haibane Renmei were among the best scripted anime of the last few years, which to me is what makes them so outstanding and unusual… though obviously what makes each great is totally different. Haibane is great because of the depth of the characterisation, the naturalness of the dialogue, the vividness of each character, the honesty of the emotions and situations. Nothing is just stereotypical anime melodrama there, it’s always believable and sound drama - which is shocking considering how many years it’s been since that sort of thing happened in anime. It’s probably the only anime I’ve ever seen that’s approached the level of the masterful human drama of Takahata’s 3000 Ri and Anne of Green Gables. For that it was a really precious discovery for me. There have been too few anime that have tried (much less successfully) to create the sort of mundane down-to-earth drama seen in those shows over the last thirty years, which is a shame since that’s one of the things that anime is supposedly good at. In its short 13 episodes it managed to create a perfectly convincing self-contained world populated by characters who felt totally real, which is quite amazing.

03/28/05 @ 09:24
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Completely unrelated, but dang it, in the end the rumours that Takashi Nakamura would be doing KA in the last episode of FC were false. He only does the storyboarding and directing. Oh well. I think FC was a greater success than Tree of Palme though…

03/30/05 @ 03:11
Ben [Visitor]

Someone suspected Jiro Wakiga ("Smelly Armpit Joe"?) might be a nickname for Nakamura, but who knows… he might have been too busy with everything else.

03/30/05 @ 09:05
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

It might have been, but I’m a little doubtful… I openly admit I’m not at all familiar with Nakamura’s animation so I wouldn’t know if this ep had some of his or not, but it didn’t seem like a particularly amazingly animated ep…

03/31/05 @ 00:57
Ben [Visitor]

To be honest, the last time I saw some great animation from Takashi Nakamura was 18 years ago… since then it feels like it’s been pretty much downhill.

03/31/05 @ 09:09