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This was one of the most finely crafted episodes in the series. Everything felt more nuanced than usual, almost to the extent of feeling like a different approach altogether. You really felt 'in the moment' while watching each scene. Things flowed in a way that was very natural and spontaneous. The episode looked the same as the others on the surface, but felt fundamentally different somehow. It has a much more refined sensibility. The director was much more sensitive to how the different characters would be feeling at each juncture of the story, and how to present each scene and each moment in such a way as to best complement the buildup of the various elements in the episode. You could feel the love and work he put into the episode. It felt like great craftsmanship.
Tadashi Hiramatsu is the one to thank. Hiramatsu has long been known as a great animator, but he was unique as an animator in that, whereas well-known animators tend to become well-known simply because they have a flamboyant style that anyone can identify whenever they see it, Hiramatsu was the opposite - all subtlety and refinement, without a flamboyant style. His animation was low-key but highly worked and with a rare feeling for bringing alive characters with everyday behavior. A craftsman as opposed to an auteur.
In the last few years he has begun the transition to directing after a long time as an animator, and his directing seems to be a logical extension of what we were seeing from Hiramatsu the animator. He now creates extremely sensitive drama with a lot of thought put into the presentation and into getting into the mind of the characters. The drama he creates is both convincing and moving, coming across as polished yet spontaneous. The layout, i.e. the position of the characters in the frame, is always extremely pleasant to look at and studied for naturalness and elegance. He uses the camera subtly and effectively to control the rhythm from moment to moment.
Hiramatsu's sensible directing is here supported by an animation director who's somewhat new but also proving to be a name worth keeping an eye on, Takashi Mukoda, who recently did some nice work on Guren Lagan. Mukoda is free with the expressions and poses in a way that reminds of Takeshi Honda, but he definitely has his own line and style. His drawings are very effective during both the comic and the more heartfelt moments. I don't know to what extent Hiramatsu was involved in the drawings, as many moments felt like Hiramatsu had to have been involved somehow - either his storyboard was very precise, or he provided layout or something - but Mukoda seems to be very talented and flexible, and the two were a great match.
One of the things that I've liked the most about Denno Coil, besides the imaginativeness of the ideas, is simply being able to watch nuanced characters given room to act out their personalities, and the fact that body language plays a large part in this. This episode excels in this arena. The characters came alive wonderfully here, felt revivified. They really inhabit the spaces on the screen. Scenes like the one where Yasako is lounging on her back in her room (on an oyaji beanbag?) bring the characters alive nicely with very natural and unforced behavior. There's a sense of physicality, of presence, that I haven't gotten before now.
Wow, you put that across very well. I agree with you entirely - this episode had the characters’ intentions, feelings and so on brought across through simply the actions they were doing and made it feel the most natural. Even Isako’s behaviour which was different from usual felt surprisingly natural here. I didn’t find some part of myself having to suspend too much disbelief unlike with similar characters in may other series.
I had also felt that the scene with Yasako in her room was one of the best here; for exactly the reason you mention - a sense of presence. I have no idea how to describe it but it were the lovingly animated actions and how her movement accidentally opened the cyber-book, and how she didn’t realise Kyoko was there until afterwards. It couldn’t have happened without a good sense of space.
I felt the camerawork in this episode also made it stand out more than the other episodes; particularly the Satchii battle in the beginning, how the camera switches focus at different times during the Fumie/Haraken/Yasako convo (later with Daichi), and of course the bit where Haraken is reading the diary.
I wonder if he’s doing any other episodes…
I agree about the camera work. It was really well handled, especially that convo between the group with Daichi showing up at the end, the pan over to Kyoko, and particularly the overhead rotating during the diary-reading scene. He isn’t just passively drawing the characters in the frame. You can tell he’s as if conscious of there being an actual camera there, and he’s moving it around in different locations in the space.
I was wondering the same thing, whether he’ll be doing any more. I want to see more. I honestly didn’t feel that much watching his episode of Gunbuster 2, but this was great stuff, just what I’d wanted to see from him.
And the next episode looks quite interesting… we’re finally going to get to see that underwater stuff hinted at in the very first drawing of the show that was made public.
I forgot to talk about that explosion at the beginning. It was quite nice, both the digital effects and the explosion animation. Reminded me a bit of the explosion in Blood.