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, May 27, 2007

08:20:32 pm , 1155 words, 3257 views     Categories: Animation, Denno Coil, TV

Denno Coil #3

This episode struck me as the most rhythmical, with the most forward drive. The team was actually a familiar one to me - storyboard/director Akitoshi Yokoyama and animation director Nobutake Ito. It was a surprise to find Nobutake Ito as AD (though now that I think about it, maybe they had him animate the last few shots of the previous episode as a lead-in to this one?), but after some thinking I remembered that I had seen this exact same team together before, in one of my favorite eps in recent memory, ep 21 of Samurai Champloo. And right afterwards they had worked together again on Kemonozume in the same capacity, namely in episode 5. Ep 10 of Kemonozume was one of the major Ito episodes, with not just AD by Ito but with most animation drawn by Ito. There were only two other animators - one of them Yokoyama. So clearly these two have developed a sort of camaraderie in recent years, and so it makes a little more sense to see them together again. And the results in this episode speak for themselves. This episode is just as tight as the others, but has a much more driven rhythm than the very laid back introductory episodes, particularly the first by Iso.

Animators of note in this episode include ex-Ghibli animator Hiroyuki Morita, who's now directing Gonzo's Bokurano, and ex-Ghibli animator Ikuo Kuwana, director of the memorable OVA Street Fighter Alpha: Generations. The lead animator in SFA:G, Hajime Shimomura, was also in an earlier ep of Coil. I would have expected more of a difference in the look with Ito as AD, but he didn't stick out here nearly as much as he did in his eps of Champloo. Honda and Ito are very different animators, and they have different styles of posing and so on, so there is a difference, but I would have been hard-pressed to notice if I didn't pay close attention. Ito has always focused on creating animation rich with natural and spontaneous poses and gestures, and he also endows this episode with a degree of nuanced acting like Honda. But it's not like in Kemonozume, where we were able to see the more idiosyncratic, raw side of Ito. Here we're seeing the professional Ito.

Really the one who stood out as the star of this episode to me, though, was Akitoshi Yokoyama himself. His directing is fantastic. He is great at creating a solidly structured, thrilling, convincing flow of action, and he gave the Mojos lots of room to play out some incredibly fun - and funny - escapades. I haven't laughed this much watching an episode in a good while. I didn't think Coil would have this kind of breadth for humor, like that hilarious shot of Densuke breaking down weeping, and Oyaji's 10-point landing. I also like the way it sounds like they're using a rubber ducky to make all of Oyaji's vocalizations. The series is indeed much more laid back than I at first anticipated, with all of these humorous touches. It's interesting how it melds imaginative futuristic thinking with a more conventional eye for animated fun and a very retro, everyday feeling in the setting.

Mitsuo Iso recently made a few revealing comments in passing on his home page that are kind of related to this. He comments that, due to the time restrictions of the TV format, he was forced to skip over many of the details of the world in favor of focusing on the silly gags, which is a balance of priorities I wouldn't have expected, but made me like the man even more. He said that eventually these materials may be released in some form. He also says that the high quality of the first few eps was all thanks to the excellent staff, and he was just as surprised about it as us, but that in fact he's taking a very laid back approach to the series, basically going with his instincts rather than attempting to make sure every piece is in the right place. He warns not to have too high expectations on that front, though I'll take his warning with a grain of salt. I actually found it reassuring to read his humble tone, and to read that he has this more easygoing attitude than seemingly apparent from the incredibly well-produced first few episodes. He doesn't take himself too seriously. He takes what he is doing seriously, which is different.

This also reminded me how it's difficult to figure out what the true intentions of a creator are from the finished product, particularly in animation where the input of a large number of people makes it impossible to narrow down the intent to that of a single individual. Too many voices have been added along the way. That is almost certainly also the appeal of animation, that this process can add a richness that the creator might not have even envisioned originally.

I also wonder what the secret is to repeat-watchability. I can watch these episodes over and over again and they don't get old, which is rare. I thought about this back when I first discovered Hamaji's Resurrection and would watch it over and over again, and I think the answer is pretty simple. A solid work of art can withstand viewing from any angle over any length of time. Solid craftsmanship is what makes you want to come back to something to try to figure out how all those little details fit together so seamlessly, to try to learn from that - to steal it even. In this case, another thing that makes this world so appealing and keeps it fresh every time you watch is, I'm starting to think, that Iso seems to tap that way children live in the real world and in their own fantasy world at the same time, and tells the story without any cynicism or modern ambivalence. The show feels in a way like a throwback to an older time, to shows from a few decades back.

I'm also reminded of a comment Takahata or Miyazaki made in an interview I read once long ago, something vaguely along the lines that an audience will not be convinced if you have lots of fantasy going on without any grounding in reality; but just add one element that is realistic, and the audience will, as if by association, suddenly find themselves transported into the reality of the film. Iso sets up a very ordinary situation in the real world, and adds to this reality a thin layer of virtual fantasy. While clearly fantasy, it's all just plausible enough to be believable.

The climax with the Illegal exploding and the space around the protagonists cracking into pieces was quite hair-raising thanks to the excellent handling of the digital processing, presumably by Iso himself. Iso has been credited every episode with digital effects so far.

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