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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Friday, May 6, 2005

06:10:41 pm , 537 words, 2151 views     Categories: Animation, Animator, Shinya Ohira

Early Ohira

In his early years, Shinya Ohira was involved in a lot of projects that, shall we say, have not exactly stood up to the test of time. But in almost all cases his own personal contribution as an animator to those projects is still worth seeking out entirely on its own merits. One of the best examples, and surely one of the most obscure items I think I've ever managed to pull out of my hat (which is saying a lot), is an item entitled Captain Power: Battle Training Video (1987). I'm not sure how it worked, but basically it was a "video" game in three volumes, conceived to capitalize on the TV series, where you aimed a toy gun at the screen and shot different areas for points, à la Duck Hunt.

The whole game is just an extended sequence of animation, like Dragon's Lair, minus the branching. The animation was done at AIC, the same year Ohira worked there on Bubblegum Crisis and Gall Force. Shinya Ohira was the animation director along with Jun Yano, and animators include Hiroyuki Okiura and Toru Yoshida. The animation itself consists almost entirely of insanely intricate animation of backgrounds moving past, wildly baroque explosions, and scads of missiles. No story, no nothing. Effects, effects, effects. The styling of Ohira's work at this early period, with its Kaneda-esque sharp contrast and elegantly arced geometric forms (aptly likened to splashed milk by Takashi Murakami) reaches its peak in this piece, the year after which he was involved in Akira and began to gravitate towards the more realistic handling of natural phenomena, away from the eye-grabbing hattari posing that characterizes his great predecessor's work.

In his first few years Ohira took after the graphic look of Yoshinori Kanada and Yamashita Masahito, but he was already aiming in a different direction. Where the work of the former two seemed to be about exploiting the inherent possibilities of the nature of limited animation by experimenting with what sort of interesting movements and effects could be achieved by doing things like modulating the frame rate and flickering between extreme drawings, Ohira was already moving towards a more fluid style of animation that infused the elegance of the former with his own predilection for increased abstraction. At first sight it might seem merely a return to traditional fluidity, but in reality he was digging deeper. He was looking at movement in more close detail than anyone had done before, except for maybe Hideaki Anno, whose work on Honneamise from that year was another inspiration. Yamashita and Kanada showed the way, and Ohira upped the ante by pushing aside any hint of imposed anthropomorphism or emotion and focusing more intently on increasing the volume and impact of the effect at hand, as if in a mad quest to get to the core of the atom, to the core of what constitutes motion. In recent years he seems to have found a good balance by going back to being slightly more limited while retaining the same density of information. One thing he has retained from this early period is that sense of playfulness, of revelling in the inherent beauty of line, porting it over into a more realistic context.

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15 comments

Tim Drage
Tim Drage [Visitor]

>intricate animation of backgrounds moving past, wildly baroque explosions, and scads of missiles. No story, no nothing

That sounds amazing!

05/07/05 @ 16:01
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

I’ve seen one of these tapes before, in fact I have it at my old house that I lived in before I went to college. My brother used to have the ships that you’d fire at the screen, and we’d play it quite a bit when I was young.

When I got older I found one of the tapes, it was near the end and I got to catch the credits, the names all really shocked me, a lot of people who would later be regulars on Oshii films did work on it, Kenji Kawai even did the sound track!

I’d like to find the other two captain power tapes. I know I had them when I was little…

05/07/05 @ 17:08
Tim Drage
Tim Drage [Visitor]

If you find them, are you able to put them online? Would be interested to see them… ties in with my vague idea of an abstract film that’s pure explosions + FX animation…

05/08/05 @ 03:36
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

They’re actually surprisingly easy to find on eBay. They turn up regularly for quite cheap.

05/08/05 @ 09:19
Tim Drage
Tim Drage [Visitor]

Actually yeah, after posting that I did some searching + found some on ebay… might bid some time..

05/08/05 @ 11:06
Philip Daniel (aka Konan)
Philip Daniel (aka Konan) [Visitor]

Does anyone know what scene(s) Ohira animated in Spirited Away (other than the boiler-room entrance scene), Portable Airport (I would think that he animated the highly stylized, full-animationish woman in the purple dress, before the escalator sequence), and Howl’s Moving Castle (maybe the stairway scene with Heen, Old Sophie, and the Witch)? Thanks.

11/28/05 @ 18:53
Manuloz
Manuloz [Visitor]

I’m no expert, but i think i spotted him twice on Howl’s, the first just after the scene you mentionned, where Howl is changing in his monster self.
And the other one where the “Old Witch” at the end try to get old of Calcifer and burn out.

11/29/05 @ 10:26
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Now that you mention it, I remember that part near the end being an interesting movement, but I didn’t remember it striking me as looking like Ohira… I’ll have to look at it again. I would have thought he would only have been given that earlier spot.

The stairway scene is wonderful, but it’s not Ohira… it’s by another great animator. It’s an amazing scene because it’s hilarious even with the sound off, just from the body movement.

11/29/05 @ 14:51
Philip Daniel (aka Konan)
Philip Daniel (aka Konan) [Visitor]

Ben said:
Now that you mention it, I remember that part near the end being an interesting movement, but I didn’t remember it striking me as looking like Ohira… I’ll have to look at it again. I would have thought he would only have been given that earlier spot.

The Portable Airport scene I mentioned?

11/29/05 @ 16:59
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Sorry, no, I was referring to the part in Howl that Manuloz mentioned. I haven’t seen Portable Airport yet.

11/29/05 @ 18:34
Philip Daniel (aka Konan)
Philip Daniel (aka Konan) [Visitor]

Oh, sorry. Well, then, here’s a link to the full video: http://www.catsuka.com/videos/files/Capsule_PortableAirport.zip

Note: Only plays in realplayer.

11/29/05 @ 19:08
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Hope this hasn’t been pointed out before, but looks like these videos are now available on Youtube… The video quality should be sufficient, I think. They’re terribly fun - not just the striking effects, but the moving backgrounds. Tons of moving backgrounds. (Naturally, considering the nature of the game) I also noticed Shinji Aramaki was involved…

For reference, the animation sections start at certain times for each video

2_1: ~1:42 (interesting stuff starts ~2:05, lots of moving backgrounds from ~4:36)

2_2: All animation until 7:39.

3_1: ~2:22 (French) I liked the bit around 6:20 to 6:29.

3_2: All animation until 9:34

05/08/06 @ 07:29
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Thanks a bunch for pointing that out. Didn’t know it was there. My own favorite part has got to be the bit near the end 3_2, which is the part pictured on Aniota’s site. It was obviously one of the last parts done on the project, and it sort of feels like over the course of the project he had evolved and you can finally start to feel the modern Ohira appearing in terms of the timing of the FX and so on during those few seconds. It’s very close to the smoke & FX he did right after in Akira and Angel Cop.

05/08/06 @ 11:05
busterbeam
busterbeam [Visitor]  

Ancient article, I know, but I’m curious: was the Murakami line referring to Ohira’s work, or just Kanada aesthetics as a whole? And where does the line come from?

07/19/11 @ 10:56
Ben [Member]  

Just noticed I never responded to this… The Murakami line was referring to Kanada, not Ohira. Murakami used some stills of Kanada’s fire dragon at one of his exhibitions. I forget exactly what he said about it. Sorry for the vague wording there, I see how it might be unclear whether I was saying Murakami was referring to Ohira or Kanada.

09/28/11 @ 13:08