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Aside from Lupin III: Fujiko and Kids on the Slope, the two other quality shows that just started are a continuation of Bones' Eureka Seven called Eureka Seven AO and a new show from Kenji Nakamura of Mononoke & C.
Smoke and water were my haul from these two first eps. Both featured some wonderful effects animation.
It seems kind of weird to me doing a continuation of Eureka Seven now after all this time. I didn't realize it was that popular. Unsurprisingly, Eureka Seven AO ep 1 was very high quality stuff. I tried following the first series, but after a while I gave up on it because it was a little long and the characters and the writing weren't really that interesting to me, as much work as they obviously put into the trappings and animation. This show is in exactly the same style, and picks up where the previous show left off. They don't explain the basics of the world, which I've forgotten in the meantime (what's a scub coral again?), especially not having watched the first show in full. I'll try to follow it as much as I can, because it is well made technically. It will be nice to see some more nice traditional hand-drawn mecha animation and a traditional grand-scaled sci-fi story with careful world-building.
Whenever I tried to get into the first show I had little niggles about the directing and the character writing that kind of threw me out of the zone, and I got the same feeling here. It was weird how calmly the kids stood there watching these huge explosions occurring on the other side of the hill right in front of them. I would have been pissing my pants. And the dialogue is occasionally weird and laughably theatrical sounding. My reaction was often, "Who would say that in that situation?!"
Visually it's quite beautiful - background and animation are detailed and nuanced. The character drawings are strong, and there are bits of nice character animation, and stunning effects animation. Shinichi Kurita, Hidetsugu Ito and Kakita Hideki drew nice effects in the ep. The smoke effects after the appearance of the second scub coral were particularly impressive. The long shot of the smoke rising was amazingly detailed, reminding me of Toshiaki Hontani's smoke in Akira. It's nice to see such detailed animation in TV work. The way the smoke overcame the running protagonist felt realistic and convincing. Hideki Kakita's subsequent explosions were easily identifiable from their shape, timing and coloring, though I'm not so sure about the other two sections. Maybe Ito did the part where the flying car almost hits the protagonist on the beach & Kurita the second scub coral? I don't know Kurita's work well enough to say for sure. The zigzagging laser effect from the monster was curious. It reminded me of Ito's zigzagging lasers in the recent Doraemon movie, though the timing didn't strike me as having a strong Ito feeling.
Other good animators included Kouno Megumi, Kenji Mizuhata and Sato Masahiro. I liked the bit where the protagonist runs towards the camera as the camera is panning upwards. Had detailed movement that reminded me of Yasuo Muroi's running in Xam'd. I also liked the acting on the beach where the scub burst appears and the guy grabs the kid's arm and yells at him to run away.
I'm hoping they'll put up a section analyzing choice bits of animation like they did for Xam'd.
Kenji Nakamura's Tsuritama was a slippery one. A splash of cold water in the face. I've been a Kenji Nakamura cheerleader since day 1 with Bakeneko, but I feel like each successive TV series has been a step downwards from what he achieved at the very beginning, each one transforming what was such a unique voice willing to go against anime conventions and do his own thing, into yet another ordinary anime director, albeit a slightly more edgy one.
The episode was well directed and animated. The water effects animation (mostly from FX sakkan Takashi Hashimoto I suppose) were splendiferous and a great new addition to the venerable history of Japanese water FX animation through the years from Yasuo Otsuka in Sinbad to Yoichi Kotabe in Animal Treasure Island to Mikiharu Akabori in Sirius to Toshiyuki Inoue in Peak the Whale to Norio Matsumoto in Popolocrois to Yasunori Miyazawa in Moomin, etc. The water shots during the scene on the pier at the end were particularly nice. The water here is more about feeling good than being realistic. It feels great as animation. Though the shot of the fish skipping across the water and sending out ripples and splashes was incredibly realistic with some very precise timing. Good animators in the ep included Takashi Hashimoto himself, Toshiyuki Sato, Yuki Hayashi, Takaaki Wada, Hironori Tanaka.
It's just the show irritated the hell out of me. I couldn't stand the super cutesy twee chirpy music or the super-annoying characters, especially the one saying he's an alien. I kind of liked the neurotic protagonist. It's a shame because there's some very careful and interesting directing packed in here. The bright pastel coloring of the show is appealing and well done. Visually, it has the Nakamura touch. The screen is pleasingly stylized. The storybook coloring almost makes it looks like a Toei girl's show like Ojamajo Doremi, but with sharper more realistic designs rather than that show's storybook visuals. A lot of shots here looked to be based on photos.
I'm sure the show will have some interesting surprises in store and some great animation and directing, so even though I find it annoying for now, as a Kenji Nakamura fan, I want to follow it and give it a chance. But we're far from a show like Mononoke that made me really excited and I felt I could recommend to watch to anyone without hesitation because it was so extremely interesting in every way, from the wildly unique visual sensibility to the powerful, densely layered stories.
Apollon and Tsuritama are next on my list, and I’m just waiting for them to be released for free viewing on Crunchyroll, but all in all I am very pleased with this season’s anime. In fact I can’t remember when was the last time that so many good shows were on, especially with a couple of GREAT ones too.
On Eureka AO you hit the nail on the head (as usual) though most of my complaints come from the design work. As a Eureka Seven fan, I expected the dialogue and story to be what they are (and as a Xam’d fan too); Bones needs to definitely work on better structured stories, not just ones that have good premises. But even at that, I thought both the mecha and the character design work to be a little weaker this time around (did you see those flying cars? Except for the tiny FP Ao drives, the other cars kinda looked like 80’s saturday morning stuff…) - At the same time, if you compare this with the first ep of the first series, I felt like it was a bit better directed, with a more real approach to the acting (at times - I agree with you that in general, it still feels very unrealistic.)
So, yeah, I love Bones, but at the same time, I feel like they’re so close to making very good tv anime, but have a hard time maintaining a good pace for shows of 26-50 eps… However, if they focus more of their efforts on films like “Stranger” then they could really strive for greatness.
I just checked Eureka & AO’s website and it doesn’t show chief writer who supervises the all scripts. It looks like series composition is nonexistent. Previous series had Dai Sato who supervised the story and set the frame work.
I haven’t watched Eureka 7 AO, so I can’t comment about the show. But I want to comment on Bones’ strength and weakness by work history. Just like Regis, I love Bones’ animation quality. It’s just that they focus too much time and effort on visuals than story. It’s already given fact that Bones deliver high animation quality to their clients and fans. Their animation quality attracts animation fans and artists, but not enough to attract wider audience. For recent hits like Ano Hana and Madoka Magica, their greatest strength is storytelling even though their animation quality is not top notch. If the missing chief writer is any indication, I think Bones is blowing off another opportunity to shine with original shows. Opportunity to make original show that is not based from comics or novels don’t come often.
I watched the Tsuritama and I really liked art direction. We don’t come across with graphic BG often. Sometimes I get tired of contrast between painted BG and black outline characters with shadow shapes. Color setting and camera works unifies and soften the both, but the contrast is still there.
I haven’t paid close attention to water FX, so I can’t say much about it. I have to say that showing character’s anxiety by imagined drowning reminded me of typical anime presentation of a character getting fired up.
Still, the way the character drowning is fascinating to me. In this case, the drowning works well with the charcter’s emotional state because close camera angles are used to present lack of space associated with suffocation.
Granted that Mononoke’s biggest strength is visual, but I think its subtle approach to taboo subjects that makes it special. Other shows that deals with the subject tend to be either too direct or comedic.
I would like to mention Atsuya Uki to Tsuritama.
The director and creator of the indie animation Cencoroll.
He did the Character-Design for Tsuritama as you probably know.
& Uki is a very close friend of Mebae, the Character-Design for Nakamura’s last Show “C".
It’s great that they gave these two web-generation artists the opportunity to take a leading role on a TV show. One plus point for aiming to a fresh design.
Bahi, that reminds me.
Do you happen to know if Atsuya Uki is telecommuting animator like Mebae? I remember Mebae was living in Hokkaido when he was working on Black Rock Shooting Star according to Yutaka Yamamoto.