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I'd never watched much fighting anime before seeing the Atsushi Wakabayashi/Norio Matsumoto episodes of Naruto, but I was impressed enough by those to be compelled to see if I might be able to scrounge up any other interesting team-ups in recent fighting anime. And with very little effort, this is what I found.
- 吉原正行 Masayuki Yoshihara (storyboard/animation director/key animation)
- 新房昭之 Akiyuki Shinbo (director)
- 西尾鉄也 Tetsuya Nishio (key animation - he did the most impressive part in the episode, the marionette)
My first encounter actually occurred way back in 1997, when I rented a VHS tape of recent anime from a Japanese corner store in Houston. On the tape, among other random anime, was a recently aired episode of Ninku. I don't remember what the other stuff was, but I distinctly remember being totally shocked and blown away by the quality of the Ninku episode, and not being able to forget it for a long time afterwards. I didn't watch much anime back then either, so the fact that the first random anime episode I happened to pick up was that good got me to wondering - half in despair - whether all anime had become that good in the short span I'd been away; but in the event, no, I later discovered that I had stumbled across the most famous episode in the series, one far above the norm both then and now, hence sparing me much time in front of the TV.
Besides having a great opening animated by Tetsuya Nishio (who also did KA in episodes 13 & 48 and AD/KA in 15 & 50), Ninku apparently featured a number of other high-quality episodes such as episodes 14, 22, 29 & 45. Episode 29 is the earliest sally in the genre I know of by Atsushi Wakabayashi (animation director/key animation), who has now established himself as the reigning master in his Naruto episodes.
Norio Matsumoto's brief appearance in the series (#2) signals his first involvement in the genre, to be picked up shortly.
#30, 35, 41, 47, 52, 58, 66, 74
- 新房昭之 Akiyuki Shinbo (director/storyboard)
- 若林厚史 Atsushi Wakabayashi (key animation)
1992's Yu Yu Hakusho, one of the biggest hits of the 90s and the spark of the fighting anime boom, was the baby steps in the genre for most of the same handful of people who have been responsible for pretty much everything good in the genre since then.
The late episodes by the Shinbo/Wakabayashi team are the high point of the series. Apart from his episodes with Shinbo, Wakabayashi was also AD on episodes 6, 12, 15, 23 (+KA) & 48.
Tetsuya Nishio also did a lot animation in this series: episodes 2, 9, 14, 19, 26, 33, 43, 49, 56, 62, 70, 86 & 92. This was the period when he was influenced by Satoru Utsunomiya, who worked alongside him as a key animator in episodes 19 & 26.
Shinbo has been active in other areas since then. Among other things, he went on to do Metal Fighter Miku (#4 & 13) and Ginga Ojosama Densetsu Yuna (#1), and more recently the OVA コゼットの肖像 (Le Portrait de Petite Cosette), a high quality gothic horror type thing, all of which he directed with the same exacting and peculiar touch that made his fighting anime so noteworthy and interesting.
- 松本憲生 Norio Matsumoto (key animation)
Before recently doing the FX animation in the aforementioned episodes of Naruto (he also animated two cuts in the latest opening), the prolific Norio Matsumoto left behind one of the most impressive animated sequences of his illustrious career in episode 22 of this fighting anime.
#30, 31, 60, 66, 85
Around the same time, Matsumoto did animation in a number of episodes of Rurouni Kenshi before going on to do...
#11, 17, 22, 28
...the movie-quality action in episode 28 of which is his strongest work in this series, and leads directly to Naruto shortly afterwards, thus closing the loop.
watch bleach, shakukan, nanoha, and bakugan
I would love to see more of these type of articles up!