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, February 18, 2005

12:25:43 pm , 1004 words, 6103 views     Categories: Animation

Gosenzosama Banbanzai

Here is a list of the key animators for the said 1989 OVA series, which is the only anime that has ever brought together all four of the animators mentioned by Ichiro Itano in that interview I mentioned.

This series was the first and last time Satoru Utsunomiya had the chance to put all of his unique ideas about animation undiluted into one film with a long time format. It should be sought out entirely on its own merits as one of the most original contributions to the evolution of anime in the last two decades. The ambition with which Utsunomiya approached the task still comes through after all these years. Even if it's hard to pin down exactly what it is that makes the animation unique, one senses that the animation is like nothing else one has seen elsewhere, not just in terms of the unique, puppet-like designs but also in terms of the movement. He had a completely free hand in this series, so that what we see here is more purely him than other films like Peek and Hakkenden, where a number of factors wound up cramping his style.

Utsunomiya has a holistic approach to the characters. He gets into their mind, gets to know their history, and the designs and movement spring forth from that. When this process is hindered for whatever reason, that thought process wounds up stalled. That is reportedly what happened with Peek: he was saddled with an unsatisfactory version of his original designs, and was thus less inspired with ideas about character movements.

Of course, Utsunomiya was the animation director in all of these films, and not an animator, so it's normal to be wondering why his films are talked about as if he was creating all the movements. The reason is, in Gosenzosama at least - where he was able to get into the characters, and had a director who allowed him to do as he knew was best for the quality of the production (including improvising a lot of movement that wasn't in the storyboard) - what he did was something of a reversal of what animation directors normally do. In the last episode, for example, where his correction schedule was comparatively tight (1 month), rather than correcting drawings of faces in close-ups, he did nothing but correct the movement. That's a reversal of normal procedure. That shows the degree to which he feels movement is the face of the character. Which is why, even in a film like Peek, every movement we see feels like it springs from the hand of Utsunomiya.

Lately Utsunomiya has been focusing on the capturing a feeling of natural movement by focusing on the unintended movements that make a movement feel real, and in Gosenzosama he was already consciously using a number of strategies to try to bring animation back closer to reality, such as placing shadows exactly where they should be according to the light source. Not surprising, then, how important a part shadows play in his latest film. Utsunomiya also brought a more three-dimensional approach to form to his animation than anyone had before, and that is probably one of the things that makes the animation in Gosenzosama feel so different. Without resorting to rotoscoping or increasing detail, Utsunomiya managed to breathe a new feeling of reality and life into his characters by discarding stylistic conventions and coming up with his own unique method using limited animation and simplified designs.

Besides the animation, this series has much else going for it. In fact, it's my own favorite item by the director, because, of all his works, it seems to come together the best as a whole, featuring him at his most eccentric and engaging. The script is a tour-de-force of outlandish theatricality that would not be out of place in a 1960s avant-garde theatre troupe's repertoire. It is matched by static directing that places the focus squarely on the figures walking around the stage, who are animated via a never-before-seen kind of theatrically expressive body movement that fully meets the severe demands placed by the gymnastics of the script. The visuals that result from this combination are quite unforgettable. Even the soundtrack is unique. Newspapers tear to the sound of shattering glass, and cows moo when chopsticks enter rice. The audio director was Chiba Shigeru, voice of the director's alter-egos Mendo and Shiba, who is the only voice-actor missing to complete the core Urusei troupe in this dystopian remake/pomo deconstruction.

As an added bonus, the opening is by Koji Nanke, the famous independent responsible for the Urusei openings, but the style here is closer to Fischinger than his earlier work. It would be nice to see a collection or retrospective of his work one day.

The obvious feature of the animator list is perhaps that there are 5 times as many animators in the last episode as in the first. Which perhaps makes sense, since the schedule was reportedly six months for the first episode, and two and a half or so for the rest. What impresses, then, is how much it's possible to acheive with a small number of talented animators.

1
Kusumoto Yuko, Tanaka Tatsuyuki, Yaginuma Kazuyoshi, Ohira Shinya, Tokiya Yoshinori, Futamiya Tsuneo

2
Kusumoto Yuko, Aoki Mariko, Oseki Noriko, Ohira Shinya, Tada Masashi, Tanaka Tatsuyuki, Hashimoto Shinji, Tokura Norimoto, Aoshima Katsumi

3
Yamashita Masahito, Aoki Mariko, Emura Toyoaki, Ohira Shinya, Kusumoto Yuko, Saga Satoshi, Tada Masashi, Tokura Norimoto, Murata Mitsunori, Yamauchi Eiko, Yamazaki Utako

4
Hashimoto Shinji, Aoki Mariko, Iso Mitsuo, Emura Toyoaki, Kusumoto Yuko, Hisataka Shiro, Tanabe Osamu, Tada Masashi, Yamauchi Eiko

5
Ohara Hidekazu, Emura Toyoaki, Okawa Hiroyoshi, Kusumoto Yuko, Saga Satoshi, Matsumoto Norio, Murata Mitsunori, Yamauchi Eiko, Yoshida Hidetoshi

6
Aoki Mariko, Aoshima Katsumi, Iso Mitsuo, Emura Toyoaki, Okawa Hiroyoshi, Oseki Noriko, Ohira Shinya, Ohara Hidekazu, Kise Kazuchika, Kusumoto Yuko, Hisataka Shiro, Saga Satoshi, Takeda Kazuya, Tanaka Tatsuyuki, Tanabe Osamu, Tada Masashi, Tokiya Yoshinori, Tokura Norimoto, Futamiya Tsuneo, Hashimoto Shinji, Futaki Makiko, Matsumoto Norio, Murata Mitsunori, Yamauchi Eiko, Yamazaki Utako, Yamashita Masahito, Yaginuma Kazuyoshi, Yoshida Hidetoshi, Washida Toshiya

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5 comments

jay smith
jay smith [Visitor]

so taking into context what you said about Utsunomiya, what did you think of peek over all?

i gota admit i loved peek as a movie.

02/18/05 @ 19:06
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Oh, I loved Peek. I thought it worked great as a film in spite of the familiar scenario. And Utsunomiya’s animation was much better than he makes out. It’s a really nice down-to-earth film overall that I highly recommend. Great characters, great directing, extremely pleasant to watch. I had some reservations, but nothing worth harping on. I particularly liked the soundtrack - the way the music was integrated into the film in certain scenes, and the way most of the film went without music.

02/18/05 @ 23:27
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

“it seems to come together the best as a whole, featuring him at his most eccentric and engaging. “

Have you seen “Talking Head” yet? From what I’ve seen of Gosenzosama its very similar in feel (very surreal, very eccentric and not too pretentious), the main difference is that its live action.

The film is about Oshii’s views on film, its a lot of fun to watch, particularly if you know something about film history. I kind of wish Oshii would stick with this sort of style and not be trying as hard as he does in more recient work (I still like Oshii, but I see the weaknesses that make him just a good director and not a great one.)

02/19/05 @ 11:03
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

No, I haven’t seen Talking Head, though it does sound like good Oshii. I so much prefer the director when he doesn’t take himself so seriously, because when he does he usually falls into the trap of being really pretentious, and it’s embarrassing to watch. Also I liked Gosenzo because those are his own characters, unlike most of the other franchise films he made.

02/20/05 @ 10:43
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

Somewhat on topic but out of the scope of this posting…

I found an interesting article that was posted on the production IG boards involving Oshii and Miyazaki. While its stuff that most of us already know, its still an interesting read, and quite well researched (with one glaring error, see if you can catch it) for an article in the American press about anime. (click on first article link here)

02/21/05 @ 20:09