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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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

10:29:07 am , 627 words, 3408 views     Categories: Animation

Hakaba Kitaro op

Haven't seen much interesting anime lately, but I was looking forward to the new late-night show Hakaba Kitaro in the same Noitamina time-slot as Mononoke to see if they might be able to finally do Shigeru Mizuki justice. I've seen a few of the previous anime adaptations of his work, and perhaps I'm just too much of a fan of Mizuki's brilliant manga, but it's uncanny how not a single one of them seems to be willing to try to come close to his drawing style. Clearly people love the stories he's telling, but people seem unwilling, almost afraid, to try to reproduce his drawings. Even apart from the surface look of the adaptations, I find that people have almost uniformly ignored the bitter, biting irony that underlies much of his work in favor of catering to children. It's dumbed down, in other words.

I haven't read the original story on which this anime is based, as this anime is purportedly based on the very earliest serialization of the Kitaro character's adventures from 1959, but the storytelling doesn't strike me as feeling particularly like the Mizuki that I know. Certainly that would not detract from enjoying the show on its own, as it has an amusing retro look and feel to it that is something of a novelty and can be enjoyed on its own. The director obviously put a lot of work into the first episode that I sampled, creating a tense but fun and camp atmosphere of retro horror. But it just didn't strike me as feeling particularly Mizuki. And on the visual plane I found that the new adaptation completely missed the mark. The drawings have little to do with Mizuki, which to me was a real disappointment, as that's one of the things I've been hoping to see done right one of these days.

Except for the op. When I saw the op, I felt like they'd finally fulfilled my wishes and might be going with a look and directing style that was closer to Mizuki's original. I thought the op might be a sign they might be doing something closer to his drawings in the actual show - because here, after all, they were using his own drawings in the opening. Regardless of the content of the show itself, I loved the opening and thought it was a great piece on its own. The images were wonderfully matched to the catchy music, and finally we can see Mizuki's drawings brought alive in animation - at least in a sense. I scoured the credits to find out who did the op, but no luck. No credits for the op. So I've been wondering all this time.

Well, I was surprised to discover today (from a post by the color designer of the op) that the opening drawings were not in fact Mizuki's original drawings from the manga. They were all drawn by another person in a style so closely mimicking Mizuki's drawings that they'd fooled me. The person who did it? None other than Takashi Hashimoto. To add to the joy, the opening itself was directed by Kenji Nakamura. So we have the Mononoke team handling the op. Suddenly it made sense why I loved the opening so much. Although it's disappointing that they didn't use exactly the same team to make the show, in which case it probably would have been exactly what I had always been hoping for, it was gratifying to know that, at least in principle, yes, it is possible for someone to draw in Mizuki's style and bring his images alive in animation. It just takes an immense talent like Hashimoto. What a tremendous shame that at the very least Hashimoto wasn't kept on for the next Noitamina show.



Random person
Random person [Visitor]  

Oh, thank you for the information! I was wondering the very same thing about the OP; it was indeed the only thing I really enjoyed about the show. The rest of it simply failed to grab me at all (except perhaps for the background art) Especially after seeing Mononoke, this felt rather empty.
I loved the shots in the OP like Kitaro waiting at the food stall where the title appears (there’s this incredible sense of space), and the very last shot with the photo album was a great way to end it off.

I really have got to watch whatever Nakamura’s doing next.

(P.S. Many thanks for the string of continually interesting and informative posts!)

01/22/08 @ 16:09
william Massie
william Massie [Visitor]  

Wow, Nakamura and Hashimoto are really really great. I just thought they managed to snag frames from Mizuki’s manga.

To be frank, I never really read any of his manga, seeing as how it’s impossible to market it in the states but his work does look beautiful from what pics on the web I’ve seen.

This might have to do why I enjoyed the show more then you did, I can’t rate it against his Manga.

01/22/08 @ 20:10
Ben [Member]  

I agree about the show, RP. And this also stokes my fire to see what Nakamura has planned next. Though honestly I still find it hard to believe that Hashimoto could have drawn all of those drawings…

01/23/08 @ 21:31