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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« WatariToshiyuki Inoue interview - Part 2 »

Friday, May 27, 2005

06:30:06 pm , 1297 words, 1335 views     Categories: Animation

Hisashi Mori's Spigura

My answer to a comment was getting long, so I decided to post it here:

This is something I've felt since ep 2 of Speed Grapher... I feel sorry of Masashi Ishihama. I don't know exactly what's going on, so I can't really say. Just seems obvious. No director would want every episode of his show to be farmed out to Korea and look like crap, so he's got to be tearing his hair out right now. I hear he left JC Staff because he thought he couldn't make good anime there, so it's really ironic that now JC Staff just made that ep of Honey & Clover...

I think this episode was a good example of the animation director AND the director being killed. It's curious because there are some companies that outsource to Korea, even for key animation, and the results aren't too bad. It's like they say, there are good and bad studios in Korea just like in Japan. So I'm thinking it's Gonzo's fault. I think they're just skimping on the schedule and the resources because they're overextended. Too bad Ishihama has to be caught in the middle.

And Mori. Finally a Mori episode, and they use him that badly. There were some shots that were nice, very Mori, but as you said, it actually seemed like they just didn't do the inbetweens, or couldn't because Mori's drawings were too hard - I particularly noticed it with his beautiful smoke. It really felt like pure KA, and I'm not talking "full limited", though he could probably do that if he wanted. Anyway, it's a shame.

To answer your question, the animation director is there purely to correct the drawings by the key animator, who specifies the inbetweens. I could be wrong about this, but here's my understanding of the flow:

1) Director assigns shots
2) Key animator draws his keys. He specifies the inbetweens using what's called a "time sheet".
3) The keys are collected by runners, if necessary, and sent to the animation director to be checked. If necessary, the animation director corrects the keys.
4) Keys are sent to be inbetweened. (Or they might first be sent to "daini genga" or second key animators to clean up the roughs of the "daiichi genga" or first key animators)
5) After the inbetweens come back, sometimes they might be corrected by the animation director, time permitting, if really execrous.
6) Finishing.

Jin-Roh innovated in ways other than the animation. The english translations of the credits seemed actually more accurate to the tasks than the traditional translation. The ambiguous title of "animation director", for example, was more aptly retitled to "key animation supervisor".

This process was actually described pretty well in Kuromi-chan, for example how the company tried to shaft the animation director by sending the keys directly to be inbetweened without letting her correct them. A far more extreme example occured in real life with ep 4 of Lost Universe, which was completely done in Korea by a studio where there was no animation director and obviously no real animators. The problem was that the execs had them do the finishing there as well, so when it came back they had no means of correcting anything, and no time anyway, so it went on air as is. "Yashigani" has since become a synonym for animation that has gone beyond the pale.

You can see the time sheets for that op dance animation that Ken'ichi Yoshida put up on his homepage, where it's all very clearly explained.

Look at the "Action" column. This is where the important part is done. This is where the key animator assigns each key and each inbetween to one of the 24 frames in a second. In this case, each sheet has six seconds.

Normally the key animator will draw a certain number of keys for a shot, each numbered starting from one, and write down that number under a column in "Action". The letters "A-H" indicate the layer. In this case there are two layers. Characters (or moving objects) are divided into different layers to make it easier for the animator to focus on each one. In this case, layer B has the girl, and layer A has Gainer.

You'll notice he's put up four shots. The black triangles on the time sheet indicate where each shot ends.

For layer A, in addition to keys (numbered under A) and inbetweens (indicated by a ` mark), he's also drawn "inbetween reference" drawings, where he's drawn the parts that move but left the unmoving parts undrawn, for the inbetweeners to fill in. These are lettered with katakana 'a' 'i' 'u' etc.

The column between "Action" and "CAMERA" is for the number of drawings in the full, inbetweened animation. So you'll see that there are a total of 8 drawings in the first layer of the first dancing shot, two of which are his key drawings, four of which are "inbetween reference" drawings, and two of which are pure inbetweens. He goes through the 8 drawings, then loops through the 8 drawings again, then goes through the first four before cutting to the first drawing in the next shot.

For the most part the opening is in what's called "nikoma", or two frames per drawing. There are some exceptions that are in "hitokoma" or one frame per drawing, indicated by two different numbers right next to each other in the time sheet.

Obviously this process can vary subtly between animators and studios.

It helps to know a bit about this to understand what Mitsuo Iso did. "Full animation" is two frames per drawing (or one in pans), and "limited animation" is anything less than that. Normally the key animator draws a few frames here and there and lets inbetweeners fill in the "inbetween" poses. Prior to this people like Masahito Yamashita and Yoshifumi Kondo actually did away with the inbetweens and drew all of the drawings themselves. It was still "limited" (or at unusual frame rates), but it was mostly drawn by them. What Iso did was to keep the frame rate an even 3 and draw every drawing himself to make the movement, albeit technically "limited", as "full" of interesting movement as possible. At least, that's my understanding of it. I'm not an animator, so this is just what I've been able to figure out. Of course, that's not the only thing he innovated, but just one part.

As for Honey and Clover 7, I didn't know what to expect, but I was very impressed by what I saw. I can believe that none of the other episodes reach this level without even seeing them, because the movement here was incredibly nuanced and full for any show. This was indeed a perfect example of an episode where a talented animator was given free reign of the floor to strut his stuff, with glorious results. Normally highlights would be the last thing in the world I would compliment an animator on drawing, but what he did with that last little bit of animation of the girl was incredibly effective and unlike anything I've seen anywhere else. It's the kind of animation full of such nuance that it sent shivers down my spine. It's a great example of through-conceived animation. The inbetweener list was very short, and it makes sense. You could see that most of it was drawn by him just by looking at it. Indeed a figure I'll be keeping an eye on from here on out.

I hadn't watched anything but the first ep until now, but even besides the animation I was impressed. The story was well told and convincing. The directing was impressive. Koji Masunari of ROD fame storyboarded/directed and Yosuke Kuroda wrote the ep. A very nice piece of work. A good example of how shoujo anime should be done.



Random person
Random person [Visitor]

It is unfortunate that Gonzo has put their priorities on their 2 other projects Basilisk and Trinity Blood. If you ask me this one deserved the good animators…

I’m glad that the producers are clearly putting in effort for Honey and Clover. They did their research and are trying to squeeze out good animation by using mostly in-house animators (Well, compared to say, Melody of Oblivion which had famous people like Yoh Yoshinari doing designs but generally cheap animation).

And I have to thank you very much once again regarding explaining the animation process. I really owe you too much! I have heard of Yashigani though. And SG would probably be The Ultimate Challenge for animation directors who think they’re the king at correcting drawings…

05/27/05 @ 19:06
Ben [Visitor]

Glad to help. I also noticed that Yo Yoshinari seems to be focusing more on designing/illustration recently… too bad.

05/28/05 @ 19:37
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

In keeping the TV anime stuff to TV anime posts… I was watching GITS:SAC 2nd 18, there’s Toshiyuki Inoue and Masashi Andou in there. It was a better animated ep than usual. Of course it’s nothing exciting and amazing, but there’s a nice bit of a dog barking in the beginning.

Recently Sousei no Aquarion’s episode 9 (Why am I still watching that?) was done entirely by Koreans, but it was pretty remarkable for Koreans. Maybe because the storyboard was done by Eiichi Satou (I don’t know if that’s how his name is spelt, he’s the co-director for Arjuna anyways.). And seeing how few animators there were I suspect there was more 3D animation than I noticed…

Another thing I’ve been wanting to ask is about this credit I keep seeing at the end of credits that usually goes with the production runners and so on: 文芸 (bungei). Literature? Eh…

05/31/05 @ 04:09
Ben [Visitor]

That’s a good question. I’ve seen that credit myself for a long time and always wondered what it meant, but I’ve never found it explained anywhere, so I can’t give you an answer. It’s not a new thing. I think I remember seeing it in shows dating back as far as the early 70s. And it shows up everywhere, even in robot shows, which is kind of baffling.

I’m kind of like you. I’m totally unable to explain why I find myself watching that show. The whole series is basically riding on the back of that one gattai gag. But the double entendres can be occasionally funny. I’ll give Kawamori this, he knows how to make due with very little resources to throw together a show that isn’t entirely unwatchable.

Oh, I know why I’m watching it: In the hope that Utsunomiya or Matsumoto might turn up in an episode.

I don’t know about you, but I was fairly creeped out by Zettai Shonen after watching episode 2. I had this strange nagging feeling after seeing a few of the shots in ep 1, but I thought it might have been just my imagination, but then I saw the same kind of shot in the 2nd episode, and it really creeped me out. I think you know what I mean. OK, are you making a kids show, or ero anime? Yuck.

Also, on the subject of Korean animators, you’re right that it wasn’t bad for the number of animators they had, though it was far from great. The CG definitely is being used effectively as a resource-saving device. Characters were CG in a few shots, I noticed. Recent shows like Tenjo-Tenge, Midori no Hibi and Kaleido Star were some of the better examples of Korean anime, with the fluid movement that I associate with DR Movie. One thing I’ve really wanted is to find a single Korean animator who really stands out in the way the best Japanese animators do, just to prove the exception to the rule of the low overall level of most of what I see.

05/31/05 @ 13:45
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

I was also a little creeped out by Zettai Shounen, but some have been postulating that the abundance of odd camera angles is because the show is from the physical point of view of those weird alien things that are observing the town’s residents…

06/06/05 @ 22:07
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

I take my comment back. Something’s wrong with Tomomi Mochizuki.

06/10/05 @ 23:28
Ben [Visitor]

Glad you finally saw what I meant.

06/12/05 @ 19:01
Kokone [Visitor]

Zettai Shounen is about a young adolescent male. He’s starting to notice girls, but hasn’t really figured out why yet. The camera reflects where his gaze is lingering, like when he meets that new girl in ep. 2.

I think Mochizuki is trying to make a show that kids at that awkward time of their life can relate to. Why shouldn’t she do a show that realisticly portrays a young male character? It seems consistent with her prior work to me (and nowhere near as extreme as Seraphim Call, yeesh). Sure it’s a little ecchi, I suppose, but not obnoxiously so or inappropriately, unless you are a middle-aged pervert watching the show for that sort of thing in the first place…

06/18/05 @ 17:58
Ben [Visitor]
06/18/05 @ 18:10
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

While the ero-angles and ero-pans and what not give the show a different side to it, I think it’s kind of unnecessar sometimes. I’m surprised Tomomi Mochizuki’s done all the storyboards so far. It’s not a bad show entirely, but I’m a bit disappointed with teh animation.

Of course there’s definitely worse stuff out there. I don’t know if it’s a recent trend or what, making kid’s shows have moe or ero bits to them so that in the case that they fail to attract kids, they can attract otaku. Or is it a case of otaku trying to find moe whenever possible? Call me evil, but I’m hoping that the anime bubble bursts so it goes back to having less extraneous anime, and the rest goes on OVA.

I never wanted to watch ROD, but I’m going to go find those Tetsuya Takeuchi eps…

06/19/05 @ 01:28
Ben [Visitor]

I was like you, I didn’t want to watch it, but I had to watch the episode that Hisashi Mori did, 13, and it was actually really good, not just in terms of the animation, but even the directing was pretty good, the way they kept the dialogue down and let the action convey the story. In 13 it’s obvious where Mori did - he did the end, which is very distinctive and worth a look. But I’d always been confused, because the beginning is really well animated too, but done in a totally different style, and there was nobody else I recognized in the credits. Now that I’ve seen Honey & Clover 7, I look back at the credits, and who’s listed second after Mori? Takeuchi! Voila. Problem solved. Your mentioning that he was involved sent off alarm bells. I might have to go through the whole series now, as this ep was more watchable than I’d expected. I’d always wanted to mention this before, but forgot. The op is nice too, with art by the Easter Hime Gumi who did the op art for Cossette, plus Masashi Ishihama actually given a chance to show that he can do good work…

06/19/05 @ 08:43
Kokone [Visitor]

Huh. Well that shoots down whatever source it was I saw that assumed he was a she (and I can understand why with a name like that). :D I’ll have to track that down now…

06/19/05 @ 12:49
Ben [Visitor]

Easy mistake to make. I thought Masami Hata was a woman for a long time because of his similarly androgynous name. It’s actually rare to find women directors in anime, though maybe less so nowadays than before. In fact, Aki Tsunaki (Harukanaru Toki no Naka de) is about the only one I can think of off the top of my head.

06/19/05 @ 13:56
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Believe it or not, but Speed Grapher has got a (nice) full OP in ep 12.
Here’s the credit list:
Storyboard: Kunihisa Sugishima
Director: Masashi Ishihama
Key Animation:
Masashi Ishihama, Makoto Uno, Yasuomi Umezu, Hiroyuki Okuno, Hiraku Kaneko, Erukin Kawabata, Fumihide Sai, Yuuichi Takahashi, Takahiro Tanaka, Jun Nakai, Yuuichi Nakazawa, Naoko Nakamoto, Daiki Harada, Shunji Murata, Hisashi Mori, Ryou Morisaki, Toru Yoshida.

Anyway, it’s worth watching. They spent the past few episodes using recycled animation for the OP… This is a nice birthday present.

06/24/05 @ 05:34
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Oh… and ep 13’s AD is Hiroyuki Okuno again. Please let it be better than the previous one.

Might as well add that ep 13 of Aquarion will be done by the usual “good” staff, maybe Utsunomiya might pop up.

06/24/05 @ 08:23
Ben [Visitor]

What a laugh riot. Shows how much of a schedule they must have had. Second to last episode and they finally have an op. (or are they actually planning on another season?) Happy bday to you and me both. I’ll drink a glass of Port to your health, then another for mine.

I wonder why there was no AD credited in that op…

06/24/05 @ 12:37
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

I’m also wondering why there was no AD credited, and it wasn’t listed as 原画 but 作画 …

They are having a 2nd season thoguh, judging by the official site, since they’re having a new ending song for JUly~September.

06/24/05 @ 19:46
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Well, I just watched Kamichu! ep 1… I intended not to, but I heard Koji Masunari was the director and guessed that Takeuchi Tetsuya would be there. I was right… Hirofumi Suzuki was also in there. Quite a lot of effort put in, actually.
Koji Masunari and Masashi Ishihama seem to share a fair amount of friends…

07/02/05 @ 20:24
Ben [Visitor]

It was impressive, but I’ve just been feeling such burn-out lately that even that didn’t feel like enough for me. I came away feeling that that one still of the four monster things sitting on the edge of the pier fishing was the best thing about the whole episode, and wishing the whole episode looked like that… I just can’t take those character designs anymore, and I predict an onslaught of them in the next few days…

07/03/05 @ 21:17