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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Monday, August 18, 2008

11:54:57 pm , 769 words, 1891 views     Categories: Animation, Kaiba, TV, Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Kaiba #8

I'm so behind on Kaiba it's not even funny. The series finished broadcasting weeks ago, but I didn't have time to write my thoughts about this episode, which I actually watched for the first time over a month back, so I got stuck and couldn't watch the rest. With only four more to go after this one, I'm going to slowly make my way through to the end, savoring each episode.

I just watched this episode several times, which is what it took to finally get to the point where I felt I knew what had happened. The script is actually brilliant, this time written solo by Yuasa. The details of every line are fantastic in the Japanese, full of that great ellipsis of details that Yuasa is so good at. Through the script here he carefully presents particular pieces of the puzzle one by one, here and there, slowly bringing the big picture to light, creating a great feeling of building tension, and masterfully weaving the various players into the converging unfolding narrative. This episode creates a great feeling of excitement and anticipation, as you sense that things are going to start really moving. Things almost go too fast to be able to follow what's happening, but it makes for a richer experience the way he does it. Watching this episode I actually thought this was perhaps the first TV anime I'd seen that achieved something of the feeling of epic scale of Future Boy Conan, as different as the two shows are in the details.

Choi Eunyoung of episode 5 backs Yuasa's brilliant script up perfectly as storyboarder, director and animation director, confirming the smart and sophisticated sensibility we discovered in the wildness of episode 5, which is here focused to the task of revving the engine on the story heading into the final lap. It's as if we've gear-shifted from the middle transitional portion where we explored side-stories that fleshed out the world of Kaiba, into the meat of the overarching story.

This was Popo's episode, and the early parts at the meeting where we're first given budding insight into Popo's past and consequent conflicted position in the group were very well handled by the directing, with the tripartite mental image of Dada merging with the image of a youthful Popo - a touch subtle enough to not give anything away blatantly, but clear enough to deepen the meaning and impact of the scene upon repeated viewings. The color sensibility of this episode was also as exceptional as episode 5, with a different color palette seeming to accent the tone of each major scene, ranging from the blue of the opening where the atmosphere is heavy to the yellow of the ending where the mood is ascendant and prospects are opening up for the characters.

Choi's drawings litter the episode in a patchwork fashion that works wonderfully to give the episode visual richness, interspersed as they are with great work from all the regulars including that maniac Michio Mihara, who apparently hadn't done enough doing a whole episode himself, and here provides numerous bits in various places. Rather than big chunks being done by one person, the style here is more scattered. The great scene at the dinner table with Jakuchu and Neiro seemed maybe like the work of Ryotaro Makihara, though I'm not sure. Also the scene of the two near the end of the underground museum scene (the rest being Choi). Just a guess tho. Masahiko Kubo was there too, though I don't have a good enough sense of his style to say what he did. He's too versatile. (as if that were an insult) Maybe the memory sections - the pre-op & wrestling memory? I remember a bit of rich, fluid animation of Vanilla running at the end of episode 2 reminding me of some running in here. It's funny that Choi's listed as animation director, because it doesn't look like she corrects anything. Her shots jump out, and they're fantastic as usual. Who needs to when the animators are this good?

The names of the characters are interesting. I just figured out that Jakuchu is named after a wonderful Japanese painter of the 18th century. I wasn't aware of him at all, but upon looking at some paintings, I was stunned by their masterful formal stylization. I didn't think anyone had done this kind of painting back then. His paintings of birds in particular are magnificent, a sophisticated blend of realism with meticulous stylization. I can see why Yuasa would admire his work, if that's what it is. A nod of respect to a great sempai.


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