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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« Kemonozume #6Third AA session »

Thursday, September 21, 2006

12:32:30 am , 658 words, 1417 views     Categories: Animation, Kemonozume, TV, Masaaki Yuasa

Kemonozume #5

I'm a little late with the next ep, which I've by now had the chance to watch a few times. I usually try to write out my comments after the second watching. Impressions are most vivid after the first, but more balanced after the second. The fifth episode provided a number of happy surprises. First of all, it was nice to see things back at a high level in terms of the animation and directing. This was an entirely satisfying episode. Animation was solid and interesting throughout, with several great little bits. The story in particular was interesting, veering away from what I had assumed would be the main narrative to focus on the changes undertaking the Kifuken dojo. Instead of a linear story of love on the run, we see the story developing from various perspectives, shedding light from different angles. It's almost as if, rather than characters being the protagonists, the era the characters inhabit is the main subject. With this episode we can begin to see the historical allegory aspect of the series a little more clearly. Since the beginning of the series it was clear that they were setting out to make a series that felt very ... Showa. I don't know how else to put it. Literally Showa is the period from 1925-1989, but really Showa is more about the feeling of the times during the middle of the last century - it's the atmosphere the hippies in the Adult Empire Shin-chan film were out to recapture. The soft texture of the screen, the old placards, the street-oriented feeling of life - it feels like something you'd see in an old movie starring Tora-san or something. The transformation of the traditional institution of the Kifuken into a private company is a great parallel for all of the deep-rooted changes that overtook the country during that period. The grungy, handmade background art also helps bring out the whole Showa atmosphere quite nicely.

In terms of the animation, the big surprise was to find none other than Hisashi Mori in the ep, providing a stupefying shot that was everything I've wanted to see from the man and more - just not quite in the show I expected to see it in. I should have seen it coming. With Mori's indomitably personal approach to line and timing, I can't think of anyone else doing regular TV work who seems a better candidate stylistically for working on this show. Looking at his shot here, it's clear that Mori is going the way of Ohira. Mori's growth over the last few years has been amazing. Yuasa obviously did not miss this new face doing work right up his alley. Seeing some of my favorite animators whom I've never seen work on the same show before working here side by side is thrilling and moving. A face I wasn't familiar with did the pre-opening animation - Hiroyuki Aoyama. It was completely different from everything else I've seen in the show, but truly excellent, with just the nuance and delicacy and craftsmanly skill I would have expected from one of the animation directors of Mamoru Hosoda's latest film. I don't think I would have been able to pick out his work had I seen it elsewhere - and I probably have - so it was great to be able to see him given the chance to a discrete scene completely in his own style like this. The "avants" are turning out to pack great little surprises in each episode. Watching Crystania got me to fantasizing about Yasunori Miyazawa participating in the series. He would be a perfect fit. And I was surprised to hear that apparently the ep by Osamu Kobayashi (#7) might be a solo ep like Mihara's. On his site Kobayashi mentioned something I'd been wondering about for a while - who animated the awesome bit of prestidigitation with the coin in #1. It was by none other than Yuasa himself.

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9 comments

Random person
Random person [Visitor]

I watched it (7); it was indeed a solo ep (D, S, KA). 2nd genga was by his pal Motonobu Hori (if that’s how you pronounce it). Telecom did the background art.

But while it was an admirable effort I somehow… wasn’t too impressed by all of it. Maybe I’m still too stuck-up about big boobies…

I also have a quick question regarding a completely different sort of show airingon the same channel now: do you know much of an animator/director 神戸洋行? There was a bit of nice stuff in Chevalier D’Eon episode 6, apparently. Since it’s a Furuhashi show, I’m waiting for Matsumoto-sama to descend, but to no avail (except in the OP)

09/24/06 @ 03:23
Ben [Member]  

I remember him mentioning it was going to be an erotic episode… still can’t wait to see it. Never seen a whole solo ep by Kobayashi.

Apparently it’s read Hiroyuki Kanbe. Nope, not familiar with him at all, tho I notice he was heavily involved in the classic Ninku. I can’t remember how many times I’ve discovered a cool new animator only to realize that he was involved in Ninku. I haven’t been following Chevalier D’Eon, though I watched the first two eps and actually thought they were pretty solid. The only name I remember recognizing in the first ep was Kyoji Asano, who I rememeber was involved in the Innocence finale. I guess they must be going it with young staff again. Could you tell which shots Matsumoto did in the op? I have my own guess… Anyway I’ll have to check that ep out then. I figured there would probably eventually be some interesting goings on in the show, it being an IG production and all.

09/24/06 @ 08:48
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

It’s certainly a more successful project involving the young animators, I think. (Compared to Blood+)
I keep seeing this pair Takaaki and Takahiro Chiba (brothers?) who were previously involved in Kamichu…

I’m totally not confident enough to tell which shots Matsumoto didt, but if you were to put a knife at my throat I guess I’d say either the woman being stabbed in the fountain or the fighting scene at the end.

After rewatching Kemonozume 7, I definitely Kobayashi is really more suited towards directing rather than animation… well that’s that and I’m looking forward to your writeup on it.

09/25/06 @ 04:12
Ben [Member]  

My own guess was the two shots with the people writing out a word with their finger/sword. The faces look distinctive of Matsumoto, and the movement is pretty detailed. I just wonder if that’s the natural timing, or he animated it slower and they sped it up.

I’ve had a quick glimpse at ep 7, and I can certainly see where you’re coming from…

09/26/06 @ 09:55
Ben [Member]  

I had a look at that Chevalier episode. It was a very well produced episode that kept my interest. The animation was solid, but nothing that really stood out or grabbed me. What grabbed me was more just the quality of the directing, or more accurately the storyboard. The storyboarder was Michio Fukuda. I vaguely remember seeing his name before, though I can’t remember where. I get the feeling he’s the one who gives this ep its unique feeling. Apparently he is a storyboard-only specialist, which would account for the unusually solid feel of the pacing and drama here.

09/26/06 @ 13:57
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

I think he’s done animation as well - he was in Hosoda’s One Piece movie - but he largely does storyboards from what it seems. I remember I liked his episodes in Honey and Clover more than most of the others (except Masunari’s, maybe)…

Anyway, many thanks for the reply - but would I be sounding too blatant if I asked why you thought that part was done by Matsumoto? It did feel sped up (or funnily fast and smooth, either way), but there was something about the younger guy dropping the sword or something that gave me a different idea.

09/27/06 @ 01:40
Ben [Member]  

Like I said, the faces. Especially the mouth of the second guy. I can often ID Matsumoto from the way he draws the faces and especially the mouth. The outline of his faces in profile tend to form - I don’t know how better to put it - a kind of arc that’s unique to Matsumoto, a certain profile outline that I’ve seen in his recent work over and over and so I can just spot it right away when I see it. I’d even say the particular smoothness of the movement felt like him, like what I’ve seen of him lately in Naruto (although his style has varied over the years, sometimes more limited, sometimes more full, depending on the context). Also, each shot in the op has a different feeling to the timing and to the lines. I can see that different people are drawing them. I can identify that different styles are at work in each shot, and those styles are not Matsumoto’s. For example, some are more limited, some are more full. Some are good at drawing the character moving in a three-dimensional way, like where that guy is lifting his head up. The way wrinkles are drawn seems different in different shots. Little things like that. I can definitely eliminate most of the other shots in the op as not feeling like Matsumoto - except for these two. Take that shot of the two people swordfighting - the timing, drawings and style of movement didn’t feel like Matsumoto to me. Matsumoto has done ‘mawarikomi’ in the past, so it was a good guess, but the movement felt a little slapdash there to me. The characters were just swishing around without real feeling, which is not something I’ve ever seen from Matsumoto. The faces are always a good clue to turn to as a last resort if you’re not sure, and the faces there were definitely not him. Only those two shots struck me as having the calm ‘aura’ of Matsumoto, the feeling of being in control of the movement. It was definitely not your typical easy-to-identify Matsumoto, but it still has his vibe. Hey, I could be totally wrong. Just my gut feeling.

09/27/06 @ 08:32
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

OK, I understand what you mean now. Thank you very much for the long and detailed response… benkyou ni narimasu.

I just watched a long bit he did in Koi Kaze and that was an example of the faces looking very Matsumoto. Reminded me of Noein.

09/27/06 @ 21:26
Ben [Member]  

I’m glad to help. I actually struggled with how to find a way to verbally express what it was that made the shots seems like Matsumoto to me. I know it when I see it, but how do you describe a line? It’s a problem I’ve been thinking about for a while - how to describe images in words. It didn’t quite feel like I nailed it, so I clearly still have a long way to go. Learning is a lifelong process.

09/27/06 @ 22:32