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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Saturday, April 22, 2006

07:58:38 pm , 315 words, 2817 views     Categories: Animation, Animator

Koichi Arai


Just what I've been able to gather about an animator I've always been curious to know more about, Koichi Arai. I've seen his name in a lot of high-profile places but never been able to pinpoint his work on my own. I want to go through his past work to see if I can figure out the common thread. He seems to be of the Toshiyuki Inoue master craftsman mold, without a strong personal style but with tremendous technical skill and the ability to adapt himself flawlessly to the style of the production at hand. It's probably why he seems to appear in just about every other major new anime film. I remember the original 3x3 Eyes being one of my favorites from the early days, so I'd be curious to revisit it now that I know a bit more about his subsequent work.

Sakigake! Otokokabe → all op KA, #1, #10
Gegege no Kitaro: Jigoku Hen #7
Vampire Princess Miyu #2-4

Akira → Kaneda & Kei heading to the baby room
Crying Freeman → AD

Hanaichi Monme: Sonosuke no Hanashi → all KA

Roujin Z → Bed escaping
3x3 Eyes → AD/CD

Ninja Scroll

Fatal Fury
Macross 7 TV → all op animation
Phantom Quest Corps

Golden Boy → op animation (w/Norimoto Tokura)
Ghost in the Shell → Spider tank being destroyed after Ayako rips her arms off
Memories → Miguel walks through oily water and strums piano
Macross Plus movie → Sharon with wings

Rurouni Kenshin #2

Voogie's Angel #3
Ghost in the Shell Game op
Detatoko Princess #2 → Oni girl electrical attack

Perfect Blue → rape scene
Lain #6 (scene design) #12

Mahou Tsukai Tai! TV #1
Digimon Adventure
Blue Submarine No 6 #2

Digimon Adventure 02: Hurricane
FLCL #4 → mouse playing with small Haruko

Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven's Door

Millennium Actress

Koikaze op → AD
Steam Boy → Old man trying to kill his son
Windy Tales op

Beck #25
Eureka Seven op 2 and 3
One Piece: Omatsuri Danshaku to Himitsu no Shima → Lily being shot



Muffin [Visitor]

Terrific. I’ve also been curious about Koichi Arai since his work on 3x3 Eyes, which is also one of my early favourites. I’ve got a fondness for Yuzo Takada’s original manga as well, as one of the more low-key and appealing shounen/adventure titles of its kind.(and Takada’s watercolour cover-artwork for the graphic novels are pretty sublime)

Arai’s charachter designs seems to take Takada’s appealing organic art and make it just a bit more edgy and stylish without ever going overboard into hyper-stylized anime cliche. I was particulary fond of episodes 3 & 4 which had some exceptionally moody and organic art-direction.

In terms of action and effects-animation the highlight was surely the battle at the beginning of episode 3 where Yakumo, the main charachter was getting beaten around and blown up by the dragon/insect-monster inside the crumbling building. Very dramatic and viscereal stuff.

While I was quite impressed by the quality of the sequel OAV “Seima Densetsu", I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the completely different, slick and cartoony style they adopted for that one.

Though purists of the manga may complain, I was also pretty happy with the more tight and cinematic storytelling of the OAV’s

04/24/06 @ 04:58
Tsuka [Visitor]

You forgot something : Koichi Arai directed the animated video-clip “Brand New Day” in 2001. This clip was produced by Studio 4°C.

04/24/06 @ 09:48
Ben [Visitor]

This is not a complete list, just what I could find. I’d never heard of that clip. Thanks for the addition.

I don’t know how I forgot about the 3x3 Eyes manga, because it was the very first manga I actually bought all of the Japanese volumes for and attempted to read in the original Japanese… way back when. I remember reading it (or more accurately attempting to read it) during my high school science class when I should have been doing other things. I really loved the art. My curiosity to rewatch the original 3x3 Eyes is now doubly compounded by nostalgia.

04/24/06 @ 10:18
Muffin [Visitor]

Even though it may not be considered the most artistically “important” work, there’s definetly something memorable and special about 3x3 Eyes(both the manga and anime). Writing about it here has certainly made me revert to full fanboy-mode. Definetly getting the DVD-collection of this now.

I’m curious what your take on the second OAV series is though. Despite having mixed feelings about the rather “puffy-cute” charachter-designs(which seemed to improve in the final ep.) I have to admit I was impressed by the lush, expressive visual style(and those amazing *colours*!)and the fluid storytelling that perhaps did a better job than the first OAV in condensing and reconfiguring the second arc of the manga storyline. The final episode in particular is some of the most dramatically effective and well-directed stuff I’ve ever seen.

04/26/06 @ 01:28
Ben [Visitor]

I haven’t seen Sazan Eyes in a long time, so my memory of it is kind of faded, but I agree. I never hear people talking about it, but I remember it having a certain something that really impressed me at the time. I don’t know how it would fare now, but it’s definitely one of the shows that got me hooked on anime. It’s nice to find someone else who feels so strongly about it, honestly.

I may have seen part of the second series at one time, maybe just ep 1, but I don’t remember it at all, so I can’t comment on it, though from your description it sounds great and I’d like to have a look at it. I actually remember a friend at the time telling me that the second series had some spectacular animation, even better than the first, but ironically I was not interested in animation per-se at the time and so I didn’t particularly care. All this is also making me very tempted to get that box set, since it also incorporates the second series. Two birds or something.

With this and Space Miners, it’s curious how a lot of my favorite OVAs were never finished…

04/26/06 @ 13:38
Muffin [Visitor]

Hard to say what it is exactly that makes 3x3 Eyes unique among the shounen/fantasy/adventure crowd. Off the top of my head, I’d say the author creates a curiously believable contemporary fantasy-universe(well, believable in an Indiana Jones-esque sort of way). Most of the stylistic elements and references to ancient world mythology comes across as genuinely compelling and atmospheric. The heroes are charming and display a sort of unassuming emotional richness. And we follow their story, and explore their world at the same pace as they do. And beneath the well-paced adventure, rich in cinematic *movement*(through both story arcs, the story never gets bogged down, or become routine)there is an undercurrent of genuine peril and poignant melancholy as the protagonists are caught up in events larger than they can comprehend. And obviously, there’s Yuzo Takada’s charming, organic artwork(excellently modified and transferred to animation by Koichi Arai in the first OAV series).

Speaking specifically of the second OAV, the animation and direction is indeed very expressive, with bold, clear line-art together with a fluid camera creating a nice sense of space. And a style of movement that often seem inspired by the Utsunomiya/Iso school of loose-limbed jerky/fluid animation. Particulary noticeable in the action-sequences, such as the battle with a group of animated dolls in the first episode(similar in sensibility to the climactic action in Oshii’s “Innocence").

The only thing that really irks me about the visuals are the unimaginative charachter-designs which are far less appealing than Koichi Arai’s definitive rendering of the charachters in the original OAV.

Think I’ve just about over-hyped it enough. But by all means, I’d recommend the whole package to anyone who’d like a fairly sophisticated, but unpretentious adventure story. Or just looking for some interesting art/animation. Particulary if they used to have a fondness for it.

It’d certainly be interesting to hear your thoughts about it today.

04/28/06 @ 07:06
Ben [Visitor]

You make the case so clearly and eloquently for the show that I am now somewhat excited about rediscovering it, which should be happening within the next few days. I’ll report back with my thoughts.

On a side-note, I’m crossing my fingers that the credits will be intact, as it would be very disappointing to not be able to pin down specifically who was responsible for the work in each episode.

04/28/06 @ 19:09
Muffin [Visitor]

Was wondering, am I right in assuming Arai did the sequence in GITS 2 where Batou and the major come face to face “John Woo"-style? Right after the VERY idiosyncratic bit(Shinji Hashimoto?) with the gynoids falling down and surrounding Batou.

A nice sequence, regardless. Feeling like the eye of the hurricane. While brief and sedate, I felt the designs and movement had a very confident and intuitive quality to it(Batou’s subtle almost-smile, him giving her the vest, the major turning her head and so on…). And that may be as close as one can get in really pinning down Arai’s “style"…

05/03/06 @ 01:46
Ben [Visitor]

Very well put. Yes, according to the breakdown, that would indeed seem to be his part. It’s probably not a style that will ever jump out at you like Shinji Hashimoto’s, but obviously that’s not what he’s after.

One of the better things to watch to get a feeling of an Arai “style” on display is actually the Macross 7 op, because he drew it all. The movement is very subtle and minute, with a great feeling for body weight and realistic timing. Even the horrible characters look more appealing in his drawings.

I also seem to recall hearing once that in X Arai animated some portion of the fight that happens at the train station, but his part is intermixed with that of another person, so it’s difficult to sort out.

And it’s pointless mentioning this, since it’s impossible to find, but the Hanaichi Monme OVA episode he drew all the KA for in his early days is supposedly quite nice as well. I very much want to see that.

05/03/06 @ 08:57
Muffin [Visitor]

That’s one lavish looking op.

Another bit I really liked in Innocence was Takeshi Honda’s part btw.

Amusingly, the first time I started noticing him was from the final tv episodes of Evangelion. While the popular consensus seems to be that the animation “sucked” in those eps. I remember liking the very solid charachter-drawings(superior to most of the other episodes in the series).

And as far as I remember Honda was the AD.

05/06/06 @ 03:36
Ben [Visitor]

I’ve actually been thinking about writing a Honda post…

05/06/06 @ 08:50
Muffin [Visitor]

Just got my very own copy of the 3x3 Eyes perfect collection. So I thought I’d update some of my observations about it.

My estimation for the second OAV series continue to grow. While there were certain elements of Arai’s original design approach I wish they had carried over. I really do see how well the clear, expressive visual design and direction come together in a very powerful and dramatic way. The final episode in particular is a knock-out. Great soundtrack too.

It’s also worth noting that original creator Yuzo Takada actually co-wrote the screenplay for this one. And there’s a sense he really re-imagined the original story arc as a very dramatically consistent 3-part movie.

In terms of interesting names, the biggest discovery of the first OAV series for me was Hideki Hamasu, who was a key animator in all four episodes.

The second OAV series had Toshiyuki Inoue in a similar position. Other names I recognized were Yoshinori Kanemori and Hisashi Eguchi.

One other name I feel like mentioning from the second OAV is the pretty obscure Kazuaki Makita. Makita, along with storyboarder Mamoru Koube was responsible for the best-looking episodes(eps 3, 8, 12)in the Yoshitoshi ABe-created “NieA Under Seven". One of my favourite anime tv series.

05/06/06 @ 15:47
Ben [Visitor]

Still waiting on mine. I was holding out hope that there would be some interesting names in there to account for the goodness I remembered, and you beat me to the punch in pinning it down. Hideki Hamasu and Inoue Toshiyuki as the main animators? Even better than I could have expected! Now I’m really looking forward to it.

05/07/06 @ 10:20
Muffin [Visitor]

A few more observations/corrections: Maybe I hyped Toshiyuki Inoue’s name a bit more than was relevant. He was in part 1 of OAV 2. Not sure if I can call anyone a “main animator” besides CD/AD Tetsuya Kumagai. The quality is very high throughout though, with some high-points in the first part as well as the finale.

The title of main animator in the original Koichi Arai OAV could certainly be said to go to Hideki Hamasu though. He was indeed in all four parts as well as getting top billing in the credits.

It also features early appearances from Tomokazu Tokoro and Hiroyuki Okuno. As well as an inbetweener called Mamoru Hosoda(…)

Btw, this is pretty unrelated, but thought I might as well bring it up here. Assuming you’ve seen the OAV “Green Legend Ran". It seems the very interesting Tatsuyuki"Cannabis"Tanaka did a lot of work on this. And you’ve identified him as being KA in the excellent shoot-out in eps 1. What really interests me though, is who was in charge of the sequence where Ran & Aira visit the strange structure with the oasis at the end of the episode. It’s really one of my favourite sequences from any animated series/film.

Only sad to say I felt the subsequent eps revealed a lack of dramatic unity or momentum.

05/13/06 @ 10:07
Ben [Member]  

Ach… finally had the time to watch all of 3x3 Eyes. I’ll post my comments after this. Thanks for pointing out that Mamoru Hosoda was in the creds! I skipped over the inbetweeners. That’s why it’s always good to stay through the credits, kids!

At first when I saw Hamasu at the top in each ep of part 1, I thought maybe they’d pasted the credits from ep 1 for each ep, but no, he really was the main animator. Too bad at this early stage I can’t really pick out his style.

I’ll keep the rest of my comments for the post.

I watched Green Legend Ran when it first came out, and really loved it, even though I also was disappointed that they weren’t able to make it work dramatically through to the end. It was a great concept, with some great moments, but it sort of fell apart. Like you, the part that impressed me the most was the bit at the end of ep 1 with that water. Off the top of my head I can’t remember who did it. I’ll have to rewatch it and check the credits.

05/14/06 @ 19:08