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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« Aquarion 19Hideki Hamasu »

Sunday, August 7, 2005

02:40:46 pm , 777 words, 1299 views     Categories: Animation

Leading up to Aquarion 19

Very much looking forward to seeing Satoru Utsunomiya's episode of Aquarion in a few days. From his comments in various places, it would seem that it's probably going to be pretty much what I was expecting - high proof Utsunomiya, but not as high as Happy Family Planning. In this case, in addition to animation and storyboarding, he was also responsible for the "artistic plan"; in other words, coming up with the setting of the episode. Another person did the storyboard and basic structure, and he was assigned various parts to animate, of which he modified the details as necessary, eventually even modifying the storyboard for parts not assigned to him at the request of the staff. So the macro - the structure - isn't Utsunomiya, but the micro is. It will be interesting to see the results.

Eventually it would be great if we could see something not imbedded in another series like his last two efforts, so that for one he would get the credit he deserves, and also so that he could do something without having to adapt his style to the series in question. His style is what's so interesting, so it's a shame to have to dilute it. Toshiyuki Inoue is a great animator, but he strives for invisibility. I think his approach is valid, but I think Utsunomiya's is equally valid. And to be perfectly honest, I've rewatched and derived more pleasure from Utsunomiya's work than any of the stylistically neutral super animators. He's one of the few people in anime today who has an original vision combined with the conviction and knowhow to back it up and produce results that convince. So it's a curious contradiction how the industry can produce so many shows that seem so shockingly similar in most respects, yet a person who has a novel approach doesn't get the opportunity to make films

In this episode a big part of his contribution would appear to be the artistic setting, so it sounds like he's approaching the style of the major directors who mold all aspects of the production. In the last few years it feels like we've finally started to see Utsunomiya finally getting the chance to handle the other aspects of a production beyond the animation, including directing and art. So the next step seems obvious: directing. He's mentioned in interviews that he got into animation mainly as a way of approaching filmmaking, which is his real interest (animation being merely a means rather than the end), so it's obvious that he's been thinking about the issues involved in directing for decades now, but it's only now that he's finally getting the chance to do it. I hope this trend continues.

This reminds me that when I saw his shots in the opening and ep 2, I immediately identified them as his work, yet something felt different. There was an evolution there. I'd never seen a movement quite like that before in his work. I'm not sure what it was, but it was like the feeling of body weight, of the character being pulled towards the earth by gravity with each leap, was being expressed more vividly than before. He's clearly continuing to evolve as an animator, building on the same basic approach.

I'm also reminded of another thing. Utsunomiya mentioned in an interview that the job that really woke him up to his calling as as animator interested in creating the sort of vivid action that eventually culminated in the rooftop action of Phantom Quest Corp 4 was the mid-80s Italian co-production Around the World in 80 Days. I'd long thought the action on a moving carriage in ep 2 or 3 seemed unusually good for that series, but it turns out apparently he didn't do it, at least based on the episodes he says he did. I can't imagine who could have done it but him, but then again I've never run across a credit list for that series, so I have no idea who it might be.

It's good to hear that Ghibli will be putting out all of their shorts on a DVD later in the year, as I was hoping they would. It'll be great to have all of Osamu Tanabe's TV ads in one place. I assume the museum films will be on there as well. The one I've been wanting to see is Whale Catchers, which features Masaaki Yuasa, Shinji Hashimoto and Ken'ichi Konishi. And with Yoshiyuki Momose's soon-to-be-complete trilogy as the presumed main attraction, it should be an incredible set showcasing the more innovative side of Ghibli that's been developing over the last few years in the shade of the films.

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17 comments

Josh
Josh [Visitor]

Damn, I’m actually kinda pissed about that Ghibli DVD, as just a couple months ago I decided to go for it and buy the R2 Cat Returns for Ghiblies ep 2. If only I had waited…

08/07/05 @ 18:25
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Ouch. I’m still not sure if Ghiblies 1 & 2 will be on there. If they are it’ll put the runtime well over two hours.

08/07/05 @ 18:41
Tsuka
Tsuka [Visitor]

A DVD with a 60sec version of next Momose’s clip for Capsule is yet available as bonus disc when you buy Ghibli’s DVDs in Japan these days.
http://www.catsuka.com/interf/tmp/capsuleclip_dvd.jpg
(unfortunately the previous clips don’t seem to be on it)

08/08/05 @ 06:17
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

You know what the name of this Ghibli dvd will be? Preferably in romanji?

I cannot wait, I’ve really wanted to see a lot of these shorts, particularly Momose’s, I’m also interested in Hideaki Anno’s short , since it was done around the time he was working on his best film, ritual.

08/08/05 @ 09:59
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Not yet. Maybe Ghibli Short Short Shu.

08/08/05 @ 12:02
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

The screenshots I’ve seen for this episode are quite something. I can’t wait to watch this.

08/08/05 @ 23:40
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Wish I could edit my comments. Oh well. I’m still getting the file, but I’ve looked through some stuff…

It’s so hilarious reading the comments of viewers as they watched it live. The amount of people going “SAKUGA YABEEEEEE” … and what not… and then later the disgust turns into amazement because though it looks like another anime entirely, the movement’s so good, and then they realise they’ve all been had - I believe this week’s monster managed to throw em all into a reality where they all looked weird. Now that’s a marvellous idea for Utsunomiya to get away with his style and have it acceptable! I’d wager to say that this episode caused the biggest stir-up…

And though some people were chanting Yashigani Yashigani, what is so ironic is that there were two animation directors and 3 assistant animation directors!

It really is just quite amazing though… It’s like an entire other anime because of this different world. It’s just spelt out by the knee-jerk reactions of the people as they watched: “Is this a different anime?” The colours and everything. Good on the director to let him have this ep, really. Actually Utsunomiya himself posted something on the Aquarion blog and had a picture of one of his art boards there…

I’ve seen the list of key animators by the way, the only one I can recognize is Masashi Ishihama…

08/09/05 @ 08:27
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

It’s stirring up quite a controversy. Less than a day after the broadcast, there are already 80 comments on Utsunomiya’s post in the official blog, and the opinions are fiercely divided. The most interesting comments are from those who had never heard of Utsunomiya before - most are amazed and want to see the rest of his work. Whatever the case, this will be one of those episodes like Naruto 133 that awakens a lot of people to good animation, which can only be a good thing.

08/09/05 @ 08:29
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Just got your comment after posting mine. The reactions really are amazing so far - on the official blog, on 2ch, and on other blogs. The opinions are so sharply divided it’s almost funny.

The interesting thing is, Utsunomiya mentioned in his post that he was afraid people turning on the TV in the middle of the ep would think they had the wrong show. I thought he was exaggerating, but that’s what a lot of people are saying, so I’m guessing it really was undiluted Utsunomiya, which is pretty incredible. I haven’t seen it yet, but I know it took guts to do what they’ve done here, just judging by the heat that’s already on.

Other than Ishihama there’s only one other name I recognized, Ken’ichi Kusuna. You’ll probably never have heard of him, but he was also in Utsunomiya’s PA episode. He’s one of the more famous cases of a fan gif animator turning professional, all done through the the small but tight-knit animation mania BBS community.

08/09/05 @ 08:52
Josh
Josh [Visitor]

I just got finished watching it, and I have to say that it’s easily one of the most beautiful pieces of anime I’ve ever seen. This is pure Utsonomiya, like his version of Hakkenden 10 or something. Not quite on the level of his bit in Ghiblies, but very close.

Also, one thought occured to me when watching the episode: What if 4°C got him to direct that Black and White movie they keep postponing? I never realized how close Utsonomiya’s style is to Taiyo Matsumoto’s before. Would be a perfect fit in my opinion.

08/09/05 @ 14:39
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

In Ghiblies it was pretty much all him, while here there are lots of bits done by others, and it’s spread out a lot more than the subway bit, so inevitably it’s kind of uneven in comparison. Also Hamaji was an OVA, while this is just a TV ep, so it’s impressive what he managed to do in a TV schedule. But I agree with the comparison. They’ve definitely got the same vibe going. I’d actually prefer him to do something original, not based on someone’s manga, but I agree that Studio 4°C should hurry up and grab him and get him to do something like they did for Yuasa…

08/09/05 @ 20:05
Josh
Josh [Visitor]

Well, this was more an immediate reaction I had while watching it, if I went through frame by frame I’m sure it’ll come up short. But it still says a lot that a TV series can bring up such comparisons.

And I figure he can worry about doing his own stuff later. I just figured, there’s a project he’d be great on that needs done, and I’d rather see him get his start doing an adaption than not getting a chance for a feature at all like Ohira.

08/09/05 @ 21:52
Eric
Eric [Visitor]

Nausicaa.net finally posted a news item on the region 2 DVD that will contain shorts film by Studio Ghibli with a little more information then what we know already.

(link)

It looks as though neither Ghiblies episodes are going to be included so Josh don’t feel so bad about picking up the region 2 Cat Returns for episode 2. I love that short btw and feel that paying the extra costs associated with importing DVDs from Japan is justified.

Also none of Studio Ghibli Museum shorts are going to be included which to be honest does not surprise me. From what I understand Miyazaki has never been a big fan of his movies being seen outside of a movie theater let alone outside of Japan, and IIRC a great bit of fuss was made over the fact that the short films made for the Studio Ghibli Museum such as the Mei and the Kittenbus which is a sequel or side story of sorts to Totoro, were only going to be available to audiences who visit the Museum. As someone who lives outside of Japan that was upsetting news at the time but that’s also just how it goes with about 90% of the stuff Ben writes about here and I somehow find the will to endure.

Anyways all in all this will be a definite import for me.

08/27/05 @ 16:42
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

The title “Short Short” seemed to suggest that might be the case. Oh well. The third Momose short isn’t listed, but it would seem odd for them not to include it. It’s the one coming out on Sept. 10 paired with the new Touch movie: Soratobu Toshi Keikaku AKA Flying City Plan. Maybe it’s because it’s too close to the theatrical release.

08/27/05 @ 18:11
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

not related to anything, but if you’re very bored, there’s some nice Takashi Hashimoto stuff in Eureka 7 19.

08/29/05 @ 08:11
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Thanks for the tip. Those clouds were nice. Reminded me a bit of the clouds in Akira

08/29/05 @ 14:04
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

There was Kouichi Hashimoto in ep 20 of Eureka Seven. Also some Bones people I’ve been wondering as to why they hadn’t showed up in the show until now.

Warning though, it has a lot of angsty screaming.

If you watch it I’d appreciate it if you could say if you know who did the bit where that black slimy thing comes out of the mountain.

09/05/05 @ 00:01