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About two years ago animator Aaron Long (Youtube page) wrote on his blog a three-part post about a particular episode of the second TV series of Lupin III that began airing in 1978 and ran for 178 episodes. You can read his posts here:
I just recently discovered Aaron's posts and loved the drawings he'd posted. I hadn't seen the episode in question, but I could tell he had indeed struck upon one of the more interesting episodes in the second series. The drawings are just great, with crazy and loose posing and expression the likes of which you rarely see in anime. Yet the drawings are solid and look good, not sloppy. They have a great sense of stylization. Most people focus on the closing Miyazaki episodes, but there was a lot of other good work done in the second series.
The episode in question is Episode 78, which aired on April 9, 1979. I looked into it and found the staff behind the episode rather easily. The head animator of this episode is Yoshio Kabashima, one of the great ex-A Production animators. The storyboarder of this episode was also an ex-A Pro animator: Yuzo Aoki. Both of them acted as the animation directors of the Mamo movie released in 1978, the same year the second TV series started. Neither of them are well known in the west, but both were among the best animators of their time in Japan, with supple character drawings and dynamic movement that were a pure product of their A Pro heritage
I was really impressed by Aaron's post, because without even knowing the names of the people responsible for either episode 78 or the Mamo movie, he manages to connect the two. He realized that the same guy (or guys) had to have been responsible for the two. And he's exactly right.
Yoshio Kabashima is better known for being the animation director behind Osamu Dezaki's Gamba's Adventure, one of the great classics of anime. He was also the animation director of Yasuo Otsuka's Tenguri and animated the scenes with the calf. I'd actually mentioned Yoshio Kabashima's involvement in this episode of Lupin way back in 2004 in a post on the staff behind the New Lupin series.
Yuzo Aoki in the 70s was one of the wildest and most flamboyant animators you've never heard of. His episodes of Lupin III stood out from the others, and I'm sure it's these that Aaron is thinking of when he talks about the animator behind this episode, even though Kabashima happens to have been responsible for a lot of the good drawings here, like that pictured above. Even in Hajime Ningen Gyators, a few years earlier in 1975, a show in which everything is so individualistic and outrageously drawn, Yuzo Aoki stands out. He's one of the few animators I've been able to identify on the show. In Mamo he's best known for animation the insane car chase with that massive truck, but he also animated much of the scene with the helicopter at the beginning.
These two ex-A Pro animators together acted as the animation directors of the Mamo film a year before episode 78 of New Lupin, giving that films its distinctive character styling, with its lanky characters and very flexible and loose approach to character drawing that is so at odds with Yasuo Otsuka's work on the first Lupin III show from 1972, to say nothing of Cagliostro from 1979. If Cagliostro seemed like a throwback to the earlier show, Mamo was the companion piece to Part II, with its wacky, unpredictable, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink atmosphere of cartoonish anarchy and very loose drawings.
Yoshio Kabashima unfortunately didn't do much else in the New Lupin III series, but Yuzo Aoki did much great work both as a storyboarder and an animator. His episodes are worth seeking out on their own, as even seen today they have a very unique character. Here is a list of what episodes he worked on in New Lupin III:
青木悠三 Yuzo Aoki's work on New Lupin III (1978)
30: Key animation (solo)
35: Key animation (half episode)
69: Key animation
74: Key animation
(85: Uncredited key animation?)
96: Storyboard and key animation
124: Storyboard (and uncredited key animation?)
129: Storyboard (and uncredited key animation?)
138: Storyboard (and uncredited key animation?)
146: (Uncredited key animation?)
149: Storyboard (and uncredited key animation?)
Episode 78 is actually the first episode in what's known colloquially among Japanese fans as the Broadway series. The Broadway series refers to four episodes storyboarded by Yuzo Aoki and written by Yoshio Urasawa that take place on Broadway and are mostly pure slapstick episodes: episodes 78, 106, 117 and 128.
Here are a few snapshots from episode 69, the episode where Zenigata falls in love but his girl gets killed by the gangster Cabane. Yuzo Aoki animated most of the second half, and his style comes through very well in this episode. The drawings of Cabane and his gangsters near the end in particular are high proof Yuzo Aoki.
Wow, anipages has been on fire lately! So many things to check out and no time at all to do so right now…
It’s an honor to have inspired an Anipages post. Thanks for clearing up the identity of the artists in question. That’s actually one of the reasons I did those posts– I hoped that someone like yourself who was knowledgeable on the subject would eventually see them and be able to help. Now I’ve got to find a way to see Hajime Ningen Gyators, too.
Oh, and thanks a lot for the plug, too!
Lupin was one of those shows that I loved when I was a kid and that left a big impression on me. Now that I’ve read this, I think it may be time for me to go back and check some of those episodes again :)
After looking at the screenshots, I felt that 70’s Japanese animation has full of creative designs which new shows seem to lack. The exaggerations reminded me of Looney Tunes with Japanese sense of humor. I have feeling that these animators took on characters designs on their own OR they may have influenced by existing American animations of that time.
We understand that character design is determined by story types, but it’s nice to see someone like Yuzo Aoki doing things differently.
I think the current generation of animators need to take serious experimentation with designs instead of relying popular manga models for everything. Even though popular graphic softwares brought out thousands of instant illustrators, but when we step back and look, they look all alike. (Of course, hardcore fans will trying point out difference by showing details, they never see the obvious pattern of the big picture)