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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‹ Wednesday, February 3, 2010 ›

11:25:17 pm , 578 words, 2488 views     Categories: Animation, OVA, TV

Madara

I discovered another OVA from the early 1990s that I hadn't seen before but that I enjoyed: Madara. It's directed by Yuji Moriyama, the extremely prolific director/animator who I remember primarily for his work on Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku but who's been in scads of other stuff and continues to be very active today. He also did Project A-Ko, one of the defining OVAs of the period that in retrospect seems to have portended the future of the industry. Despite the unmistakable soundtrack by Kaoru Wada and otherwise seeming very similar in spirit to 3x3 Eyes, the drawings are not nearly as impressive, coming across as more generic compared to Koichi Arai's highly original approach, nor the directing as strong. But it's still enjoyable and entertaining and has some nice movements and drawings here and there. It's in the vein of the many shonen fighting shows that came before and after, but the OVA format permits some slightly higher quality. It's still fairly watchable after all this time. You see a lot of people who worked on Nadia just before - Takeshi Mori on storyboard, Shunji Suzuki as co-sakkan w/Moriyama (the girl's drawings remind of Nadia), and even Kazuya Tsurumaki as a gengaman. It's weird, but there's this shot where the protagonist's female companion is holding up her hand at his face and it's trembling and for some reason I get the feeling like I've seen exactly that same way of drawing the hand in Nadia before. It has this distinctive round way of drawing the fingers that I actually kind of like. Other notable animators include Yasuomi Umetsu, Suganuma Eiji and Takeuchi Atsushi in ep 1 and Koji Ito and Atsushi Takeuchi in ep 2.

I actually sampled another show. So-ra-no-wo-to (is it just me or are titles becoming more obnoxious with each passing year?) by A-1 Pictures, who did the well-animated baseball show Ookiku Furikabutte, had some decent animation. I say only decent because it was actually good, but hard to see, because the characters, character designs and general content were obscuring the view. Toshifumi Akai was the animation director and he did the opening and closing, and I salute the man because clearly a lot of work went into the animation. Some of the scenes actually came alive quite nicely thanks to the animation. For a fleeting moment, I sensed the specter of a good anime that might have been. The directing by Mamoru Kanbe did a pretty good job with the material. The background art by Easter was strong and in some places shined. But it was sad to see all this effort going into material that did not support the weight. It felt like an attempt at a World Masterpiece Theater-style atmosphere, with moe girls in uniform, since that's apparently what you need to have to be able to make anything these days. This doesn't feel like a story that had to be told; it feels like 'What new situation could we shoehorn a cavalcade of moe girls into?' Outsiders already think anime is a big joke as it is. Why make it worse? I think someone unfamiliar with anime who watched this would feel confused and anxious. I would have liked Toshifumi Akai's laboriously worked animation to have been put to the task of bringing alive acting that bore some relation to human beings. The people who write this stuff need to go out and meet some real women.

Supposedly this is by Yasuo Muroi. The running does remind of his running in Xam'd.

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9 comments

h_park
h_park [Member]

Glad to see your posts in a roll. I really need to watch late 80’s and early 90’s OVA titles that I missed.

You know, I barely watch Anime I used to. Like you said, the pre-production people merely put Moe characters into every world setting imaginable, but not focus on developing the characters. Without convincing characters to drive the story, they’re wasting other people’s labor and driving themselves into corner. Someone really need to take serious risk and adapt only good stories, not some otaku-friendly manga titles.

Since you mentioned character designs, I think animation studios are victims of trends permeating the original manga
materials. I mean, those guys know that things like silhouette factors into character designs, yet the lack of outstanding contrasts among character design makes them similar. Also younger fans tend to favor style over substance. So no matter how well the character are animated, they tend to favor pretty faces and poses.

Speaking of Moe, I put blames on Japanese Otaku who spend their time and money on things that doesn’t have substance. Come on, who needs those retarded body pillows decorated with girly cartoon characters? Who need fragile figurine toys that no one cares? They’re giving producers wrong idea that Moe stuff is profitable in long run.

02/04/10 @ 01:13
Manuloz
Manuloz [Visitor]  

Yasuo Muroi short is excellent. Too bad he didn’t make it in the final selection for that Fuji TV contest. Nice atmosphere nontheless thx too the photography by madbox studio (thing).

It sort of reminds me of Kou Yoshinari & Mitsuo Iso work … and so by the way Kou Yoshinari did some nice animation/photography work for his shot on Bones short for Halo Legends.

A little glimps here :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVyk3kYl6GY

There were some really strong FX animators on this. It well deserves a watch.

I also uploaded this other clip with i think some Nakamura by the end. But i was wondering who worked on the circus and the Fx :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEi2zOcpYwE

Staff :
http://img704.imageshack.us/i/halobonesstaff.jpg/

02/04/10 @ 01:37
Ben [Member]  

H Park - I hardly watch any anime anymore either. I’ve just been digging through looking for old obscure 80s and 90s stuff that I haven’t seen yet, because in contrast with most of what’s being made today, I can actually watch and enjoy a lot of it, occasionally even discovering something pretty good like this.

Cute girls and sex sell, always will. And it’s OK if a small number of shows are made to cater to some niche group’s eerie fetishes. But it’s kind of disturbing that no matter what show I watch today, it feels like I’m watching soft-core anime pr0n. None of these people seem to have a mind of their own, or any actual, real ideas about what might be interesting to do in animation.

Manuloz - That is some incredible stuff. The staff listing is amazing - many of the best FX/action animators out there. The second clip looks to me like a mixture of Yasushi Muraki, Soichiro Matsuda, Takashi Hashimoto and Kaichiro Terada at the very least, with possibly others, but it’s hard to say precisely… Otsuka or Ito might also be in there, who knows.

02/04/10 @ 09:04
Fellini 8.5
Fellini 8.5 [Visitor]  

Ah, I’m so glad you were able to dig up the Xam’d connection! That was the first association I had, and I scoured ANN trying to find a connection.

Having not seen K-on at the time, or much “moe” in general (prefer mature characters & stories), I wasn’t too put off by this one because 1) the animation is pretty good compared to most, and 2) it had a bit of that “Habaine Renmei” mystery vibe, and seemed a bit different than the usual creepy moe-plotation.

A few episodes in now, while it’s managing to avoid becoming too creepy, it’s not quite living up to the ABe-vibe, and might just wind up being “K-on in the army". I’m holding out a little hope that something (anything) happens, but, I won’t be crushed if it doesn’t. The animation is still pretty good, though.

02/05/10 @ 09:13
h_park
h_park [Member]

Ben
I understand your feeling. I’ve been thinking, “is this a trade off for having technically higher quality animation?” Animation quality has gotten better, but no experimentation and no risk on story materials. Why do we get bombarded with softcore porn fantasy that only fulfills immature manboy’s fantasy?

I just finished last episodes of Galaxy Express 999 yesterday when the main character decided to live his life as human to the fullest instead of living as stagnant immortal. Granted it’s just a kid’s show from 70’s, but it has punch that makes you think. Where are the directors and writers who wants to speak up his or her mind?

Or are we getting too old for this?

Fellini 8.5

ANN is pretty broad when it comes to animation artists. Can’t blame them for not being animation geek specific. Their charm is covering broad range of Japanese pop culture centered on Japanese animations and comics.

I haven’t watched K-on yet because I’m suspicious about the content. From the outside, it’s oozing with that Moe charms. This time with guitars.

We’ve been noticed that these animators pull out better and better animations. It’s natural because of years of experience as professional made them better. The problem is that technical matters(animation quality)can’t save poorly developed story and characters.

Off note: I watched an afternoon superhero animation from TV other day. Despite smooth and fancy gestural animations, characters crack jokes every 5 seconds. Typical TV animation that has no desire to improve or push boundary.

02/05/10 @ 23:21
LainEverliving
LainEverliving [Visitor]  

Ben-

You know Yuji Moriyama did some nice work on Evangelion 1.0, right? Not sure if you’ve gotten around to it yet, but if not, the blu-ray is coming out in a month or so. Be sure to check it out.

As for the new stuff…

Yojō-Han Shinwa Taikei is the series I’m most looking forward to so far this year. Don’t know if you’ve heard about it yet, but it’s the new Masaaki Yuasa series due out in April. It’s based on a novel, so it’s a bit different than his normal stuff, but the style and sensibility is sure to be all his. Of course, Madhouse is doing the animation (as always), and it will be aired in the Noritamina programming block.

Here’s the site:

http://noitamina.tv/yojouhan/

On the movie front, I’m hoping for some nice stuff from Kyoto Animation in the Haruhi Movie that just came out (Vanishment of Haruhi Suzumiya), although the KyoAni style has been irrevocably changed with the loss of Yutaka Yamamoto and Satoshi Kadowaki and can probably never have that same movement sensibility or charm ever again. I am very keen on some of their present staff, though, especially Taichi Ishidate. If you haven’t seen his animation in the first season of Haruhi (the Yuki battle episode, I think 10 or whatever), it’s well worth taking a peek at (since he handled the use of CG and background color really well, along with doing some nice bits and pieces of movement). Down the line is the Trigun Movie, which will probably be fun in terms of Madhouse doing old-style action scenes again (remember that late ’90s look they had?), and of course the inevitable release of Redline (which is as freaking amazing now as it was when I first saw footage all those years ago). I’m also interested in the Eden of the East film (Paradise Lost), although I have to watch the rest of the series first. And of course, who isn’t excited about Karigurashi no Arrietty? So there’s still some good stuff coming up… don’t lose heart yet.

02/10/10 @ 00:32
LainEverliving
LainEverliving [Visitor]  

Oh, and forgot to mention this in the first post, but isn’t yoshitoshi ABe developing a new series now? I heard about it last year (or maybe late 2008), so hopefully it’s coming along by now. And for the Yutaka Yamamoto fan-people (whoever you are), his mini-studio Ordet is making their first series (Black Rock Shooter) that’s supposedly due out this spring or summer. Might be worth looking into that as well.

02/10/10 @ 00:35
Régis
Régis [Visitor]  

I don’t know if you’ve made a post about this before, but “Michiko & Hatchin” is definitely a series worthy of close examination. In a sea of moe and otaku pandering, it was a clear sight for sore eyes.

02/11/10 @ 21:39
Ben [Member]  

LainEverliving:

Thanks for all the info about upcoming projects. I’ll try to hold out hope for a little longer. I knew about the new Masaaki Yuasa project, but I just kept forgetting to mention it in the blog. I’ll do that now. The designs are really interesting this time around (as usual). I so wish more people would experiment with designs like this and not just re-hash industry stereotypes.

Man, a new masterpiece from Yoshitoshi Abe in the vein of Haibane Renmei is just what I would like to see right about now to renew my faith in anime.

Régis:

I personally was let down by Michiko & Hacchin, because I had high hopes going in, but I agree that even with all its flaws it was still far more interesting than most shows out there, and one of the more ambitious and laudable attempts of the last few years. And of course technically it had quite solid craftsmanship throughout.

H Park:

One thing that baffles me about the current situation in the Japanese industry is that, since so much of the production caters to hard-core fans rather than the general populace, you’d think that more of the shows would be artistically challenging. Instead the hard-core fans over there are more of a reflection of the deep-rooted social afflictions of Japan’s youth than any deep appreciation of the art of animation, so the shows reflect that. I admire Madhouse because they manage to survive without making many such shows, but by doing a lot of material that caters to the general viewers, and using that to subsidize the occasional vanity project like Yojouhan… Surely there must be ways to survive in animation in Japan without necessarily having to do that material.

02/22/10 @ 15:56