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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Thursday, August 26, 2004

12:00:12 pm , 746 words, 2283 views     Categories: Animation, Animator

Michio Mihara

The dark tones of Gesualdo seem appropriate to this gray morning. The first wave of cold has done wonders for my insomnia.

I made a comment about the fact that one person is responsible for drawing every shot in anime. This was true in the past, but with the advent of digital technology this is changing, and we can now quite often find people specialized in CG, or CG effects, or any number of things. The only reason I bring this up is because probably the most noteworthy example in recent years was done by one of the most important animators of the 90s. In addition to that wonderful episode of Rahxephon I talked about, Mitsuo Iso was responsible for the digital effects work throughout the series. And amazing stuff it is. Although inevitably fundamentally different from his animation work, the work remains totally characteristic of Iso, being clearly the logical development of the realistic style he had pioneered, and it is therefore very satisfying to see.

One of my favorite recent discoveries was Michio Mihara, who just prior to doing PA was animation director of the bonus short included on the Nasu DVD. (He was also co-AD of the film and animated the opening sequence.) In an interview with the Yomiuri he spoke of director Kitaro Kosaka's opposition to the whole idea of saddling the already short film with a short; but in the end, the director was not displeased with the final product. The short is apparently done in a highly accentuated graphic style, in accordance with Mihara's overriding preoccupation with stylistic experimentation, stemming from his desire to show people that there are different drawing styles out there. Could it be Mihara who was behind the idea for the various graphic styles of Etc? I hope we have a chance to see some major work from Mihara in the near future.

It's funny how this movie came about. Kuroda was one of the major new manga artists on the scene in the late 90s, by far one of the most original manga-kas of the period. Well, Miyazaki had apparently enjoyed his Nasu, and made a comment to that effect somewhere, so the publisher was smart enough to pick up on this and published the comment on the cover sleeve when the manga was re-issued in pocket format. And voila. Shortly thereafter we get a movie version. The lesson: Try to get your manga endorsed by Miyazaki.

In terms of challenging an animator, you can't go much higher on the difficulty quotient than a crowd scene. Animators tend to run the other way, in fact. Hiroyuki Okiura's fame as an animator came in part from being one of the animators turned to when it came time to animate the riot scene in Akira. When it came time to animate the riot scene in his Jin-Roh, who did he turn to? Michio Mihara. Mihara was assigned probably the five most difficult shots in the entire sequence, which feature dozens upon dozens of people running across the screen. (And this in addition to the 31 other shots he animated.) Okiura couldn't hold back guffaws of amazement when he saw the animation Mihara turned in, so obvious was the incredible effort Mihara had put into coming up with a personality and personal history for every single individual that runs across the screen. Coming from a "super animator" like Okiura, this is praise indeed. Mihara is an avid biker, and when he was forced to work from home during prodution on the film, he would bike with the finished keys all the way from his home to the studio rather than obliging a runner to come by. Good exercise, he said.

It should be added that Mihara was not only the animation director of episode 4 of PA; he also drew most of the key animation in the episode. (There was only one other key animator needed.) So this episode should rightly be added to that ongoing tally of tour-de-force "solo animator" episodes. His drawings of the main character in this episode are a very convincing and compelling personal interpretation of the original designs (Ando was reportedly extremely impressed and happy with Michio's drawings), full of detail and nuance, while also staying close to the original designs and therefore fitting nicely within the overall style of the series, for which reason this episode provides the best of both worlds -- one of the most balanced and individualistic episodes in the series.


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