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, September 18, 2010

10:12:19 pm , 261 words, 4976 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, Movie

Midori-ko at Ottawa

It's here. Keita Kurosaka's magnum opus, which I wrote about back in April, will be screening at the Ottawa International Animation Festival on October 21, 22 and 23. (info) OIAF has a great lineup of indie features this year: Phil Mulloy's Goodbye Mister Christie, Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist and an intriguing-sounding film called Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then. And One Piece movie 10 for some reason.

As if that weren't enough, they've got a great focus on Japanese indies this year, including a retrospective on Atsushi Wada and Kei Oyama, one on Osamu Tezuka, and a fabulous two-parter that is probably one of the best ever all-around intros to the history of indie Japanese animation, featuring films by the likes of Noburo Ofuji, Maya Yonesho, Mirai Mizue, Taku Furukawa, Nobuhiro Aihara, Tanaami Keiichi, Tadanari Okamoto, Kihachiro Kawamoto, Tochka, Kunio Kato, Naoyuki Tsuji, Koji Yamamura, Seiichi Hayashi and Naoyuki Tsuji, to name but the ones I've talked about in here in the past. I don't know if it's the first subbed screening ever of a Tadanari Okamoto film at a festival (they're screening Okonjoururi), but it's certainly one of the few.

It's disappointing that Midori-ko won't be showing at this year's Vancouver International Film Festival, which is going on from September 30 to October 15. In fact, they have a very scant selection of animated films this year. They've had some good retrospectives in past years. But at least they'll be showing The Illusionist at the VIFF. I've already bought my ticket for October 15th. It's being given royal treatment - it's the gala finale of the festival.



Jordan Scott
Jordan Scott [Visitor]  

I (unfortunately for my free time) noticed that Midori-ko, indeed all his works other than his Winter Days segment are absent from IMDb and felt that this needed to correcting. I’ve found the credits at but mapping Japanese animation terms to approximate English ones is confusing me. Any chance you could post a basic guide to terms such as genga, dôga, sekkei and so on sometime, what their closest equivalent might be and how they might differ, or direct me to one that already exists?

09/19/10 @ 16:40
GhaleonQ [Visitor]  

Cripes, that’s a brilliant lineup. I noticed that Hiroshima’s crop are new to me, so hopefully there are a few standouts to join that pack soon.

09/19/10 @ 17:12
Ben [Member]  

Jordan, sorry for the delay.

I was debating how to reply. I think it’s beyond my capability to write a thorough post on translations of credits. The more I think about it, the more it seems like it would require a paper’s worth of research to do the subject justice. So here’s just a quick primer of the main terms that spring to mind. I’m sure this has been explained before elsewhere on the ANN forums by someone but I don’t have the link on hand so I’ll just do a quick rundown.

作画監督 Sakuga Kantoku = Animation Director
Alternately (and more accurately) translated as key animation supervisor in Jin-Roh, but this term did not stick and I don’t see it used very often. This is basically the person who is there to correct the drawings delivered by the key animators before they are sent to be inbetweened. There’s huge variation in what the ’sakkan’, as they’re known for short in Japan, has done historically and from one sakkan to the next. Some who are extremely dedicated will do more than merely correct drawings and will actually modify timing, or in extreme cases scrap delivered animation altogether and re-draw it themselves (as Tomonori Kogawa did for the Ideon movie).

Historically this is one of the few terms with a very distinct birth point. It was first used in 1963 for what Yasuji Mori did on Little Prince and the 8-Headed Dragon, namely correcting the drawings throughout the film to ensure that they were unified stylistically. The sakkan has been a staple in anime since, even I’d say one of anime’s defining characteristics.

Nowadays it’s not uncommon to find specialized sakkans within a single production, for example both a “character sakuga kantoku” and a “mecha sakuga kantoku".

原画 Genga = Key Animator
These are the people who draw the heart of the animation. Traditionally this consisted of a set of poses at the beginning, middle and end of a shot’s character acting, but nowadays some key animators in Japan draw most of the animation themselves (I’m sure there are western animators who were known for doing this too).

Historically I’m not sure how this term came about. It appears to first have been used at Toei Doga in 1957 in their first shorts Kappa no Paataro and Yumemi Doji and in 1958 in their first feature film Hakujaden. I’m not sure about the shorts, but Hakujaden is the first clear example of the modern concept of genga/doga - the two key animators provided keys that were inbetweened by the army of inbetweeners. Circumstance dictated the necessity in this case. I’m not sure how this decision was made - influenced by western models or of their own invention.

動画 Doga = Inbetweener
These people fill in the drawings ‘inbetween’ the key drawings of the key animators. The key animator is the one who specifies exactly how many and where.

This ‘word’ or particular ideograph combination was actually coined by legendary animator Masaoka Kenzo, if I’m not mistaken. He used it to mean ‘animation’, as in moving pictures, not inbetween animation per se. The meaning of inbetweening came about later. (Outside of an animation context, doga can mean simply ‘video’.) It was the first Japanese term meaning specifically animation, whereas before they were using the ambiguous term “manga eiga” or sakuga.

作画 Sakuga = Animation
This is a more generic term. I find it tends to be used when a person did all the animation themselves. Instead of referring to key animation, which implies that inbetweens were required, they write sakuga. That’s my interpretation. I recall seeing the term used throughout anime history, although in the past it was sometimes used to refer to key animation, i.e. you would have a sakuga credit and then a doga credit, which was confusing. Perhaps genga was invented in response to this ambiguity.

This is one of the first terms used for animation in Japan. The words simply mean “creation of drawings". The person who drew the drawings. It isn’t exclusively used for animation - doga was the first term specifically for animation. Sakuga was used to credit the animators in the oldest films pre-dating the Toei Doga era. Doga appears to have been used interchangeably during the same period.

第二原画 Daini Genga = Second Key Animators
I think a better way to translate this might even be simply “cleanup", since there is no analagous term used in Japanese animation but cleanup is a widely understood concept in the west. It’s only in recent years that this term has begun to appear, and it’s quite common now. It’s used when schedules are tight and a so-called “genga man” (or genga woman) can only draw very rough key animation. The second comes through afterwards and cleans the drawings up before they’re sent to the AD and inbetweeners. It also purportedly serves the purpose of helping to train new animators. You might sometimes see a 第一原画 daiichi genga or first key animator to indicate exactly who it was who drew the rough keys. Hence when used in combination they could perhaps be translated as “Rough key animation” and “Cleanup of rough key animation".

動画チェック Doga Check = Inbetween checker
This is self-explanatory. This is the person who checks the fully inbewteened animation after the inbetweeners are done. I’m honestly not sure EXACTLY what they do - i.e. do they themselves correct the drawings, or do they simply check them and if they find a problem send them to be corrected by the AD.

The following aren’t directly about the animation posts, but they’re terms that can prove tricky to translate and understand.

絵コンテ Ekonte - Storyboard
Literally ‘drawing continuity’. These are actually semantically distinct concepts, but nowadays nobody does storyboards like in the old days (pasting up colored drawings showing the progression of the story up on a board, hence the term) and instead draw into templated ekonte sheets, so I find it easier to use the term storyboard for ekonte.

This is the skeleton of all animated films. It determines what happens in every shot in the film, what dialogue is spoken when, what actions are taken when, even the sound effects, colors, zooms, etc. They’re the basic directions used to convey what is to be done to the other staff, though meetings are held with the animators and artists etc. to flesh things out.

演出 Enshutsu - Line Director (movie) or Episode Director (TV)
監督 Kantoku - Director
These are tricky terms. Depending on the context they can be interchangeable or can be distinct terms. In a TV anime context, enshutsu almost always refers to the director of a particular TV episode - the person who actually parses the instructions on the storyboard for that episode. The kantoku of the TV series would be the person supervising the whole series. In a movie context, you might have only a storyboard and a kantoku, indicating that the kantoku presumably did the enshutsu, the work of parsing the storyboard. Or you might have an enshutsu there who acted as the ‘line director’ doing the technical tasks of parsing the storyboard under the supervision of the kantoku.

Let me know if that didn’t clear it up for you, or if there are other terms you’re unsure about.


Wait, I forgot settei. I think you actually meant settei 設定 and not sekkei 設計. (Sekkei means design, as in architectural design - I’ve actually seen the credit キャラクター設計 for character design in some old productions.)

設定 Settei - Groundwork
This is the toughest of all of these terms to translate and I’ve been wrestling with it for years because the meaning is amorphous. I don’t really know a hard and fast equivalent like I do for the above. Genga is definitely key animation. The translation of settei, though, might depend on the context. “Groundwork” seems to be the basic sense, covering everything from genga to character designs, but it might be translated differently in a different context. In some cases it might entail the more specific meaning of ‘concept work’, i.e. someone drawing lots of drawings fleshing out the universe of the production the way Kenichi Yoshida did for Eureka Seven. The book of Katsuya Kondo’s Tamamayu Monogatari art mentions the phrase 初期設定画 with the phrase “first plot". A more accurate translation would be initial concept sketches, as these are the large volume of quick drawings he went through to come to a final character design. These might also be referred to as キャラクターラフ character roughs or キャラクタースケッチ character sketches, as in the case of what Yuichiro Sueyoshi did for Coo. A related concept would be イメージスケッチ image sketches, which would perhaps be translated as conceptual sketches.

Madhouse’s Masao Maruyama was famously credited with “settei” in most of the 80s Madhouse productions, and nobody could figure out exactly what it is he had done! It took an interview with him to discover that, at least in his case, it entailed not merely conceptual drawings but laying the conceptual foundation for the productions in any number of ways, from establishing the theme of the film to the structure to the visual concept. It’s like the west’s concept of producer. He was the guiding spirit of the production. I think that this is not the normal meaning of settei but an exception in his case.

I thought of a few other terms that might need mentioning.

総作画監督 Sousakuga Kantoku = Chief Animation Director
I don’t know exactly what this person does other than to supervise the various animation directors who do the actual correcting. I don’t know if this person actually does any correcting. I suspect it depends on the production.

場面設定 Bamen Settei = Scene Design
I don’t think this is a widely used term, but it’s somewhat difficult to grasp. It was used for what Miyazaki did in the Takahata shows. It entails designing the elements of each scene from the architecture to the interior designs to the furniture to the spoons.

イメージボード Image boards = Concept art
The Japanese literally says “image board", but that’s not very helpful, so I suspect the meaning to be more generally concept art. It’s the drawings that Yoshifumi Kondo and Kazuhide Tomonaga drew to build up the concept for Nemo in the pre-production stage, or the paintings drawn by Yuichiro Sueyoshi of Coo in a moonlit pond etc. (in the Official Guide publication) to flesh out the visual direction of the film.

09/23/10 @ 12:11
Jordan Scott
Jordan Scott [Visitor]  

Sorry, you didn’t need to explain what keys and storyboards are; I’ve read enough English-language books about animation to be familiar with all that (but this thorough way should still be a useful resource to link people coming to animation from anime to). It’s more that the Japanese model I’ve only heard in documentaries (subtitled in literal translations that are no relation to the English terms) and read, pretty exclusively here, snatches of which give the impression of the language difference allowing it to grow its own terminology and structure which aren’t directly analogued in the west. And it’s difficult enough fitting animation with European-language credits into IMDB’s live action-focused structure, which puts storyboarder in the art department when I consider that part of the writing process or the link between that and direction.

09/27/10 @ 11:23
Ben [Member]  

I suspected you didn’t need the explanation, don’t worry. I just did it in case people come here not knowing what the terms mean. A straight list of translations would have been confusing to those people. Some of the translations require an explanation for them to make sense.

It’s problematic enough when genga is translated as “original drawings” or something by a big anime news source. The anime community should settle on a set of accepted translations. But the fact is that even with terms that do overlap with western animation terms, often the processes aren’t entirely the same, so some glossing is necessary. Animation director has completely different meanings in the west and in Japan. Hence why in some ways a cumbersome term like key animation supervisor might be preferable.

The meaning even differs from show to show. A minor thing like using a set template for credits and alphabetizing the genga credits on the ANN is subtly altering the actual meaning of the credits and not sufficiently faithful. A completely unsuited framework like the IMDB all the more so.

09/27/10 @ 11:36
Jordan Scott
Jordan Scott [Visitor]  

And I think it therefore best, after all that, to credit Kurosaka as simply “animator” on this, if he did do all the animation himself; the page I linked to bizarrely credits him with genga, dôga AND sakuga.

09/27/10 @ 11:37
Ben [Member]  

Yes, in this case I think it would be acceptable to credit him as simply animator, since the whole point of this was that he animated it all himself, in his own unique style (i.e. not necessarily following the industry workflow of doing genga first followed by doga - though I don’t know specifically what his approach is). However I was given to understand that someone (or several people) had helped Kurosaka with the animation of the film.

It doesn’t really make sense for him to be credited with those three things, you’re right. Perhaps it’s not accurate or if it is he’ll have to be asked what that’s about.

09/27/10 @ 11:45
Jordan Scott
Jordan Scott [Visitor]  

Just these two things while we’re at it, though, as we – well, OK, you (-_-;) – might as we get them sorted:

What is the Japanese for layout, which I know from the Studio Ghibli exhibitions of it that they do do? I thought this what 場面設定 might be; very thankful for having this corrected before I could spread that misinformation.

And do you have idea what 美術 might mean in the context of animation? I’m supposing another term for concept art, to sound less commercial than イメージボード but considering the above could be very wrong.

09/27/10 @ 11:53
Ben [Member]  

Regarding the confusion about 場面設定:

No, this is definitely not layout. Layout in Japanese is simply レイアウト or L/O sometimes for short. It’s rarely credited except in cases where there was a layout checker or something. The exception to this is the 1970s Miyazaki work. Here’s the sequence of events that makes this clear.

On Panda Kopanda from 1972/3 you don’t find an equivalent term. There is 美術設定, but I suspect this to refer to the beautiful conceptual art we’ve all seen. You find in Panda Kopanda the term 画面構成.

You find the term 画面構成 again in Heidi from the next year (1974) together this time with the term 場面設定. In Marco in 1976 you find the term 場面設定 together this time with the term レイアウト. 画面構成 has obviously been replaced by the English equivalent layout. In Anne in 1979 Miyazaki is again credited with 場面設定 and レイアウト. Layout is in fact not a term you find in the credits very often because it is subsumed within the credit of genga. It’s part of the job. Normally the key animator draws the layout for a shot and then draws the key animation for that shot. In Miyazaki’s case he was an exception to the rules because he drew all the layouts and the gengamen just drew the genga based on his layouts.

Okay, as for 美術 bijutsu, that is easier. This is unequivocally “Art". It refers to the background art. A person might be credited as 美術監督 bijutsu kantoku = Art Director and there might be people under this person credited with 背景 haikei = Backgrounds or Background Art. It’s the drawings under the animation cels. The scenery. The art director supervises and sets the ground rules for the art, the background artists paint each background. This is completely unrelated to イメージボード = Image Boards. 背景 are used in the actual production as the scenery for each shot. イメージボード are not - they’re pre-production drawings made simply to build up the visual concept for the show.

09/27/10 @ 13:25
Jordan Scott
Jordan Scott [Visitor]  

Thank you again! And again those credits have gone over the top in crediting him with both 美術 and 背景; “background artist” alone should be enough to show that he did both. Calling the non-animated parts “backgrounds” is a particular pet hate in the English terminology as, at least with a multi-plane or digital composition, they can just as much be on top of the animation; in my own notes and mind I use the French décor(s) but have resigned to the English being stuck, as so many things are, with a name far from its actual meaning.

I’ve now found how to pronounce (and therefore Romanise) all the musicians’ names so will have a go at submitting this beastie. I got Michel Ocelot’s Dragons et princesses accepted but had some decades-old Japanese short films declined, so I’ll just have to see how it goes.

09/27/10 @ 14:08
Ben [Member]  

This is true about the inaccuracy of the term backgrounds. However, generally speaking we’re talking about literally backgrounds. Foreground background art is more the exception to the rule. Anyway it’s all scenery, whether it’s above or below the cels. I don’t know about now, but in the cel age in Japanese they had the term “book” to refer to painted art that is in fact placed on top of the cels rather than below like the background art. (I can’t recall why this is called book - perhaps it has to do with the way the animation is sandwiched between the art like between the pages of a book??) Book is a production term that you don’t find in credits. The same crew does both and it’s the same process so book is considered part of the 背景 credit.

09/27/10 @ 14:18