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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‹ Friday, November 25, 2005 ›

11:19:25 am , 629 words, 1663 views     Categories: Animation, Misc

Misc notes

I vaguely recognized the name of the animation director of Slime Adventures, Toshihisa Kaiya, but I couldn't remember what he'd done. On looking into it, I found that he's the CD of IGPX, which is probably where I remembered seeing his name. Recently he did animation in Mind Game, Jin-Roh, Memories, and was animation director of SAC 12, which also happened to be one of the eps storyboarded by Masayuki Yoshihara. In the past he was animation director of shows like Akazukin Chacha and Miracle Girls. He started out at Asia-Do along with Yuasa and is now at IG. Kaiya and Yuasa had already worked together a few years earlier on Fam and Ihrie, where Kaiya was CD/AD and Yuasa did layout.

I read something that helped to explain what it was that made Mushishi feel different. It's the fact that the base of the animation is 2s rather than the limited 3s of most TV anime, and the "mushi" are animated in 1s. People are so unaccustomed to seeing 1s on TV that reportedly many seem to have thought it was CGI, but no, it's all hand drawn. Aside from that, they put great effort into having the voice actors read their lines in as unostentatious and realistic a manner as possible, cutting out all of the overacting that usually defines voice acting in anime.

The finale of Noein 7 had some of the best quality work since the first ep. The animation was fantastic, but more than that the combination of animation, CGI, VFX and SFX there seems exemplary of what they're trying to do with the show. I was surprised to see Matsumoto in the credits, and thought it might be him at first, but judging by his low place in the credits it seems more likely that he only did two or three obvious shots in the jar. So I'm very curious to know who it was. Perhaps it was Takahiro Kishida. I don't know his style enough to be sure, though he seems the likely candidate, as the characters in all of the rest of the ep looked completely off-model while suddenly that part had the unique texture of his drawings. I was expecting to have to wait at least another month to see Matsumoto in the show, so it was a nice surprise. Rumor has it Utsunomiya may also be involved, so there may be a real knockout ep coming up.

It's interesting to see that though Kishida is the character designer he hasn't done any animation directing. He's only showed up as an animator. Supposedly he may be focusing on the layout, but unfortuantely nowadays there is no credit for layout so there's no way of knowing for sure. Normally the layout is drawn by the key animator in question based on the storyboard, but there are exceptions, among the more famous being when Miyazaki drew layout for every shot of every episode of Marco and Heidi. Controlling this innocuous element can decisively change the whole mood of a shot and hence show.

It seems the third piece in the Momose trilogy was in fact included on that Short Short DVD despite not being listed early on, perhaps due to the fact that it was still touring theaters. I've also heard that Osamu Tanabe's Doredore no Uta short included on the same DVD has been nominated for an Academy award or something. I'm curious what will come of that. Tanabe deserves the recognition. He's been doing some of the most interesting work at Ghibli for years now.

I watched 4°C's Fluximation shorts. Besides being happy to see Yasuhiro Aoki in there, I thought the realistic animation in the Hiroyuki Kitakubo piece looked like it might have been done by Ohira. Strange combination.



José Filipe
José Filipe [Visitor]

I really like your blog. It was from here and that I’ve discovered the beautiful Mind Game.

Unfortunately, I’m pretty much a newbie when it comes to animation techniques.
So, could you explain what do you mean by animation in 1s, 2s and 3s?

BTW, Mushishi 1 was awesome! The incredible atmosphere, the simple story. Just perfect.

11/26/05 @ 06:03
Ben [Visitor]

Well, first, traditionally there are 24 frames in a second of film (digital has changed that). In animation, it would be too much work to draw a drawing for every single frame, so people skipped a frame and drew only every other drawing, or more accurately, photographed each drawing twice in a row. In other words, one drawing every two frames. 2s. ("ni-koma” in Japanese) It was sufficiently fluid and saved a lot of labor. I’m not exactly sure how much of this applies outside of Disney, but the term “full animation” was used to refer to animation where most of it was done in 2s, but you occasionally had 1s in pans because it would look jerky if you didn’t. Anyway, then comes TV, and to be able to make a TV episode every week they had to reduce the number of drawings further, so they went to 3s. At least in Japan that’s how it happened, theoretically. There are exceptions, of course, among the first being Yasuo Otsuka using 2s in Moomin in 1969.

It’s not just a question of numbers. 1s, 2s and 3s each have their own unique flavor, as anyone can see with their own eyes, and the interesting thing about Japanese animation of the last twenty or so years is how some people have become adept at manipulating these frame rates to achieve interesting effects and heighten the impact of their animation.

So what makes Mushishi interesting is that they latched onto the idea of first of all not using 3s as the base but using 2s. The characters don’t move that much, but doing that gives the little movement there is an eerily vivid impact that has a different flavor from the other shows out there and matches the mood of the show. And then they use 1s only for the mushi, which immediately sets the movement apart from everything else, imparting a fantastic organic feeling. Outside of CGI it’s rare to ever see 1s on TV. I remember Ichiro Itano getting into trouble for trying to animate scenes in 1s. It’s just not economical.

Another thing I liked about this approach is that it was a smart way of getting around the problem of how to keep animation quality up throughout a TV series when good animators are limited. They keep things restrained, so none of the movements are that difficult and they can achieve a differentiated and steady look throughout. It’s a conscious strategy, so it’s different from an outsourced show that moves fluidly for no reason. Anyway, those are just my vague impressions.

11/26/05 @ 09:24
Tsuka [Visitor]

The Capsule clips are available on
I don’t know if you saw them, but there was a lot of great animators involved. You mentioned Shinji Otsuka, Ohira, Hashimoto (who is not credited on Portable Airport), and Hideki Hamazu, there’s also Osamu Tanabe, Takeshi Honda, Kenichi Konishi, Tetsuya Nishio … quite impressive. On the 3rd clip, there’s a lot of Ghibli animators, and we can feel it.

11/26/05 @ 10:39
Ben [Visitor]

I’m going to see if I can find the DVD over here. I look forward to seeing it.

11/26/05 @ 14:54
José Filipe
José Filipe [Visitor]

Thank you for the insight.

Mushishi is the kind of anime that can use that approach but an anime with lots of action could never work with 1s and 2s?

11/26/05 @ 15:35
Ben [Visitor]

It could work in small quantities, eg, occasional one-shots like Naruto 133, but it would seem difficult and pointless to raise the frame rate for no particular reason. The point is it was done with a clear strategy here.

11/29/05 @ 10:08
owen [Visitor]

Is there anything worth looking at in Noein 5 or 6 also? I stopped watching that show regularly after ep 4.

12/02/05 @ 08:02
Ben [Visitor]

I think you can safely pass on those episodes, though if you’re a Kishida fan he did some interesting drawings for the round table scene in 6.

12/02/05 @ 14:07
Benjamin Sanders
Benjamin Sanders [Visitor]

Isn’t the realistic animation in the Fluximation short by Hiroyuki Kitakubo rotoscope. In which case does Ohira, if it is him, and indeed japanese animators in general, use rotoscope often?

I’ve read a few times for example that the work in kids Story and Kill Bill has been rotoscope.

01/04/06 @ 11:50
Ben [Visitor]

The animation of the Hiroyuki Kitakubo Fluximation short is credited to an entity called Studio Mam, which I’ve never heard of Ohira being involved in. My guess is he’s not involved. It just felt kind of like something he’d do. Where did you hear it was rotoscoped?

Ohira has made reference to live-action footage of himself to animate certain shots in the past, but he has never rotoscoped as far as I know.

Kid’s Story used footage of the actor playing Kid as reference in the animation at the request of the producers as far as I know. Apart from that, I can’t think of any rotoscoped animation from Japan in recent decades, though if I recall correctly Toei called in dancers to dance out scenes for one of their films, and the dancing was filmed so that the animators could use the footage as reference, Disney style. Whether they rotoscoped or simply used them as reference I don’t know. Rotoscoping is rare to nonexistent in Japanese animation as far as I know.

I’ve never heard anywhere that rotoscoping was used in Kill Bill. I don’t even understand what scenes could possibly have prompted people to wonder if rotoscoping was used, except for perhaps Ohira’s. To me it seems obvious that it couldn’t have been rotoscoped, just as his scenes in Otogizoushi or Windy Tales or The Prince of Tennis couldn’t have been rotoscoped even though they look realistic… I guess it’s a measure of his success at creating realistic animation that people should think that.

01/05/06 @ 14:19
Benjamin Sanders
Benjamin Sanders [Visitor]

Happy New Year by the way. A little late I know.

I digress.

I didn’t hear it was rotoscope, it was my guess really when I first saw it a few days ago, I think it’s the use of photgraphic textures on the face that makes me think that, even so it’s a very loose and creative kind of rotoscope if it is. And I’m in no way saying my guess is right! In fact I’m often marvellously wrong.

Nor am I saying rotoscope is a bad thing, (I seem to recall you liked Waking Life too). But anyway i was just interested in the situation in Japan really, as I’m aware that rotoscope was a big part of disney’s development (as reference at least it seems they traced enlarged photostats of the filmed actor, and then used those traced drawings as a reference to flick through before making their own drawings.), of the animation of humans and wondered if it was used as a similar break through in japan. I had read though in a Miyazaki interview that said about rotoscope not being something that was part of japanese animation.

Certainly animators I know here in the Uk think rotoscope is part of anime, a friend who i showed Tokyo Godfathers to recently thought a lot of it must have been rotoscoped. Which I didn’t quite get … at any rate it must be a compliment to the animators.

I can’t remember where it was I read about kill bill but I imagine you’re right about Ohira’s being the most likely scene, his movement really is phenomenally life like, despite being abstract. But there is also the bit at the end with the character looking like lucy liu that may have been what they meant.

I remember when I first saw Ohira’s animation in Hamaji’s resurrection of the character cutting down the priests I couldn’t believe how real it was. (By the way do you have a break down of who animated what for this?)

I’d love to see his work in Windy Tales, i’ve seen his shots in the OP (truly wonderful) but I can’t get hold of the episodes he worked on. How did you manage to see them, is it broadcast over in North America? I guess I’ll have to wait for a dvd release if there is to be one.

Anyway thanks for the information, and will let the world know when you add the Mitsuo Iso flash sequence of keys you made and the Junkers Come Here pre pilot designs? Not that I’m desperate to see them or anything…

01/05/06 @ 15:13
Ben [Visitor]

That was a perfectly valid guess judging by the look of the animation. With most of Ohira’s work I can tell just by looking at it that there couldn’t be footage underlying the animation because the movement just doesn’t have that odor, but when I rewatched the Flux short I couldn’t be sure. It very well could be for all I know. I’d find it surprising for someone with the talent to draw that beginning part from the imagination to draw the rest of those stills… but that’s just my taste speaking.

I’d been aware that Disney used photographs or film footage of actors in reference in their work in some manner or another, but I’d never really known how or to what extent… in the early films like Snow White it feels particularly strong, but I don’t feel it that much later on. My impression of the idea of “rotoscoping” would be really just taking a shot of an actor doing his thing and simply tracing over it, ala what Bakshi did. With Disney it never felt that direct. I don’t know of anyone but Bakshi who really did what I would consider “rotoscoping", though I’m sure there are others who used the system… the Fleischers invented it, so I suppose perhaps they used it in Gulliver… I’m getting a little out of my league here. Even something like Waking Life, which I love both as a film and as animation, feels obviously more sophisticated than mere rotoscoping, while at the same time being more rotoscoped than anything ever done before. I love that contradiction.

The comment about Tokyo Godfathers being rotoscoped shows that people not that familiar with animation use the word whenever animation approaches the realistic… If there’s one case when I would forgive people for suspecting that rotoscoping might have been used it would be the opening of the Cowboy Bebop movie. But it’s not. It all comes from Okiura’s imagination. Well, mostly. Watanabe had a book of photos of people walking on the sidewalk in New York City that Okiura took inspiration from early on, well before actually starting on the drawings, but that’s about it as far as I know. It’s the next step in the direction of Jin-Roh, but with western people and full animation. (It wasn’t all done by Okiura, though. Nishio Tetsuya drew three of the shots - the old man, the black guy, and the basketball.)

I don’t blame people for thinking what they do. I think you have to know a little about the background and approach of each of the animators at the root of the ‘realistic’ school before you can see that the realism they’re achieving is the result of a lot of hard work, not tracing. People have never seen this sort of realism in animation anywhere before, so they automatically associate it with the realism they have seen before in animation: rotoscoping… that’s my guess.

While we’re speaking of Kill Bill, haven’t you ever wondered what part Iso did? I know I have. The best I can guess is the part where the American guy in the car is assassinated, including the part with the girl aiming her gun. The combination of animation and digital processing there seems like him. If it is him, it’s not my favorite thing by Iso by a long shot. One of the few other pieces by Iso that I still haven’t been able to pinpoint is his work in Porco Rosso. I suspect that Ohira did the scene in the hangar where everything is almost leaping off the screen and Porco looks really deformed (by the wind, we’ll say), but I have no idea what Iso might have done.

You’ve touched a sore spot with the breakdown of Hamaji’s Resurrection… I don’t know specifically who did what. The few bits I do know are the priests being cut down - Ohira; the people running through the bulrushes - Hashimoto; and the close-up fighting at the end - Hiroyuki Morita. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone through the drawings in Hamaji, particularly the hair-raising eye-level shot where the character has his sword knocked out of his hand during the fight. You can see that Yuasa must not have had time to get around to touching up those drawings… where I get the feeling you can really feel his effort are in the absolutely brilliant charicatural drawings near the beginning, for example the face of the guy who comes around to pressure the father into selling his daughter, with that ever-so-lovely toothy smile.

I won’t be back home for another three weeks, but as soon as I get back I’ll post those things, don’t worry.

01/06/06 @ 07:00
neovyruz [Member]  

Am i the only one that went mad after seeing Tatsuyuki Tanaka’s work in “Wonder ‘bout” (fluximation -12)?
I watched it for more than 30 times already
I was totally amazed by this piece, 30 seconds were enough to make me want to see all his work.
I pretty knew when it comes to different animation techniques, but the way he alternated between from 1s, 2s and 3s, i think there were some 4s, was pure genius. It resembles to the aerobic scene in “Eternal Family", but it’s dynamic. I also noticed one thing, when the guy falls down, if you watch the scene fast you can clearly see that he is just fooling around, while analyzing it frame by frame, it really looked like he was scared, i’ll be very thankful if someone checks this part :)

06/17/07 @ 11:18
neovyruz [Member]  

And edit button would really be helpfull :)
“I pretty knew"="I’m new”

06/17/07 @ 11:20
Ben [Member]  

Then you should look forward to the second volley of Genius Party… whenever the heck it’s scheduled to come out. It will be featuring what will probably turn out to be Tanaka’s magnum opus, Kin Jin Kitto. I did not notice that there was alternation between 1s, 2s and 3s (even 4s!) in that Fluximation piece by him, so thank you for pointing that out. Am curious to check that out to see what you mean.

06/19/07 @ 17:34
neovyruz [Member]  

Ah, Genius Party, i know what you mean, but when it comes to this piece , i’m more interested in Nicolas de Crécy’s work.
Unfortunately, Paprika gave me a pretty bitter experience when it comes to waiting, after wanting for a whole year to see it, 90% of it disappointed me, but nevertheless, the remaining 10% amaized me through its colors, I mean after watching a few testlines i felt that for me it doesn’t matter if everything is in color or in a raw sketchy state, the yamada testline is a perfect example for this :). Paprika proved that the colors can have an interesting role when it comes to the idea of an animation.

06/20/07 @ 04:22
neovyruz [Member]  

P.S. Sorry for the offtopic :)

06/20/07 @ 04:25