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, May 5, 2005

08:08:45 am , 211 words, 1985 views     Categories: Animation

Naruto 133

Norio Matsumoto is god. Seriously. To think that most of the action in Naruto 133 was seemingly drawn mostly by him... This episode may have surpassed the other two in terms of sheer volume of brilliant action by Matsumoto, and it was spread around much more evenly than previously, so the entire 23 minutes are filled practically tip to toe with the stuff. Magnificent work. I hope this converts many people to Matsumoto worshippers.

Matsumoto's been known for drawing entire episodes near-singlehandedly before this, but never has he done it with such gusto as here, and never non-stop action! He's really outdone himself here. It's like there's nobody out there with a project big enough for him, so he has to go make mini-movies entirely on his own in TV shows like this. If his work on Beck seemed a little restrained (though he still managed to do animation on about three episodes and animate an entire half-episode), it's because he was just helping out Osamu Kobayashi as a favor - in reality he was busy working on this little confection.

Watching the episode I couldn't help but guffaw through much of it out of sheer amazement. And it leaves you reeling for a while afterwards. This is what animation is all about.

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19 comments

Random person
Random person [Visitor]

I didn’t intend to watch it, but your post made me go and just check it out.

Holy cripes…
Your description of one’s reaction is spot-on.

05/06/05 @ 05:00
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Oh, and sorry for double-posting but, I really feel like wrangling the Narutards and even the non-Narutards who said this ep’s animation sucked. But I suppose it’s a waste of time, just like the people who hate Mind Game and said ep 10 of Hakkenden was drawn by monkeys. (I finally got around to watching it.)

05/06/05 @ 05:04
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

Random Person: Hmmm their logic is kind of funny, static poses are better animation than fluid expressive motion with an individual touch…

And then there are the people who confuse design with animation…

I probably ought to check out this ep just for the hell of it…

05/06/05 @ 07:49
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

I could understand (being really generous here) people not being able to appreciate the animation of Mind Game or Hakkenden 10. We’re dealing with styles that go in a new direction that basically goes against everything people have been used to up until now, so it’s understandable that most people aren’t going to get it.

But I’m honestly surprised to hear that people would say something similar about the animation in Naruto 133. This is something I thought anybody would be able to appreciate on its own, regardless of their level of knowledge. I still think that’s the case for the most part, so it’s not worth getting hung up on a few hopeless souls. It’s funny, though, isn’t it. They’re watching a fighting anime, and they complain after seeing the best fight of the entire series.

05/06/05 @ 12:10
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

its funny how little actual fighting there is in ‘fighting anime’, most of the time is just spent with characters postering to each other…

That’s why I don’t watch naruto it’s normally just another one of that kind of show…

05/06/05 @ 12:48
Pata
Pata [Visitor]

its funny how little actual fighting there is in ‘fighting anime’, most of the time is just spent with characters postering to each other…

… or guys floating over speedlines.

but yeah, I can now say that I’ve seen an episode of Naruto.

At least this wasn’t another one of those “so-and-so’s work on such-and-such is amazing, but there is no way you will ever be able to see it because the only print exists on a 1938 filmreel on the back shelf of the third level basement of Mandarake, which I just happened to spot.” It’s nice when mind-blowing eye candy shows up through mainstream channels.

05/06/05 @ 20:32
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

Just watched it… The action was amazing to say the least, but it still was too bogged down by commentary from the characters, if there wasn’t dialogue in some of the scenes it would have been perfect…

05/07/05 @ 12:10
tim_drage [Member]

Watched it, incredible stuff!!! I love the fact that such interesting animation and deviations from the show’s style are permitted in such mainstream series as this!

05/07/05 @ 16:04
Owen Carson
Owen Carson [Visitor]

Yeah, especially amazing given the detail in the effects shots (the water especially, that was almost like the incredibly detailed water of Mind Game). I didn’t like the rocks that much though. Nice (and understandable, being easier to draw) how much of that amazing character animation was done at such a distance that we didn’t have to look at the insufferably ugly character designs (especially Naruto himself). Wonder how many in-between frames there were (seems like a lot of the parts would have to have practically none), and how long it took for the man to draw all of it.

Heh, I never thought I would ever watch something and fast-forward through everything except the action scenes. There should be a “Naruto 133 Edit” that removes the small amounts of non-battle material so we can sit back and watch the completely mind-blowing animation without having to see the few bits that remind us of how it ranges from laughably bad to completely unwatchable otherwise. (I mean man, it completely outdid my overexaggerated bad impressions of these shows). Hell, I might even make said version.

05/08/05 @ 18:52
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

Owen: I’m all for that, I thought much the same thing, in fact some scenes had commentary which really slowed down the fast paced action. The character would stop to say some moronic dialogue about how his powers were more powerful than his and the action would come to a standstill…

I really want and edit of it, if you can make it I"m all behind it :)

05/08/05 @ 19:38
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Exactly - the density, speed and intricacy of the movements would seem to suggest that there were very few inbetweens, which is just mind-boggling.

Reminds me how a long time ago I threw together a vid of Matsumoto’s shots in Tylor. Got a whole folder full of his stuff… it’s a treasure.

05/08/05 @ 19:39
Philip
Philip [Visitor]

found and saw it. it’s the first bit of bona-fide anime i’ve ever seen (and it’s only ben’s recommendation that moved me to it.)

so how exactly does this episode stand as compared to others? is there at least one episode as visually stunning in every anime? is this a really rare exception? i’m looking for some sort of statistical foothold: are we talking one in 100? 1000? 10000?

basically: having liked this a lot, how many other episodes am i going to have to watch…? i don’t think i’d have much patience for most of the storylines, but i think i might just let myself get involved in collecting, say, the twenty best single episodes…

ps: i must agree with owen: the characters are butt-ugly…

05/09/05 @ 13:31
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

1 in 10,000. This team did two other episodes in this series that are good (30 and 71), and they’ve done good work in scattered places elsewhere, but this episode is in a league of its own. I can recommend other good items, but you’ll only be disappointed if you’re expecting this level.

I can see how people might be fooled into thinking this level of quality might be more common than it is if they’ve just seen this one ep, but that’s simply not the case.

First of all, the simple fact that it’s moving so much, and constantly, and in a brilliant and interesting way, is what makes it so exceptional and exciting an event. This is what 99% of anime is not. There is good action elsewhere, but this action is somehow fundamentally different. It’s exciting in a way that very little action I’ve ever seen is.

And second of all, it’s because of Matsumoto that this episode is so amazing. Animators of his level are rare, and even rarer is for them to create action of this level in a TV series.

At the 1 in 100 level you have quite a few episodes in various series here and there with good work by good animators, but pursuing that higher level is more than I think you’re looking to get into.

My basic feeling is, there isn’t very much else out there that I feel I could recommend unreservedly to a person like you who otherwise doesn’t watch anime… Naruto 133 is one of the few.

So randomly watching anime eps won’t get you anywhere, and it’s hard to recommend anything else because everything else is quite ordinarily sub-par in comparison.

But it’s an interesting idea… if you were to watch only 20 episodes of anime, what 20 would those be. I’ll have to think about it for a while. If I were to make such a list it would include mostly stuff that isn’t available over here, which would be pointless, so I’ll try to throw together a list of recent and/or available items that you might want to have a look at.

05/09/05 @ 15:01
Philip
Philip [Visitor]

hmmm, can’t wait for the ben’s 20 list… ;-)

oh, and: naruto’s currently very much on the radar as a net-cultural phenomenon:

link

05/10/05 @ 00:42
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Naruto is obviously a humongous hit (therefore Pierrot’s cash-cow - well, if it goes into good projects like Emma then I’m not complaining, but…) both inside and outside of Japan: it’s like Dragonball…
It’s quite expected there’d be leagues of people subbing it. In fact it’s so special that it has a special derogatory name for all the stupid fans (I’m nto saying all its fans are stupid; just referring to the stupid fans.): Narutard.

Currently I’m watching through GITS:SAC… If you’ve watched that, any episodes by great animators or something like that? (It’d be too much to ask for something like that Mitsuo Iso ep of RahXephon sort of thing)

05/10/05 @ 04:57
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

I haven’t watched any GITS: SAC, but I’ve never heard of anybody jumping up and down about the series’ animation - which is kind of disappointing, given the fact that faces like Toshiyuki Inoue and Tadashi Hiramatsu are involved here and there. I wish there was one really great episode, because I’m having a hard time figuring out what to put in my list.

05/10/05 @ 13:48
Quote from random person
Quote from random person [Visitor]

the funny thing about naruto 133 is that u have the feeling to watch a new serie with different chara since the art is so poor and different of the usual one

05/13/05 @ 10:36
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Hmm, I can’t seem to remember any great animation in season 1, but for season 2 of GITS you might want to check out an OP, it’s another Tetsuya Nishio job, albeit not tour-de-force like the Otogizoushi OP 2. It’s still a nice OP, although not as varied as the Otogizoushi OP 2.

I’m still looking for the Tadashi Hiramatsu and Toshiyuki Inoue episodes…

05/18/05 @ 06:19
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Season 2 ep 4 has both.

As a way of checking it and the op, since you mentioned Nishio, I had a look at my first GITS:SAC episode. Whee. Just what I expected. Watch the bit of action at the beginning and the little bit at the end with the woman. Skip the rest - all stills and CG. I’m guessing Inoue did the former and Hiramatsu the latter. Good but not tremendously exciting, to be honest. Very by-the-book. They’re both great animators but they’re also very mature and know when to keep it cool and follow the director’s instructions, so a lot of the time their work isn’t that extraodinary, just because nothing extraordinary was required of them. But you can still feel Inoue’s style in the FX and in that hand signal sequence, for example.

05/18/05 @ 13:50