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, October 17, 2009

07:21:05 pm , 591 words, 2158 views     Categories: Animation, TV

Naruto #351

Yasuhiro Aoki, Kenji Nakamura and Akitoshi Yokoyama are my three favorite directors to emerge in the last few years. Yokoyama had done any number of great episodes before Kaiba in 2008, but it was his work on Kaiba that made me really sit up and take notice. He storyboard and directed episode 3, episode 7 and episode 9. Ever since the great work he did on these episodes I've been looking forward to whatever he might do next. That next thing has come in a surprising place - he did episode #351 of Naruto (#131 of Shippuuden). It's the next deluxe action episode. I enjoyed the directing of this one much more than I did the previous one directed by Toshiyuki Tsuru, #123 of Shippuuden.

In his Kaiba episodes I felt that Yokoyama showed himself to be good at effectively utilizing space to choreograph action, and this Naruto shows off that side of his directing skills really well, especially during the fight at the beginning, where the characters are jumping around and running through the maze-like city. He's also very detail oriented in the processing of the screen, and every shot has a feeling of perfect timing and pacing. Even the visual texture has a great feeling, with the particular colors in each shot and the timing and drawings of the animation always feeling exciting and serving the action without being flashy the way a lot of action animation is these days to distract from the fact that it's not that well choreographed. He just has the instincts of a seasoned director. I frankly hope that in the future his talent will be put to use on more ambitious and worthwhile projects that allow his true talent as a storyteller to shine, but I really like that he's a director who is able to jump between dramatically different content and do the content justice on its own terms, rather than being a director who's tied to a particular style and who bends the arm of whatever he's doing into that particular style. Such directors to me often come across as somewhat mannered and inflexible. I won't say it was a mind-blowing episode. It's limited by the material (it drags in the second half). But the action was nicely choreographed in the first half, with a nice tightness to the pacing that you want of action sequences.

Animators probably responsible for the action were that young firebrand Hiroki Tanaka, who seems to turn up with some crazy action in a new episode every week, and who was here also the sakkan; Nozomu Abe, an animator I know nothing about but whom I've heard is good; Hiroyuki Yamashita, one of the main Naruto regulars (he's listed first in the credits for the opening sequence of this episode); Taiki Harada; and Takayuki Hamada, the awesome animator from Kaiba etc. who was obviously brought on-board by Yokoyama. Kenichi Yoshida and Tatsuo Yamada are co-sakkans. The latter probably was brought on by Hiroki Tanaka, as they were two of the main crazy action guys on Precure in the old days (i.e. a few months back), but how the heck Kenichi Yoshida (Eureka 7) got involved I don't know.

Speaking of the opening, it also featured animation by Matsumoto (as usual) and the new regular op animators Shingo Yamashita and Kenichi Kutsuna, the gif animators from Birdy. I think for once I could identify their work. Matsumoto followed by Kutsuna at the beginning? Yamashita (if it's him doing those two shots where some unidentified character transforms into a beast) is sure doing crazy stuff.



hellohue [Visitor]  

For those of us that have given up on Shippuden (I did after the second episode, the pacing was so slow) these posts are amazingly helpful, as you can imagine. There weren’t ever any such gems in other mainstream shonen shows that you can think of?

10/18/09 @ 05:47
Siete [Visitor]  

Goddamn, Tanaka is everywhere. I swear. He is everywhere. His SakugaWiki page is insane for someone so young.

10/18/09 @ 09:18
Ben [Member]  

Hellohue - One of my earliest posts in the blog was a list of notable fighting anime (aka shonen show) episodes. That was five years ago, though, and there have been lots of new ones since, so I’ll try to post an updated version.

Siete - He’s a real phenomenon. He pops up in shows everywhere, constantly, and always quite highly worked in his typical style. I wonder if the secret to how he manages to do so much and keep the volume of animation so high has to do with the particulars of his style, which honestly seems to contain a lot of random drawings at times to fill out movements. Well, anyway, that and the stamina of youth.

10/18/09 @ 14:14
hgfdsahjkl [Visitor]  

the one who deserves more praising is Hiroyuki Yamashita

that guy achieved an awesome level

11/13/09 @ 18:18
hgfdsahjkl [Visitor]  

sorry for the double post
but the director for 82,85 and 123
Hirofumi SUZUKI

11/13/09 @ 18:24
Ben [Member]  

Hi there… hgfdsahjkl.

Maybe you could share with us what part Hiroyuki Yamashita did in this episode so that we could all appreciate his awesome level? I personally can’t identify his work.

And I don’t know where you get your information, but Hirofumi Suzuki is not the director of those episodes. He is the animation director, i.e. sakkan. Hirofumi Suzuki very rarely directs. He is almost always either a genga man or sakkan. As I said, Akitoshi Yokoyama was the storyboarder/director of this episode, and Toshiyuki Tsuru was the storyboarder/director of episode 123 of Shippuden (as well as many of the better episodes of the old Naruto like 19 and 48). (note that, in Shippuden, Tsuru uses the pen name “Yasuaki Kurotsu", which seems to be made from a mix of the letters in the names of Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu)

11/14/09 @ 12:58
hgfdsahjkl [Visitor]  

you’re right,Suzuki is the animation director

as for Hiroyuki Yamashita,I was talking generally

I can identify him easily when he uses his style in the normal episodes,when he works with the special directors as suzuki or tanaka
he usually doesnt use his art style

first time to see his current style was episode.55 if I remember right

the part with sakura running toward sai,I was blown away by him

in ep.131
I guess that he made the very last part,with the two small frogs attacking pain

and sorry for my weak English :(
I really like your site
can I ask you ,who is your favourite animator?
mine has to be yutaka nakamura

11/15/09 @ 16:23
Ben [Member]  

Thanks for the info about Hiroyuki Yamashita.

I checked episode 55 of Shippuuden, but Sakura doesn’t even appear in that episode. It would be great if you could provide the correct episode number, because I’d like to check that bit out to get a sense of his style. (could it be episode 51?)

It’s hard picking one favorite animator. I love Yutaka Nakamura too, and many others. But if I had to pick only one, I guess it would be Shinya Ohira.

Your English is fine. Thank you for contributing. :)

11/16/09 @ 09:59
Manuloz [Visitor]  

I had the clip on youtube at some point it’s a scene from episode 51.
If you can access them, you can check the omake he animated here :

11/16/09 @ 12:23
hgfdsahjkl [Visitor]  

ep.51 sakura running toward sai and graping him

just few seconds ,the part exactly after those mountains emerged from underneath with sakura shouting and sai writing on his scroll,as I remember about 7-10 secs

the awesome part with young asuma,starts with asuma blowing off a candle

at the end ,the part with shikamura’s face and then lee ,the fat dude and Kiba attacking those zombies

part of naruto vs the kyubi sora

at the end,the awesome part with hidan vs asuma
-hidan licking his weapon and asuma using the smoke attack


the part with naruto sleeping on jiraya’s back
yamashita’s part starts as soon as the camera zooms on the bird’s leg

at the start the yamato &kakashi scene

the awesome part with kakashi&obito vs the rock ninja inside the cave


the part with jiraya coming from death and writing on the frog’s back,till one of the pains attacked him

in ep.123
I guess he made the part when deidara said my art is superflat and launched an attack on sasuke

also he did the fighting scenes for op4 with the filler villians

-oh ohira
is probably my 2nd favourite
but since sword of the stranger,for me yutaka became the best
and he keeps getting better and better

11/17/09 @ 06:02