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, July 31, 2009

05:20:09 pm , 652 words, 3712 views     Categories: Animation, Misc

New Kenji Nakamura joint coming up later this year

I'm looking forward to the upcoming series by Kenji Nakamura, Mid-Air Trapeze (Kuchu Buranko), and not just because it will be nice to have something to watch, although that will have to wait until October. It will be worth the wait, if the team that brought us Mononoke (Kenji Nakamura x Takashi Hashimoto x Toei) live up to all the high expectations I've got of their next project. Interestingly, the material comes from a Naoki-award-winning novel, which is a refreshing change from the usual use of light novels as source material, these being aimed primarily at children and adult children. The Naoki award is Japan's literary award given to new writers. I actually haven't read many of the awardees, but of the few I have, I quite enjoyed punk rocker-turned-literati Ko Machida's books, so if the other awardees are as interesting as he is, then this was a great idea. The Naoki award is surely a great mine of material that could push anime in new directions. I would prefer original material, but some very great work has been done based on source material, and so far Nakamura has the golden touch.

Civilization is more fragile than you think. This simple slide show illustrating some of the situations discussed in the amazing book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, which depicts what would happen to the trappings of civilization if humans were to suddenly vanish from the face of the earth, is ten times more compelling than Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. Episodes 2-3 of the latter make little obvious use of the supposed voluminous research that was conducted for the series, so far doing very little to illuminate the consequences of such a disaster. Needless to say, I'm disappointed, as so far the show feels like a terrible waste of a superb opportunity. Instead, we are treated to endless shots of a blank-faced anime character wandering around, being shouted at by cardboard cutouts of human beings. I am probably wrong in criticizing this series, though, because they clearly set out with a goal that was at odds with what I wanted to see, so I should just accept that as the case and see where they go with it. I was quite turned off, however, by the maudlin directing of episode two and horrible production quality and excruciating boredom of both episodes. I sincerely hope that the subsequent episodes become more interesting and I start to like the show, as I do plan on following it. I'm just disappointed because I would love to see this subject matter done justice in some animated/audiovisual form. As it stands I recommend that you read The World Without Us instead of wasting your time with this show.

Speaking of things I'm looking forward to, Mamoru Hosoda's new film Summer Wars comes out pretty soon in Japan. I'm really looking forward to that, particularly (surprise) for the animation, because it sounds even better than his last film. It's got talented ex-Telecom animator Hiroyuki Aoyama doing the animation character designs and acting as one of the four sakkans. There are a ton of characters across the entire age range in the film, so it will be interesting to see how they're all made to move differently in line with their age and personality. Aoyama is good at nuanced character animation. Most of all, though, to be honest, it's the action scenes I'm looking forward to, because Toei animator Tatsuzo Nishita is the action sakkan, and I adore his style of action animation. It's an unusual post, and it was clearly granted to him because of his talent with action. It's a treat to be able to see a whole movie filled with his action animation. Apparently you can watch the first five minutes of the film online on the official website, but I'm not going to watch it. I'm going to wait to see the whole thing.



huw_m [Member]

I like how Anipages Daily is living up to it’s name lately! I keep meaning to comment on the new posts too…

I’m looking forward to Kuchu Buranko as well. That image on the homepage looks great. And I agree that those sort of books (ie not manchild-targeted anime stories) would be interesting fodder for anime adaptations. I prefer to see directors do their own thing in spite of the source material even though I might love it. See The Shining or Gedo Senki and the upcoming adaptations of Fantastic Mr. Fox and Where The Wild Things Are.

I watched the second episode of TM8.0 - I actually liked it. There seems to be a lot of care and attention put into how the building collapsed and all the sort of disastrous consequences. That’s something I liked in the first episode as well, really interesting layouts that put a new spin on the same old environments you see in anime. Maybe I’m less unimpressed cos I watched Ando’s new show right prior to it - Talk about lifeless anime characters. Even though I can appreciate the solid craftsmanship on the show that reflects what I’ve seen of his work, the source material is still just dreadful.

I second the bit about looking forward to Nishita’s work. I’ve been really into his work lately (here’s my current desktop wallpaper! ) - I took a little peek at the first five minutes (and felt very ashamed of myself), but it looks great. And that wide variety of characters looks really interesting too.

07/31/09 @ 22:28
gingersoll [Visitor]  

Ben, are you writing from Japan? Sorry, I don’t follow everything enough to know, but… if so, have you taken the chance to see the second Eva film in theaters? Thrilling animation, in addition to a bevy of… interesting, or at least surprising, directorial choices.
And indeed, Summer Wars is looking wonderful so far–in ways the variation in character face and body shape reminds me of the manga artist Urasawa Naoki.. though the preview I seen didn’t make the story seem very compelling. But, then again, trailers are hardly reliable in that area (when they aren’t busy, you know, spoiling the entire film).

08/01/09 @ 00:49
Ben [Member]  

Thanks, Huw! Glad you noticed. I’ve been making a concerted effort over the last few days to live up to the blog’s name, as I know it probably confuses people that AniPages Daily isn’t updated daily (often more like monthly). It’s been just over five years that I’ve been writing in here, so I’m trying to see if I can get back into the spirit of the early days, which was pretty much the only time AniPages Daily really was a daily blog…

About TM8.0, you’re right that certain things like the collapse of the mall were depicted in a way that seemed true to what might happen, and I was actually pleased with how that was depicted, generally speaking. Similarly, certain things that happened in episode 3 (won’t mention since you haven’t seen) were convincing of what might happen in the aftermath. It’s more the handling of the drama and the quality of the directing that turned me off, I think, than a failure to accurately depict the details of the aftermath. Somehow, the atmosphere of such an aftermath isn’t coming across to me with the way the story is progressing. I actually have no problem with creating a drama that focuses squarely on what two individuals would experience in such a situation. You could take a panorama view of what’s happening, or focus it on two people like this, and in a way I think it’s more honest directing to focus it on two people. It’s just that the characters don’t feel real to me, neither in the writing nor the animation nor the directing, which is a disappointment because all three of those did feel real to me in ep 1. And the adult character who just happens to waft in and provide the kids with an adult companion, that just felt like, ‘how convenient’. Interestingly, Masatsugu Arakawa was credited as the “mob sakkan” in ep 3 and 4. His drawings were indeed quite obvious. It was nice and brought back memories of Yukiwari no Hana. I really love his style of realistic drawing, and I even wish the whole series had been done in his style, especially the main characters. Just doing the mob in that style feels like a slapdash afterthought. Yet even the mob felt half-assed. The supposed ‘mob’ was just a drawing bobbing up and down. They even re-used his drawings in different places! Really disappointing coming from Bones.

And the opening song… OH MY GOD. Just brilliant, what can I say. 100-mph-soul-sucking J-Pop is the perfect soundtrack to the apocalypse.

Anyway, very nice desktop. :) That reminds me what I was saying about Kanada having been among the first in Japan to create animation that you could freeze-frame and it would be beautiful abstract art. That totally applies to Nishita. Hisashi Mori, too, creates abstractly gorgeous effects animation. (your desktop reminds me of some of the frames in Mori’s Square of the Moon animation, one of my favorite bits by him)

I was kind of tempted to write about Ando’s new show, but I try not to review shows about which my opinion is overwhelmingly negative, because I think it might be counterproductive, but yeah, apart from taking place in China and having middling production quality and some action sequences animated by Masahiro Sato, it feels like pretty much everything else out there in every other respect. The cliched characters and material are insufferable.

Thanks for pointing out Fantastic Mr. Fox - I’d never heard of it. Just saw the trailer, and it looks like so much fun. I love that analog, old-school stop-motion look, although the witty script feels almost too polished and wink-wink self-aware.


No, I’m in Vancouver across the water. You make me very curious about the animation in the new Eva movie, but the directing… not so much, to quote Borat. I was entertained by what Colony Drop had to say on the subject recently. The story is definitely the wild card with Summer Wars, but I’m crossing my fingers Hosoda will not disappoint on that front.

08/01/09 @ 10:18
Vailo [Visitor]  

I’ve been a reader of your great blog for quite a while now and thought that I may as well use the comment feature for once :)

Kuchu Buranko is something I’m really looking forward to and a welcome change from all the generic over and over recycled material, it seems that the noitaminA series will be once more the only anime worth watching. I loved Kenji Nakamura’s work on Mononoke, and Kuchu Buranko seems to have an interesting premise too, the picture on the homepage suggests highly interesting visuals as well.

I like Tokyo Magnitude so far, I think the script does really well in portraying the characters, and especially the constellation of the two children and the adult woman is interesting, I’m curious to see where the story leads us eventually, but I can see where you are coming from when you say that the direction isn’t very effective in depicting the scenario, at least in episode 2 I also felt some kind of distance to the happenings. The animation is a bit sloppy at times but ultimately decent enough to convey proper impressions of the characters and environment.

As for EVA 2.0: I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I also read that article on Colony Drop recently and thought that the harsh criticism is mainly based on the fan-pandering nature of the movie. It’s a bit naive to expect anything else of EVA as it has been meant for otaku from the beginning and simply happened to be popular with general audiences as well, besides nearly all Gainax anime have (or are) some kind of “fan service", and particularly on the second movie worked a good portion of Gainax staff alongside the usual suspects like Anno and Tsurumaki. It’s the way the anime business works, I don’t expect some kind of thought-provoking and intellectual masterpiece, but an entertaining and well-produced alternative version of the TV series. Animation-wise it’s certainly promising with people like Takashi Hashimoto, Tetsuya Nishio, Kenichi Konishi, Akihiko Yamashita and Tadashi Hiramatsu on top of the key animators list, further Akemi Hayashi, Sushio, You Yoshinari, Hiroyuki Imaishi, Mahiro Maeda, Atsushi Nishigori as well as Tsurumaki and Anno himself are also credited for KA. So definitely something to look forward to.

08/02/09 @ 04:04
Ben [Member]  

Thanks for the comment, Vailo. It’s always nice hearing from lurkers.

It’s awesome that there seems to be a lot of other people looking forward to Kuchu Burako. It’s good to have something to look forward to collectively.

The animator list for the new Eva movie is not at all surprising. All of the various Eva permutations have had mouth-watering staff lists, whatever you think of the franchise. Even as a non-fan of the franchise, I will be compelled to watch it for its excellent animation. And you’re absolutely right in saying that it’s naive to criticize Gainax for fan-pandering, since that’s been their modus operandi from the get-go. Gainax didn’t create fan-pandering; they just perfected it. If such material is lucrative, it’s not so much reflective of their moral bankruptcy as it is of us fans for not being demanding enough of our ‘content’.

08/03/09 @ 16:53
huw_m [Member]

Haha, Yeah, that OP…Incredibly mismatched shitty J-Rawk. I guess they just stick the latest song by whatever hit artist in there for cross-promotional reasons regardless of suitability. Shame, because I really like the images in that opening…

I watched episodes 3 and 4, and now share your lack of enthusiasm on this show. How about they put do a whole ton of research on how real humans actually act instead? There are about 2 drama buttons that the main characters push, and its already incredibly tired, despite the interesting settings. It feels like the show is otaku-like in the attention to technical detail, but also in the lack of humanity in the characters. Which may be a bit harsh, because the humanity was present in the first episode at least. I’m guessing the director did the storyboard for that himself or something. Too bad he didn’t keep tighter control over the drama aspect. And those mob drawings were nice, I’d have loved to see this show done in Arakawa’s style too. In defense of the reusing drawings, it seemed like there was a hell of a lot of work involved anyway - I could just imagine it was pretty painstaking to draw all those people on a TV production schedule, but who knows…I don’t really feel like continuing to watch this show at any rate. I’m actually still watching Canaan in anticipation of kickass action animation and the occasional directorial flourish…None of the former, a touch of the latter. But good god those characters. Its like the original creator has never interacted with nor seen a real live human being before. Huh, thats a kinda mean and not very productive thing to say. I just can’t help myself! I see why you decided not to write about it -_-

Funny you should bring up Square of the Moon, I was just watching that clip the day you posted that comment. Totally an amazing array of shapes. And yeah, I often freeze frame Kanada’s stuff to doodle it or just marvel at it. I was bowled over the first time I really *looked* at his stuff at how he could conceive such abstract shapes, purely energetic shapes and move them convincingly as well, even when I was not quite sure about what I was being convinced of…

08/14/09 @ 17:45